By Goodwin Ginger

If Ortega wins the Nicaraguan election there will be some hand wringing in Washington. As we all now the US covertly funded a costly civil war in the furtherance of their desire to block the Sandinista demonstration effect. What the popular election of Ortega reveals if elected, is the failure of the logic of US Empire. The central lesson drawn is that the US does not even understand the foundations of its empire in Asia (outside of Vietnam): namely a judicious use of carrots and sticks. Of course in Latin America the US has always overly relied on Sticks. Indeed it seems as though the only carrot ever offered to Latin America is the promise of no action as opposed to brutal intervention.

Nicaragua is a prime example of the stupidity, arrogance, and ideological psychopathy of US foreign policy in the Americas. For all intents and purposes the US won in Nicaragua back in 1990. Sixteen years later they look like they may have lost. Why? The US has had sixteen years to construct Nicaragua as a positive model for what compliance with US interests could deliver. Instead they have pushed free markets, thrown cash at a defunct oligarchy and done almost nothing to improve the general living standard of the population. In short they have created a negative model with a powerful demonstration effect. Surely Ortega’s victory will have to be read through this lens. The US will, if Ortega wins, wave the threat of the Stick at their little cousins.

There is a good deal of farce in all this. Of course what we external commentators view as farce Nicaraguans will no doubt experience as tragedy. The US had sixteen years to make Nicaragua a positive example of US Empire. With only a population of 5.5 million people and a GDP per capita of only $2,300 the US could easily have doubled the living standards of Nicaraguans over the past decade and half. This would have entailed a different strategy then a slavish devotion to free market ideology and a reliance on a half hearted reconstructed oligarchy. Such a strategy would have entailed direct grants to community organizations and civil society groups for the construction and operation of schools, hospitals and public infrastructure in every village and city. In short such a strategy would have involved planning and coordination. But such would have been the very thing that the planners of US Empire seem to have such a strong ideological aversion too: publicly planned development. As such Nicaragua and Ortega’s victory will simply register in Washington as a signal to wax their Stick.

If Ortega wins we will no doubt hear the call accross Washington that Nicaragua is drifting into Chavez’s orbit: As well they should; it is not like the Americans’ ever offer anything but sticks. Such is the farce and tragedy of the US as an Empire of Free Markets and bonded men.