- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

U.S. noses in Nicaragua

Americans were outraged when the Guardian urged British subjects to write letters to citizens in Ohio during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, U.S. media reports consistently ignore the long-standing U.S. intervention in Nicaraguan elections (“Nicaragua’s critical elections,” Op-Ed, Oct. 30).

In 1990, when President Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front lost the election to the National Opposition Union — created, backed and funded by the United States — many Nicaraguans exclaimed, “We went to the polls with a gun to our heads.” They voted under the threat of yet another U.S. invasion. In the 2001 Nicaraguan election, the State Department issued a statement indicating “grave reservations” about Mr. Ortega’s party and “its ties to supporters of terrorism” and compared him to Osama bin Laden.

Now, in 2006, U.S. interference includes military intimidation; diplomatic and congressional threats; U.S. private and corporate funding of a Nicaraguan presidential candidate; and so-called “humanitarian” intrusions. The most recent report about U.S. intervention was of the conservatives using horrifying images from the U.S.-led Contra invasion of Nicaragua to create an atmosphere of fear and to intimidate Nicaraguan citizens who intend to vote for Mr. Ortega.

Last April, Paul Trivelli, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, met with right-wing parties in Nicaragua and urged them to rally around Eduardo Montealegre, the presidential candidate from the Alianza Liberal. On Oct. 3, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld presided over the Defense Ministers of the Americas conference in Managua. Given past U.S. military attacks on Nicaragua, his presence is seen as a veiled threat intended to influence the upcoming election.

Even the Organization of American States has criticized the direct intervention by the U.S. ambassador. Mr. Trivelli signaled that “Washington would review its aid for Nicaragua if Mr. Ortega wins the election.” It should be noted that under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, there is a provision that representatives or diplomats “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that state” to which they may be assigned.

In addition, Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, and former Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick threatened to pull the $175 million loan from Millennium Challenge Corp. Mr. Burton also warned the Nicaraguans of dire consequences by stating: “It’s important that the people know what can happen if the government returns to the kind of government there was in the 1980s.”

Few U.S. citizens would tolerate such widespread foreign intervention in their elections.

JOAN RUSSOW

Victoria, British Columbia

Just the facts

In discussing the area of Cyprus under Turkish military occupation since 1974, Tulin Daloglu states that it is subject to “economic sanctions,” (“Geopolitical realities in Ankara,” Op-Ed, Tuesday). There are no sanctions. In fact, because of the dynamics of Cyprus’ European Union membership in 2004, people and goods are moving relatively more freely across the divide. There have been more than 12 million incident-free crossings, and the per capita income of the Cypriots in the occupied area has tripled to approximately $11,000 — higher than in Turkey itself. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of Cypriots of Turkish ethnic origin possess Republic of Cyprus passports, are EU citizens and travel anywhere.

Miss Daloglu conveniently forgets that approximately 43,000 armed Turkish troops are occupying more than one-third of the territory of Cyprus in flagrant violation of human rights and mandatory U.N. Security Council resolutions. This is the real cause of the ills facing the people of Cyprus, and no amount of Orwellian doubletalk obliterates this fact. The writer refers to the Annan plan, knowing very well that based on its own terms, it is defunct, as it was defeated overwhelmingly. After 30 years of saying “no” to any plan, the Turkish side accepted this specific plan as it met Turkey’s demands. It is Turkey that is boycotting trade with Cyprus, even though the EU prohibits this. Talk of “economic isolation” is but a deception politically exploited by Turkey and its servile entity and designed to avoid a just, viable and lasting settlement to the Cyprus question for the sole benefit of the people of Cyprus.

ANNIE CHARALAMBOUS

Press counselor

Embassy of Cyprus

Washington

A call to humanitarianism

The news coming out of the world’s conflict zones grows increasingly dire. In Sudan, we see a human rights catastrophe spinning out of control; in Iraq, insurgents and militias perpetrate the torture and murder of countless civilians. In North Korea, an entire nation is held captive by state-sponsored oppression. In Afghanistan, corruption at the highest levels has allowed the Taliban to regain power and terrorize the Afghan people who do not comply with their moblike tactics. The list goes on. Atrocities are being committed everywhere we look.

Meanwhile, with midterm elections a few days away, many candidates are focusing their campaigns around negative ads and rallying their bases on wedge issues. Partisan pandering may win elections, but it does not solve the global human rights crisis unfolding around us.

Most Americans have seen images of the atrocities in Darfur broadcast into their living rooms on CNN. Genocide in real time — we can read all about it on Anderson Cooper’s 360 Blog. Not as prominently reported are the accounts of human rights abuses against Egypt’s Copts and Bahais, China’s Uighurs, Iraq’s Chaldo-Assyrians and other minority groups. The overarching themes of sectarian violence and ethnic and gender discrimination, though, are common knowledge.

Without having seen or experienced these atrocities firsthand, Americans become anesthetized to the ongoing evil in faraway places. Compassion fatigue plagues the U.S. public and policy-makers. Americans need a wake-up call and a reminder that average people can make a real difference in the lives of those whose rights are being trampled by appealing to their elected decision-makers.

Thankfully there are strong leaders in Congress to shake us out of our collective inaction, foremost among them Congressional Human Rights Caucus co-chairmen Tom Lantos, California Democrat, and Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican. Earlier this month, hundreds of advocates from nongovernmental organizations both large and small gathered to recognize Mr. Wolf’s outstanding work to end persecution, specifically his commitment to religious freedom (“Re-elect Frank Wolf,” Editorial, Oct. 20).

Mr. Wolf had a message for those present: Things are getting worse, not better. In response, the human rights community must collaborate to find a common cause and solve the most urgent problems of our day. We must show the world that the U.S. is serious about ensuring fundamental freedoms and that protecting human rights is our top priority.

The human rights community should pay attention to Mr. Wolf’s wise words, heeding his call to build solidarity and speaking with one powerful voice. Now more than ever, leaders of nongovernmental organizations must join forces to promote human rights on Capitol Hill and around the world. The desperate headlines underscore the critical importance of human rights groups working together, presenting a united front at a time when fundamental freedoms have reached an all-time low.

Uttering platitudes in the face of humanitarian crises is not enough; circumstances demand creative solutions with political legs. If we supply the ideas, our human rights champions in Congress and in the field will pave the way for new and meaningful action.

Partisanship is rampant in Washington, but by shifting the dialogue away from the issues that divide us to something everyone can agree upon — protecting the freedoms we hold dear on a global scale — we can harness the vast supply of energy on both sides of the aisle to elevate the human rights agenda.

All Americans are stakeholders in this debate. Who among us will stand up and be counted?

KATHRYN CAMERON PORTER

President

Leadership Council for Human Rights

Washington

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