The Grayzone’s Ben Norton sat down for an interview with Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada to discuss the country’s decision to leave the OAS, attempts to build an international alliance against US unilateralism, and what an anti-imperialist foreign policy looks like.
(Puede leer esta entrevista en español aquí.)
BEN NORTON: This is Ben Norton with The Grayzone. I am in Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry, and I just sat down for an interview with Foreign Minister Denis Moncada.
We talked about Nicaragua’s historic decision to leave the Organization of American States, and other regional issues here in Latin America.
And we discussed how Nicaragua is part of a movement of countries around the world that are trying to create a new political and economic architecture, resisting US unilateralism and sanctions.
Good morning, Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, thank you for the interview.
On November 19, you announced that Nicaragua is leaving the OAS. Can you explain why Nicaragua made this historic decision?
DENIS MONCADA: Yes, thanks a lot Ben, and greetings also to your readers, listeners, or viewers in this case. I want to say that Nicaragua made this decision, the government of President Ortega took the decision to denounce the OAS charter.
And the reason for that is it is a decision that concerns the dignity of the Nicaraguan people, the dignity of the government of reconstruction, of reconciliation and national unity, the government of President Ortega, truly to defend the dignity of the Nicaraguan people.
Because we, in our foreign policy, we are open. We truly seek communication, bilateral relations, and also multilateral relations.
But we have been very clear, and we say that we do not accept foreign interference, nor interventions, that try to meddle in the internal concerns of our country.
And the reason that we have denounced the OAS is because of the policy and attitude, primarily by the United States and the countries subordinated to it, that try to direct and impose the internal policies of Nicaragua and maintain a permanent policy of interference and interventionism, disrespecting the dignity of the Nicaraguan people.
And that truly says why Nicaragua, the government of Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan people, and it has been demanded by the Nicaraguan people, and the institutions and powers of the state have suggested and urged the president of the republic to denounce the OAS charter.
That is to say, ending the state of Nicaragua’s relationship with the OAS, suspending relations. And this is precisely why we sent the statement to the secretary general of the OAS, at the instruction of the president of the republic, Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra, saying enough is enough.
BEN NORTON: And you said in the letter to the OAS, and to the secretary general of that organization, Luis Almagro, you said that the OAS is an “instrument of interference” of the United States that seeks to impose US hegemony in this region.
The OAS says it is independent. But you don’t think that is true?
DENIS MONCADA: It is not a matter of what I think; it is a matter of what is the concrete, true, objective reality.
The OAS was designed, created precisely by the United States as a way to impose its political decisions, which is defined by the policy of the Monroe Doctrine.
And when the OAS was created, I believe it was Commander Fidel Castro who described it as the “ministry of the colonies.” And truly, that concept, which has already been said for decades, is exactly what defines the OAS.
And think about it, Ben, the OAS, where is it located? It is located, one, in Washington, its permanent location. The OAS is captured there, like a prisoner of the United States.
But in addition to being in Washington, where exactly it is located? A few blocks from the White House, and on the other side a few blocks from the State Department.
If we understand even the geographical location of the OAS in the city, in a building that was built more a century ago, it clearly says that this is a US political and diplomatic instrument, one that supports the main strategic decisions of the United States in relation to the power and hegemony that it tries to maintain over Latin America and the Caribbean.
I think that is the clearest way of explaining why the OAS is not an independent organization, but rather a strategic, political, diplomatic instrument of the United States, that decided to bring together, there near the White House and the State Department, the representatives of all of the states of Latin America and the Caribbean – excluding Cuba, excluding Venezuela, excluding Nicaragua, which is precisely why it is denouncing its charter – so that there the US can simply make its commands and “agreements,” in scare quotes, so that they do what the North American empire decides to do with Latin America and the Caribbean.
BEN NORTON: Recently, there has been a lot of criticism of the OAS, because of the coup d’etat in Bolivia in 2019, and because of the role of the OAS in publishing false accusations of supposed electoral fraud.
Moreover, we have seen that Juan Guaidó, who has never won a single vote to be so-called “president” of Venezuela, he represents Venezuela at the OAS, in Washington.
The OAS, in its charter, says that it is against interference, and in fact it says in its charter that interference in the internal affairs of member states is a violation of the OAS charter.
So, do you think that the OAS violates its own charter?
DENIS MONCADA: Definitely. And there is an interesting element to think about, because the charter of the OAS, if one looks at it in theoretical and conceptual terms, according to the text, it could seem like the charter aligns with the interests of countries, in terms of defending their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, if the OAS did not have more powers than those that are clearly established in its charter.
If you look at it from the conceptual and theoretical point of view, we could say that the founding charter of the OAS has some elements that could be valid. But the concrete truth, the reality is precisely [the opposite]. You mentioned the case of Bolivia, for example.
That is to say, when those policies are actually carried out in the countries of Latin America, of the peoples defending their own rights, exercising their sovereignty, of self-determination, protecting their historic and fundamental rights, that is what the United States does not like.
And that is precisely when they, in the most intense ways, keep making policies to destabilize and overthrow governments, legitimate, constitutional, democratic governments.
And then the figure of the OAS appears, in very active ways, trying to fulfill the orders of the United States.
If there is a progressive government, if there is a revolutionary government, if there is an advanced government that goes down the path of trying to strengthen the rights of the people, defending itself from aggressor countries, then they act.
The United States orders the OAS to act. And the OAS, we already saw exactly how it acted to destabilize Bolivia and bring about the overthrow of President Evo Morales, in such an unjust, arbitrary, barbaric, savage way.
BEN NORTON: You mentioned that Cuba, the revolutionary government of Cuba, has long criticized the OAS. Commander Fidel Castro said that the OAS is the “ministry of the yankee colonies.” And Venezuela also left the OAS two years ago.
But more and more, it is not just the revolutionary governments in the region, but even liberal governments, like the Argentine government, the Mexican government, they also have criticized the OAS for the coup d’etat in Bolivia.
And this September there was a meeting, a summit of the CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, in Mexico City. You participated in the summit in Mexico.
More and more, there is debate in Latin America about the CELAC being an alternative to the OAS. Do you think that the OAS could serve as an alternative?
DENIS MONCADA: In fact, the CELAC emerged precisely as an alternative for the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, excluding the United States and Canada, which do not participate in the CELAC.
That was precisely the vision of heads of state and governments, and above all the peoples of Latin America, of having an autonomous, independent forum, which responds to the concerns, to the vision, and to the historical needs of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.
So the CELAC is a real alternative to the OAS. And in fact countries have made an effort precisely to maintain the continuity of the CELAC.
And separately we know that the United States and other countries, including also countries in Europe, are doing everything to neutralize, to stop, to prevent countries from creating and sustaining their organizations that make it possible for them to take a different path, with a vision of strengthening their rights, their policies, their freedoms, and their struggles for independence in defense of sovereignty and self-determination.
BEN NORTON: Three days after the November 7 elections here in Nicaragua, US President Biden signed the Renacer Act, and later imposed more sanctions against Nicaragua, and not only against government officials but also against institutions like Nicaragua’s public prosecutor’s office.
What do you think about these sanctions?
DENIS MONCADA: We do not recognize the extra-territoriality of the laws that the United States approves, whether it be through the Congress or ratified by the US president.
Its laws are laws for its country, for its state, but not for other countries. Nicaragua does not recognize that extra-territoriality.
Nevertheless, we are very clear that we are speaking about the same topic, and we see another factor, another facet of how the empire tries to expand its hegemony, creating laws, with the president approving them, and then trying to apply those laws in other countries.
This includes imposing unilateral coercive measures (sanctions), which we already know are illegal, arbitrary, absurd, and in the case of Nicaragua we have said it, we don’t accept them, we reject them, we condemn them.
It is a form of the empire continuing to exercise the role it believes it has in the world, of being a judge, of being a prosecutor, of playing a role that the international community did not assign to it.
Nevertheless, we see how there is a kind of consistency in that attitude, in that imperial behavior, using all of its different instruments, like the OAS, like the Congress, of passing a resolution and then the empire tries to impose it everywhere.
That is why Nicaragua, our government, the government of President Ortega, has maintained what we say is an anti-imperialist policy, but measured.
And when we say anti-imperialist, it is because we are clear that those who exercise power is a small group of extraordinary power, that even affects the North American people themselves.
The empire is not the North American people. The North American people are not part of the empire. The empire consists of the large organizations, the large economic powers, industrial and military powers, that try to impose themselves on the world to exploit it, to pillage it, to colonize it again.
And it does this to maintain a lifestyle, that is not imposed by the North American people, but rather by the powerful interests, through aggression, through robbing the wealth of countries, in an incredible, shameless way.
BEN NORTON: Currently, one-fourth of the global population lives in countries sanctioned by the United States and the European Union. That is to say, one-fourth of humanity lives in countries under sanctions.
So is there an attempt by sanctioned countries, like Nicaragua and Venezuela and other countries, to build an alternative to this financial system dominated by the United States?
DENIS MONCADA: Yes, that is a struggle that has gone on for many decades, because we have to change international relations and systems, among them the international financial system and the international order.
And Nicaragua is part of the countries that are fighting to make those transformations in the international community of nations, and to redesign, redefine, restructure the financial system, the international order in general, of political relations, diplomatic relations too, and above all having peace as a central point.
Truly, what the international community wants is peace, stability, security, work, progress, so that our peoples, all over the world, are able to make the effort to be happy. That is what all humanity wants and desires.
No wars, no conflicts, no tensions, no aggressions, but rather peace, stability, respect between states, respect between governments, respect between peoples.
And to continue advancing, fighting against poverty, strengthening programs of human development. In short, that is what humanity wants.
And doubtlessly we have to strengthen the common struggle of all peoples to change the system.
BEN NORTON: Nicaragua is one of the members of a new group in the United Nations which is called the Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter. There’s Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Russia, Palestine, Eritrea, various countries.
What is this group, and what is the importance of an alliance of countries sanctioned by the United States?
DENIS MONCADA: The essence is to defend the UN charter. And the group of countries was formed precisely with that objective.
Why the UN charter? If we are discussing UN reforms and also transforming the system, in the UN charter you find precisely the basic principles that allow for peaceful coexistence, respect between states, attaining and strengthening peace, stability, international security, cooperation between developing countries, to achieve a comprehensive development, to make all of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development possible.
So that group of countries thinks that we truly need to come together and defend those principles and those values, those fundamental declarations that are established in the UN charter, to be able to thrive as independent states, as sovereign states, and the keep reinforcing the work to maintain, sustain, and strengthen peace, international security, the right of all peoples to live in their own ways, with self-determination and mutual respect.
So it is a group of friends in defense of the UN Charter, which is very important. It has had meetings already in New York and also in Serbia, taking advantage of the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.
In short, it is keeping that important cause going, that position of countries, of the international community, of defending life and humanity, of having peace, of strengthening peace, and continuing to advance in a positive sense, in a sense of tranquility for all of humanity.
BEN NORTON: Another member of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations is Iran. And you attended the inauguration of President Raisi, the new president of Iran.
What is the importance of relations between Nicaragua and Iran, and in general with the countries of West Asia? Do you think it is important to strengthen relations between anti-imperialist forces in West Asia and progressive forces here in Latin America?
DENIS MONCADA: Yes, Nicaragua and the government of President Ortega has said very clearly that we maintain broad relations with the entire world. Because they are relationships of friendship, of brotherhood, of fraternity, of cooperation, of solidarity.
And the world should live, should share its interests, its objectives, its needs, in its emergencies, in its pandemics, which is not just Covid-19 but also economic pandemics, political pandemics, pandemics of aggression, pandemics of neo-colonialism.
In this area, we are strengthening and widening our relations with Iran and with other countries in Asia, and in Africa too. Because there are common interests, common visions, shared rights between countries.
And combining together our forces, conversing, holding dialogue, we strengthen our bilateral relations, and multilateral relations.
We are now leaving the OAS, but we are going to strengthen and keep strengthening our communication with the CELAC, our communication and relations with the ALBA-TCP, our relations with other organizations, with the Non-Aligned Movement, with the UN as well.
In short, the relations with Iran and other countries are framed precisely around that vision of widening and strengthening relations with all the countries of the world, a vision that Nicaragua has, and that has been set out by Commander Daniel Ortega.
BEN NORTON: Today in our discussion, there is a theme that links together all of the themes, there is an issue, and that is imperialism. You mentioned that the foreign policy of Nicaragua is an anti-imperialist foreign policy, and internationalist.
In the Sandinista movement, what is the importance of this, of internationalism and anti-imperialism?
DENIS MONCADA: It is important, because if the empire wants to dominate you, it wants to subjugate you, it wants to make you into a colony, as historically has happened in many places, the peoples are conscious of the fact that they have a right to exist as peoples, as countries, as nations, as states, and that they have the right to defend those principles, those values, and that right.
Imperialism wants to dominate you. Internationalism is the relation between states. Anti-imperialism is resisting with justice, with dignity, with strength against this hegemonic policy, which continues to be carried out by the United States and European countries.
BEN NORTON: A few years ago, Nicaragua made an agreement with a Chinese company to build an inter-oceanic canal. And we have seen that this topic, this issue of the inter-oceanic canal, became a major point of conflict in international politics.
We have documents that show that the United States funded opposition groups to organize protests against the inter-oceanic canal. The United States has a long history of trying to build its own inter-oceanic canal.
So what is the importance of this project for Nicaragua?
DENIS MONCADA: Nicaragua has geographic conditions that have made it possible and still make it possible to build a route of inter-oceanic communication, that is to say, a form of facilitating international communication and commercial exchange, everything that a route of communication make possible, of cutting distances, and saving fuel, and making the transportation of consumer goods more efficient from all over the world.
And well, that is Nicaragua’s right. We are building a canal in our territory, sovereign territory, the territory of the Nicaraguan people. And with a vision also of sharing that geography to create a route of communication that benefits the entire world, with Nicaraguan control and management.
The construction of the canal, it keeps moving forward, with investigations being conducted into feasibility and the effects on the environment. In short, with all of the elements, in a responsible way, that say that a state should build a project of great significance, like an inter-oceanic canal.
BEN NORTON: To conclude, in the United States, we speak more and more of the idea of a new cold war, that is to say, the second cold war, but this time not only against Russia, but also against the People’s Republic of China.
In the United States, everything today is about Russia and China. They say that Moscow supposedly stole the election. They say that China created the coronavirus. There is a lot of propaganda in the United States about this.
And here in Latin America, we have seen that this region is part of this so-called new cold war. The United States says, “Latin America is ours, and we don’t want Russia and China to have relations and to do business with the countries here.”
So for Nicaragua, what could the role of Nicaragua be in this so-called second cold war? And what do you think of this conflict between Washington on one side and Moscow and Beijing on the other?
DENIS MONCADA: The United States is an empire. It has been an empire for a long time. Empires try to prevent themselves from disappearing or losing their hegemony. And they will use all instruments, all forms, to maintain their level of power and control.
And obviously they try to stop other countries from developing, growing, expanding their capacities, their possibilities in economic and commercial terms, in the development of their peoples, in the strengthening of their rights, in having a voice on the international stage, in having more responsible relations, that are not invasive, not interventionist, not meddling.
All of this changes the mentality and the perception of humanity as a whole, and shows the precise difference between a hegemonic empire, dominating, intervening, invading, destroying nations and countries, states, and humanity; and between other countries that develop, that resolve their own problems of their population, and socialize in some way their progress, their advances, their technology, their commercial exchange, and of sharing with other countries as well in a very respectful manner, their advances and their development.
And contributing, in a responsible and supportive way, to the facilitation with other countries as well of a plan of cooperation, of investment, of solidarity, to keep advancing, to keep developing and resolving countries’ economic problems which in a way, or very substantially contributes to consolidating peace, stability, security in every country.
And that is precisely the way that we avoid massive irregular migrations, and all of those problems that people are worried about.
So cold war, no, what humanity needs is peace, stability, cooperation, friendship, coexistence.
It is because of that type of tensions that are generated by powers like the United States, or Europe through NATO, that we now see moving to Latin America with the participation of Colombia, which is truly foolish.
So it is a war waged by one power, combined with the powers in Europe, that want to sustain, maintain their control over the world, their hegemony, and to try to prevent other countries from advancing, from developing, from having responsible state policies and sharing with humanity their development, their progress, and moving toward advancing the development of the peoples in a way that is peaceful, friendly, and cooperative, of mutual benefit for these countries that are developing themselves and the countries that are on the path toward developing in search of a better future.
BEN NORTON: Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, thank you so much for the interview.
DENIS MONCADA: Many thanks to you, Ben, and a cordial greeting as well to all of your friends, comrades, and audience.
BEN NORTON: Thank you.