Georgia Learning Exchange Program
The main tool used by the U.S. government against the Nicaraguan government was the media influence over the Nicaraguan population, through the use and manipulation of the press and the social networks as part of the pressure strategy that tends to reverse the Sandinista process in 2021.
The idea was to create several and simultaneously fronts of attention that serve as a trigger for a social and political crisis in the country, so that it better be the responsibility of the ruling party.
The USAID, after the electoral process in 2016, readjusted its programs in Nicaragua and focused its efforts in the work with the press and the social networks. To do so, they destined around 6 million dollars per year.
The intention was to empower the independent alternative media opposed to the government so that, in combination with the traditional media, they promote an environment of social discontent and concentrate in vulnerable sectors where the USAID was implementing other programs at the same time.
The Agency gave priority to these programs and among the traditional media that were linked to them were La Prensa, El Nuevo Diario and Confidencial, as well as Onda Local, Radio Romance, Stereo Vos, Canal 12, Radio Universidad, Tele Norte, Radio La Costeñísima, Radio Darío and Radio Corporación.
It all was part of a much more wide strategy that had its basis in the experience developed by the USAID itself and other NGOs from the U.S. in Georgia known as Georgia Learning Exchange, which is not only carried out in Nicaragua but also is being implemented in other countries of the region like Bolivia and Venezuela that don’t share the political interests of the United States.
This strategy is developed with the funds of donors that were involved in the Georgian experience like the Open Society, as well as the German NGO Deutche Welle (DW), the Institute for War and Peace (IWPR) and the office in Nicaragua of the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX).
The aim of the work developed was to turn local stories into outstanding issues of national interest in order to increase the coverage, attract the interest of the international media and then show apparent deficiencies in the government of Daniel Ortega so that they could create a critical mass to the Sandinista process.
The USAID guaranteed this objective through the different programs that was carrying out with the media mentioned above. This was the perfect channel to give instructions about the way in which they had to work in order to fulfil the interests of the Agency, establishing a monthly number of journalistic articles that had to be delivered. These articles had to accomplish the following objectives:
- To spread the speeches of the most important politicians that opposed to the government of Daniel Ortega.
- To spread the voice and propaganda related to the opposing municipalities and tarnish the reputation and transparency of those city councils that responded to the government.
- To publish and spread any demonstration against the government like marches or any other action carried out.
- To give media coverage and follow any activity related to the great interoceanic channel of Nicaragua.
- To keep up the media line of work as to aggravate the conflicts between the different ethnic groups that live in the Caribbean Coast of the country.
Apart from this, the Georgia Learning Exchange included a training platform where, in the case of Nicaragua, they trained a group of Nicaraguan citizens opposed to the government and that could influence in the media with the aim of achieving a greater media repercussion with the local information that was being prepared against the government. This group included journalists, website experts, graphic designers, statistics experts, editors and hackers, trained by the USAID itself and linked to different universities of the Centro American country.
The proposal included the use of Fake News, with the support of the NDI, as an essential method to complement the media campaigns. The objective was to create a public opinion favourable to the interests of the U.S. government.
The IREX centered all the training work in Nicaragua, closely linked to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH) and the CINCO Group.
The main goal of this training work was to achieve, through the independent media and the rest of the activists, the creation of Internet networks that share the prepared information against the government with other users, thus creating a big community in the Internet that support the antigovernment campaign, also taking into account that almost 80% of the Nicaraguan population is linked to the social networks, mainly Facebook.
In order to trigger this initiative, between the years 2017 and 2018, it was destined an approximate amount of 20 000 dollars, as to guarantee the efficiency of the independent platforms in the social networks.
During the beginning of the crisis and the students’ protests against the government, several of the citizens linked to these demonstrations and training work were among the most active in the spreading of false information against the government. For that, they used the social networks to pass on negative messages related to a supposed bad government handling and lack of transparency. Among these persons are:
- Yasser Arce (Arces Vid Blog)
- León Arce (Arces Vid Blog)
- Roberto Guillen (Managua Furiosa Blog)
- Yasser Morazán (Yasser Morazán Channel)
The USAID operated, during all this period, in a context that transgresses the laws of Nicaragua, trying to hinder the social and political order in this country with the aim of achieving in the event a change of government. For this, the Agency used almost the 70% of its funds.