World Beat

U.S., China and Taiwan; Nicaragua; Philippines

In 1979, Nicaraguan revolutionaries led an insurrection in the city of León. Dora María Téllez is shown center left. She is currently a political prisoner. PHOTO: Public domain
Share with your friends


Revolution betrayed in Nicaragua

In 1979, the Marxist Sandinista National liberation Front (FSLN) led the workers and peasants of one of the poorest countries in Central America in overthrowing the 40-year rule of the Somoza dynasty, driving dictator Anastasio Somoza into exile. It was a victory celebrated by socialists and leftists throughout the hemisphere.

Four decades later, the revolution has turned into its opposite. Today President Daniel Ortega, former leader of the FSLN guerrilla movement, and his wife Rosario Murillo, who is Vice President, are determined to hold onto power by any means. This includes secret trials and heavy prison sentences, and the use of kidnapping and torture against absolutely anyone who poses a possible threat to their regime and opulent lifestyle.

In April 2018, massive anti-government protests broke out against proposed cuts to already anemic pensions. The police and pro-Ortega militia engaged in extrajudicial killings, rape, and waterboarding of their critics. Before the revolt was crushed, government forces had killed 300 demonstrators and wounded 2,000 more. Afterwards, Ortega, who controls Congress and the court system, tightened the noose for future opponents by passing new anti-terrorism laws.

These laws are now being used against a broad group of people swept up during and  after the presidential election of November 2021. Among them is Dora María Téllez who was tried in a three hour, secret trial and sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason.

Téllez helped liberate the city of León during the final Sandinista push against Somoza and commanded the legendary storming of Nicaragua’s national palace the previous year. She later split with the Sandinistas and formed a new party known first as Sandinista Renovation Movement and today as UNAMOS. There is now a growing movement which includes the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR) calling to free Téllez and all political prisoners.

Sparks fly between China and US over Taiwan

After China stepped up military maneuvers in the Strait of Taiwan this spring, President Biden declared that the U.S. would use military force to keep China from seizing the island of Taiwan, home to 24 million people and an ally of the U.S. Such an act, Biden said, would “dislocate the entire region and be … similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

In response, Beijing warned the U.S. not to “underestimate China’s Taiwan resolve,” insisting relations between the two governments are an internal matter. China claims the island as one of its provinces and an inalienable part of the country.

Taiwan is located in the South China Sea about 160 miles from the Chinese coastline. Until 1949, Taiwan was recognized worldwide as part of China. However, when Mao Tse-Tung led a peasants and workers revolution and drove Chiang Kai-shek’s pro-capitalist forces out of the country, they fled to Taiwan and set up a dictatorship called the Republic of China. Known as the Kuomintang, the exiles kept the island under martial law for 38 years, from 1949-1987. They claimed to be the “legitimate” Chinese government and promised to return to power someday on the mainland.

Today the Democratic People’s Party is in power. It has aspirations for sovereignty but the Chinese Communist Party considers reunification with Taiwan to be unfinished business of their 1949 revolution.

The South China Sea is an important economic and environmental region. It holds huge natural gas and oil reserves. More than half the world’s fishing vessels work there and each day millions of barrels of crude oil sail over it.

The U.S. and China are the two most powerful imperialist countries in the world. They are competing aggressively in Southeast Asia and elsewhere for markets and influence. Biden’s bellicose talk and U.S. military exercises in the region ratchet up the threat of war.

A landslide victory for reaction in the Philippines

The unthinkable has happened. The son of infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., ascended to the presidency of the Philippines at the end of June, 36 years after his father was driven out of office by a massive national revolt called the People’s Power movement. He is joined by Vice President Sara Duterte, the 43-year-old daughter of out-going President Rodrigo Duterte, best known for the notorious “war on drugs” that killed 12,000 people.

Much has been written about the comeback of one of the most corrupt political dynasties in modern history. It is generally agreed that Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., a longtime politician, ran a sophisticated social media campaign using TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as an army of trolls, to whitewash the horrors of his family’s past — 14 years of martial rule, the looting of billions of dollars from the treasury, and years of widespread mayhem and murder against his opposition. But in a country where young people have no memory of the dictatorship and follow the news on their cellphones, “a disinformation campaign on an industrial level” won the day, according to Filipino Nobel Prize winner Maria Resser.

But there is more to this comeback. Cynicism with the empty promises of bourgeois democrats like former President Cory Aquino to tackle land reform and to respect workers’ rights and autonomy for national and indigenous minorities fed the feeling that democracy doesn’t deliver. Marcos, Jr., filled this void with historical revisionism about the “golden age” of the dictatorship and it worked. Better the devil we know, voters felt.

However, the day he won, 400 students protested his victory in Manilla. And with a devastating economic crisis brought on by Covid, it is inevitable that social turmoil and resistance will grow.

Share with your friends