Billionaire-backed Human Rights Watch lobbies for lethal US sanctions on leftist governments as COVID-19 crisis rages
Regime change-hungry HRW is proudly taking credit for crushing new US sanctions on Nicaragua while pushing to escalate Washington’s economic war on Venezuela. The Grayzone presents a deep dive into the “human rights” arm of US empire.
by Ben Norton
Part 6 - Vivanco: ‘You can’t negotiate… You have to double down on the sanctions’
José Miguel Vivanco, the director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division, has adopted some of the most maximalist positions of Latin America’s right-wing as his own. He publicly opposes negotiations with Nicaragua’s government, insisting that economic warfare is the only possible action.
In English, Vivanco’s language is careful to appear reasonable. In Spanish, however, the gloves come off, displaying the hyperbolic rhetoric familiar to radical right-wing Latin American activists. Vivanco regularly refers to the Nicaragua’s democratically elected government in Spanish as a “regime” and “dictatorship,” for example.
“You can’t negotiate with the blood-soaked dictatorship of Ortega and Murillo,” Vivanco tweeted in March 2019. “On the contrary, you have to double down on the sanctions.”
A few days later, in a softball interview with the corporate media monolith Univision, Vivanco insisted, “The only language that Daniel Ortega understands is sanctions and international pressure.” (He has repeated this hardline position numerous times.)
Like his boss in New York, Ken Roth, Vivanco occasionally offers tepid criticism of the US and its allies. But his focus on leftist governments under siege by the US is clearly disproportionate. A survey of the HRW Americas director’s Twitter feed shows he says comparatively little about Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and Bolivia — all authoritarian right-wing governments that oversee horrific human rights abuses on a regular basis. Yet Vivanco launches hysterical broadsides against the left-wing leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and even Mexico on a daily basis.
Vivanco has again and again, on dozens of occasions, called for sanctions on Nicaragua and Venezuela, while praising existing US government sanctions, in both English and Spanish.
Vivanco frequently shares hardline op-eds from Nicaragua’s right-wing media outlets. He even amplifies press releases from the country’s opposition groups, like the US government-backed Civic Alliance, tweeting their call for sanctions — giving the HRW stamp of approval to these extreme right-wing political forces.