Senior Nicaraguan minister talks environment, crisis in capitalism, and imperialism in Latin America

Nicaraguan flag
Nathalia Urban

Dr Paul Oquist Kelley is Nicaragua’s secretary of the presidency and national policies, and the country’s long-time representative to the UN on climate change. In this interview, Oquist talks about his new book, Equilibra: The Philosophy and Political Economy of Existence and Extinction, and the imperialist threat in Latin America.

In your latest book, you’ve spoken about the threats of environmental destruction. Can you explain more about this, and tell me if you think that these threats are linked to capitalism?

Yes, they are. I have written about this in the book, the factors that are leading us to extinction. The human causes have a common denominator, which is our inability to handle the consequences of our own usages of technology. And that includes nuclear disruption or nuclear weapons, which are the product of our own science and technology. And it threatens our existence: there’s also climate change, which is the result of the industrial revolution, and it can be traced to the fossil fuels used to power the industrial revolution for two and a half centuries.

And then there’s the latest threat which is artificial intelligence, which is also a science factor. Those “developed” nations are taking us to destruction, to extinction. And this is related to the belief that the limitless, mindless growth of production and consumption can occur on a planet with limited and degraded resources.

Our ‘greatest progress’ has been to transform nature, but this has reached a point where it’s now negative. We are damaging the Earth, and it’s easier for us to continue transforming nature instead of transforming ourselves, which is what we need to do, because time is running out with regard to the climate.

As a Nicaraguan, you can see how those countries considered ‘developed’ treat countries in the global South – how they are contributing to the destruction of the environment in the global South. At the same time, many look down on Indigenous people in the Amazon for finding a way to live outside that consumerist lifestyle. So I understand what you mean when you talk about the link between the anthropocentric problems and Eurocentrism.

You are quite right. It’s all very Eurocentric and anthropocentric – and imperialism is alive and well. In volume two of my book I will explore that. It’s vital to understand the history of imperialism in six stages: the first one, mercantilism; the second was colonialism; the third stage was the reassurance of imperialism; the fourth stage was late imperialism; the fifth stage was neocolonialism.

The independence of the colonies was very much a mirage because European dominance and hegemony continued. We’re talking about Europe and the extensions of Europe across the world, such as America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. And then you get into the current stage of this, the sixth stage, which is full-spectrum domination, and this is actually the worst stage.

We are now living at the worst stage of imperialism because of its domination not only of the economy or politics or territory. They also fight to control the mass media, to control social media, to control technology. And we’re witnessing that now with the initiation of a second Cold War with the United States, as we speak, attacking China as an enemy, and demonising that enemy to have their war.

Why do you think the US feels so entitled to overpower governments in Latin America?

This is pure imperialism. They think they are totally superior to all of these countries. They have the idea that power makes you superior. And of course, there’s a racist component. So you have a United States trying to reimpose the bones of the Monroe Doctrine. And the deal with Trump is that he hasn’t done anything new. The United States has always had their nominees in Latin America and the region has been subdued before.

If we look at history, and I’m talking about recent history, we’re not going back to ancient times, but this century, there are several examples of where imperialism has succeeded. In 2018, there was an attempt in Nicaragua to overthrow the Sandinista government. What the United States did was use their local assets and they’ve used their counter-revolution handbook of ‘how to put together’ demonstrations and blockades and all the other types of techniques. It was violent but quite candidly it just didn’t work.

How about the sanctions?

The only legal sanctions are those which are supported by the United Nations. The others are unilateral coercion, illegal measures that the United States enforce on the basis of what they want. As I’ve said before: “Who said they are powerful?”. Who named the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Canada guardians of the law? And a couple of weeks ago, Switzerland joined this pathetic club, for reasons which I don’t understand. They think that they’re morally superior and they can be the moral judge of corruption and human rights when these concerns are being used for commercial and political purposes.

What about the UK?

The UK is historically linked to pirates. You know the pirates in the Caribbean of Port Royal, and of course, Sir Frances Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, and I’m pretty sure not even in their wildest dreams they’ve ever dreamt of a big booty like the one the Bank of England scored , when they seized $1.2bn of Venezuelan gold. So here we see the pirates of the Caribbean looking like amateurs compared to this level of a piracy. But what kind of president [referring to Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó] doesn’t have an army, doesn’t have a political administration, doesn’t have a party?

Even within the opposition, he was the president of no-one. So supposedly that imposter should be respected because the United States said so. And this is showing that the UK no longer has an independent foreign policy – they are followers. So the British and other Europeans are recognising this impostor as president of Venezuela because the US said so, and that’s why they feel that he can be entitled to $1.2bn and go and try to give it to him. It was a violation of human rights, civil rights, and it’s thievery.

Featured image via David Peterson

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