Daniel Ortega, the wounded beast | Opinion

Daniel Ortega greets his arrival at the celebration of the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution.
Daniel Ortega greets his arrival at the celebration of the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution.picture alliance (picture alliance via Getty Image)

Obstacles may arise in the not too distant future, but the project of Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, is to establish themselves in power in Nicaragua as a dynastic family dictatorship. The hundreds of political prisoners are “sons of bitches of the Yankee imperialists” —to quote the head of the regime —but there are optimistic observers who dare to speculate on the possibility of a less aggressive speech for January 10, the day of the takeover. of possession.

The hateful words that Ortega launched on November 8, the day after the electoral farce, speak of a beast wounded by the high abstentionism; due to the lack of recognition of countries such as Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Spain, the Dominican Republic, the European Union and many others; and for what he hopes to resolve in the immediate future to govern with some stability. Added to this is the recent letter from 40 former Foreign Ministers after what they called the “illegitimate electoral process.”

To the political and social crisis that he will have to manage, Ortega adds the package of economic sanctions against the regime that the United States – the great enemy, but an important commercial partner – has already signed into law. President Joe Biden signed the entry into force of the so-called Reborn Law, which allows torpedoing the loans of financial institutions or revising the Free Trade Agreement with Central America.

The sanctions that do not take long to quell the economic boom that his government boasts – despite the recession – could become possible economic embargoes, which would also affect the ordinary citizen. The rejection of many countries after the electoral farce could turn into a breakdown of diplomatic relations, which would isolate Nicaragua even more than it already is.

The winner cloistered in his own reality has chosen to ignore that the harshness of his petulant speech does not contribute to preventing eventual situations of violence from occurring internally, including possible insurrections by some members of the army and the police, Nicaraguan sources say in exile. It is worth remembering that both are a core part of the Sandinista Front base, which, according to a Cid Gallup poll, has decreased its support to between 15 and 20%, less than the historical 38% that it had maintained for decades and that In fact, between 2011 and 2016, it soared to more than 60%.

The recent General Assembly of the OAS did not produce substantive changes in the correlation of forces in the region: a majority condemnation, of 25 countries, seven abstentions and not just one against, that of Nicaragua obviously.

But Ortega and his wife still have the upper hand, and the mango as well.

The Northern Triangle, strictly speaking, is already forming ranks with Ortega. With the Salvadoran Nayib Bukele at the helm, an authoritarian regional bloc is emerging. The Vatican has not spoken either. And the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) has been a key economic ally. In four and a half years, from January 2017 to June 2021, the Government of Daniel Ortega has received from CABEI more than 2,289 million dollars – an average of more than 450 million dollars annually. CABEI has been the main financial supporter of the Nicaraguan regime, but now Biden will undoubtedly pressure him to a change of direction.

But after the “elections”, where Ortega did not allow any organization of international weight to observe them, where only he and a couple of allied parties that lacked specific weight participated, where he has accused the United States and its “accomplices” in Nicaragua of looking for a war, you cannot afford to follow the hard line that you have chosen so far. Or at least not for long. There is no longer Venezuela with the support of its millions. Neither Russia nor China nor Cuba will do much beyond issuing statements in defense of Ortega.

One option would be to announce at the beginning of a “restricted” dialogue to lower internal pressure a bit, from the hand of its allied parties, such as the formula Oscar Sobalvarro – former head of the “Contra” – and the former beauty queen Berenice Quezada ; of “second-level business friends”, such as the current president of Cosep, César Zamora, as well as some members of the construction, health and agricultural sectors, say Nicaraguan sources in exile. This alternative would not include “big capital”, except to possibly request at least the release of their fellow prisoners. This group would have some participation out of “modesty” and because there is discontent with the Ortega regime within their own families.

Another way out – the golden dream of optimists in exile – could be the beginning of a great national dialogue, in Mexico or Spain. The ideal moment would be to coincide with the municipal elections of 2022, with constituent assemblies at the local level, the release of at least some political prisoners in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

A third dilemma would be that, in two or three years, “an internal uprising of a tactical order” would emerge. The high percentage of abstention is made up of those who are very angry with the regime. There is another important sector that voted null, in a kind of silent protest, an angle ignored by the ruling party. Without opposition representatives or campaigns against the regime, the null votes reached 155,854, only surpassed by the 372,648 votes of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party and the alliance headed by the Sandinista Front with more than two million ballots in their favor. This movement, which for now lacks leaders, could start a dangerous rebellion in the streets. There are about 100,000 exiles; many want to return to their country at all costs. Not everyone is going to stay with their hands crossed.

Few know it, but Ortega has also run into a stone in the way within his own family. Sources close to the government now in exile assure that Murillo wanted to be named president and that her husband would dedicate himself to partisan work. “There was a strong lawsuit with her on this issue that lasted several weeks,” says the source. The vice president lost: it is not the favorite card of the historic Sandinista sector that still supports the not so new president.

The ideal for many would be for Ortega to agree to a new national election, but that scenario is unfeasible, even if it has been requested by the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro. The ruling couple are still very comfortable with their hard line. However, the regime does not have it so easy. You will be forced to choose a light or moderate dialogue to continue trading. Either that, or the country under terror will inevitably fall into an eventual cliff.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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