Electoral farce in Nicaragua

Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega, on March 12 last in one of their few virtual appearances. (Presidency photo)

Predictably, the formula made up of the couple Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo was imposed in the Nicaraguan presidential elections, allowing the eternalization of the dictatorship of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

But what took place in Nicaragua on Sunday the 7th was not an election, but a farce. While Commander Ortega’s regime remains in power, his opponents remain imprisoned. In fact, in a climate of repression, systematic violation of Human Rights and political persecution, seven of the main alternative candidates to the government were arrested, while others were forced into exile.

The events resulted from a prerogative derived from the legislation approved by the ruling super-majority of the National Assembly on December 21, 2020. A set of draconian measures that in fact allowed the dictatorship to lock up the country’s main opposition candidates. A bespoke law effectively allowed Ortega and his hyper-influential wife-vice president to get Every dictator’s dream: elections without opposition candidates.

By introducing a sort of blank criminal offense, the law gave the head of state the power to call annoying applicants “traitors to the homeland”. Obviously, the warnings that were made inside and outside the country were of no use. For example, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the initiative of the Executive Branch sought to prevent the participation of opposition candidates in the presidential elections, since by using extremely imprecise terms when defining “traitors to the homeland” this allows cancel inconvenient applications. Already then, HRW indicated that “with this law, there is very little hope, if any, that free and fair elections will be held in Nicaragua.”

Perhaps it is important to remember the future of this sad reality. Ortega has been at the forefront of power for twenty-four of the last forty years, from the revolution that in July 1979 put an end to the endless tyranny inaugurated four decades earlier by Anastasio “Tacho” Somoza García and continued by his sons Luis and Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza Debayle. At that time, Ortega seemed to embody the revolutionary ideals of those who wanted to end dictatorships.

Once again it would be shown that making a revolution is often easier than staying true to the principles that motivated it. And far from liberating the country, Ortega and his acolytes replaced a pro-Western dictatorship with a socialist dictatorship based on the Castro model, with the intention of founding a “new Cuba.”

But Ortega was a victim of his time. Unlike his admired Fidel Castro, his coming to power in Nicaragua coincided with the end of the bonanza of the Soviet era.. During the eighties, the socialist experiment would show its greatest limitations and the assistance from Moscow that Ortega dreamed of would not be enough to compensate for the economic catastrophe derived from the introduction of socialist policies.

Ortega’s endless pilgrimages to the Soviet Union would prove insufficient. Perhaps Managua was the victim of an adverse geopolitical game. Beginning in 1985, an agreement between the Reagan Administration and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia caused a collapse in the price of oil that forced the Kremlin to reduce assistance to its allies.

It was then that, exhausted by the difficulties of a devastated economy, Ortega made the biggest mistake of his political career: he gave free elections. Suddenly – confident in his triumph and ignoring Castro’s warnings – he underwent an electoral process that determined his defeat at the hands of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.

That February 25, 1990 opened five decades of a weak democracy in the country. Insistently, Ortega tried to return to power until he achieved it in 2006, through a timely change of discourse in which the slogans of the past were put aside to make way for an appeal to Christian values ​​so deeply rooted in Central America. The FSLN was now “Christian, socialist and supportive.” But Ortega’s return to power would not have been possible if two other fundamental circumstances had not been mediated: the abundant petrodollars of the wasteful Hugo Chávez Frías and a convenient reform of the electoral system.

The one that was put into practice through the “sinister pact” between Ortega and former President Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002). And that it consisted of an exercise in political opportunism as effective as it was unscrupulous. In which the leader of the Liberal Party exchanged to facilitate the reduction of the constitutional requirement to access the Presidency from 45 to 35 percent in exchange for not being bothered by the causes of corruption that afflicted him.

This is how Ortega returned to power. Seventeen years out of government taught him profound lessons. Willing not to give up power anymore, he would surrender to the systematic destruction of one and every one of the country’s republican institutions. Until we reach the current reality in which Nicaraguan democracy is a mere illusion.

I learned to love Nicaraguans during the years I lived in Costa Rica, when I served as Argentine ambassador during the government of President Mauricio Macri. An opportunity that allowed me to meet many of the hundreds of thousands of men and women of that self-sacrificing people who live in their democratic neighbor to the south, contributing their industriousness and their deep vocation for progress. I had the opportunity to visit a good part of its territory and get to know first-hand this sacrificed population, often the victim of a bloody history. That which in the last two centuries went through independence, William Walker, foreign interventions, the endless Somocista dynasty, the 79 revolution, the installation of a Cuban-style communist regime, the brief democratic interregnum and the return of Ortega, this Once determined to impose socialism on a single family. In honor of them I believe it is essential to raise our voice alerting the serious violations of the dignity of that people.

The “elections” take place a few days after the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was released on October 25, which records the phenomenon of “concentration of political power and the consequent weakening of the rule of law in Nicaragua.” Report that indicates that during the year 2021, “persecutions, threats, aggressions, arbitrary detentions, attacks against human rights defenders, opponents, journalists, communities of the Atlantic Coast, as well as the continuous closure of democratic spaces have been documented. ”.

Faced with such gross abuses of democracy and the slightest republican forms in Nicaragua, the democratic governments of the Americas have raised their voices demanding a return to the institutional channel in that country.

Conversely, other countries opted for the endorsement of the Sandinista dictatorship. Sadly it is the case of the Argentine government, that for almost two years it opted for silence before the systematic violation of Human Rights in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, undermining the prestige accumulated in the matter by our country since the democratic recovery in 1983.

* Mariano A. Caucino is a specialist in international relations. He served as the Argentine ambassador to Israel and Costa Rica.


The Supreme Electoral Council of Nicaragua gave Daniel Ortega as the winner of the electoral fraud with half of the records scrutinized

Daniel Ortega: From the Progressive Revolution to the Perfect Dictatorship – By Santiago Cantón

Nicaragua’s Poor Prospects – By Raúl Ferro

Nicaragua, chronicle of an announced fraud – By Héctor Schamis


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