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Looking to the state of affairs in Nicaragua these days, one might wonder what has driven into presidente/comandante Daniel Ortega. Day by day he seems to become more of an authoritarian ruler than the democratically elected president he once was. Opposing parties (such as the split-off Sandinista Renovation Movement MRS) are banned from elections, their offices are searches, and allegations are made against various non-governmental organizations to have accepted bribes. (The MRS split off the traditional Sandinista movement FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) in 1995).

This is particularly striking of a man who was once the leader of one of the world’s most admired socialist movements who has made a pact in 1998 with Arnoldo Aleman of the liberal PLC to share power: Ever since all important institutions of the state of Nicaragua are controlled either by the notoriously corrupt PLC (former president Arnoldo Aleman was sentenced to 20 years of jail for money laundering…) or by the FSLN – which by now seems to be controlled by one person only: Daniel Ortega.

Visit Nicaragua and you will see countless massive billboards with Daniel Ortega, fist raised, promising to abolish poverty and suppress hunger. The revolutionary colours red and black meanwhile have changed to a strange pink background. At the same time, Ortega is allying with the church and actually managed to introduce the world’s most strict anti-abortion law in Nicaragua. Note that Nicaragua used to be a progressive country in Latin America when it comes to women’s rights. Meanwhile, the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM) have strongly criticized this law – which lead to the said allegations of corruption and a razzia of their office.

But MAM are not the only ones to feel the Comandate’s iron fist. In fact, pretty much all political parties and NGO’s daring to criticize Ortega’s egomaniac authoritarian style see themselves confronted with legal consequences and banning from institutions and political activities. The Institute for Development and Democracy (IPADE), for instance is accused of being supported by the CIA because it obains money from USaid (a critical accusation in a country that has been torn by a war mainly financed by the CIA – the famous Iran-Contra affair).

So one would think that Ortegas base of support should be disappearing. But no, the president prohibits virtually all street protests in Managua (by blocking important intersections or putting up his own – probably bought – bogus demonstrators). Political opposition finds it increasingly hard to organize. Furthermore, the poor of Nicaragua (unfortunately, still the vast majority of the population), are bought with “support” from the president. Everyone receiving food aid, agricultural support such as a pig or chickens will be very aware who it came from: the FSLN government. There is just one problem: with its dissolving political base the FSLN as they knew it might still cease to exist (on a national level, mind you; local support is still strong in regions like Matagalpa and Jinotega.

November 9 Managua will elect a new mayor. Due to Ortega’s restrictions it will be a quite vote, with a even more quiet opposition. Odds are that ex-boxing world champion Alexis Argüello, comandante Ortega’s comrade will be elected. If he wins, Ortega might probably interpret this as a carte blanche. Hence, the time after November 9 will be an important day for the future development of democracy in Nicaragua: There will be a vote about a constitutional reform, allowing the president to be reelected after serving his term. This was not allowed up to date in Nicaragua and is clearly a step away from democracy.

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One Comment

  1. interesting insight. i too had high hopes in ortega but it seems the comanders is going the wrong way. diddnt know alexix arguelo was a box fighter!


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