Nicaragua: authoritarian elections and regime crisis – 25/06/2021 – Latinoamérica21

What is happening in Nicaragua? Why was a selective crackdown on several opposition political leaders, including presidential candidates, recently launched? How to understand the reactionary drift of the Ortega regime?

To give a sensible answer, it should be underlined, on the one hand, the surprising stability that the Ortega government obtained from 2007 to 2018, a period during which it articulated a regime of a corporate nature which, under a liberal cosmetic- Democrat, united the interests of the great national capital, the churches and the poorest sectors of the country. And on the other hand, the exhaustion of this political artefact in April 2018, when an intense wave of protests erupted.

The spark of the protests was a reform of the pension system and mismanagement of fires in the Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve, but several collectives – mainly middle-class urban youth and leaders of social movements – have joined forces. quickly associated to challenge the regime in its entirety. , especially for its arbitrary, repressive and patrimonial character.

Since then, the regime has experienced a reactionary and repressive drift, to which have been added surrealist demonstrations, such as a call from the government which encouraged its bases to take to the streets to shout “love in the time of the Covid”.

It is only from this framework – a decade of stability and a biennium of crisis – that it is possible to understand how today, just five months before the elections, a fierce campaign of government repression has taken hold. triggered. A campaign which led, during the drafting of this text, to the suppression of the freedom of four presidential candidates -Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Félix Maradiaga and Juan S. Chamorro- and the imprisonment of several opposition leaders : Violeta Granera, José A. Aguerri, José Pallais, José Pallais and José Luis Aguerri. Aguerri, José Pallais, Tamara Dávila, Dora M. Téllez, Ana M. Vijil, Suyen Barahona, Hugo Torres, Walter Gómez and Marcos Fletes.

Faced with the anguish of the Ortega-Murillo couple during the months of April and May 2018, the government changed its strategy. He went from cooptation and the pact, to blind and massive repression and, in recent weeks, to selective repression. In this sense, it is possible to emphasize that the Covid-19 health crisis has helped stabilize the Ortega-Murillo regime.

The mixture of repression and fear of contagion – in a context where the government has been negligent – ended up shattering a negative coalition, broad but not cohesive. Everyone knows that street protest is one thing and competition in the electoral arena is another.

When the mobilisations disappeared – due to fatigue, fear and prevention of contagion – political leaders appeared ready to negotiate electoral formulas and power quotas within the framework of an electoral administration that the FSLN is in full control.

The opposition’s inability to form a “common front” over the past year has enabled the Ortega government to pass tough repressive legislation that the National Assembly, also controlled by the FSLN, passed in late 2020. Today, this legislation is used to eliminate any threat of opposition to the government.

In this sense, it is clear that the November election will be neither free nor competitive, but an authoritative manual election. An election without international observation and without guarantee of anything.

If things continue as they are, on November 7, 2021, elections will take place where there will be only one candidacy to vote – that of the FSLN, which was blunted by a family clan – and therefore Ortega will win his fourth. consecutive presidential election. election. With this, the Ortega-Murillo tandem consolidated its power, albeit with minimal international support and almost no national legitimacy.

In this context, the big question is to know what could be the future of the regime once it has won the authoritarian elections of 2021. No one knows whether Ortega will be able to rebuild the old alliance he had with big business. , or if the conditions for a new social explosion will intensify.

In any case, the victory of the Ortega-Murillo tandem will certainly mean the continuation of a dynastic and personalist regime. A type of diet, of course, that always has problems when the relay dilemma looms on the horizon.

As it stands, the authoritarian drift and closed mentality presented by the presidential couple reveal a process of isolation and international alienation typical of a former Soviet republic. All this in a region where Nicaragua has no close (or rich) allies to turn to, nor legitimizing speeches to appeal to.

Maintaining the presidency by force is the loss of any regime. This is what Dora María Téllez – who was a Sandinista commander and Minister of Health during the revolution – revealed in a tweet just before her arrest. The tweet read: eliminating all candidacies, all opposition, is the goal of a dying dictatorship. That is why he is resorting to massive repression. Nothing worked. Nothing will work.

* Translation from Spanish by Maria Isabel Santos Lima

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