Nicaragua’s Private Sector Responds to Ortega’s Offensive

Jose Adan Aguerri, president of Nicaragua’s Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep). Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial


The crisis will affect business people equally, Sandinistas or not

Business association leader Jose Adan Aguerri questions: Who will invest in a country where the Police are ordered to enter and rob an office? Who will lend money to that country?


By Ivan Olivares  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The private sector will not negotiate unilaterally with the government of Daniel Ortega, said Jose Adan Aguerri, President of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP). He maintains that it would be useless if any businessman, large or small, seeks such an agreement, because all credibility in Nicaragua was lost.

The lost confidence and certainty cannot be recovered “while the acts that undermine human rights continue to be committed every day,” stated the business association leader, when interviewed on the television program “Esta Semana” (This Week), broadcasted by Channel 12.

Last week, the regime used its National Assembly and the Ministry of the Interior, to attack civil society by cancelling the legal status of nine NGOs, while attacking the media, stealing equipment, invading properties, and assaulting journalists, acts that received widespread national and international condemnation.

Who will come to invest in Nicaragua, if we are seeing these types of events every day? Who will reverse their decision to cancel lines of credit to Nicaragua? Some 150,000 people were left without access to microcredit, because international fund managers lost confidence in Nicaragua. This is not recuperated because a group or a businessman sits down to negotiate with the Government,” he emphasized.

Aguerri said that a study prepared by COSEP and its chambers, show that the national economy lost ten percentage points in seven months, because “we were going to grow five points and dropped five. This is something atypical in the world. The crisis caused some sectors to drop a year or half a year for every month. But this is just the beginning: without agreement, without a political solution, we will drop from 8 to 11 additional points to the ten that we have already dropped.”

The result so far is more than 400,000 workers who lost their employment were suspended, or fell into underemployment, while more than 60,000 persons were forced into exile, “and those numbers will continue to accumulate if there are no answers.”

The Cosep leader insisted several times on the undeniable fact that when it comes to reporting the effects of the crisis, there is no difference between a Sandinista businessman and a non-Sandinista businessman. “The lack of confidence in the market affects everyone, both business people and consumers, and time is running out,” he stated.

Back to the eighties

Aguerri also rejected the “subsistence economy based on the ‘gallo pino’ (rice and beans),” offered by Daniel Ortega as an alternative to pass the bitter drink of the crisis. “Pretend that we return to the socioeconomic situation we had in 1989, is to say that you are not interested in the country, that you are not interested in the future, but only in your individual position, to remain holding on to a political position,” he said.

Being an adult in the 80’s, Aguerri remembers what a decision like that meant. “The country we found in 1990 when the Government of Dona Violeta Barrios came in was in ruins…and it took a long time to put it back on its feet,” he recalled.

“To say that we are going to return to that is to not understand that 30 years have passed, and that this is not the last century, and that neither technology, nor the conditions, nor the government of the United States are the same as 30 years ago,” he added.

Aguerri emphasized that “we do not live on an island: we are part of a region, which means that Central America will be affected, both from the point of view of the humanitarian crisis, with more than 50,000 Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, and the threat of more moving to other countries, plus the effect of the crisis on the generation of jobs and in the security of the rest of the region.”

One more element to show that the “solutions” of the 80’s are no longer viable is to insist that the crisis does not differentiate between entrepreneurs. “In the government structure there are officials who only live on a salary and have a different vision to that of a Sandinista businessman, and there are those that are officials and are also an entrepreneurs,” he explained.

“That did not exist in 1989. That year, everyone was a governmental official living from the public coffers. Now we have a different situation, and that is another element that contrasts with what it was 30 years ago, from what it is today,” he compared.

A strike? Yes, but…

In reference to the march that the private sector said it plans to convene, the association leader said that this week they will sit down with their counterparts from the American Chamber of Commerce of Nicaragua (AmCham) and the Nicaraguan foundation for Economic and Social Development (Funides), to inquire if they will accompany them in this civic decision, and request the police coordination (not permission).

In advocating that we have a Christmas without political prisoners and without repression, Aguerri relies on “the efforts of the Catholic Episcopal Conference and the Nuncio, to seek an answer to the request that among the thousand common prisoners to be released, they include those who have been arrested without due process.”

The private sector is working to achieve “a social, political and economic agreement towards the future, with all the sectors of society. We will be meeting with all the sectors of society to seek joint proposals,” he stated.

Aguerri said he understands that there are those who insist on the idea of calling a national strike, because “there are sectors that have the vision that a strike would resolve the crisis. However he noted that each call to a [one day] strike had a different answer: 100% of the small and micro-businesses in the first, and 50% in the third,” he recalled.

A strike is a tool to put pressure on the regime, but it does not solve the crisis, said Aguerri. It does not mean that there is no hope in the daily struggle to make Ortega understand that his time is over, that cancelling NGOs and assaulting private companies and communication media, says more of the pressure that the tyrant experiences, than of his supposed strength.

Speaking of that pressure, Aguerri points out that “this is a process under implementation,” citing the isolation to which the international community has subjected the Government, plus an economic reality that follows its own process, before which Ortega “will irremediably have to decide which is going to be the solution: the one of failure or a political solution?”

“That combination of situations will motivate the President’s response, and depending on that response, other actions will have to be assessed,” he said.