Sandinista Front Drums to Ortega’s Beat

Sandinista Party Congress approves Ortega’s power to select the Sandinista candidates for mayor.

By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto  (Confidencial)

A strong Police presence kept independent media out of the Congress. A team from Confidencial was ousted when they tried to cover the event.

HAVANA TIMES – The Sandinista Party Congress ratified a measure to have the party’s mayoral candidates selected via “surveys”, and put control of the political alliances for November’s municipal elections into the hands of Daniel Ortega.

Item three of the Congress’ resolution “empowers” Ortega to ratify the candidates for mayor following the survey process that has already been underway for a few weeks in different municipalities. In that way, the Sandinista strongman will have the final word for the Sandinista Front nominations. This maintains an authoritarian model that in practice annuls all municipal autonomy.

Since Ortega returned to power in 2007, 34 mayors and deputy mayors have been deposed under his orders, plus an uncountable number of city council members. No one in the meeting room of the Olof Palme Convention Center, where the Congress was held, opposed this proposal to concentrate power in the leader. All raised their hand, including local party officials, public functionaries, party militants and members of the Sandinista Youth group.

A large police and security operation was mobilized to protect Ortega in transit from his home in the “El Carmen” neighborhood to the Olof Palme Center. Representatives of the independent press weren’t allowed to enter, and a team from Confidencial was ejected by the police. The authorities alleged that “we hadn’t been included in the invitation” and that it was “a private event” which only the “citizen’s media” could enter.

According to Ortega, the municipal elections will be “another step Nicaragua will take towards stability, towards peace, towards security for families.” However, he didn’t mention anything about the denunciations of fraud made by sectors of the opposition, nor about the “electoral accompaniment” that the Organization of American States was supposed to give.

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada declared last week that the first OAS officials would be arriving in August, but he didn’t specify the scope of the mission. His declarations contrasted with versions from the Latin American foreign ministers who participated last week in their organization’s General Assembly in Cancun Mexico. There, the ministers of foreign relations stated that the dialogue between Ortega and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro was “at a standstill” due to the lack of political will in Managua; the countries who could finance this “electoral accompaniment” don’t see the sense of it.

The OEA’s “electoral accompaniment” would lend legitimacy to a process that won’t fulfill the elemental guarantees of free and transparent voting.  Hence, the foreign ministers expressed their fear for the legitimacy that the OAS organization could lose.

Comandante Ortega stated: “the principle and greatest objective of these elections is to heighten democracy, which means to strengthen peace, to struggle for the welfare and progress of the Nicaraguan families.”

He brought up his government’s social programs which have guaranteed him an elevated popular backing during his three consecutive administrations. Nevertheless, he didn’t discuss the recent intent to collect payments for the “Roofing Plan” program.  For the last several months the beneficiaries of this program are being charged a thousand cordobas (just over US $30), something that has caused uneasiness in the neighborhoods.

The implementation of this charge for a program that was previously free coincided with the abrupt drop in Venezuelan foreign aid, which went from an average of US $500 million annually to 90 million in 2016. Ortega has backed the regime of Nicolas Maduro and the Constitutional Assembly that he is trying to promote, which seeks to annul the public powers.

“They conspired against Chavez, just like they did against (Salvador) Allende. Let’s recall those marches when the coup d’etat was coming against Chavez; and later the economic sabotage, the sabotage of the oil. There were waves of conspiracies, of wars in the economic realm, in the social realm, but there we still have the struggle, and there are Chavez’ people with Nicolas defending that process, and the people of Our America are there too,” said Ortega.