“Agreement Under the Boot” of Daniel Ortega

Daniel Ortega’s illegitimate reelection has provoked repudiation from the international community, including the United States.  Photo: from government website “El 19 digital”

The social contract has collapsed in Nicaragua, replaced by a forcefully imposed “agreement under the boot.”

By Jose Alberto Montoya (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Different theorists and philosophers have emphasized the human necessity to forego complete liberty in order to guarantee stability, security and harmony within the population: we know this as the social contract. In Nicaragua, that entire theory has shattered, given the demise of the rule of law and the complete absence of the separation of powers the Constitution mandates. All this is the work of the dictatorship so as to remain in power – absolute power.

The truth is that Nicaragua is employing a new social contract, an imposition that completely lacks the national consensus that an understanding between the governing and the governed entails. It’s undeniable that – through the ever-growing repression – the regime has officialized a model where citizens must adapt to a new context: lack of public freedoms, a shrinking and stalled economy, social insecurity, and an attempt to normalize a one-party regime with political prisoners, police sieges, massive emigration, poor management of the public health crisis and now with the State’s violence focused on religious freedom.

Although they may not accept these elements completely, Nicaraguan citizens find themselves with the need to mold their everyday lives around the censorship, in exchange for being allowed to live in some kind of peace, without suffering the habitual [government] reprisals against those who are openly critical of the dictatorship.

At a historic time when the rights of citizens were very limited, Rousseau understood the social contract as a pact among citizens; years later, John Rawls contradicted this view. It could be hypothesized that Daniel Ortega has pushed the country back to the historical eras when certain sectors of the population weren’t considered citizens – as was the case with enslaved people or women. However, Ortega’s basic understanding of Rousseau’s contract is erroneous, given that the historic moment in which he’s implementing his “agreement under the boot” is a time when the entire national population is considered to hold rights of citizenship, according to the country’s jurisprudence.

Since assuming power, the dictatorship has created a stratification of citizens – it’s divided the population into first-class citizens and second-class citizens (an action little or not at all in accordance with socialism, according to those who classify themselves as such).

In 2015, the National Police obstructed a march in Managua led by the rural farm sector, who were demanding the repeal of Law #840 [allowing land to be expropriated for the later-failed canal project]. At the same time, they protected Ortega’s followers days later, and allowed them to march with no disturbances or inconveniences at all. That serves as an indication of their differentiation of the citizens. On the other hand, it would be a grave error to think that every Ortega sympathizer is a “first-class citizen”. The extreme poverty, unequal opportunities and utter refusal to allow criticism, even among members of the FSLN, are proof of this, the best example being the imprisonment of “Chino Enoc” [a militant Sandinista now in jail for criticizing Rosario Murillo].   

Ortega and Murillo may think that the status quo of their “agreement under the boot” is perfectly suited to maintaining an orderly-appearing society, assuring that no one defies the mandates and desires of the tyrannical duo. Rawls said that no society is orderly if it lacks social justice, and that the absence of the latter only produces cracks in the social fabric. This is clearly occurring in Nicaragua, a country sunk in inequality, even in the opportunities for economic development, due to the continual blocking of proposals from non-official voices.

But do the dictators themselves really trust their system?

The continual outbursts and micro-explosions on the part of Nicaraguan citizens can be added to cases like that of Arturo McFields, former Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS, who in full use of his post denounced the dictatorship which in theory he represented, before the full gathering of the OAS Permanent Council. These things indicate that not even the rigidity imposed on their own functionaries can guarantee an orderly system.

In the short run, the dictatorship has made it clear to the Nicaraguan citizens that no dissident act will be left without its respective punishment. Dr. Magda Alonso in Matagalpa, for example, was called in to the police merely for trying to awaken the consciences of the police agents who were laying siege to the city’s bishop, Monsignor Alvarez.

The social contract the dictator proposes, or, rather imposes, is one of a negative peace in exchange for giving up the freedoms sealed in the country’s Magna Carta. We’re left to trust the lessons of history – that when a Sultan is sure of his power, he doesn’t expect the social breakdown that Rawls’ theories predict, due to the absence of a fair and comprehensive social pact.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times