Daniel Ortega Deserves a Firm Response

Isolation and International Deligitimization.  Full speed ahead, the future is ours!  Cartoon by Manuel Guillen / La Prensa.com.ni

By Raul K. Bautista

HAVANA TIMES – Days after the electoral farce of November 7, 2021, some journalists wrote that, through that action, Daniel Ortega had “secured his fourth consecutive term in office.” This assertion coincides with the conclusions of some international experts, who consider that there will be no forceful international reaction to make the Ortega-Murillo regime falter, that it will continue to act with total impunity and that its recently restored relationship with China assures it the necessary economic and political assistance to survive for five more years, or indefinitely.

We must be pragmatic and consider that such course is likely. That would be the worst-case scenario for the Nicaraguan people. To elaborate strategies of resistance and prevent the dictatorship from achieving its objectives could be the starting point for analysis. But first, we must recognize that we are political activists and agents of social change, and together with a majority of the population who have already demonstrated their determination to remove the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship from power, we can change history. To achieve this, we need the strong support of the international community.

With each step that Ortega and Murillo have taken to consolidate their power, they have dug themselves deeper into a hole and made the possibility of a peaceful solution to the sociopolitical crisis more difficult, endangering even their own survival.

Internationally, the only thing Ortega has ensured is that a large majority of the democratic international community considers him illegitimate. He is seen as an usurper of power, a pariah. As the November 7, 2021, OAS General Assembly resolution states: the elections in Nicaragua “were not free, fair or transparent, and lacked democratic legitimacy.”

Ortega has no mandate, neither democratic, nor “revolutionary.” He has no legitimacy to govern. Since he could no longer maintain his democratic façade, he openly declares himself on the side of the authoritarian camp to which he has always belonged. He submitted his request to leave the OAS, kicked Taiwan out and embraced Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China, with which he claims to share an “ideological affinity.”

As 40 former Latin American foreign ministers have pointed out, in a letter promoted by International IDEA, it is necessary to go beyond words and suspend Nicaragua from the OAS if it does not accept a dialogue leading to new elections and does not free the political prisoners.

Ortega has already crossed the main red line and reelected himself through an electoral farce. He has also decisively closed himself off to the negotiations requested by the OAS and the European Union that would give rise to electoral reforms and a dialogue that would allow for new presidential and parliamentarian elections. And he will not change his position until he is forced to do so.

He also refuses to release the political prisoners and has already restarted the trials to declare them all guilty and sentence them to 10 or 15 years in prison and inhibit them from running for public office. Evidencing once again that his true purpose is to permanently damage the physical and psychological integrity of Nicaragua’s main political and civic leaders. It is a way to bury them alive and eliminate them as political adversaries.

If an effective reaction is not taken, says former Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla, “the cost will be extremely high” for Nicaraguans and also for “regional democratic stability.” The time has come to put Ortega in check. The family of democratic nations must take the political decision to strike the Ortega-Murillo regime forcefully. And this is the right time.

As MEP Javier Nart has noted, individual sanctions have only caused “inconveniences” to the dictatorial couple. What is essential, says Nart, “is that we have a political action with decisive and determined economic consequences” against the dictatorial couple, their family, and their associates.

Daniel Zovatto (International IDEA) has proposed to close to the dictatorship all access to financing from international organizations (IMF, World Bank, IDB and CABEI) and to strongly sanction the army. Voices from Europe and Latin America are urging the democratic community to close and deny any possibility of credit from development institutions and programs.

The Biden Administration has in its hands the RENACER Law, which has an unusual bipartisan support in the United States Congress and broad international backing, allowing it to coordinate and lead the implementation of further sanctions and other political and diplomatic pressures with the governments of Canada, Great Britain, the European Union, and Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Suspending Nicaragua from the Inter-American system, excluding it from the international financial system, closing off all development aid and credit, isolating it politically and diplomatically, adopting strong economic sanctions and making use of all other countless soft and hard power mechanisms that the democratic community has, excluding the military option, to wear down, destabilize and force the fall of the Ortega-Murillo regime or force it to negotiate a democratic transition are not interference in the internal affairs of a state, nor are they supporting imperialist options.

It cannot even be called “regime change”; it is primarily about the “responsibility to protect.” As Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary General) said in 2005: “Every State has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” And the international community has a responsibility to protect the affected population, especially when that population has repeatedly demonstrated against a despotic regime and that regime has usurped power.

It is to appeal, as renowned political analysts, legislators, foreign ministers, former presidents and vice presidents of the Western Hemisphere and Europe have pointed out, to the mechanisms available to the Inter-American system and which are part of the agreements and conventions signed by the State of Nicaragua and which must be applied so that the clauses for the protection of democracy are complied with. 

These are the actions of urgent support that the Nicaraguan people need in their struggle against despotism and authoritarianism. Firm support is also required for the opposition, mainly those sectors that still represent the “Spirit of April” and seek unity in action against the dictatorship. As Daniel Zovatto has also expressed, “we must respond to Ortega at the level of his challenge,” if the international community does its part, Nicaraguans will take care of the rest.

Read more from Nicaragua here on  Havana Times.