By Abixael Mogollon (La Prensa)
HAVANA TIMES – On Sunday, November 10, many Bolivians celebrated the end of nearly 14 years under Evo Morales, who had attempted to hold on to power through electoral fraud; meanwhile, Nicaragua was on month #19 since the national demand exploded for Daniel Ortega to leave the presidency. What Bolivia succeeded in doing in 20 days of social pressure, Nicaragua has failed to do over a much longer time.
Morales and Ortega spring from the same ideological and political trunk: two leftists who have ridden roughshod over the political constitutions of their countries in order to have themselves perpetually reelected President. Both share clear messianic pretentions, reasoning that since they lifted millions out of poverty through sustained economic growth, they deserve to remain in power indefinitely.
The two rulers came to power at nearly the same time. On January 22, 2006, Bolivia celebrated the first time ever that a person of indigenous background – Evo Morales – had ascended to power. Almost a year later, on January 10, 2007, Ortega, with the old tricks he had acquired from the eighties, ascended to this office.
The popular rejection of Ortega broke out in April, 2018; the movement against Morales in October of the following year. In both struggles, it was the young people who lit the social fuse in the streets. Their efforts to remove their country’s declared leader from power were fruitful in Bolivia, but in Nicaragua no.
The armed forces were the key
Why then did the situation in Bolivia precipitate the president’s departure so quickly? What should Nicaragua take away from the struggle in the South American country?
To former diplomat Bosco Matamoros, the role of the armed forces has been key to the Bolivian crisis. Both the police and the army of that country bowed to the demands of Bolivians who denounced the electoral fraud carried out with the complicity of the Bolivian electoral authorities. The latter will now be legally charged.
“The report of the OAS is conclusive. There was fraud, and Evo Morales has committed electoral crimes,” Matamoros stated to La Prensa via telephone. He emphasized that both the police and the army respected the demonstrations, and that has allowed the country to conserve the rule of law.
To the specialist in international relations, there are “cavernous” differences between the armed forces of Bolivia and those of Nicaragua. Matamoros affirmed that “when these institutions are maintained, any arbitrary action of a ruler can be stopped.”
In Nicaragua, Ortega assigned his son’s father-in-law, Francisco Diaz, to head the Police. This appointment assured him of the body’s loyalty. Diaz was given a free rein to use the police forces as shock troops to contain any attempt at street protests after Ortega was able to take back control of the country through the so-called “Operation Clean-up”, which stained the public roads with blood in 2018.
The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights speaks of over 300 mortal victims during the most intense part of the repression in Nicaragua, while in Bolivia, where the police united with the people, up until now there’ve only been 3 casualties.
The very low number of mortal victims in Bolivia contrasts with the first week of protests in Nicaragua. A mere seven days after Nicaraguans first came out to protest the brutal reforms to Social Security, the country registered approximately 30 deaths, including a reporter.
Former deputy Eliseo Nunez also pointed to the actions of the Police and the Army in Bolivia as the flex point, the point of change on a curve. He also highlighted another difference, which is that Evo Morales “isn’t as lethal as Daniel Ortega.”
“The position of the army in Bolivia was clear. In Nicaragua, it never was. instead they gave Ortega space to regroup. For example, in covering the institutions, the Nicaraguan Army took charge of the Managua mayor’s office from where the paramilitary emerged. That reinforced them,” Nunez stated.
Despite Nunez’ claims, the armed forces itself In Nicaragua has rejected on several occasions these accusations of the opposition. The reports from the international human rights organizations actually mention the Ortega Police – as opposed to the Army – as being behind the massacre, by operating in coordination with armed civilians known as paramilitary.
The absence of a paramilitary in Bolivia was also a factor that would explain why the Bolivian struggle was so much less bloody than in Nicaragua.
Another of the points that Nunez highlighted as key to the development of events in Bolivia, is that the South American country “has a much more independent judicial system”.
This Sunday, the Bolivian Attorney General ordered an investigation into the members of the electoral tribunal. He mandated the creation of a “Special Prosecutors’ Commission” to take charge of these investigations.
In Nicaragua, the Judicial Branch serves the interests of the Ortega regime. The human rights organizations have accused the Nicaraguan justice system of “fabricating” evidence against those who demand Ortega’s departure from power. That situation sent over a thousand persons who had protested to jail.
Early on, before Morales’ resignation was made known, Bosco Matamoros already felt that if he didn’t step aside, he ran the risk of staining the legacy “of positive things that he achieved in his government, and of becoming a detriment to his party in the next elections.
Along this line of thinking, Nunez asserted that “it would be very difficult for Morales to maintain power or to present his candidacy once more in the elections.”
“Evo Morales will have to leave power to resolve the crisis. He thought he could steal some elections and come out with no consequences,” Nunez stated. He also affirmed that another key point in Bolivia’s crisis is that “they don’t have a Daniel Ortega there, cemented into power, or police who are evil Nicaraguans that kill other Nicaraguans.”
The role of the big business owners
Another point that differentiated the opposition’s reaction in Bolivia was the indefinite strike that the large business owners and civil society maintained in Bolivia. This stands in contrast to Nicaragua, which has only held 24-hour strikes that haven’t really impacted the economic supports of the regime. The Ortega government continues to support itself and finance the paramilitary forces with taxes.
“In Nicaragua, the company owners didn’t want to [hold an extended strike],” Nunez points out, also mentioning that in Nicaragua the social explosion occurred outside the electoral context, while the context of the uprising in Bolivia gave the opposition clear leadership and greater unity.
“Here, a lot of leaders arose, but they were very dispersed. In Nicaragua, there was more anger than organization, while Bolivia was clear about their leaders,” said Nunez.
After issuing a call to Morales to leave power within 48 hours, and his failure to heed it, the opposition called to radicalize the national strike and increase the pressure on Morales.
Nicaragua’s Civic Alliance congratulates Bolivia
La Prensa consulted Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, who responded only by forwarding a communique from the Civic Alliance, recognizing the initial report of the OAS and congratulating the Bolivian Police and Army for their posture.
By the time Sunday afternoon came to a close, Morales had concluded his nearly 14 years in government, while Ortega, propped up by the Police, the Army, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly president, on Saturday night reaffirmed his refusal to leave power and asserted that there’d be no early elections, maintaining the original date of November 2021 when his presidential term concludes.