Mister Dictator

Here we have the guilty party carrying out provocations and destabilizing activities. Cartoon by PxMolina / Confidencial

Editorial from Costa Rica’s “La Nacion”: Ortega has made new strides in his quest for isolation and his march towards the dark ages.

By La Nación / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The plot takes place in a nameless country, governed by a dictator who isn’t named either, although we know the character was based on Rafael Estrada Cabrera, president of Guatemala from 1898 -1920. More than a personality, he’s an elusive presence: narcissistic, enigmatic, insensitive, ghostlike and absorbed by his environment. He has only one tenuous form of contact with the environment pervaded by cruelty, groveling and misery: the shady and servile Angel Face.

If there’s one thing that stands out in that alienated territory far from the rest of the world, it’s the praises heaped on the dictator. These praises are exacerbated on the day of the National Celebration, we’re told by a narrator and chronicler as impersonal as the protagonist himself.

“‘Señor, Señor, the heavens and the earth are full of your glory!’ The president allows himself to be viewed, grateful to the people, who in that way recompense him for his sleepless nights, isolated from everyone, far away, accompanied only by his most intimate circle.”

Since its publication in 1946, the echoes from Miguel Angel Asturias novel El Señor Presidente haven’t stopped reverberating across Latin America. A perfect example of the genre known as “novels about dictatorship”, its relevance continues growing today. Its contents are practically being replayed in Nicaragua, where a dictator whose name we do know is also sunk into a cold and cruel primitivism, closed in on himself, detached from reality and the people, hiding behind real and symbolic walls, just like Asturias’ protagonist. “Isolated from everything, very far distant, accompanied only by his most intimate circle.” The role of Angel Face in the novel, has been assumed by Rosario Murillo in the case of Daniel Ortega and the Nicaraguan reality. In her case, it’s been amplified: vice president, wife and the actual medium for bringing together ideas and feeding blunders.

The chain of atrocities and delirium into which the Ortega-Murillo regime has leapt, especially after the 2018 massive protests, continues acquiring ever newer shades. The worst of these are all too well known: the repression, the physical or legal elimination of their political adversaries, the prohibition of independent organizations, the persecution of the Catholic Church, the shuttering of media outlets, the suffocating of academic centers, the corruption and disdain for the welfare of their impoverished people.

Another modality worthy of El Señor Presidente  is being added at full velocity: a deliberate international  isolation that leaves Nicaragua increasingly distanced from a group of countries and organizations that are key to their economic survival and their diplomatic maneuvering.

Last week, Ortega broke off diplomatic relations with the Netherlands: expressly expelled EU ambassador Bettina Muscheidt, without following basic diplomatic considerations; and reiterated that Hugo Rodriguez, the new ambassador to Nicaragua designated by the United States, wouldn’t be allowed into the country. In all of these cases, the regime was acting in reprisal for the justified criticism that those entities or people have made of their dictatorship. Framed falsely as a display of national pride in opposition to “interference”, in reality it’s a show of total intolerance, and – beyond that – of myopia.

The Netherlands have been generous providers of foreign aid for all these years; the EU has often served them as counterbalance against the United States; and the latter country is of key importance to Nicaragua, as the main market for their exports, and one of the greatest sources of private investment. By confronting them in such a clumsy way, they’ll only worsen the situation in the country, and weaken the bases of their regime.

Months earlier, these actions were preceded by the expulsion of Waldemar S Sommertag, the Apostolic Nuncio, and of Thomas Ess, the resident delegate of the International Red Cross. It was also preceded by the regime’s announcement that they were withdrawing from the Organization of American States, and their unilateral closure [and takeover[ of the OAS office in Managua.

In this way, the political insularity and march backwards of Nicaragua are ever greater, their walls ever higher and more exhausting. The greatest anomaly is that all this has happened by decision of the dictator, not because of his international partners. If there’s one sin those partners have committed, it’s been their lack of energetic responses to the dictatorship. It’s time to review that latter attitude, and to impose much more elevated costs on Ortega and his regime.

* Editorial from the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion

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