Nicaragua: A Poorly Conceived Strategy of Phantom Triangulation

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Daniel Ortega in Managua in December 2016. Photo: The Presidency

In reality, there is no way that both the people and the dictatorship win in a negotiation. It is a zero sum game. What one of them wins, the other loses.


By Fernando Barcenas  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The convoluted idea that Manuel Orozco proposes (researcher of the Inter-American Dialogue on migration, development and family remittances), in an interview with “Esta Semana” (This Week), on September 1, is that the OAS represents the Nicaraguan people in the negotiation with Ortega, regarding electoral reforms; and that, in that new game of the parties, the Civic Alliance will appear in the negotiation as an invisible phantom to Ortega. This embedded negotiation he calls a phantom triangulation.

Impasse of the political crisis?

There are important changes—Orozco says—in the international and national environment, which could break the impasse of the political crisis of the dictatorship.

He begins wrongly. The rupture in the negotiation is a political maneuver of Ortega, not an impasse. Nor is police and paramilitary repression at an impasse. And Ortega has taken the initiative to close the negotiation, with a sleight of hand that takes the oxygen out of the Civic Alliance (which, in its own way, assumed the representation of the April Rebellion at the negotiating table, but, it lacks another form of representation, however much it twists in its interior in this stage of reflux, which in its bureaucratic conception totally disregards).

The political crisis is not, either, at an impasse. It interacts with the economic crisis that experiences a constant deepening, heading for depression. Upon feedback from each other, both crises produce a social explosion by an exponential amplification of instability.

However, for now, a serious analysis would have to recognize that there is a correlation of forces tactically favorable to Ortega. And that the international environment, weakened, if it gets to negotiate with Ortega, with such negotiation does not intend to change this internal correlation of forces at all.

Would Almagro represent the people?

Orozco says: If Ortega maintains a political and diplomatic relationship with Almagro around the electoral reform, an opportunity opens up for the Nicaraguan opposition. A “phantom triangulation” could be generated between the OAS, the Government and the opposition, although Ortega never admits that he is negotiating with the Alliance.

What does it matter what Ortega admits or not? The negotiation of Ortega with Almagro around electoral reforms means that the OAS displaces and replaces, by mutual agreement with Ortega, the national expression. It is absurd that this substitution is seen by Orozco as an opportunity for the Nicaraguan people and not as a victory for Ortega, who would now act before the international community as the sole representative of the nation, without a belligerent force opposing him.

What Orozco calls “phantom triangulation,” means, in simple language, that the people are given a ghostly political role. The April Rebellion would have ended, for Orozco, in a spectral shadow.

Synchronization or Marginalization

Orozco advances along the same path devoid of a national strategy: it is developing, Orozco says, a greater synchronization, both of the national as well as the international opposition, regarding political reforms towards a democratic electoral process.

It is to this phantasmagorical presence of the people, the reflux of the struggle of the masses, what Orozco calls, probably with derision, a greater synchronization with the international community. From his perspective, the political participation of the people is reduced to a phantasmagorical shadow…and greater is the synchronization with an also toothless OAS.

Orozco insists that with the OAS High Level Commission, Nicaragua is once again presented with an opportunity to resolve the political conflict through a negotiated solution. He says it is a very strong support in favor of the Nicaraguan political movement.

In the win-lose game, the one that has the worst draw wins. That is Orozco’s convoluted logic. If the people lose any political participation to determine their own destiny, for Orozco it means a new opportunity. And if the OAS Commission is rejected by Ortega, but Almagro agrees to displace and replace the Nicaraguan people, for Orozco it is a very strong support for the nation.

The OAS and Ortega in a win-win negotiation

With the OAS, Orozco says, there are opportunities for the Nicaraguan Government. Ortega could negotiate a political transition without losing out. He has to respond in some manner, in a positive way.

In reality, there is no way that both the people and the dictatorship win in a negotiation. It is a zero sum game. What one wins, the other loses, by force. And that is decided by the correlation of forces.

But, it is possible that both the OAS and Ortega win in a negotiated political transition with the goal that Ortega does not lose out. It is enough to realize that the interests of the OAS and the interests of the nation are not, nor can they be, convergent. The OAS sees macro aspects of representative democracy, very general and abstract, of a geopolitical nature, and it is in the micro, very specific aspects, where conflicts of social interests shape up regarding what could be the order of the Nicaraguan society as a whole, for it to advance towards development, but, with a more human tendency.

The OAS has nothing to do with the political order of society from a social perspective. The electoral reforms—Orozco forgets—have a more political than technical content. And it is absurd to think, in addition, that our essential problem is electoral, and not the implementation, from power, of a revolutionary program that will transform society.

An alternative to power, at this stage, is missing

The string of nonsense of Orozco is possible because the April Rebellion did not become a belligerent force capable of making itself recognized as an alternative to power; and that the ghost of the Civic Alliance (with characters without any representativeness, handpicked as if they were innate spokespersons of some guild) make the participation of the people be seen internationally, precisely, as a ghost devoid of the masses, especially at this time of reflux.

Orozco’s logic offers no variants, he says: it is also an opportunity for the Nicaraguan opposition to have their electoral reform proposal be taken seriously in that bilateral relationship between Almagro and Ortega.

Orozco not only sees the people as the godchild of Almagro, rather, he sees the electoral reform proposals as a plea, which Almagro could suggest to Ortega by passing to him the Alliance’s hat under the table. Orozco does not see the reforms as slogans of struggle, as a political position, whereby Ortega would face an electoral boycott, and other forms of struggle and civil disobedience that would not cease until he leaves power.

The power struggle

What matters to Ortega is to consolidate his power even during the crisis. The pressure of the OAS, for its part, has been exhausted. It reached its limits and, now, visibly stumbles like an old man. It has become entangled in its 75-day ultimatum, for two months. And an ultimatum, which is repeated later, is a delusion.

Orozco says: There is a triangulation, whether Ortega likes it or not, the Nicaraguan political process is already in that path. Ortega will have to consider the proposals presented by the OAS.

What is important, if you have any sense at all, is the correlation of forces. If Ortega underestimates the Alliance, it is because it lacks strength. And the OAS, on its part, does not show any sign of having a coercive force, even to apply the Democratic Charter. The biggest misfortune would be that the Nicaraguan political process would be already on that ghostly path that Orozco sees.

Orozco says almost at the conclusion: The United States and Canada, will wait these seventy-five days, before applying sanctions, as a gesture of goodwill.

Against a dictatorship there are no goodwill gestures, but powerlessness. Orozco is thinking of a mutually beneficial business, not a negotiation to corner Ortega. The international community, as a whole, hesitates. It does not know what to do. It understands that sanctions do not have surgical precision, and that they harm the people, and they cannot find an easy way out. As a lazy fisherman, the OAS expects something to reach the fishhook abandoned in the stream.

However, beyond the current adverse situation, we are at a historical moment in which it is possible to get rid of Orteguism, if the birth is prepared of the new wave of mass struggle that is taking shape in the crisis.

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