Nicaraguan Opposition Adrift in the Wake of the Crisis

Photo: Brad McBlain

By Raul K. Bautista

HAVANA TIMES – When analyzing the disarray of the Nicaraguan opposition, it would seem that it will take them a long time to organize in a single contingent of adversaries of the Ortega-Murillo regime. To the wounds and hatred that persist from the war against Somoza in the ‘70s are added: the sequels of the 1980s; the traditional left-right division; the generalized repudiation, as of April 2018, of Sandinismo (represented by the Ortega-Murillo family), and the scattered student, civil and political organizations. 

These sectors, which jointly faced the onslaught of Ortega and Murillo, did not unite before the electoral farce of November 2021; obstacles and ideological differences prevailed, preventing them from challenging the dictatorship together. A year and a half after the imprisonment of presidential candidates and prominent civic and political leaders, most of them are now in exile along with independent journalists and representatives of shuttered non-profit organizations. Meanwhile, right-leaning groups are promoting, each with their strategies and actions, the creation of ideological blocs to oust the regime from power.

These right-wing groups, which include some former political prisoners, now exiled, stateless, and confiscated individuals,- insist on promoting distrust, resentment, and polarization. They set themselves up as new judges of crimes and abuses of the Contra war of the 1980s. Without evidence, they accuse people of having committed crimes against humanity, and they persist in excluding any Sandinista dissident or member of the MRS (now UNAMOS), which broke with Ortega’s FSLN in the mid-1990s), from participating in the struggle to expel the dictatorship from power. Either they are ignorant —as Enrique Saenz said to Luis Galeano in an interview— because they are unaware of the relationship that existed between the MRS, PLC, and “Vamos con Eduardo” until 2016, or they are anti-democratic and act in bad faith when they consciously join, like trolls, the campaign promoted by the Ortega-Murillo.

In addition to this trend, a group within the opposition will always lash out against any effort to seek greater coordination or envisage the possibility of unity because that would reduce their visibility or leadership. It would counteract their intransigent positions; would question their truth about what democracy should be; would jeopardize their interests; or would put an end to the dispersion and disorganization with which each one carries out their actions. Faced with any new initiative, they will demand that they publish their strategy, membership, and sources of financing and, in the name of transparency, they will demand that everything be done openly, even if there is a tyranny in front of them with an extraordinary intelligence and espionage apparatus.


These and other adverse reactions emerged after the recent Monteverde statement, defined as a process of dialogue, analysis, and the search for peaceful solutions to the sociopolitical crisis in Nicaragua. This inclusive space, although it is only claiming to be “a coordinating table,” which will concentrate on promoting the most feasible way out of the dictatorship, will have to face the uncompromising sectors mentioned above, which will not want to give up their spaces of protagonism. This group, platform, communication, and coordination body, or whatever they want to call themselves, have been working since October 2021 in communication and advocacy actions, has designed a joint strategy, a plan of action, and has formulated a proposal for a civic and democratic solution to the crisis in Nicaragua.

They do not claim to represent the opposition or its leadership but define themselves as “a process of democratic unity,” which will be expressed in “unity in action.” This means that different groups and leaders will continue to carry out their actions separately, coordinating their messages to present a single position, vision, narrative, and strategy. To enhance this, they will promote rapprochement with other similar spaces.

In the Nicaraguan opposition, the promotion of polarization, distrust, and resentment are “provoked and artificial,” as Violeta Granera recently stated. These divisions or disagreements are false, illusory, simulated, and useless in the struggle to oust the dictatorship from power. The opposition’s fear or reluctance to organize civic resistance must be added to this obstacle to the achievement of unity. This passes through, in the first place, by paying lip service to the unity demanded by the people since 2018.

The Nicaraguan opposition avoids discussing unity and uses euphemisms: consensus, collaboration, coordination or unity in action. Prominent intellectuals and opposition leaders conceptually reject unity as a political tool or emphasize that it can only occur among like-minded groups. “Among non-different, states Chilean political analyst Fernando Mires— there cannot be unity, because by definition they are already united.” Political unity implies alliances based on the fulfillment of a common objective. Such a unitary alliance has collective management and leadership.

Without unity, there is no opposition

As long as there is no unity and no unified opposition is organized, there is no opposition. The leading officials of the dictatorship recognized this since the beginning of the April insurrection. Five days after April 18, 2018, Rosario Murillo’s message to Sandinista bases was: “Nothing is happening here…the opposition is totally divided…there is no opposition.” Dividing society and political sectors was part of Ortega and Murillo’s strategy to retake power. Now, they are devoting considerable efforts to preserving it and keeping the opposition divided. European Parliament  member Javier Nart affirms that “the lack of unity is the greatest ally of the pathological regime in Nicaragua.”

The people’s plea for a unified opposition is being joined by governments and international actors who do not wish to continue receiving individuals or representatives of any group alleging to speak for the entire opposition, presenting them with proposals, or requesting support. United States and US-based analysts have argued that the Biden Administration’s lack of belligerence towards the Ortega-Murillo regime is because there is no alternative to the dictatorship.

Overthrowing a dictatorship requires organization

Max Fisher, an international reporter for the New York Times, wrote that the success rate of protests to remove a despotic leader or government from power has been diminished by the nature of communications, organization, and repression. When the April 2018 Rebellion emerged, the success of peaceful protests had fallen to one in three; now, it is one in six. “Non-violent campaigns are having the lowest success rate in more than a century,” Harvard University’s Erica Chenoweth wrote recently.

Because of this, Fareed Zakaria (writer, political scientist, and CNN program host) and other renowned analysts assert that protests, such as those recently held in Iran, do not remove tyrannical governments from power, which respond with assassinations, executions, torture, imprisonments, and repression. It is necessary, adds Zakaria, an organization with quasi-military leadership, to confront the new dictatorships. Civic resistance, the strategy of nonviolent actions to seize power, must be organized.

While the Nicaraguan opposition has become more polarized from November 2021 to the present, the Ortega-Murillo regime has increased indiscriminate repression, including against the Catholic Church, and is committed to strengthening and consolidating its absolute power. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, if current conditions continue, Daniel Ortega will remain comfortably in power until 2027 (or until he dies) and will use the time until then to consolidate totalitarianism, dynastic succession, and his alliance with Russia and China.

Unity is going to take a long time

Taking into consideration that sectors of the opposition will remain obstinate in promoting polarization, in maintaining the diversity of opposition groups or organizations that emerged with the April insurrection or after, and that Monteverde is considering in the long term to be “a coordination table” and sees itself as “a process of democratic unity,” the conformation of a single opposition platform is going to take a long time. It is not even in the pipeline.

In that scenario, when an opposition bloc or platform is finally organized, it will most likely confront a consolidated dynasty, such as North Korea, with levels of repression and control, such as Cuba, and fully supported by China and Russia.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times