Ortega Advances as the Nicaraguan Opposition Stagnates

An overview. Photo by Babette Plana

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES – The electoral farce is over in Nicaragua, and the family regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have seemingly “gotten away” with their brazen fraud. While they plan for greater wealth and a limitless future in power, the opposition to the dictatorship remains mired in petty divisionism.

This situation has left the general population powerless, with few main options. 

The first is to put up and shut up, doing whatever it takes to survive. For most, this means maintaining silence and a very low profile, for fear of reprisals. For those who hold government jobs or depend on government handouts, it may also mean applauding, mobilizing or accusing on cue, something their Cuban counterparts have been forced to do for many years.

Most of those who dare to criticize, denounce, or oppose, will sooner or later face the three-pronged options common to dissenters in all dictatorships past and present: jail, death, or exile.  

As it currently stands, 2022 will be known as the year of the exodus, with those able to gather enough money to leave flocking to the borders. These exiles will work hard to send remittances back home to keep their families afloat through the present and future economic difficulties.

Meanwhile, most of the big business community have opted for silence, despite the arbitrary arrest of several of their colleagues. A portion of this wealthy elite will most likely try to make a deal with Ortega, to be able to continue making money. While Nicaragua may never return to the pre-2018 heyday of the “government-business alliance”, businesses can still be profitable. 

For the Nicaraguan and foreign executives associated with the exploitative free trade zones, mining companies and other export enterprises, dictatorship works to their advantage. It guarantees a continuation of low wages and stifles labor organizing, demands for better conditions and workers’ rights to be compensated for injuries or mistreatment. Getting and keeping workers is unlikely to be a problem: if survival and keeping a job is the only issue, people will put up with a lot.

Under the current panorama the political prisoners seem doomed

As the number of political prisoners continues to increase daily, the machine of fabricated charges and appalling prison conditions continues unabated. As I mentioned in a commentary in September of this year, the panorama for these prisoners is bleak.

The Ortega-Murillo regime has turned a deaf ear to the unified outcry from the Catholic Church, international human rights and other bodies and Nicaraguan exiles everywhere to free the prisoners. Unfortunately, at present it seems that no sanction or threat of sanction will get them to rethink their cruel tactics.

Today’s more than 170 political prisoners, and those to come, will very likely face long years in jail. Some may die in prison; others will see their physical and mental health affected temporarily or for life. Likewise, their families will face continued suffering.

It’s possible that at some point, through international mediation, selected hostages will be allowed to go into exile as the only option. That was the final outcome of the so-called Black Spring in Cuba of 2003 when 75 dissidents and journalists were imprisoned, also on fabricated charges. However, before the release and banishment occurred, the Cuban political prisoners had spent around a decade behind bars.

Is the game over? A united opposition is still a distant hope

With no immediate path to change in sight, some in the Nicaraguan opposition are hoping for a turn of events in 2 or 3 years. However, if current conditions continue, the international organizations will most likely then focus on the 2026 elections, very similar to what happened after the 2016 fraud. If that happens, the internal opposition, many more of whom will be in jail or exile, may see their options weaker than ever.

I still believe that the game is not yet over, but that possibility of a very long road ahead is a fair one to consider.  Without a clear, dedicated, and unselfish push for unity on the part of the opposition in exile, the family dynasty may last for decades. I maintain that the only issue that should be on the table for the opposition is: “Nicaragua without dictatorships”.  All the other arguments currently separating the opposition factions are superfluous, a waste of valuable time.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.