Ortega’s Decline and the Standstill of Nicaragua’s Opposition

Paradoxically, at Ortega’s moment of greatest weakness, the opposition lacks the leadership and strategy to fill the power vacuum.

Daniel Ortega and the FSLN are at their lowest level of support, according to a survey by the Inter-American Dialogue. Illustration: Juan Garcia

By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The publication of the Ministry of Health (MINSA) database, leaked by Anonymous, has allowed the country to know the results of the Covid-19 tests carried out by MINSA, which for five months have been hidden by the Government. The gap between the official weekly reports and the truth of the information concealed by the regime constitute irrefutable proof of the deception with which President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo have handled the health crisis in Nicaragua.

Perhaps it’s only “the tip of the iceberg” and not the whole truth, as lung specialist Jorge Ivan Miranda said, but the first data analyzed by epidemiologist Alvaro Ramirez shed light on the darkness in which we find ourselves.

It is proven without any hint of doubt, that Ortega and Murillo have deliberately lied to the nation. They lied to the doctors, the nurses and lab technicians, and to the entire health staff. They also lied to their FSLN supporters and to civil and military public servants.

They lied in a planned way, by under reporting from day one the number of verified cases of Covid-19. They only recognized a third of those registered by the tests carried out by MINSA’s centralized laboratory. And they continue to lie when reporting that there are only 133 deaths from Covid-19, when the official death certificates due to pneumonia, diabetes, heart attack, and hypertension, already revealed on June 30 an excess mortality rate greater than 4,400 deaths.

It’s true that the concealment of information by a regime that has made lying a state policy doesn’t surprise anyone. The dictatorship has devalued the credibility on all relevant statistics of public life, such as electoral results, economic indicators and citizen security.

One crime on top of another

Even more serious is that Ortega and Murillo tried to erase from the national memory the names of more than 300 murdered by the repression, during the April Rebellion, to leave crimes against humanity in impunity.

Hiding information and lying in the midst of the health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is, in itself, a criminal act that should be investigated to determine the perpetrators’ responsibilities.

How many lives could have been saved and families protected from the coronavirus if Ortega and Murillo had shown the decency not to hide public information? They recklessly exposed the population to danger and spread the infection of the new coronavirus. They imposed a monopoly to carry out Covid-19 tests in their centralized laboratory, and then altered the data and hid the results of the tests. We now know these were less than 18,000, while other Central American countries had carried out between 150,000 and 300,000 tests.

To commit this misdeed, Ortega and Murillo needed accomplices and useful collaborators such as the three Health Ministers, Sonia Castro, Carolina Davila and Marta Reyes and the de facto Minister of Health, Gustavo Porras. All of them have joint responsibility for the deception and should be removed from their positions to end a system of political party obedience in public service, and restore professionalism in the Ministry of Health.

Health workers have also been victims of this great conspiracy. They have the strength and moral authority to demand that the information that is still hidden in the Ministry of Health come to light. And to free up Covid-19 tests so they can be done massively. The country urgently needs a national strategy to face the new wave of the epidemic which now threatens us. A first step would be restoring the right to truth and public transparency.

But none of this will be possible while Ortega and Murillo remain in power. On the contrary, their misgovernment will cause an extreme worsening of the three crises: health, economic and social, as long as the regime has the resources to finance the repression.

It is imperative, therefore, to achieve the suspension of the police state and restore public freedoms —the right to assembly and mobilization, freedom of the press and expression—, to clear the path to a political solution of the national crisis. The most effective strategy to face a new outbreak of the coronavirus is to get rid of the dictatorship. But political change can only be possible by raising the civic pressure to the maximum, together with international pressure, to force the political reform that Ortega is not willing to yield.

And the opposition

The regime clings to the support of 20% of the electorate according to the latest polls, its credibility damaged even to its supporters due to the negligent handling of Covid-19. Paradoxically, at the moment of Ortega’s greatest political weakness, the opposition lacks leadership and strategy to raise civic pressure and fill the power vacuum.

Two months after its founding, the National Coalition is at a standstill. Its promoters continue to put “the cart before the oxen.” Instead of prioritizing an action plan to face the national crisis, the members were bogged down in a discussion on ballots and strategies for an election, which for now doesn’t exist.

The crisis of the Coalition is attributed to the errors of its original design and to the hegemony of the political parties and in particular the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC). Undoubtedly, this is part of the mess to be resolved, but beyond the governance and the bureaucratic design of the Coalition, the main problem lies in the lack of a plan of action. A civic resistance strategy, to mobilize people in the 153 municipalities of the country against the dictatorship. 

The Blue and White majority is not preoccupied with how the youth, businesspeople, civil society, peasants and political parties of the Coalition resolve their internal balance. What they demand is a movement connected with the economic hardships of the population, and a solution to the crisis and the repression in the cities and the countryside.

Certainly, the PLC as a political leadership —not liberalism—, represents a burden for the National Coalition. It’s status as an ally of the FSLN, and the corruption of its leader Arnoldo Aleman, alienates the Blue and White majority. In an eventual electoral reform, the PLC opposes the democratization objectives of the Coalition.

But if an eventual exit of the PLC is not accompanied by a change of course in the priorities of the Coalition, regarding a plan of action against the dictatorship, and organizing networks and unified committees in the municipalities, the opposition crisis will continue, even with the PLC out of the Coalition.

The standstill of the opposition will not be solved with a bureaucratic adjustment at the top. It must add public servants, civilian and military, as part of the civic resistance. The country awaits a message in defense of political pluralism to incorporate the liberal bases into the Coalition. Likewise, the Sandinistas not linked to the repression and corruption of the Ortega-Murillo regime. Only with national unity, strengthened by unity in action, can the task of the April Rebellion be completed, to end a dictatorship allied with the coronavirus.

Related post: Covid-19 and Nicaragua’s Public Employees