Ortega’s “Intelligence” to Hold on to Power

The new strategic alliance of the dictatorship. Cartoon by Manuel Guillen / laprensa.com.ni

Ortega will not run the risk of sharing or losing power again, unless he is forced to.

By Enrique Saenz  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Before the pandemic, economic and social realities choked businesses and families, and political prospects were unclear. In the present, the avalanche of contagions, death and anxiety, has aggravated the economic, social and political prospects for the vast majority of Nicaraguans. It is natural that uncertainty and lightheadedness prevail in these circumstances.

There are two recurring questions that are repeated at the national and international levels: in the face of this tragedy, what are Ortega’s purposes in contradicting international recommendations, encouraging crowds, falsifying data and turning his back on the economic and social hardships of the population? What to expect and what to do in the face of so much confusion?

Let’s take it by parts. To uncover Ortega’s motives, we must recapitulate over and over again who Ortega is. And in this there’s no place to get lost because, unfortunately for us, he has been a public figure for more than 40 years.

Firstly, for Ortega, politics is the continuation of war by other means. From the beginning, his entire political life has been marked by violence. He started with the Sandinista Front with armed actions. He was jailed because of armed actions. He was released from prison by armed actions. He reached power in 1979 through an armed insurrection. He remained in power, in the eighties, in the heat of war that caused tens of thousands of deaths. He became the opposition and from there developed a strategy of blackmails, riots, violence and also deaths. And, from power, since 2007, well, we already know.

Against this background, how can democratic and peaceful conduct be expected? Ortega only understands of winners and losers. Dialogues, institutions, alliances or laws are only tricks of his arsenal, which he uses or discards, according to the convenience of the moment. There are those who, due to naivete, ignorance or bad faith speak of Ortega needing legitimacy.

Let’s be clear: the only legitimacy that he understands is the crude and harsh reality of power. If you have power, you have legitimacy. It is the cruelest realpolitik, if you want it in the language of political theory. However, Ortega is not interested in theories either. The examples from Venezuela and Cuba save us more explanations.

Secondly, Ortega’s long and troubled political life has taught him the value of managing times and contradictions. Throughout these years, the United States had the following presidents: Carter, Reagan in his two terms; Bush Sr., Clinton in his two terms, Bush Jr. in his two terms, Obama in his two terms and now Trump. In Costa Rica, Carazo Odio, Figueres, Oscar Arias, twice; Luis Alberto Monge, Calderón Fournier, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Abel Pacheco, Laura Chinchilla, Luis Guillermo Solis and now Carlos Alvarado. Ten presidents.

He learned the meaning of the transitory and the permanent. Storms pass by, so if he has to stretch, he stretches and if he has to shrink then he shrinks. Not to understand such ploys is simply to condemn yourself to failure in the political confrontation with the regime.

Third, during those years he learned that political survival is determined by the preservation of instruments of power. After 1990 he was at least twice at the mercy of his political adversaries. One of them when he was left with only five deputies in the Assembly and in a minority within the leadership of the Sandinista Front. The other was with the case of Zoilamérica Narvaez. In both cases, those who had the power to liquidate him politically hesitated, rather gave him a hand or made him a partner. When he had the opportunity, he was merciless and politically liquidated both of them.

Hence his obsessive grasp (on power). Preserving power is seen by him as a matter of survival. Ortega will not run again the risk of sharing or losing power, unless he is forced to. With even more reason now that politics is joined to substantial family economic interests.

Finally, it is amusing when some analysts talk about Ortega’s intelligence. Ortega’s intelligence is the following: he is the only politician who over these years has controlled Nicaragua’s intelligence and security services.

Former president Enrique Bolanos told me, and this is not a breach of confidentiality because he also said it in an interview, that when he had to deal with a delicate issue with a minister, he would go to the parking lot of the presidential building because his offices were full of microphones and his telephones were bugged.

And when he went to file an appeal to the Central American Court of Justice, he went in the car of an assistant so that they wouldn’t follow him or know where he was going. Same with Dona Violeta, Antonio Lacayo or Arnoldo Aleman. But not only they, also high-ranking military and police officers, politicians, businessmen, religious leadership, have been and are subject to surveillance. Now, with new technologies, with much greater reason.

That is the “intelligence” of Ortega, which has been one of the main sources of his power.

But information about his adversaries, allies or potential contenders is not enough. Ortega’s main advantage is that he is completely unscrupulous. He has no qualms about lying, making a pact with the devil if necessary, bribing, imprisoning, persecuting, bludgeoning, intimidating, blackmailing or taking lives and properties.

Nothing illustrates that more than the fatal and gloomy phrases of the late Tomas Borge: whatever they may say, we must do whatever we have to, the highest price to pay would be to lose power.

Despite this track record, the years pass by, age and the exercise of absolute power end up by wearing down, lies are exhausted and people stop believing. When this decadence enters, the misjudgments begin to increase, accelerating the collapse. That is the stage Ortega and his regime are entering. However, he will not go down alone or from one day to the next.

So, I go back to the beginning. What is Ortega betting on with this criminal handling of the pandemic? Which misjudgments has he made and how can we capitalize on them? What do those of us who aspire for a free and democratic Nicaragua have to do?

One thought on “Ortega’s “Intelligence” to Hold on to Power

  • The similarities to Dr, Ernesto Guevara de La Serna Lynch are interesting. Both with an affinity with violence. Both regarded initially as heroes of the extreme left. Both without scruples. But Ortega perhaps learned from the failures of Guevara. He has ensured survival, for Guevara recognized that:

    “In a revolution one triumphs or dies.”

    For the people of Nicaragua, the pity is that unlike Guevara, Ortega survived. Such is the triumph of extreme left wing revolution.

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