November’s electoral farce in Nicaragua is well under way
By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban state media – the only legal source of information on the island – portrays the Ortega regime in Nicaragua as a very popular people’s government, engaged in a constant struggle against the evil forces of imperialism, bent on overturning them.
In truth, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have organized a new electoral farce for November 7. Once again, they plan to project themselves as the most popular government in the history of Nicaragua.
With the objective of preparing public opinion for the dictatorship’s new production, a polling company called M & R Consultants [M & R Consultores] lends their make-up services. In effect, they’ve already predicted a landslide win for Ortega in his fourth consecutive term (five total). The polling firm supports this prediction with polls showing that at least 62.7% of Nicaraguans intend to vote for Ortega, with the ruler’s popularity on the ascent.
According to M&R, their recent poll – conducted only in Managua – encountered a mere 10.7% of respondents who indicated they believed in the opposition, with the rest undecided or not intending to vote. M&R also alleged: “72.2% of respondents approve highly of Ortega, using variables like trustworthiness, credibility and legitimacy.”
This is the vision of Nicaragua that Cuban media outlets like Granma, Prensa Latina and the state television present to the island’s residents.
However, the reality on the ground in Nicaragua is vastly different.
What happened last time?
In the months leading up to the 2016 elections, Ortega annulled his principal opposition coalition, under the Independent Liberal Party (PLI). Without a real rival, with a huge number of voters abstaining, and with no international observation or accredited national observers, he proclaimed himself the winner with 72.4% of the vote, thus becoming the most popular president in the country’s history.
The Electoral Council, which Ortega controls with his allies in the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), didn’t even bother to publish the results from individual polling places, as had been the custom. What for?
Assuring a repeat in 2021
This time around, Ortega not only annulled two opposing parties and eliminated their space on the ballot, but also imprisoned the seven strongest candidates for a presidential primary the opposition alliance had been planning. Two other candidates fled the country to avoid arrest. Ortega also imprisoned over two dozen opposition leaders and activists, many of whom haven’t been seen or heard from in two months, even by lawyers or their families.
During many of these arbitrary arrests, the police also looted the homes of those abducted, while terrifying any family members present.
This new wave of abductions began at the end of May, but these were by far not the first political prisoners. There were already over 120 political prisoners in jail, many of them falsely charged with trumped up drug or other criminal offenses and given harsh sentences. Both national and international human rights organizations have documented cruel treatment amounting to torture and other violations of prisoners’ rights.
Based on the information they have, Cubans have little reason to question their government media’s portrayal of a popular Nicaraguan regime, backed by enthusiastic would-be voters. But virtually everyone in Managua is aware of the events described above. What are the odds that any citizen consulted by the M&R pollsters would put themselves on record as strongly disapproving of Ortega, and enthusiastic supporting the opposition?
Ortega’s preferred pollster may well choose to ignore any suspicions, but to anyone with two eyes and a head, it’s clear the chief respondent to their surveys is that fabled Central American trickster, Tio Coyote.