Solving the Crisis Must Begin with an Opposition Consensus

The opposition must work on their own road map. The possibility of regime change hinges on Nicaraguans.

By Augusto Centeno (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan political juncture today resembles what Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci described as an “interlude”. The old hasn’t yet died, and the new hasn’t finished being born; the painful symptoms multiply. The Ortega-Murillo regime has been defeated politically, but the opposition hasn’t yet succeeded in projecting itself as an option for political change.

We all agree we need renewed pressure against the dictatorship, and for that reason a dialogue has been initiated among the different figures in the opposition. What’s been termed as a “concertation” is a tool for creating a political space to propose, debate, reach consensus, and consider actions and strategic objectives to weaken the government’s political, economic and military power, and become a new political force that represents the interests and aspiration of Nicaraguans.

However, before reaching agreements and establishing objectives to get out of the dictatorship, the opposition must solve the problems caused by their own internal political dynamics. The opposition’s loss of authority and credibility in Nicaraguan society, and the population’s growing disinterest in participating in opposition politics, are among the consequences of the opposition group’s own political practices.

For this concertation to yield satisfactory results, there must be open-minded leadership, willing to listen and to abandon all personal interests. They must commit themselves to consolidating broad agreements with which all parties feel comfortable and interested in collaborating with. In no case should criteria for a dialogue be imposed beforehand. Such imposition eliminates the possibility of dialogue.

Just by setting an example – first and foremost agreeing amongst themselves – the opposition will succeed in getting Nicaraguans to organize. It’s the opposition’s responsibility to educate the citizens in civic procedures, by solving their own problems first. Merely getting rid of the dictatorship isn’t enough – we must struggle for a cultural change, reconstructing ourselves as citizens and reconstructing the country with a different vision of politics and democracy.

Concertation among the opposition opens the way for debating and analyzing responsibly all possible solutions to the socio-economic crisis, and the implications of each one: elections, a transition government, negotiation, overthrow, etc. All need to be broadly debated. And above all, we need to promote a strategy as a united group, one that would have direct consequences for the government.

The opposition has paid a high price for not foreseeing alternative scenarios to the electoral path and for failing to prepare ourselves for a possible escalation of the repression. This has had huge repercussions in the opposition organizations. Of course, the regime has had to pay a high political cost for their repressive actions as well, and we must continue working so that the price of their actions is ever higher. At the same time, we must absorb as a lesson learned the fact that we must always have contingency plans.

At this juncture, the right thing to do is to pull back a bit in order to rethink and come up with a new strategy for national and international pressure.  We can’t depend on external factors, nor on false expectations that the sanctions or similar actions might dissuade the regime. There are no indications that Nicaragua will be expelled from CAFTA-DR [the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement], or from the European Union’s Association Agreement, nor be suspended from the Organization of American States.

This dependence on the international community for pressuring Ortega-Murillo only ends in disappointment for the population, because they don’t see any immediate results. If the opposition wants to turn the political juncture to their favor and win over national and international public opinion, they need to work on their own road map. The possibility of regime change depends on Nicaraguans.

The opposition should consolidate itself by constructing a long-term vision, a vision for the nation, because the problem of “Ortega-ism” – like all the “isms” that have governed this country – is profoundly linked to a political and social system that perpetuates exclusion and violence in all their dimensions. A system in which we Nicaraguans have constructed a history split between winners and losers, instead of a history of inclusion and pluralism to solve Nicaragua’s structural problems.

Some political figures have been more concerned about filling the opposition’s power vacuum by electing new leaders. However, what’s more relevant is the construction of a proposed program. Choosing new Saints constitutes a continued insistence on the same paths, when it’s abundantly clear that these paths have offered us no results.

It’s not a matter of what people represent Nicaraguans; it must be the agendas laying out the group’s demands that represent them. The struggle continues with these citizens’ agendas, which can give us political direction in this new phase of struggle against the dictatorship. We Nicaraguans should be mobilizing ourselves in defense of our rights as citizens.

We can move towards resolving all the laments we hear today over the lack of freedom in Nicaragua – or at least towards thinking how to solve them – if the opposition assumes with political maturity the task of agreeing on the construction of a road map to get out of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. It’s time for reflection on how to change the current situation, so that we Nicaraguans have a country to return to and live in, not one in ruins, because that’s the result of the apathy that Ortega wants to impose on us. That’s what we must avoid.

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*Augusto Centeno was a Political Science and International Relations student in Managua’s Nicaraguan National Autonomous University (UNAN), who was expelled in 2018 after the student protests. He’s also a former member of the University Coordinator, currently in political exile.

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