The Evolution of Ortega’s Corruption in Nicaragua

The pandemic and the hurricanes brought millions to the dictatorship… ¡Let’s toast to even better things! ¡Like an earthquake!

In 2011, the Ortega and Gasset Journalism Award went to a Nicaraguan investigation into Tomas Borge’s illicit wealth. Ten years later, journalism continues uncovering Daniel Ortega’s corrupt dealings.

By Octavio Enriquez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Every so often, I’m asked about democracy in Nicaragua, before talking about the human rights violations. The latter have been international news since the April 2018 rebellion.  To explain how badly we’re doing with democracy, I turn to look at my own family. My sons are ten and twelve years old, and the only president they’ve ever known is Daniel Ortega.

A generation of children and teens born after 2007 have grown up under the enormous, omnipresent billboards of the presidential couple. They’ve lived with the exotic metal trees Vice President Rosario Murillo installed in Managua. They’ve been exposed to endless official propaganda clips of the poor thanking “the comandante and the compañera” for the state benefits they’ve received. These are the most visible features.

The greater damage is that the country has been transformed into the Sandinista strongman’s own farm. Health and education are politicized, in a system where the rule of law doesn’t exist. All the institutions are dominated by the ruler, and freedoms are curtailed. Those who think differently can’t demonstrate publicly. The opposition is weak and under police siege. For all those reasons, criticizing the regime is as dangerous as walking on the edge of a blade.

Ortega’s capture of absolute power began with his elevation to godlike stature in the eighties. It then progressed to the national destabilization his party promoted between 1990 and 2006, when he was in the opposition.  And onwards: zero scruples; pacts with his erstwhile political enemies; constitutional changes cut to his measure; reconciliation with Catholic church sectors that opposed his first government; electoral frauds; and the conquest of local power. Above all, there’s been corruption, of a style he inherited from Somoza and later perfected.

On April 11, 2011, the Ortega and Gasset journalism award went to an investigative piece on the illicit enrichment of Tomas Borge.  Borge (d. 2012) was a former Comandante and Nicaraguan Interior Minister in the eighties. The investigation held a factual mirror up to the Sandinista hierarchy: the revolution was never what had been promised. Decades after the fall of Somoza, the current Sandinista leaders are brimming with privileges. This is so, even though they continue asserting they govern on behalf of the poor, who they call president. Their benefits have increased over time, and today they’re a kind of tropical monarchy.

In a decade of reporting since the investigation of Borge, journalists have confirmed even greater corruption under Ortega. In fact, its leading figures have left innumerable traces of the corruption’s superior level.  There’s lots more work for journalists.

In Nicaragua, the corrupt dealings of the family in power have been investigated. Journalists have documented their appropriation of the Venezuelan foreign aid and filed stories on how they sacked the Social Security funds. They’ve revealed the small group of contractors that have been benefited here and there, and the electoral corruption. It’s all been documented, just like the repression, the hundreds of deaths, and the state-sponsored violence.

Fourteen years after coming back to power, the presidential family holds tightly onto it, with force and impunity. Their corruption has evolved from what we saw in 2007.  The official path now establishes this year’s November elections as a waystation for the continuity of the authoritarian power.  Running counter to this current, a part of the population resists. So does the journalism of the young, despite the attacks on reporters, the closing of spaces, and the confiscations of the newsrooms of independent media such as Confidencial.

Those leading the journalistic denunciations are aided by ample sources. Still, they risk their necks with each article they publish. Some are even subjected to police harassment in their homes. But they don’t and won’t give in.

The reason for doing this is simple, and all of us who exercise this profession within a country in permanent crisis understand it. Faced with a dictatorial power that prefers the silence of the cemeteries, the only thing left to do is resist. To call things by their names: how they are and how they happen. Even if it seems obvious, it’s worth saying once more: building a democracy begins by speaking the truth. So that justice can exist.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.


3 thoughts on “The Evolution of Ortega’s Corruption in Nicaragua

  • April 21, 2021 at 2:16 pm
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    When will the old loser and his wife pass away? They are old. They lived a long life. Why can’t they pass like other people their age or even younger? Do only the good die young? I will celebrate the day they pass away

  • April 18, 2021 at 5:48 pm
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    Ilka, the USA is worse so nothing else matters. Any enemy of them must be better for its people. This is the same logic one hears over and over again to defend corrupt, brutal dictators. Any investigative journalist who uncovers corruption or criticizes human rights violations is paid by the US. These things should be ignored because the US is worse. Ask the families of the 328 killed the over 1,500 jailed for protesting (122 still), and 100,000+ exiles since April 2018, if they are paid by the US to have to bury or visit relatives in jail, or flee the country. And as to Coronavirus, Ortega took the approach of Trump and Bolsonaro, deny it was serious. Medical associations and scientists in Nicaragua believe the undercount of covid deaths is over 98%. Ortega and his lovely wife VP ordered the hospitals to put other diseases as the cause of death. I wonder why?

  • April 18, 2021 at 4:51 pm
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    Is this a bad thing your children only know one leader(Ortega)? In my opinion, the Nicaraguan Government is doing very well with dealing with the Corona Virus. Besides this, you have to look at all the sanctions upon Nicaragua. I know that lots of people live in poverty in Nicaragua. But what those it mean exactly. Poverty against the western and US standards? Go and watch the documentaries about USA Cities. There you can see what poverty means. The Nicaraguan Government does the best they can and going forward step by little step. The people of Nicaragua will gain nothing out of a system like in the USA. They will be all slaves again!! Maybe you are a journalist who gets paid by the USA? The USA has special fonds for people who do misinformation and especially write critical articles about the Government. My hope is that the people of Nicaragua don’t get blinded by the USA Propaganda.

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