Why Does Ortega Leaving Power Seem So Difficult?

A demonstrator during a protest against the government of Daniel Ortega in Managua.  Photo: Bienvenido Velasco, EFE /confidencial


It would seem that Nicaraguans are afraid of change, that they are a traditional people of habit.

By Cirilo Antonio Otero  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES — A brief history: The Ortega/Murillo duo took the political reins of the country in 2007 and designed a strategy to remain in government for a very long time. This strategy was based on three pillars of action: one, the buy-out and/or acquisition of figures in the State’s powers and semi-independent agencies and also included the country’s wealthiest business people. The second pillar was manipulating and making regular changes to the Law and Nicaragua’s Constitution, to suit their whims and fancies; three, the absolute destruction of political parties which could have possibly become a real opposition. They never were.

I would like to especially mention two State-controlled institutions, which were trapped in the whirlwind of this strategy: the Army and Police. Both of these institutions were appointed a “Supreme Leader” who was arrogant and manipulable. They were given opportunities to become wealthy, powerful and to acquire technical skills, the only trade-off being blind obedience. In the end they forgot the Constitution and their role to obey it as non-partisan, institutions. This political concept became second on their agenda and was hidden and covered up.

Afterward, the strategy had a broad and populist component, directed at the impoverished segment of society without work and with little or no education who were demanding goods and services to survive. The government organized plans to give out pieces of land, breeding animals, zinc roofing sheets, wood, nails, half-built houses, parks, videos, alcohol, music and T-shirts to give this social philosophy a uniform amid the spending spree.

Social attitudes

Over 11 years, society as a whole became used to expressions of this relationship between political and civil society. Poor people used to say, “thanks to the Comandante and his wife, I have a house”; and better-educated academics used to say, “Ortega is a genius, a clever statesperson,” it was embarrassing to hear people who have gone to university, who have studied abroad, insist on saying that Ortega was “intelligent” in TV interviews, printed articles; a former government official, who speaks like a US citizen, and a wealthy businessman said, “we’re going down the right track with Ortega’s government.”

Clearly, society on the whole, political leaders, union leaders, religious leaders and academics are all responsible because they all adjusted themselves and let the government get away with abuses of power, which were committed gradually over time. It seemed like what was happening would last forever. Ethics, morals, shame and citizens’ dignity disappeared. Order and law.

Everyone had become an accomplice to a greedy and dangerous dictatorship. The few voices which rose up against it and pointed out how dangerous the path the country’s dictatorship was taking, were called pessimists, vultures, enemies of progress and people didn’t even talk to those who pointed out the dictator’s mistakes.

And now, what do we have in Nicaragua? Social and political chaos. The chances of this dictator leaving power are difficult. People can’t see that there are six million people who are capable of governing the country. There are some people with access to the media who are asking themselves, and what do we do if the government falls apart? Others say, “we need to respect the Constitution.”

As if we’ve had a Government this decade. They don’t want to accept that we have been living misrule. And we find the explanation for this in the age and experience of our new emerging social actors, as of April 19th 2018, young people without a traditional political background, express themselves with dignity and social and political shame when they talk about political and social incongruities. These young people are Nicaragua’s moral reserve.

Culturally-speaking, Nicaraguan society proves itself to be dependent in excess, when it comes to ideas, people, history and/or traditions. It seems that society has always needed to have a strong, dominant figure in their collective imagination and social/political scene. The boss. This attitude is firmly rooted in intellectuals, the rich and poor, in the educated and illiterate. It isn’t limited to a single social group. It would seem that the Nicaraguan people are afraid of change, that they are a traditional people of habit.

Challenge for society

Ortega leaving office won’t lead to anything but peace and civil dignity. What the Nicaraguan people need is a bit of political and social humility, to accept that they have made mistakes and that this is Nicaragua’s moment. Unity, simplicity, humility and move forwards. Everyone together to rebuild what we have all destroyed directly or indirectly. Now is the time for us to have a horizontal power structure. Honest communication is key.