Dynamite the Ortega System from Within

A new stage in Nicaragua’s civic struggle.

A woman participates at a concert in support of Daniel Ortega. Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / Confidencial

15 de mayo 2019


For an entire year, we’ve seen the iron determination of the Nicaraguan citizens to push non-violently for a profound democratic transition, and to banish the bloody dictatorship from power. We struggle to eradicate this system and leave no roots behind, so as to avoid having another form of authoritarianism later sprout anew in the form of the all-too-familiar pacts between high echelons of power that have marked the entire history of our country.

We’re living a national, self-organized, multi-class and predominantly populist national insurrection that has already demonstrated its capacity to unify broad sectors of society in hundreds of expressions of protest. An insurrection that today is lying latent, waiting to massively retake Nicaragua’s streets.

The negotiating table, in its second edition, has shown that the Ortega regime continues to cling firmly to its pretense of maintaining itself in power indefinitely. Its word can never be trusted. “You can make me sign, but never comply,” is its slogan.

Large capital, by itself, is incapable of twisting the arm of the dictatorship. Alternately pressuring them and also constructing bridges for them, the day will come when the big businessmen recognize that they have no other option than to unite their de facto power with the real power of the popular forces that have forged this citizen insurrection. They should do so if they want to be part of the democratic transition that will inevitably occur in Nicaragua.

We understand that there are shades of opinion and differences within the business organizations. It’s important to recognize the voices, apparently solitary ones, of businessmen such as Lolo Blandino and Geraldo Baltodano, who have publicly distanced themselves from the short-term economic positions that advocate for a new pact with the dictatorship.

We must encourage all the voices within the COSEP (Private Enterprise Council) that are capable of expressing a true self-criticism, and we should motivate them to assume a greater commitment towards the construction of unity.

If they keep silent, legitimate citizen distrust will grow as people perceive that the interests of the large bankers who enriched themselves during the co-government with Ortega are predominating. The very arrogance and disdain for the democratic mechanisms that some of the “business representatives” are exhibiting are undermining all the efforts to build a common front between the democratic business owners and the rebellious citizens.

We should also encourage the new generation of young business men and women to rebel against the old leadership structure that has imposed itself on the trade organizations. As Gerardo Baltodano said so well during the FUNIDES (Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development) assembly:

We continue today committing the same mistakes as in the past, “arguments are developed for continuing the same behavior that brought us to this catastrophe; the same minds continue calling ‘radicals’ those citizens who merely want to exercise their citizens’ rights to demonstrate, assemble or express themselves, now with the argument that they could hinder the negotiations. They continue to be upset about those social movements that they can’t control; they continue creating social movements with the objective of controlling them and using them instead of encouraging them; they continue believing that the solution will come from external forces instead of from we ourselves…”

It’s clear that the citizen rebellion succeeded in unmasking the regime’s brutality and making it evident to the international community. As a consequence of the violent state terrorism, the timing of the international pressures hasn’t coincided with the massive citizen protests, but they must inevitably involve themselves today with the processes of building unity, recognizing the newly emergent political subjects and not only the traditional de facto powers. In the same way, international pressure should provide the mechanisms of economic pressure to push the State into reconsidering their position.

As an anti-dictatorial movement, we must be astute enough to identify all the pillars of power propping up the Ortega regime and make deliberate efforts to understand that we won’t be successful if we don’t also manage to dynamite the regime from within.

The resignations of high officials of the Ortega camp, notwithstanding the excuse they use, are each a blow to the dictatorship, demoralizing it. We must encourage these.

Of the more than 100,000 state workers, we must be clear that a large part of them are hostages of the terror unleashed by the regime. We mustn’t forget that when a policeman rebels, they end up killed, missing or in jail. We must learn to distinguish those who decided to become hitmen for the regime – such as the paramilitary forces – from those who still might join forces with the civic rebellion through disobedience, ineffectiveness or even by providing vital information from within; many men and women are already doing this.

As an ant-dictatorial force, we must also have the intelligence to send messages that reach the heart of the Sandinista grassroots, so that they distance themselves once and for all from the Ortega leadership that is leading them off the edge of the cliff.

It’s not a question of renewing or saving Sandinista thought, it’s a matter of calling for a rebellion from inside the FSLN itself, following the example of dozens of women and men – brave leaders of roadblocks, barricades and campus takeovers – who now are prisoners or in exile for having rebelled from inside. Let’s not deceive ourselves, it’s the critical-thinking Sandinistas whom the Ortega-Murillo duo punishes most viciously, because they’re terrified of an internal rebellion.

Since this insurrection began, many of us have insisted that we must build a true Unity in Diversity, with speeches and proposals that are inclusive, that don’t polarize society in an extremist way, because that only strengthens the hardliners of the dictatorship’s inner nucleus. The Ortega-Murillo duo are betting that we won’t have the capacity or the political maturity to direct ourselves to his own supporters. They believe that sectarianism will impose itself over our rationality.

This comprehensive view of the diversity that exists in our society is a historic necessity, not only to remove the dictatorship from power, but also to avoid a situation where their fanatical groups can eternally sabotage the efforts initiated by a new democratic government.

Let’s think about this carefully: What will Nicaragua’s future be if Ortega and Murillo should manage to get out of this crisis while retaining the backing of 20% of the populace, as the last polls indicate? What will happen to the democratic transition we want if the Ortega camp preserves a fanatical nucleus dug in with the paramilitary’s arms? There’ll never be a future for Nicaragua if this takes place. For that reason, today the new stage in the civic insurrection demands that we also learn how to destroy the Ortega regime from within.

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Mónica López Baltodano

Abogada, politóloga y activista nicaragüense con más de quince años de experiencia en movimientos sociales, organismos ambientalistas y de derechos humanos. Máster en Derecho Ambiental y en Estudios Políticos. Asesora legal ad honorem del Movimiento Campesino y autora investigaciones sobre las acciones y estrategias de lucha contra el megaproyecto del canal interoceánico en Nicaragua.