Nicaragua: A Dialogue Must Have a Strategy

Before starting any negotiation, it is essential for the population to march under libertarian slogans, to link again to the negotiations.

A banner with the names of those who had been killed up to May 30, 2018, when the massive Mothers Day March took place. Photo Franklin Villavicencio / Confidencial

27 de febrero 2019


The bankers and businessmen, Carlos Pellas, Ramiro Ortiz, Jose Antonio Baltodano, Roberto Zamora, Juan Bautista Sacasa, were the architects of the antidemocratic corporate co-government that consolidated the dictatorship over the last ten years. Known in Nicaragua’s business world as “the advisors”, they requested, apparently, a meeting with Ortega last Saturday, February 16, to tackle among them a solution to the crisis. Or, if you will, to discuss with Ortega what would be the way to put an end to the crisis, even if it is not resolved.

The crisis is “Orteguismo”

It is obvious that an unresolved crisis (because the crisis cannot be resolved with Ortega, given that the crisis is “Orteguismo”), even if it temporarily prolongs Ortega’s tenure in power until 2021, it would lead to a failed State because, notwithstanding that Ortega’s boot is on the growing discontent of the people, the economic recession cannot be reversed without the departure of Ortega. 

Indeed, as soon as Ortega is forced to give up a small democratic opening, through it will pop, as if it were a cork removed from a bottle of champagne, a new insurrection against the dictatorship.

A distrustful dialogue

The bankers, after the meeting convened by Ortega, ask in their statement the following Sunday that the people support the negotiation proposed by Ortega. Because, for them, that is the only role of the people, to provide support.

But, negotiation is not an end in itself, but, another strategic combat scenario. And in any terrain where the fight develops, what is asked is that the forces themselves deploy strategically in the face of a tactical confrontation.

Since the dialogue was made public, much of the population actually distrusts it, not only because the initiative was taken by Ortega, but also, because it is known intuitively that a political negotiation during a governing crisis does not happen out of good will (as the naive say). Instead, it is imposed by the one who has the advantage. That is to say, it is imposed and organized in his own way by whomever is favored at that time by the correlation of forces.

Ortega is on the defensive internationally, he is cornered, but he is on the offensive internally.  

A dialogue that marks step without advancing

In fact, Ortega decides when the dialogue starts, how many people will attend, how the media will be absent, what is the role of simple observer of Cardinal Brenes (someone who as mediator led the previous dialogue and even suggested the agenda on behalf of the Episcopal Conference, is now degraded by Ortega to the role of listener). This is indicative of the new correlation of forces between Ortega and those who make up the dialogue.

Ortega imposes that the objective of the dialogue is to bring stability and security…to his government, and to impose peace. In other words, to normalize the operation of the dictatorial regime as before the April rebellion, although with a new route or a new type of agreement with the business class. Obviously, the issue of early elections does not fit in the objective selected by Ortega, and the attempt to include it would derail the negotiation, in which the bankers agree with Ortega.

The Alliance has political limitations

The statement of the Alliance, ambiguous and vague, says that they assume the challenge that the circumstance demands. That the commitment with political prisoners will be present. And that freedom is a priority. The issues of the Alliance are: justice…, electoral reforms…, release of political prisoners…

The Alliance exists only for the dialogue. When the dialogue is thwarted, the Alliance goes to intensive care with cardiac arrest. So that, those who fear that Ortega will close that alternative, for them, it only depends politically on Ortega, not the people’s struggle. What is the challenge, then, when the raison d’être depends on the adversary?

Circumstances do not demand anything, as the Alliance affirms with its abstract language. The circumstances create opportunities, but, for those that have a plan of struggle. The release of political prisoners is not an issue (as the Alliance says), but a conquest to be obtained through the advancement of the correlation of forces. Justice is not an issue either, but rather, it is the result of the reconstruction of society without Ortega’s influence.

And the electoral reforms? They are innocuous if an alternative to power is not imposed that bends the person who uses the laws discretionally, as a resource available to his whim. The businessmen, who control the Alliance, do not aim for an alternative of power.

The initial encouragement of the previous dialogue expressed the slogans of the spontaneous insurrection. The encouragement of the current dialogue is that of the bankers, and it expresses the slogans of a new co-government with Ortega.

An end to repression

Before starting the negotiation, it is indispensable that the population march again under the libertarian slogans, to link again the negotiation to the popular mandate, to the discontent of the people, not to the agreement between the bankers and Ortega. It is necessary a baptism of the masses.

The political prisoners are not an autonomous category to be released from jail, as the Alliance considers them upon seeing them condemned by the system. They are a constant consequence of the permanent activity of a repressive apparatus. All citizens are, circumstantially, political prisoners of such a repressive apparatus. Maybe, just for singing the national anthem or waving the national flag.

Therefore, the phenomenon of political prisoners has communicating vessels with the citizenry in continuous rebellion, with the persecuted who already live underground, with the exiles fleeing. In short, political prisoners are part of the contradiction between the citizenry in rebellion and the dictatorship. And their case should be addressed within that that current contradiction as long as there is absolutism, to carry out belligerent actions to curb the repression.

Thus, the slogan of freedom for the political prisoners is transformed, not in a grace asked to Ortega in the dialogue, but in a struggle for the repression to end, so that Orteguismo will no longer exist.

Dismantling absolutism

A despot is not defeated negotiating, but rather by negotiating his defeat, after the correlation of forces is unfavorable to him. Therefore, the negotiators on behalf of the people must be the same strategists of the struggle, not those who have been handpicked by the Episcopal Conference or by the bankers.

The propitious moment for the dialogue is neither decided by the perspective of the businessmen, due to the effects they resent of the economic crisis. The negotiation must occur at the right moment, when Ortega is on the defensive. In other words, the terms of the negotiation must be imposed on a weakened and isolated Ortega, because the solution to the crisis implies the conquest of freedom and the defeat of Ortega.

A negotiation is not the meeting ground between the dictator and the people, or to restore confidence in the country. Institutional changes, and confidence in the country, can only be achieved by dismantling absolutism, not by an alleged reconciliation with oppression through dialogue, as the businessman Baltodano says. The agenda of a valid dialogue is the same agenda of the popular struggle: dismantle dictatorship!

A dialogue between the parties to a conflict is a negotiation, and a negotiation is another way of continuing the conflict towards the most probable solution according to the correlation of forces.

Conditions for dialogue must to be created?

The conditions for dialogue must be created by the struggle, because it is the struggle—not the request of bankers—that prepares and gives content to the dialogue at the opportune moment for those seeking change. Conditions depend on the strategic situation, not gratuitous gestures.

All the demands that arise in the population, on the preconditions, the negotiators, and the issues of the dialogue, seem good, seem just, seem legitimate. However, it is like taking all the food and ingredients from the refrigerator and dumping them on the table without a cooking recipe to tell us what to mix, in what proportion, in what sequence, with what procedure. These elements are defined by the strategic situation, not by improvisation or collective desire.

If this internal strategic situation favors Ortega today, he will eliminate the elements that bother him. Otherwise, the organized people will impose them appropriately. What is the strategic situation?

The dismantling of absolutism is a libertarian strategy, not an agreement with Ortega. Successful negotiations occur when one of the parties to the conflict has been defeated on the battlefield. Before that eventuality, the negotiation has the purpose of improving the strategic situation to change the correlation of forces decisively, only through successful confrontations. Negotiation and confrontation is the same dialectical process of the developing contradiction.

The lead role of political prisoners

The format and agenda of the negotiation will have to be submitted for the prior approval of the political prisoners. In particular, to the approval of those who have the longest sentences. And any agreement must be submitted for their prior approval. In this way the center of gravity of the negotiation is shifted towards the fighters, both in form and content.

This is the tactical reaction provoked by Ortega’s negotiating maneuver in the field that is most favorable to him. Because a political negotiation, which alters the correlation of forces, develops with tactical maneuvers on both sides, not with arguments.

Ortega wants to use the dialogue to stop the sanctions that are in the process of being approved. For the people, the dictatorship must be weakened day by day in a substantial and irreversible way. Ortega must come to the dialogue to retreat, not to advance or consolidate.

This is the litmus test of the dialogue. A dialogue that oxygenates Ortega is…either a stupidity or a betrayal. We must prevent Ortega from strengthening his alliance with big business.

It will be necessary to provide conditions to political prisoners to express themselves on the development of the dialogue, before the pre-dialogue table. At the moment, these political prisoners are not simply victims, but rather, they are known strategists, for better or worse, of the blue and white struggle. There is no more precondition than this elemental one, on those who should lead the dialogue on behalf of the people.

For Ortega, to negotiate with the Alliance, controlled by businessmen, is a triumph (because he seeks to escape isolation), but being forced to negotiate with political prisoners, directly or indirectly, is a tactical defeat. This is not about trusting more or less the people who negotiate, but trusting in a fighting strategy that opens spaces of mobilization for the people.

The author is an electrical engineer.

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