On September 25, the electoral campaign began in Nicaragua for an election that no longer exists. Later in this commentary I will make a proposal for those who believe that all is not lost.
Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo have already won another electoral farce. With all their opponents imprisoned or exiled, and total control over the electoral and judicial powers, it is a fait accompli. The only thing missing is the inauguration of Ortega’s fifth term on January 10, 2022.
Sergio Ramírez, the great writer persecuted by Ortega and Murillo, described the situation with cold clarity:
“I think that calling what is going to happen elections is a semantic error. There will be no elections in Nicaragua, what there will be is a process of institutional violence that marks the candidates for removal and sends them to jail; that controls the elections, as if the Electoral Council were a police organ that can declare whoever they want the winner, and then have them take possession…”
Ortega, Murillo and their inner circle continue to hold parades and broadcast so-called opinion polls. Their “opposition” consists of six almost unknown parties, which have a history of collaborating with the government in exchange for some well-paid legislative seats and other benefits.
According to the rulers, their polls indicate that Ortega is guaranteed 64% of the votes with the possibility of reaching 87% when the undecided voters, “decide”.
What is already known in advance is that they will “win” and that they will have an absolute majority in the National Assembly, just like now. There will be no national or international electoral observation. What’s the point? Everything is already decided and controlled.
In 2016, also unopposed, Ortega awarded himself 72.44% of the vote. The rest was distributed among the small, allied parties that help it to appear a competitive electoral victory. By 2011, he had already changed the constitution to facilitate his lifetime tenure.
Despite closely reflecting the events of the electoral cycle of 2016 and even earlier, the reality previously summarized was revealed little by little. Until May, a large part of the opposition groups continued to believe that it was possible to take advantage of the November opening to change the landscape.
Post 11/7 perspective
It should be noted that the situation in Nicaragua remains volatile, and many things could happen. However, a very possible scenario that the country will face in the short term is the following:
– Ortega will receive some respite as “constitutional” president until 2027, similar to what Maduro achieved in Venezuela in 2018.
– The new fraudulent mandate will be openly or tacitly legitimized by the regime’s allies: Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Turkey, Iran, and some other countries.
– It will be delegitimized by countries that have already criticized the process, mainly Europe, the United States, Canada and several Latin American countries.
– The Ortega-Murillo Family State will continue, along with the further enrichment of themselves, their inner circle, and those who have been bought off.
– Opponents will continue to be imprisoned, silenced, or exiled.
– The country’s economic situation will worsen, with corresponding government measures to increase taxes on businesses and individuals to obtain more revenue.
– The general population will increase their dependence on government programs and handouts, given the criminalization and disappearance of civil society.
Options for the Nicaraguan population
Without new efforts, the population will face very discouraging dilemmas: resigning themselves to surviving in dictatorship, risk going to jail, or leaving the country if they can.
An increase in the exodus of people for political and economic reasons is predicted. In fact, the stampede already began a few months ago, as verified by UNHCR.
Today’s more than 150 political prisoners, and those to come, will very likely face long years in jail. Some may die in prison; others will see their physical and mental health affected temporarily or for life. Likewise, their families will face continuous suffering.
It’s possible that at some point, through international mediation, selected prisoners will be allowed to go into exile as the only option. Something like what happened with the political prisoners of the Black Spring in Cuba (2003), after a decade in prison.
What’s clear is that with the family dictatorship, democratic participation, justice, demands, separation of powers, return of exiles, conditions for investments and economic improvement will not be possible.
“Nicaragua without dictatorships” is it possible?
Despite the pessimistic outlook, I believe that a Nicaragua without dictatorships is still possible. But to achieve it, the opposition needs maturity, humility, and a single-minded approach. A strong and united leadership, working from exile, could lead a new effort to bring together the diverse opposition population, like what took place in 2018.
Now, before the culmination of the November farce, it is urgent for broad and capable sectors of the opposition abroad to put aside any differences and squabbles and focus on a single objective.
My proposal is a group “Nicaragua without dictatorships”, since it is something that almost every opponent can easily agree to and that is vital. In my way of thinking, it would be composed of notable and influential people from different sectors, ideologies, and generations, but on an individual basis.
I emphasize the one-issue approach – Nicaragua without dictatorships – because the attempt to put the cart in front of the oxen already failed. All the time wasted talking about candidates, parties, primaries, and polls was a golden time given to the dictatorship, which had already prepared in advance its plan to sabotage the cart.
The future debates on the type of economy that the country will have, its programs and social policies, its foreign policy, etc., after a post-dictatorship transition, will depend on the citizens in their sectorial and party struggles and at the polls. But all that will be later. Without achieving the sole objective of a Nicaragua without dictatorships, none of that enters the possibilities.
The Nicaraguans with the capability and the freedom to organize such a group are abroad, where they have more security to organize and act. In so doing, they can serve as catalysts for a unified struggle within the country that would keep civic resistance alive, until a free, just and democratic Nicaragua is possible.