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Nothing to Say: Daniel Ortega between the Pandemic and the Vacuum

The most relevant part of Daniel Ortega’s speech was what he didn’t say. That left it clearer than ever that this regime has no future

The judgement concludes that the State of Nicaragua committed crimes against humanity when police and parapolice forces tortured and sexually raped protesters

Melba Castillo A

24 de julio 2020


Let me be clear that I don’t expect anything from public appearances of President Daniel Ortega. Definitely, speaking is not his what he’s good at. He may have other skills that have helped him remain in power for so long, but doubtless, he was denied the gift of oratory.

Nonetheless, I was struck by the fact that his entire speech this past July 19th – the date that commemorates the 41st anniversary of the Revolution that removed Somoza from power – was dedicated to the subject of health. Several questions are worth asking here: Is it because the pandemic so marked the celebration, that Daniel Ortega chose to dedicate his speech to the topic?

Or could it be that Ortega noted that 50% of those surveyed by Inter-American Dialogue at the beginning of July felt that COVID-19 was the country’s principal problem? Did Ortega feel included among those that responded positively to that question, and thus dedicated his speech to the subject? Or is it because age has underlined his concern for health as a relevant subject?

Possibly this was an echo of the 60% of those surveyed who, when asked to evaluate the government’s work in terms of prevention and management of COVID-19 on a scale of one to ten, awarded them an average score of one. Or maybe he was struck by the fact that only some 15% said that they’d vote for the FSLN in the next elections, according to data from the same poll.

Maybe that’s why he decided to respond to the most deeply felt problem of his citizens – the management of the pandemic – highlighting the great capacity, according to Daniel Ortega, of the Nicaraguan health system.

All that is possible, but the most relevant thing is what he didn’t say, and that left it clearer than ever that this regime has no future. He mentioned the economy to explain his difficulties managing in times of crisis. And he touched on his permanent situation as a victim of the US empire.

There were no promises of megaprojects, nor miniprojects. Definitely, there was nothing to justify his presence in the government. His past alliance with the business sector, which left both sides with such valuable political and financial gains, now forms part of the past. You can’t mention it as a future action.


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The megaprojects that never bore fruit, but through which many people believed that “now, finally”, the productive gears of the country would change, are no longer mentioned. There’s no international cooperation nor anyone left to ask for loans. That source, which was always the regime’s alternative for resources, is today closed off.  They have nothing to offer, and that’s their true problem.

The management of the pandemic, which could have given the regime the opportunity to show what they’d learned and to flaunt their experience in terms of epidemiological control, has been disastrous, as the aforementioned survey indicates.

Despite the lights and unusual symbols that illuminated their celebration, the act revealed the loose threads of a regime that is in tatters. What has predominated in their management of the pandemic is miserliness. There was no economic relief in the basic services – the miserable 3% discount in electricity costs only confirms that.

There were no adjustments made to the budget to attend to the most vulnerable population. They didn’t look for accords with the financial system or the business sector to support initiatives to benefit those most impacted. There was no moratorium in their persecution of opponents, nor pity on the political prisoners, as there was for the rapists and murderers [many of who were released].

Once again, Daniel Ortega demonstrated that macroeconomic balance, the main lesson he learned in the eighties, is what’s most important to him, That’s why there’s no moratorium on taxes, but instead increased taxes on products and basic medical supplies for dealing with the pandemic. Yet another sample of miserliness.

All his actions demonstrate that his only concern is maintaining himself in power at any cost. For that, he needs to assure himself that he has sufficient financial resources to continue paying the valuable services provided him by the army and police, the pillars, together with the unjust justice system, on which his worn out regime rests today. It’s incredible that while they fire doctors and health workers, the calls to the youth to enter the ranks of the repressive apparatus haven’t ceased.

The interesting thing is that the citizens are very clear about all this, and that’s why they don’t stop responding when asked: Daniel Ortega isn’t an option. What we Nicaraguans want and aspire to is a country with democratic institutions, subject to laws and public scrutiny. And the most interesting thing is that this noble people continues to believe in the elections as their main recourse to escape the dictatorship.  According to the same survey, 70% say they’ll vote if there are elections. But Ortega didn’t mention that in his speech. On that topic, fundamental for the citizens, he also has nothing to say.



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Melba Castillo A

Melba Castillo A