Daniel Ortega launched combative charges against the United States on December 11th, accusing it of colluding with the Nicaraguan opposition. According to Ortega, the US was conspiring through its embassies to generate another social explosion like in April 2018. The objective, Ortega alleged, is to assure the election of a president favorable to US interests in 2021.
“There are governments that desire, as we do, good relations with the United States, respectful relations. But they must stop going around conspiring the way they do in the embassies. They’re looking at ways to bring together the terrorists, the coup mongers, those who bared their claws and brutally murdered and burnt in April of 2018. They’re seeking to unite them and offer them resources, so that in the 2021 elections they can put in a president in their service. One who kneels down before the imperialist policies.” This was Ortega’s depiction of the citizens who demonstrated against him at that time.
Ortega presided over a graduation of officers from the Nicaraguan Army’s Center for Superior Military Studies. The event was held last Friday. At the ceremony, Ortega spoke for over an hour. He asserted that Nicaragua is one of the Latin American countries that doesn’t say “Yes, sir” to the “Yankees”. That affirmation has been a traditional part of his anti-imperialist rhetoric for decades.
Ortega called the United States “sinverguenza”, or “shameless”, because it calls for democratic elections in other countries. However, Ortega claimed, it doesn’t attend to complaints about its own November presidential elections. He referred here to allegations of fraud put forth by Donald Trump and his supporters, with no evidence. The Nicaraguan ruler used the situation to question the US democracy and electoral system. He asserted that the US doesn’t respect the will of the majority of its citizens.
“It’s hypocrisy, a double standard. We’re seeing what amounts to shamelessness, as we’d say here. They’re shameless. With what authority do they go around proclaiming there must be democratic elections in another country? Let them first establish true democracy in the United States, because that democracy doesn’t exist,” said Ortega.
In terms of the 2021 Nicaraguan presidential elections, Ortega hasn’t given any formal indications of electoral reform. This is despite the resolution approved by the Organization of American States last October. That resolution set a deadline of May 2021 for the implementation of electoral reforms in Nicaragua. According to the OAS, such reforms were necessary to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in November 2021.
Sources linked to the ruling Sandinista party revealed to Confidencial that Ortega had created a working group on electoral reform. They were instructed to design a bill reforming the Electoral Law. However, Ortega had asked that these reforms focus strictly on aspects of a “technical” nature. The proposal was to exclude any real changes in the composition of the current Supreme Electoral Council. It would also not include any of the constitutional reforms demanded by the opposition groups.
United States and European powers responsible for “crimes against humanity”
In his December 11th address, Ortega also accused the United States of committing crimes against humanity. This is precisely the accusation pending against the Ortega-Murillo regime. This attribution of “crimes against humanity” by the regime was originally put forth by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). The GIEI is an outgrowth of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.
The GIEI based its accusation on a detailed report of the state repression committed by police and paramilitary. The violent repression was unleashed against the April 2018 massive citizen demonstrations demanding that Ortega leave power. The repression left over 300 dead, thousands wounded, hundreds of political prisoners and tens of thousands exiled. It also led to a serious sociopolitical and economic crisis. There were similar reports from local and international human rights organizations. These included the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which also documented grave government violations and abuses.
“The struggle continues. Not because we want a confrontation with the Yankees,” said Ortega. “Not because we don’t agree with the barbarities they commit there in the United States. We don’t agree with the barbarities that the United States and European powers commit against the peoples of the world in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America. They’ve committed crimes against humanity. But – Who sanctions them? Who punishes them, if they’re powerful?”
Ortega’s words clearly referred to the sanctions leveled against his own family and government. The US, Canada and the EU have all imposed sanctions against high Nicaraguan government functionaries and members of the presidential family. Those sanctioned include Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s wife and vice president, and two of his sons. They also have sanctioned part of the businesses linked to his family. The sanction imposed were for acts of corruption and human rights violations.
The president has also accused the Nicaraguan opposition and those demonstrating against him of committing “hate crimes”.
The economic “miracle”
As part of his address, Ortega recalled the alliance he formerly maintained with private business. This alliance ended with the April social explosion. When he returned to power in 2007, Ortega worked hand in hand with the large business owners. He involved them in his decision-making, together with different authorities of the State portfolios.
In exchange, the business owners didn’t question the crumbling of the country’s independent institutions. To Ortega, this was a “miracle”.
“From 2007 to 2016, a miracle was produced in Nicaragua. There was harmony among the different economic forces, the social forces. There was an enormous national alliance, where no one spoke of confrontation or war. Until, finally, the conspirators came, nourished by the United States and provoked that bloodbath in April 2018.”
Ortega continues to deny the brutal state repression that he ordered to suffocate the population’s protests. People initially came out to demonstrate against the reforms to Social Security. Later, the protests became demands for justice, freedom and democracy.
The Ortega-Murillo regime reacted by calling the opposition demonstrators “terrorists”. He still maintains his characterization of these protests as “an attempt to stage a coup”. This idea hasn’t found any adherents among the international community. Instead, they’ve pressured him to achieve a transition and a peaceful solution to the crisis that still persists in Nicaragua.