What is Daniel Ortega’s bet with his criminal handling of the pandemic?
The Nicaraguan popular imagination uses different explanations, ranging from those who believe it is a scheme to eliminate Nicaraguan senior citizens so that the INSS (social security) saves on pension payment; to those who argue that it is a ploy to eliminate the remnants of old Sandinismo.
Furthermore, there are those who affirm that after repeating so many lies, prayers, invocations and spells, the presidential couple ended up believing their own hoaxes, and now they are convinced that they enjoy a divine endowment and that sanctified power will end the pandemic.
Likewise, we cannot put aside those who maintain that the couple made a “pact with the devil” that demands a quota of human lives.
In one of his chronicles, Gabriel Garcia Marquez maintains that in our latitudes realities are so outrageous that they overwhelm all imagination, and that all words are insufficient to describe it. We are facing one of those situations. Only that this reality is pregnant with tragedy.
My opinion is more worldly. I truly believe that Ortega is betting on chaos.
The dictator has only one existential purpose: to remain in power, at whatever the cost. So, his macabre calculation is that a situation of chaos will favor that end, as he believes there would be no political, economic or social force with the will or the ability to challenge his power.
Thus, depending on external and internal circumstances, he would have two options at hand: postponing the [November 2021] elections or forging a new electoral circus, under his own impositions, which include the possibility of cosmetic electoral reforms.
Does Ortega care about the thousands of Nicaraguans who are dying or who may die from Covid-19? Does he care that his followers are among the deceased?
If in this way chaos is fertilized and this facilitates remaining in power, he does not care. They are like the human and material costs in a war: necessary sacrifices.
What are the reasons on which Ortega supports this diabolical gamble?
The first concerns the international community. It seems clear that his initial assessment was that the pandemic was reason enough to make governments focus their attention on alleviating the economic, political and social emergencies of their own countries.
At this level his calculations so far have been proven wrong. The United States, the OAS and the European Union do not cease to deliver political blows. The US sanction on the chief of the Army is the most powerful message in recent times. It has been announced that new blows are on the way.
However, we cannot rule out that Ortega has the wherewithal that will allow him to reach November 3, 2020, with the expectation that a triumph by Joseph Biden in the United States elections will ease the pressure and return to the patronizing times of Obama.
That expectation is not very solid because Ortega is one of the few cases that generate a solid consensus between republicans and democrats. In spite of that, the permanence of Maduro in Venezuela exposes the limits of the international community against a mafia group clinging to power.
His next evaluation is internal, with the gentlemen of the wealthiest local economic groups. He knows them well and he knows their weak spot. He is taking them to the edge of the abysm in pursuit that sooner or later they would end up seeking or encourage an understanding. According to some people, these arrangements have not yet come to fruition because the price that he is demanding of them is very high.
His third calculation is with the opposition organizations. He has also sized them up well. He is duly informed of their conflicting interests, their crossed ambitions and sharp contradictions. He has his operators imbedded in the opposition spaces and bets that, when the times comes, they will follow the example of the chicks in the story of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, narrated by Mundo Jarquin.
The story is that a circus had as a stellar act some trained chicks that, to the sound of a minuet, marked the step and raised their legs, once to one side, the next to the other. All the people were amazed at the trained chicks. But a rascal returned to the circus the next night, awaited the chicks’ act, took a handful of sorghum out of his bag and threw it. The chicks forgot about the beat and ran after the sorghum grains. That was the end of the minuet.
An anticipated portrait of what can happen with an electoral circus under Ortega’s conditions. Let’s hope that it does not happen and that they remain firm. However, the sky looks cloudy. We will see.
The most diabolic assessment is with deaths. Do you remember Ortega’s speech when he reappeared on April 15?
Ortega began by reciting how many Nicaraguans died from drowning, from traffic accidents, from suicide, from heart attacks. Afterwards he compared these numbers with the death toll from the coronavirus, which they themselves invented.
Their calculations showed that many more Nicaraguans died from ordinary causes so, ultimately, coronavirus was no more serious than a whooping cough. And, anyway, it didn’t matter, because Nicaraguans are born by the thousands. He showed us his way of reasoning. Those who did not understand it, did not understand it.
He thought that he could cloud things by falsifying figures, counting on the complicity of the local PAHO representative, coupled with international confusion, the mobilization of his followers and repression. But these macabre calculations are failing both internationally and nationally.
The pandemic has spun out of control, expressions of discontent are generalizing and pockets of resistance are emerging. The most visible is that of health professionals. Meanwhile, the economic crisis worsens, deepening peoples’ discontent.
It is a disgrace that this tragic episode represents a political opportunity to confront and defeat Ortega. Life is so. However, also part of the disgrace is the pettiness, blindness and incompetence of opposition organizations and “leaders” who spend more time discussing how they are going to decide on illusory assigning of top posts, rather than being in tune with the problems of the people and the country.