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The Enemies of Unity in the Nicaraguan Opposition

These malignant cysts that we all carry inside are the true enemies of unity. Our enemies, but Ortega’s friends

Enrique Sáenz

30 de enero 2020


One of the outcries one reads and hears in different spaces and by different media is the claim for unity of the opposition. In many cases it is rhetorical, hollow and empty, because those who raise it deny with their actions and sayings that which they allegedly demand.

It is not always the result of bad faith. Frequently the origin is found in those malignant cysts—perhaps for this reason they act as “badly-encysted”—that our social fabric carries them deeply embedded.

Let’s talk then about unity and its enemies. It happens that while reviewing a collection of copies of the newspaper La Prensa, I was fortunate to find an extraordinary editorial dated in January, 1979. Forty-one years ago. The teachings that emerge from this lucid and enlightening analysis should be useful to all of us who are determined to rescue democracy.

When the La Prensa editorial was written those were moments of extreme polarization, repression and violence. It was on the eve of the commemoration of the first anniversary of the murder of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal. The insurrection of September 1978 had just passed and its fatal consequences were lived. The political dynamic was marked, on the one hand, by difficult negotiations with Somoza, with the mediation of the OAS; and, on the other hand, with a real bloodbath that covered the entire country.

In this scenario, where civilian leaders also risked their lives daily, the division persisted. Thus, when describing the situation of the opposition the editorial says the following: “…we have observed in recent weeks an alarming and reproachable political vendetta among some opposition political actors and a regrettable deterioration of the unitary process…”.

To what causes does the editorialist of La Prensa attribute the myopic sectarianism that prevailed in such pressing and tragic circumstances? Let’s point out some and compare with the present:

1. Self-overestimation of their own forces, in comparison with other political groups.

Each political group presumed —in the present as well—, to be stronger or more representative than the others, and shows a tendency to underestimate and attribute to itself more weight in decision-making.

Obviously, that underestimation is a source of resentment and conflict.

2. A mistaken evaluation of political conditions and possibilities of the country.

Each group has its own reading of reality. At the present time this is also a relevant cause. If some political groups consider that violence is the only path, and others, that we must go to elections, even if there are no conditions, to cite two examples. How can these strategies be articulated? It is very difficult.

3. Strongman political bad habits and lack of understanding and tolerance about true pluralism.

The big problem of caudillismo in our country is that it not only contaminates the candidate, but that we have not been able to sterilize the social matrix that incubates it. Yearning expressions for a new leader-savior proliferate. And, as far as tolerance, it is enough to look at the social networks.

4. On other occasions—the editorial notes–, and this is the most unjustifiable of the cases, are the quarrels and personal animosities, which have been put before the necessary opposition unity.

It results amazing to see —I believe— how much trivial things, envy and personal grudges influence the performance of organizations and political alliances.

5. The unlimited confidence of some groups in that foreign powers will liberate us from Somoza, or that a political miracle will occur.

Well, not only at that time. In the current circumstances there are those who place their hopes in a drone; or in a general strike; or in the suspension of Nicaragua from the CAFTA trade agreement; or a transition government; or a Guaido. Magical thinking saturates much of our collective imagination.

6. Distrust of the political objectives of other groups.

Of course, there are reasons to harbor mistrust. But, let’s be clear, in the face of political concertation processes, distrust kills. Almost literally. Obviously, we are not referring to the natural distrust regarding traditional Ortega allies.

7. The trickery and intrigues of Somoza and his agents.

Faced with the infiltration capacity of Somoza, Ortega, his clique and his agents have proven to be true masters in the art of conspiracy and manipulation.

The final paragraph of the editorial contains a strong lesson for today’s protagonists:

“At the extremes of these sectarian behaviors, sometimes it seems that the efforts are more directed to wear out allies, or possible allies, than to fight the common enemy… These sectarian and divisive tendencies must be fought firmly. Because, after all, the people are united and it is not possible that this unity, and the immense possibilities of liberation that the current moment contains, get frustrated, because the weight of the past in some, and others’ mistaken evaluation of the possibilities of the future, leads them to behaviors that objectively contribute to prolong the torments of ‘Somocismo’.”

We are talking of 41 years ago. Any resemblance with the present is merely a… coincidence?

These malignant cysts that we carry inside are the true enemies of unity. Our enemies, but Ortega’s friends. If we do not annihilate them, at the individual and group levels, the torments will continue.


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Enrique Sáenz

Enrique Sáenz

Economista y abogado nicaragüense. Aficionado a la historia. Bloguero y conductor de la plataforma de comunicación #VamosAlPunto