The Objectives and Tactics of Daniel Ortega

If forced to make concessions, Daniel Ortega will try to reduce them to the realization of elections, seasoned with cosmetic reforms.

If forced to make concessions

23 de febrero 2019


It is logical that the news of the meeting made by Ortega with some bankers, with the participation of the Nuncio and Cardinal Brenes, provoked so much controversy.

It is logical, in the first place, because there are no known details of the conversations or the real intentions of those involved. Secondly, because the Nicaraguan people are accustomed to burning themselves with milk, with deceptions, disappointments, pacts and re-pacts.

Let’s start with the facts. A couple of weeks ago, two high-ranking US officials visited the country. They met with Ortega and other sectors. Obviously, they brought a message, but nobody has been able to offer a credible version. There are those who affirm that the emissaries fixed a peremptory term for Ortega to reach a solution. But these are no more than rumors.

Then came the European parliamentarians, who, yes, talked about dialogue and announced some preconditions, so that Ortega demonstrates a real will. Among others, they mentioned the release of the political prisoners; restoration of citizen rights and freedoms; and return of international human rights missions.

Then came a mission of the General Secretariat of the OAS. The published statements seem to show clear disagreements. While the government intends to return to the situation before April, as if nothing had happened, and talks about elections in 2021; The General Secretariat of the OAS wields a broader agenda, which includes the release of political prisoners and compliance with the decisions adopted by the Inter-American system, that is, the Permanent Council of the OAS and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In addition, a strong letter was sent by the president of the European Parliament, which contains veiled threats of sanctions.

All of this against the backdrop of the Venezuelan crisis, a crisis of terminal appearance.

It is against this background which the news of the meeting between Ortega and the bankers exploded, announced, curiously, by two identical press releases. One from the government and one from the archdiocese.

The expression of complacency of the American embassy was the cherry on top of the cake.

These are the facts. Let’s go now to the considerations.

You do not need to be a fortune-teller to anticipate Ortega’s goals and tactics. In strategic terms, his stated objectives are:

One- To stay in power, trying to restore the preconditions to April 19. That is, arrangement with the business leadership; consent of the international community; social and political control; now with different schemes of repression and restriction of civil liberties.

Two- If forced to make concessions, he will try to reduce them to the realization of elections, under his terms and conditions, dressed with cosmetic reforms. The maximum concession, from this perspective, would be to open some spaces, but preserving, himself and his family, as factors of power, and maintain control over their guarantee organs: army, police, judicial apparatus, general comptroller of the republic, national assembly.

Three- To ensure impunity for himself, his family and relatives.

Four- To secure his families capital.

Five- To eliminate the sanctions imposed and cancel the sanctions announced.

To achieve these objectives Ortega has an arsenal. The repressive apparatus is the main device of that arsenal. But the instrument of dialogue is also part of its arsenal. In tactical terms, with the dialogue, he would pretend to:

  • Gain time.
  • Extract the steam of the international pressure, distract and introduce confusion, handling diverse agendas according to the interlocutor. An agenda with the Europeans. Another with the OAS. Another with the United States. And another with the national interlocutors.
  • Divide and sow distrust among the opposition organizations.
  • Install in the population bewilderment and distrust of leaders and opposition forces.

Regardless of whether this apparent openness is a sign of weakness, and regardless of Ortega’s intentions and well-known lies, the reality is that the success of his strategy does not depend on his will. If we know his objectives and means, we are in the capacity and the obligation to forge our own strategy to come out and neutralize the designs of the monarch.

Let’s dig deeper into this matter.

First of all, the ends should not be confused with the means. The strategic goals are: the change of the dictatorial political regime, to establish a framework of coexistence with justice and democracy. And to the change of the economic, predator, concentrator and excluding regime, that Ortega has managed to impose. These should be the strategic objectives. Of course, they can only be achieved by displacing Ortega from power.

Others are the short-term objectives, such as the release of political prisoners and the restitution of rights and civil liberties.

Then there are the means. The arsenal of means and instruments of the democratic forces includes: dialogue, early elections, social networks, independent media, international efforts, protests, strikes, actions of the diaspora, among others. These means must be operated and managed articulately, depending on contexts and times. Just as Ortega does with his arsenal and power devices.

Let’s repeat over and over: The dialogue and elections are not the end result. They are means to achieve greater objectives.

And what to do before the signs of a new dialogue?

In my opinion it is convenient to give an opportunity to dialogue. First, because it would be difficult to impose an agreement ignoring the interests of the people. That’s to say: An agreement without freedom of political prisoners, without restitution of liberties and citizen rights. An agreement without genuine electoral conditions, for early elections; without demobilization of the paramilitary forces.

An agreement without justice. Without the return of international human rights missions … It would be an agreement that would be born dead, because it would totally lack political viability. Whoever the interlocutors are.

Second, because solutions do not fall from the sky. You must forge them with imagination, will, effort and good sense.

The tactical goal should be to turn the tiny hole into a big opening. And to achieve this we need an agenda with social support; a strategy that, in addition to dialogue, combines different mechanisms of pressure on the regime, and unity in action.

If we have a clear route, along the way we can adjust the weight.


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Enrique Sáenz

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


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