Analysis Extractive institution and dictatorship in Nicaragua


Eduardo Fernández Luiña, FAES International Area analyst 

Nicaragua is suffering one of the worst political crises in its recent history. The government headed by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega has faced innumerable expressions of protest and discontent on the part of citizens for two weeks. The country, which has gone through a chaos of looting and property violations, is still in tension and university students are requesting the intervention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations. 

The protest began due to a government publication that reduced the benefits provided (specifically pensions) by the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS). However, what began as a matter of public policy has become a harsh criticism of the entire political system and the legitimacy of the political regime that Daniel Ortega, his family and the oligarchy that protects him have built during the last eleven years. 

It is known that Ortega, professional guerrilla in his youth, he arrived to the power as par ot the Government Junta of National Reconstruction resulting from the victorious entry of the Sandinistas in Managua in 1979. Later, he won his first democratic elections  in 1985. His first government was marked by the last throes of the Cold War. Unfortunately the levels of stability and violence were high in those times. The country oscillated from one pole to another, struggling between democratization (third wave as well as other political systems in the region) or its transformation into a new-style authoritarian regime (abandoned Somoza to move to a communist-style dictatorship).

In the end, the elections of 1990 and the defeat at the polls against Violeta Chamorro turned Ortega into opposition, showing the true face of a leader obsessed with power. And I say power, not material goods. Our character, the current President of Nicaragua, presents an authoritative manual profile and an excessive desire to concentrate and centralize power in his person and in his closest circle. The current Premio Cervantes, the also Nicaraguan, Sergio Ramírez, commented in his work Adiós muchachos that he never saw in Ortega an individual concerned nor obsessed with material issues. But he was for power.

And to achieve his objectives, Daniel Ortega has cooperated with a large number of individuals who are interested in material issues. His second democratic presidency, from 2007 on, has been characterized by a strategy based on:

  • Family and friends in key positions
  • A control over the Security Forces and Bodies
  • A collaboration with an entrepreneurial oligarchy that helps to sustain the system.

The conclusion is clear: after eleven years, the country has stopped being a democracy and has become in a competitive authoritarian government with a extractive andamiaje that made some “friends of the system” rich.

And all of this, based in a speech associated to the famous —and disastrous— Socialism of the 21st century, apparently worried about the poorest and disadvantaged of the society. Ortega has created a perfect scenery. He needed the militaries and the security forces. He has bought some of them. It was also necessary to cooperate and to integrate in the team some entrepreneurs. Those who do not mind about the free competition and the legal equality. With the above, Ortega gained political stability, a quite good economic growth and concentration and centralization of the power in himself. All the things he could not obtain in the 80’s.

But the population sometimes gets the fraud. They know that Nicaragua is still one of the poorest countries in Latin America —the 5th from the back in a regional level—. They know that liberty of expression does not exist. They are conscious that they cannot enjoy the free association if they do not obtain the welcoming of the regime. By all of this, the social situation has complicated and in the worst way: violence and repression without scruples by the authorities (more than 40 deaths —from the international media) looting and violations of private property.

The situation has put the country on the ropes and today the exist is at least complex… Let’s hope that the Government which is only taking care of itself in a clear attempt to survive, does not repress the population anymore and become aware of the institutional degeneration they have caused in the nation.

Al those of us who believe in democracy, the rule of law and freedom  must contribute to the “internationalization” of the Nicaraguan question. The world must know what is happening there. Onley then can we contribute to the protection of those people that in these moments are fighting for their structure of rights and freedoms. As of today and as indicated, many citizens are suffering repressing actions resulting from an extractive regime that struggles to survive and remain in power. Hopefully from the outside we can help our Nicaraguan friends in the struggle for freedom and thereby contribute humbly to the long-awaited democratization that the country needs.

Translated by Nerea Eiroa

#Nicaragua #Ortega #Authoritarianism #Latinamerica #CrisisEconómica