Nicaragua: Daniel Ortega closes in on himself | International

Rosario Murillo, vice president, and Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, on November 7, the day of the presidential elections, in Managua.CESAR PEREZ (AFP)

Daniel Ortega wanted to show a kind face after delivering his bitterest triumph speech on Monday. At the invitation of a mariachi, the president went up to the stage to dance a song that celebrated his electoral triumph in the presidential elections on Sunday, which have been rejected by the international community. Rigid, trying to smile, Ortega danced to the sound of the mariachi, but in the Plaza de la Revolución in Managua his words still resounded, a violent harangue, in which he marked what can already be considered his agenda for the next few years: zero tolerance for any indication of internal criticism, confrontation with the international community and keeping political prisoners as a bargaining chip that opens a possibility of negotiation, because Ortega has closed the doors to any opening initiative and has made it clear that isolation is not a threat to him. The regime has established itself as a new dictatorship in Central America.

Ortega is left alone

“And we perfectly understand the behavior of the European governments … Yes, the Francoist fascists twinned with Hitler, Hitler’s little brothers who are there ruling and who are now wanting to form an International of Fascism here in our America,” he said Monday in his speech in which he rejected the international condemnation of Sunday’s elections. And thus closed any possibility of opening with the international community.

The president reacted with virulence to the external rejection generated by an election that did not meet the minimum requirements of a democratic process, with total control of the electoral apparatus, seven imprisoned opposition candidates, two headless parties and dozens of political prisoners. The violence of his speech on Monday focused on that rejection, which turns his regime into an outcast. The United States, the European Union and several Latin American countries have harshly criticized the elections, with which the Sandinista government loses international legitimacy. It is true that it still has some support in Central America –Guatemala issued a lukewarm condemnation; Honduras has kept quiet – but even its international allies, Cuba and Venezuela, have shown distancing. Both nations are open to negotiations and internal changes and it is not convenient for them to launch themselves into the defense of a country, Nicaragua, which does not give them any advantage on the international stage.

“His speech is reckless and irrational in his attack on Spain, the EU and the US Ortega is crying out for sanctions,” says an analyst in Managua, referring to the sanctions that Washington can impose. This Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed the law known as RENACER, a regulation approved in a bipartisan manner, which gives him broad powers to restrict loans from multilateral organizations, which would suffocate the regime, since, after the fall of Venezuela’s oil cooperation , this flow of foreign money is an escape valve to face the economic stagnation that the Central American country suffers. RENACER also allows the US government to expel Ortega from the Free Trade Agreement between the northern power and Central America, which would be a brutal blow for Managua, since more than 100,000 jobs depend on the maquiladora companies that operate with tariff advantages in the country.

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“Those who are imprisoned there are the” sons of bitches “of the Yankee imperialists. They should be taken there, to the United States, because those are not Nicaraguans, they stopped being Nicaraguans a long time ago, they have no country. Let them take them there, so that there they serve as what they are, slaves of the Empire, traitors of the Homeland, “he said in his speech in reference to those considered political prisoners.

Ortega knows that his weak point is the economy, so he needs the support of big capital to attract investment, avoid economic sanctions and maintain stability. The president has so far used the strategy of blackmail: when the pact with the private sector was broken after the brutal repression of 2018, the regime has chosen to imprison key members of the private company, who become, along with the other political prisoners , in hostages converted into bargains in a future negotiation. Analysts in Managua assure that this may be one of the president’s strategies, although it remains to be seen how much businessmen are willing to expose themselves in a country that has become a prison, with a constant flow of exiles and where there is no possibility of criticism. Undoubtedly, the private sector does not want sanctions such as those established by the RENACER law to be imposed, but the weight of the murders of 2018 that have remained in impunity, political prisoners and exiles is too great to sit with Ortega without conditions .

Some analysts, such as the journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro –exiled in Costa Rica– venture what may be the center of a possible negotiation: “Behind the hate speech, Ortega showed the first letter of his strategy to remain in power: he wants to negotiate the political disqualification of prisoners of conscience who won the November 7 election, in exchange for them being expatriates, ”said Chamorro. A similar opinion is held by the political source consulted in Managua: “You have to put it in the context of the Cuban school: threaten the hostages to seek some negotiation (Maduro with the directors of Citgo, for example). The nail for him is that it is not clear if the gringos, and I suppose the Europeans, negotiate hostages, “he explains.

Internal closure

“We have been accompanied by independent journalists, not from the big corporations that we already know who they belong to, they belong to the empires, and the scoundrels have the courage to say that they want to come to cover the elections, if they live cursing us and want to enter to cover the elections. We already know, they are employees of the intelligence agencies of the United States of America. Those do not enter here ”, affirmed Ortega.

The Nicaragua that emerged since Monday in a country that is more closed in on itself. In his speech, Ortega made it clear that there will be no room for criticism and has threatened more persecution and jail for those who dare to express their discontent. The day before the elections, and even during the elections, the regime arrested about twenty opponents, and what is expected in the coming years is that the few spaces that remain in the country have been completely blocked. That includes the press, which has so far been a strong counterweight to the regime despite persecution and exile. After Cuba, Nicaragua is possibly the only country on the continent with censorship as an official state policy. And Monday’s violent discharge, Ortega’s bitter speech, only augurs a more anemic scenario for Nicaraguans.

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