Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nicaragua Commentary

A very well-presented piece of Opinion writing at the Christian Science Monitor, today, on how Nicaragua is in a spiral down, and how outside influence might help prevent that.

The information on the numbers of Nicaraguans who have fled the country to Costa Rica and El Salvador are particularly informative, in context.


Kate said...

I read this article yesterday and was quite pleased, for several reasons: one, it's nice to see a real analysis from a periodical with a relatively large readership in English publishing something on the topic; two, it dispels many of the myths currently circulating the internet about Nicaragua, which are quick to entrench themselves in the history of the 80s without really addressing, much less evaluating, the current situation.

The one thing I wish the author had addressed was that although the country is deeply polarized right now, it is not necessarily on party lines. The multiparty resistance to Ortega, perhaps most saliently embodied by Téllez and Jarquín of the MRS, coupled with an increasingly active civil society (something that has surprised me), offers a bit of encouragement. I think had he delved into this aspect, he might have been able to offer potential solutions apart from the withdrawal of funds from major donor countries (which is something I support for myriad reasons). It is one thing to opine, and for that I am grateful, but to my mind to really have an impact on policy, possible solutions must be discussed, or at the very least, entertained.

Lillian Reyes said...

Ortega was, is and always will be nothing more than a bully, thug and not too bright. He is what he is. Ortega is a given. What he does comes as no surprise to me.

The wild card in all of this is Aleman, because Aleman makes pactos with Ortega, swinging the balance of power to either Ortega's FSLN or to Aleman's PLC, whichever serves Aleman best. Aleman is making pactos for his freedom, to strengthen his power base---witness his sudden support of ALN's Nunez to be the next president of the asemblea, over his faithful boy Wilfredo Navarro.
Poor Wilfredo expected his reward and got the shaft.

Both Ley Marco and the MRS got lost in the shuffle.

Both Aleman and Ortega are happy playing their games. In my opinion Aleman has done more damage to the Nicaraguan people than Ortega.

I have lived here for so many years, and have seen presidents come and presidents go and nothing changes. They are all the same.

I pray that one day Nicaragua will have a president who is truly interested in the people and not his pocket, and I pray that one day Nicaragua will emerge self sufficient with its head held high instead of the hand held out.

L.Douglas Garrett said...

I'd only weigh in with the idea that the old UNO fragments still contesting elections, including the PLC (well, it's not a fragment-- more like a reformed cluster) is the way to defeat D. Ortega is likely insufficient, given his control of the levers of power right now. But the man is such a disgrace that there is the continuing possibility that factions within the FSLN will at least bite at his heels a bit, and that might be enough to swing the difference...

I do think there is something to (Lillian Reyes's) opinion about Aleman, and he is *such* an opportunist that it may well be that the way to get him out of the picture is for someone to "make him an offer". No, not the Mafia kind (although that might work). Something to get him a place in the political sun, out of any shadow of dealing with Ortega.

I *am* encouraged by the level of civil activity currently, and I do also hope for the day when Nicaragua has a worthy President. Because it *should* be able to stand on its own as a nation!


Welcome, Lillian Reyes, and thank you for joining in!

Lillian Reyes said...

The way to control Ortega is very simple: pass ley Marco. That law was almost passed last year, but Montenegre KO'd the law out of spite against Aleman. At that time Montenegre was head of the ALN. Now he regrets that error in judgement. Montenegre was pacto'ed into giving up the ALN and joining the PLC with the promise that he could be the new PLC mayor of Managua. I suspect Aleman knew all along that that was an empty promise.

Ley Marco would give the asemblea power to call all of Ortega's Ministers, heads of departments and appointees, and to grill them about their qualifications to be Minister. It also gives the opposition parties (PLC, ALN,MRS)the power to kick out Ortega's appointees and put in their own. That would effectively give power over the money, budget, schools, courts, everything back to the PLC and leave Ortega sitting by himself high on a rock.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with the politics in Nicaragua is that everyone has so much dirt on everyone else, that they have no choice but to play with each other only. There are pactos within pactos, but the biggest ones are between Aleman and Ortega.

After the mayorial elections, and after all those ballots were found thrown in the ravines and tucked in trees, and after a scream of "fraude" by the people and after a call for new elections, there were 4 days of complete silence from Aleman and Ortega. Nothing. No protests, no statements, nothing. The silence was profound, and I suspected that the reason for the silence was that they were talking to each other, making yet another pacto. I suspect that the deal was that Aleman will get his freedom from his 20 year prison sentence for corruption, and Ortega would get to keep his mayors.
Done deal! After that there have been only a few squeaks and squwaks of protest.

Aleman is like a cruel father with a big bowl of candy. He doles out the goodies to those who behave, to those who do what he tells them to do. While Aleman controls all the strings, Ortega will be able to do anything he wants.

A last note about ley marco: have you noticed that there has been no further word about passing ley marco? It is as though ley marco disappeared. That was part of the pacto too.

Lillian Reyes said...

One more thing: About buying out Aleman. That will never, never happen! Why: because Aleman has a jail sentence hanging over him. He can not leave the country, and even if he could, where would he go. Certainly not the USA. He is trapped in Nicaragua. What good would it do him to have a "huge sum of money" to be quiet, when he can have that huge sum of money and power over people's lives. Power corrupts completely and there is no substitute for it.

Kate said...

The PLC, because of Alemán's influence, is still in a tricky position, if we are looking at the political party composition. There are still two distinct factions, one of which has realized the damage that Alemán (rated the ninth-most corrupt individual in the world) did during his presidency as well as after he was out of office.

As far as defeating Ortega, while I think we all would like to see it done at the ballot boxes, those hopes were effectively dashed away following the debacle that was the municipal elections of 9 November. Curiously, and this is something few elect to point out, is that the CSE (Nica's version of our FEC) has yet to release the full results of the 2006 presidential elections, and to my knowledge, the 2008 municipals. What I cannot figure out is why Montealegre, who claims to have the actas, or at least copies of them, has not called more attention to the fact that the results are inverted to what the CSE says.

As far as enticing Alemán, he would only bite at something which would give him real power. He's not hurting for money, but his influence is waning; if he were given a political position, I fear it might feed his ambitions to return to the political spotlight. His association with Ortega is known, but almost secondary; if he feels Ortega is going to be the one to give him the influence, he'll find a way to team up with him. If Nicaragua gets to a point where it's not Ortega, Alemán will team up with the other person. Alemán is the quintessence of a Chicago politician, estilo nica.

Kate said...

Re: Alemán's travel. If I am not mistaken, Alemán's visa to the US has been revoked. The same is true for Jamileth Bonilla, who curiously contacted me a while back. What a piece of work, that woman...

Lillian, I completely agree about Ley Marco, but here's the rub: Ley Marco would only be effective if it were applied in country where the Rule of Law was extant. It seems that we are both quite familiar with the political scheme in Nicaragua, and I am sure that you much more than me are aware that Ortega, Murillo, and their political lackeys will do whatever it takes, finding alleged legal loopholes to say why Ley Marco is no longer able to be passed. And yes, I too have found it curious that it seemingly dropped off the table post-9N.

I could see Ortega and the FSLN (probably Samuel Santos running the show) doing something similar to Chávez to diputados who would favor Ley Marco when they are up for election and declare them inhabilitados.

Re: Nicaragua's political class. As much as I have ranted and raved about Venezuela's on my own blog and others, I find Nicaragua's to be one of the, if not the, most puerile in all the hemisphere. In a country of 5 million people with virtually all the political power concentrated in Managua, the political class is incestuous and pactos abound. Love him or hate him, El Ratón* can't do it all on his own; the rest of the political opposition need to step up and make their own presence and demands known. The PC and Azalia need to realize that they have lost a lot of power and that they're the laughingstock of the political parties, even amongst their own members; if they actually start to negotiate productively with the PLC, ALN, and MRS (as they had previously done) they might not only be able to save face, as it were, but also add something positive to the overall developments against the increasingly authoritarian moves of the government. Their lack of action now serves only as a stumbling block to any potential advances.

*I am not a huge fan because I think he's a HORRIBLE politician, but he's a decent guy and genuinely wants to help the country. Caso CENIS will surely be brought up, which is why new political leaders need to be cultivated.

Marie said...

Kate: decent guys do not make good politicians - something always gets lost in the process. Too bad, right now the world could use some decent politicians - two mutually exclusive words and concepts - as we understand them, but one can hope that it might be possible to find a politician that is also decent. World events may spur the appearance of this new breed (I hope).

Kate said...

Marie: completely agree, I think the US saw that this Fall. McCain is a decent guy, and yet as a politician on the national stage, well, left much to be desired.
The other problem with Montealegre is that he is stubborn. He does not take advice from those who are politically savvy advising him. He had some guys from Miami advising him over a year ago, before the campaign for the municipals even kicked off, and yet it didn't even cross his mind that this same guy was advising his political opponents. Please, if I could see that from up here in DC, it speaks volumes to his capacity (or lack thereof) as being an effective politician. The other big problem Montealegre has is that he has had difficulty "humanizing" himself. He is a rich banker whose kids are receiving US university educations; most of the Nicaraguan population is not like that. Yet, he has been unable to relate his policies, as well as why Ortega's policies are horrible for the country, to this huge sector of the population.