There has been very little attention paid to the current conflict in Nicaragua which if unaddressed by the international community could have serious consequences for the upcoming elections in Venezuela.

Due to the disputed outcome of the municipal elections that took place on November 9th, a major revolt is now taking place on the streets of Nicaragua.  The governing Sandinista Party is suspected of electoral fraud as a means of maintaining their party’s stronghold on power. Polls and feelings among Nicaraguans show discontent with the Sandinista leadership under Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega Saavedra. According to polls, 80% of the population opposes President Ortega. The overwhelming Sandinista victory in the municipal elections does not reflect such sentiment and thus suspicions of fraud are justified. The epicenter of this political earthquake seems to be Managua where suspected fraud is most prevalent but other areas of the country are also affected.

After the election, the Liberal-Constitutionalist Party (PLC) made a decision to rally and hold non-violent demonstrations in the streets of Nicaragua.  One party of the left, the dissident Movement for Sandinista Renewal (MRS), already stated that it would join the rally in order to protect free expression and voting rights. The MRS denounced Ortega as a man leading Nicaragua into a dictatorship. These remarks came after elements linked with the Sandinista government tried to undermine protesters and block their demonstrations in a rather violent way. In fact, pro-Ortega and Sandinista agitators and gangs armed with stones, golf clubs, sticks, knives and sling shots took over the streets of the capital, Managua, to prevent the opposition’s march against the electoral fraud.

Prior to the municipal elections, the government of Daniel Ortega expelled international observers.  This action demonstrates the government’s intent on eliminating any outside interference in their fraudulent conduct.

Since the Sandinistas took the reins of power in 2006, they have ruled in a very authoritarian manner; mostly following the neo-authoritarian, socialist regimes of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.  As in these three countries, the popular sectors and the eternal problem of poverty are being used in Nicaragua to adopt intolerant attitudes towards opponents as well as to assault the division of powers and the institutions of democracy. The legislative and judicial powers continue to lose authority to the bulldozing executive commander.   In the beginning of this crisis, for example, Nicaragua’s Attorney General warned protesters and the population, as a whole, that if Commander Daniel Ortega decided to call his followers to the streets, every radio station and media outlet that dares to criticize him would be destroyed.

The government’s assault on democracy is in keeping with their interest in increasing the power of a new socialist monarchy that holds the monopoly on truth, and controls the population, making it easier to carry out their objectives.  These objectives include the establishment of a socialist state along with policies that promote anti-Americanism and creation of alliances with enemies of America.

Socialism is the ideology that will secure the contract between state rulers and the popular sectors to obtain legitimacy in order to grow their absolutist, and most likely, totalitarian regime.  Therefore, for these rulers a concept of civil, political and human rights are nothing but an annoyance and an obstruction. These countries including Nicaragua need to create an absolutist regime in order to freely carry out their policies because they know that sooner or later these policies will be illegitimate in the eyes of the population including those who initially supported them. In other words, continuity of democracy in those countries is a burden to their regimes and a charade they undertake in order to impress parts of the international community.

One of their major policies is their anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism is not just mere rhetoric to attract the support of the masses but an end in itself. Nicaragua along with the three countries we already mentioned wants to eliminate American economic, political, cultural and strategic influence from the hemisphere. The space left by the U.S. will be occupied by countries like Iran, Russia and China. Like Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, Nicaragua has already moved to strengthen relations with Iran. These are not merely commercial relations.

Iran has one of the largest embassies in Nicaragua with more than 100 operatives there. Nicaragua provides a logistic position for Iran as a means to penetrate Central America (including the Panama Canal) which is of vital strategic importance for the U.S. It is likely that Iran is operating and training terrorist and other elements which could have highly destabilizing consequences for the region.

These facts have been largely ignored by our political and media establishment.  Nicaragua seems to be experiencing the kind of spontaneous civil opposition and protests that Georgia and the Ukraine experienced a few years ago. However, contrary to the way we reacted then, we are largely ignoring events in Nicaragua even though the government of Daniel Ortega represents a security threat to the United States. It is only the Washington Post that in its November 17th editorial called on the U.S. to suspend its $175 million aid package to Nicaragua. Kudos to the Post but we need to do more.

The U.S., the western world, and the media need to be raising awareness on this issue as they rightly did with the colored revolutions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics.  We must join forces with the Europeans and others and demand that the Nicaraguan electoral process be properly scrutinized and ask that the world stop aid and all relations with Nicaragua until real democracy with all its institutional components is fully restored.   If the enlightened nations of the world fail to do so in Nicaragua, we will pay the consequences sooner than later.

 

On November 23rd, Venezuela, which is the main engine and financer of this new Latin American model, will be conducting regional elections. Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, the guru of this totalitarian model, like Ortega, is highly unpopular and like him is expected to commit fraud. If we let fraud in Nicaragua go unnoticed, Chavez will take heart and realistically believe he can get away with the same tactics in Venezuela. If Chavez wins the regional elections it will not only be a sad day for the people of Venezuela but the wave of totalitarianism as well as the geo-political threat emanating from this oil rich nation will remain with us for a long time to come.

 

Dr. Luis Fleischman is a Senior advisor to the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC. He is also an adjunct professor of Political Science and Sociology at Wilkes Honor College at Florida Atlantic University.

 

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