From Socialist Voice, August 2010


Ortega betrays Sandinista revolution

On 25 February 1990 the Sandinista National Liberation Front was voted out of power in Nicaragua, as a people desperate for peace saw this as the only way to end the US terrorist war there. The Sandinista president, Daniel Ortega, during his final speech as the country’s president said that they would now rule from below. His fellow-Sandinistas believed that this meant that they would occupy a moral high ground in Nicaraguan politics and would work to protect the gains of the revolution.
     It was not until 2006 that Ortega would return to power. However, this has proved to be a very different Ortega, leading a very different Sandinista party. Many now see Ortega as a president who is attempting to build a family dynasty to match that of the former hated Somoza dictatorship. This is clearly seen by many different actions undertaken by Ortega. All funds from ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) are directed into the personal bank accounts of Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo. Ortega has received something between $300 and $500 million. There has been no public accountability of what he has done with this money. The last independently owned television channel was recently bought by an unnamed entity or person; it has since been confirmed that it was Ortega—another move to consolidate his family’s power and control over Nicaragua society.
     Ortega has recently issued Presidential Decree 3-2010. This allows him to appoint members to the Supreme Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, the Comptroller-General, Attorney for the Defence of Human Rights, and the Superintendent of Banks. This is only the latest in a long line of actions by Ortega to take complete power in Nicaragua.
     The reality of Ortega’s rule is that nothing has changed since he took power. The fiscal and economic policies of Nicaragua have remained the same. His government has signed new accords with the Internal Monetary Fund. He has frozen the wages of public-sector workers, including teachers and health workers, despite their being the lowest in Central America. Indeed the Central Bank of Nicaragua has said that wages have actually decreased, returning to 2001 levels.
     Support for Ortega is now level with that of George W. Bush at his most unpopular. Daniel Alegria, a former bodyguard and interpreter for leading Sandinistas, has described the new government as Orteguistas, not Sandinistas. The former Sandinista Minister of Culture, Father Ernesto Cardenal, and former Minister for Education, Fernando Cardenal, have openly criticised the government as an “Ortega dictatorship.” Both now refuse to speak out, for fear of reprisals.
     A worrying trend in Nicaragua has been the increase in attacks by Ortega thugs against anyone who criticises or challenges the government. Social movements throughout Nicaragua have claimed that any attempt to demonstrate against the government are met with vicious attacks by the Sandinistas and their supporters. The police stand by while these attacks are happening.
     The FSLN also supported a new law passed in 2006 that prohibits abortion. Nicaragua is now one of only four countries in the world that does not allow abortion even where the mother’s life is in danger. This has led to mass protests against Ortega by women’s groups. Indeed women’s organisations were able to mobilise so many people on the streets that Ortega was unable to attend the inauguration of President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay.
     In the municipal elections in November 2008 the Ortega-dominated Supreme Electoral Council refused to give permission to international observers to monitor the elections. They also banned a number of parties from contesting the elections. Despite the glaring unpopularity of Ortega, the Sandinistas had a big win in the election. There is no doubt that there was widespread electoral fraud.
     After these fraudulent elections, massive demonstration broke out in both the capital, Managua, and the northern city of León. In León, during the 1979 revolution, every house had members of their family out fighting with the Sandinistas against the Somoza dictatorship; nowhere else in Nicaragua did the Sandinistas enjoy as much support. When the people of León turn against Ortega and the remnants of the FMLN, it is clear that these are not the continuation of the Sandinista Revolution.
     While Ortega tries to convince the people that this new presidency is a continuation of the revolution of twenty years ago, the massive majority of Nicaragua society, including large numbers of ex-Sandinista militants and commanders, dismiss this. They see Ortega as having little or nothing in common with the Sandinista Revolution of 1979.

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