The former left figurehead Daniel Ortega has now ruled Nicaragua longer than the dictator, who was overthrown by his Sandinista in 1979 – and he wants even more. Critics today see Ortega himself as a dictator.
Managua – There is little doubt about the result of the presidential election in Nicaragua next Sunday – incumbent Daniel Ortega has made sure of that. The former revolutionary’s government has arrested or placed under house arrest at least three dozen people it regards as opponents in the past few months – including seven presidential candidates.
Ortega has held this position since 2007 and is aiming for a fourth term in a row. A constitutional reform in 2014 made this possible. He is now running for election with practically no opponents.
Observers and members of the opposition, including former comrades-in-arms Ortega from the time of the Sandinista Revolution of 1979 – when a popular uprising led by the left rebels overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza – now call Ortega himself a dictator. Together with his wife and Vice President, Rosario Murillo, the 75-year-old rules increasingly authoritarian.
For example, mass demonstrations from April 2018 – which first protested against social reform, but later called for a new election – were brutally suppressed. There were more than 300 dead and hundreds of arrests. According to activists, more than 100 people have been imprisoned for their political beliefs since then. A good 100,000 Nicaraguans fled abroad. The government presented the protests, in which hundreds of thousands of the six million people in the country took part, as an attempted coup by political opponents.
Based on this characterization, the leadership of the Central American country practically eliminated the opposition before the election. With its clear majority in parliament, the ruling party FSLN passed the “Law to Defend the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace” last December.
Anyone who leads a coup d’etat, incites foreign interference or approves sanctions against Nicaragua is branded as a “traitor to the fatherland” and is not allowed to run for an elected office. The public prosecutor’s office relied on this law repeatedly in the raids and arrests that began at the end of May.
The Ortega government’s actions are not only sharply criticized within the country. Amnesty International, which in February described the human rights situation in Nicaragua as a nightmare, spoke in a joint report with other human rights organizations on Wednesday of a “new stage in the campaign to suppress and criminalize dissidents, journalists and human rights defenders.”
In front of journalists on Tuesday, EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell also called Ortega a dictator and the election a “fake”, the sole purpose of which is to keep Ortega in power. Both the EU and the US have recently tightened their sanctions against Nicaragua’s leadership. This in turn accuses the “imperial powers” of supporting terrorists and putschists in Nicaragua.
After his first presidency (1985-1990), Ortega surprisingly lost the 1990 election to the bourgeois opposition politician Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. He made his comeback at the end of 2006 when he won the presidential election with a relative majority because the center-right camp was divided. (dpa)