Nicaragua: An uprising against Ortega
Nicaraguans are in revolt, said El Deber (Bolivia) in an editorial. The peaceful student protests sparked last week by President Daniel Ortega’s planned social security overhaul—which would see contributors pay more and retirees receive less—have now morphed into a general antigovernment uprising, involving workers, retirees, and business owners. A violent response by security forces and pro-Ortega paramilitaries has left at least 27 people dead, including a journalist who was shot while broadcasting live amid the looting and mayhem. Such horrific scenes have shocked Nicaraguans and hardened their resolve to protest. In an attempt to regain control of the situation, Ortega’s government scrapped its state pension reforms this week, but the demonstrations raged on. Tens of thousands of people marched in the capital, Managua, and other cities day after day, denouncing state violence and calling for regime change. They “demand justice and democracy in a country drowning in poverty, economic suffocation, and authoritarianism.”
Ortega betrayed the people’s trust long before this bloody crackdown, said Manuel Orozco in Confidencial (Nicaragua). Back when his Marxist Sandinista guerrillas toppled the U.S.-backed right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979, Ortega was hailed as the country’s liberator, and he led Nicaragua until 1990. But he just couldn’t stomach giving up power. He returned to the presidency in 2007 and then insisted on running for re-election, ignoring the constitution’s one-term limit. After the courts allowed Ortega to bypass that rule, Nicaragua’s “few vestiges of democracy disappeared.” Ortega installed his wife, Rosario Murillo, as vice president in 2017, an act of nepotism that disgusted even die-hard supporters. Still, ousting him won’t be easy. Electoral fraud has given the Sandinistas a “monopoly of authority,” including control of the national legislature and the judiciary. They have censored social media and cut signals to independent TV stations. And they have “physical control of the population” through police and “organized shock forces” made up of Ortega loyalists.
Ignore all this right-wing propaganda, said Alberto Corona in Nicaragua’s state-run LaVozDelSandinismo.com. Yes, there are looters and vandals causing trouble in the streets, but they won’t undermine Nicaragua’s fundamental stability, and it’s worth asking who is backing them. “The kids do not even know the party that is manipulating them,” Ortega said this week. “Gang members are being brought in and are criminalizing the protests.” Perhaps they even have foreign sponsors.
Ortega is worried—as he should be, said La Prensa (Nicaragua). He has lost the support of the people and control of the streets, and “this transcendental fact will change the course of history.” Ortega has become what he once fought against, even using the same words Somoza used to justify bloody repression. He has lost the moral authority to continue governing. “Ortega must leave power peacefully, or he will have to leave as Somoza went”—hounded out of the country into permanent exile.