30 October 2016 ~ 0 Comentarios

Nicaragua, or the eternal return to barbarity

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

nicaragua-elecciones1On November 6, the Nicaraguans return to the polls. They will probably re-elect Daniel Ortega. He is supported by a substantial part of the country. The Sandinist leader has taken all the steps for that to happen. First, he amended the Constitution so that immediate re-election is possible. In the past it was forbidden.

To do that, he threatened, bought or took to court numerous opponents. Finally, he kidnapped and graciously transferred the legal status of the most powerful liberals — his worst adversaries — to a similar group that lacked any electoral appeal. In the process, he unseated 28 troublesome parliamentarians.

Daniel Ortega didn’t want to run any risks. No tactic was too repugnant for him to reject. In February 1990, despite the polls, he had lost the election against Violeta Chamorro, which had cost him 17 years in the opposition, although he enjoyed real power and a capacity for intimidation that equaled his remarkable lack of scruples.

He had decided not to endure again the indignity of a defeat, or to submit to the humiliating bourgeois practice of alternation of power. That was the first lesson he learned. Elections must be won by any means. By hook or by crook, with trickery if necessary, but they must be won.

The second lesson was that the way to organize the economy that he had learned in Cuba during his basic Marxist-Leninist education inevitably led to indigence. It’s too stupid and unproductive. After one decade of the first Sandinist rule — the 1980s — Nicaragua was a total disaster.

True, the nation had to face civil war, but the cause of the failure, the immense shortages and the hyperinflation had been collectivism. They had taken the productive apparatus and destroyed it, had disbanded or exiled the businessmen. Such imbecility is very costly.

Daniel Ortega II did not commit the same mistake. In his second stage, aping the Somoza family, he has governed with the businessmen. Many adore him, others accept him and very few reject him. They’re making money and foreign investment keeps coming in, in addition to the oil manna that flows out of Venezuela — which is about to end.

The same Ortega has amassed a sizeable personal fortune. Numerous Sandinists began to do that after the 1990 piñata. The piñata is called the period of unbridled robbery practiced in Nicaragua between Feb. 25, 1990, when they lost the elections, and April 25, when they turned over the government.

The Sandinists seized land, factories and mansions. Later, the democratic governments — Violeta Chamorro, Arnoldo Alemán, Enrique Bolaños — had to give more than 1.3 billion dollars to the legitimate owners to compensate them in some measure. For this reason, hundreds of millions of dollars remain in the national debt.

The third lesson is that it’s not worthwhile to mess with the gringos. It takes little to mollify them: control of drug trafficking, crime, illegal emigration. Investors and businessmen carrying U.S. passport should not be unnecessarily inconvenienced. Washington is not even bothered by the anti-yanqui rhetoric inspired by Chavism.

From time to time, the U.S. Embassy jabbers about Human Rights and the need to observe the democratic ways, but it knows that it’s an empty rhetorical exercise, like the times Daniel Ortega launches into an anti-imperialist speech. They’re merely bluster to amuse the gallery.

The fourth lesson is that populist patronage is a lot more effective than repression to keep the 70 percent of poor or destitute Nicas content. Better to send the peasants a couple of pigs, or a sack of seeds, or some tin sheets for roofing, than to control them by clubbing them. Populist clientelism does not remove the multitudes from misery but keeps them content.

What does Ortega ignore? Something very simple. Nations abandon underdevelopment permanently when their citizens are free, individuals really hold sovereignty, governments are subordinated to the people, the legal institutions achieve a high degree of governability and authority is transferred in a fair and organized manner by means of free elections. None of this happens in Nicaragua.

Why does Daniel Ortega believe that Nicaragua is the poorest country in Spanish America? In the 1970s, Nicaragua grew at an annual rate or 7 or 8 percent, but the Somozas ruled the country as their private fiefdom. They were overthrown and society plunged into the Sandinist stage. The 1979 indices of development have still not been regained.

What will happen when Ortega II or his successors lose power, probably under gunfire? Once again, the nation will regress perilously. It’s a circular nightmare. A variant of the eternal return to barbarity.

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