Ortega Buries Democracy in Nicaragua

He’s closed off the competitive opposition’s electoral space, and opened doors only to the minor parties.

Wilfredo Miranda Aburto / Arlen Cerda  (Confidencial)

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo
Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo

HAVANA TIMES – With less than five months to go for the November 6 national elections, the Constitutional Wing of Nicaragua’s Supreme Court has effectively left the opposing National Coalition for Democracy (Coalición Nacional por la Democracia) without a flag or a designated spot on the ballot.  This was the result of last Wednesday’s resolution of a longstanding lawsuit -begun over six year ago – regarding the Independent Liberal Party (PLI).

The Justices awarded the legal representation and seals of that party to Pedro Reyes Vallejos, a lawyer and member of one of the three “factions” that had been claiming their right to these symbols against the right of deputy Eduardo Montealegre Rivas.  The dispute, which involved three groups that were distinct from Montealegre’s alliance, began more than six years ago;  nonetheless, the court’s decision came less than five months from voting day, and one month after the electoral process was officially declared.

The magistrates also declared null and void the convention that the PLI, with Montealegre as representative, held this past Sunday June 5, during which the Presidential formula of Luis Callejas and Violeta Granera was ratified.  Both were named as candidates for the National Coalition for Democracy, the opposition alliance made up of the PLI plus eight other political movements and organizations in the country.

Francisco Rosales, president of the constitutional division of the Supreme Court, accused Montealegre of being “authoritarian” for having convened the convention.

Los magistrados de la Sala Constitucional dando a conocer la sentencia sobre la litis del PLI. Carlos Herrera/Confidencial
The Supreme Court magistrates who decided on the PLI representation case.  Photo: Carlos Herrera/Confidencial

The court also ordered the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) “to adjust” the current electoral calendar so that the new PLI executive committee could put together a new convention “as soon as possible.”

Years before, the Supreme Electoral Council had awarded legal representation for the PLI and control of the official party seals to Indalecio Rodríguez.  The party participated in the 2011 presidential elections and the 2012 municipal elections using ballot space #13, and emerged as the second strongest political force in the country and the chief opposition party.

In April 2014, Montealegre took over for Rodriguez as the legal representative and president of the PLI.

Following that decision of the electoral authorities, two factions of the PLI – one led by Reyes Vallejos and one by Valmore Valladares – presented four appeals of unconstitutionality before the judicial system.  These were also backed by the politician José Venancio Berríos.

The verdict of the Constitutional Wing recognized Rolin Belmar Tobie Forbes, deceased, as “the one representative of the PLI national executive council;” Forbes, in turn, had left the legal representation to Reyes Vallejos. The magistrates based their decision on the PLI delegate’s assembly held February 27, 2012.

The Constitutional Court is made up of Francisco Rosales, Rafael Solís, Manuel Martínez, Ileana Pérez, Armando Juárez and Carlos Aguerri, the majority loyal to Daniel Ortega.

Ortega “closes an institutional channel”

Montealegre and the Coalition for Democracy offered a press conference on Wednesday in which they criticized the decision of the Constitutional Court and announced the beginning of a “popular mobilization.”

“Next Friday we’re going to convene all the departmental presidents of all the forces that make up the Coalition. Later we’ll go out in the streets to initiate the popular mobilization, together with all Nicaraguans who want to live in peace, to demand, today more than ever, Free Elections!,” Montealegre affirmed.

To the opposition leader, the PLI isn’t a flag or a designated space on the ballot, or a president. “Those are accessories,” he notes.  In his judgment, the PLI is a political reality that had been constructed with the effort and dedication of thousands of Nicaraguans.  We’ve been building the party since 2005, making it the major political opposition to this regime, and the head of the National Coalition for Democracy.”

Montealegre stated that although they don’t have a spot on the ballot, the Callejas-Granera presidential formula will continue their campaign around the country. “The members of the National Executive Committee and each one of the Departmental and Municipal Boards of Directors have a commitment to those thousands of citizens.  The Callejas-Granera presidential formula too, has a commitment to those thousands of citizens who have deposited their trust in this political option and have converted it into the only opposing political force in this country,” he maintained.

El diputado Alberto Lacayo después de ser rociado con gas pimienta por guardias de la CSJ. Carlos Herrera/Confidencial
Legislator Alberto Lacayo after being sprayed with pepper gas by the guards at the Supreme Court.  Photo: Carlos Herrera/Confidencial

While the magistrates were still at the Supreme Court this morning, Montealegre’s branch of the PLI was carrying out their weekly demonstration, known as the Wednesday Protest.  Faced with the insistent demonstrators at the main door of the public building, the security guards used pepper spray, affecting the journalists covering the activity as well.

The opposition feels that Daniel Ortega is displaying “fear” by closing the electoral space to them. “Ortega has taken away the power to choose, and now to compete,” Granera said.

Social media reflected indignation about the decision. “Today puts the finishing touches on the castration of Nicaragua’s political system.  With one ‘slice’ they’ve truncated the only party capable of competing,” expressed writer Gioconda Belli.

Ortega also buried independent observation of the elections

Comandante Daniel Ortega also closed off the possibility of independent electoral observation for the November voting.  This was announced in a speech on June 4, during the National Sandinista Congress where he was ratified for the seventh time as the party’s presidential candidate.  Ortega is currently seeking a third consecutive term in office.

“We’re finished with observation here, let them observe how they can put things in order in their own countries,” sentenced Ortega from the Plaza of the Unaligned, part of the former Olof Palme Convention Center and next to the National Assembly.

Observation has become a national demand.  Polls reveal that over 80% of Nicaraguans – including FSLN sympathizers – support inviting and accrediting independent electoral observation.  Diverse sectors of society, such as civic movements, the Catholic Church, and even COSEP, the superior council of private enterprise, have advocated for this right that has been violated by the Ortega administration.

Just moments before the Constitutional Courtroom decision, COSEP president José Adan Aguerri, repeated the business leaders’ position in favor of electoral observation and insisted on the need to “restore democratic credibility to the country in the eyes of the national and international community, in view of the constant demand for transparency in electoral processes.”

“We can’t ignore the fact that we’ve come from questionably legitimate electoral processes that fortunately didn’t lead to severe and irreversible political crises, but that affected the electoral image of our country,” stated Aguerri in a document published last Tuesday that reflects the weekly editorial positions of COSEP.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Aguerri added that COSEP has “different ways of bringing these topics” before the government, among them public petitions, civic campaigns that will begin next month, and “of course, we’ll bring these topics to the table with the Government as well,” he affirmed.

COSEP has asked the Supreme Electoral Council to regulate the accreditation and participation of national and international observers in accordance with the procedures established in the country’s Electoral Law.

  • mick c

    what has it come to when the fact that an opposition party in meltdown is all down to Daniel Ortega and his dismissal of the catholic church and private interests demand for foreign observation of the electoral process as evidence of some clampdown on democracy. What is the point?

    • smj_nica

      Not sure what your point is. Are you suggesting it’s not in the PUBLIC interest to have international observation and certification of elections? According to the article, 80% of Nicaraguans think so. Thirty-seven years after the revolution and still the poorest country in Latin America, highly dependent on handouts from other countries (e.g. Venezuela – oops). Like the signs seem to imply, “Mas Victorias” is the goal here, not so much helping the people… Absolute power still corrupts.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Who is surprised? This is normal behaviour by socialist regimes.

    • Ted O’Brien

      This isn’t a trait of socialism… It’s a trait of communism, and there is a BIG difference. If you are American you mightn’t understand… look to Northern European countries for a better example of socialist behaviour…

      • Griffin

        You should read Marx. Socialism, which is defined as the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the transitional phase towards Communism. Ortega is a Marxist and is leading Nicaragua into the revolutionary form of socialism.

        What you referred to as “Northern European” socialism, is in fact liberal democracy, with a capitalist economy, and extensive social programs. These programs have been introduced by Social democratic parties elected in free & fair multiparty elections. In many recent cases, these social democrats have been voted out of office and their social programs cut back.

        I’m going to guess you’re a supporter of Bernie Sanders, who has made a point of declaring himself a “democratic socialist”, and compares himself to the Scandinavian socialists. The funny thing is, he only recently started to do this, since he’s been running for President. But for the previous 60 years, Bernie championed, not Denmark & Sweden, but Nicaragua & Cuba. He heaped praise on Ortega & Castro.

        Sander’s long standing admiration for those two authoritarian Marxist socialists says more about his true views than his recent speeches about moderate democratic socialism.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Good response Griffin.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Hi Ted, just for your interest, I have in the past written in Havana Times of the difference between democratic socialism and communism/socialism. One of the problems created by Fidel Castro was in describing his political system as: “socialismo”. I agree that there is much confusion about the word and its interpretation, which is probably why the socialist party in the UK describes itself as the “Labour Party” and in Canada the socialist party is called the “New Democratic Party”. It is not my purpose to offend my friends in the Labour Party or the New Democratic Party, but the Castro family communist regime has purloined the word socialist and see Griffin’s explanation. I am not American.

  • albert piccioni

    I must be missing something,your articles keep saying its the poorest country in Latin America but all pictures show people who are overweight,usualy poor people are skinny with hollow cheekbones showing,?

    • Ted O’Brien

      They eat lots of rice, and the rate of under-employment is 80%, and so lots of sitting… hence a little plump… but I live here and the folks ARE malnourished… then look at the other coast, on the Caribbean side… they are “Africa” poor there… it’s really quite tragic…

  • mick c

    my point was the weakness of the argument in the article and the author pointing to Ortega when the issue was about the opposition party schism. As for observations, no problem with them in principle, but the cabal of right wing and roman catholic interests just smacks of the bad old days of oppressive governments at the bidding of the USA