Arturo Cruz, professor at the INCAE business school and Ortega’s ambassador in Washington from 2007 to 2009, asserts that the Ortega regime in Nicaragua, has worn itself out. He made this assertion in an October 30th interview with the internet news program Esta Noche, concluding that this deterioration raises the possibility of a democratic change of direction.
Cruz doesn’t use the concepts and categories of political language. Instead, he suggests his own meaning without technical precision, opening the field to ambiguity. To Cruz, Ortega’s exhaustion is as if the strongman had gone out to run further than he should.
Cruz is a man very well connected with the big fish that are informed about what’s happening in Washington. He exerts some influence in that world that’s opposed to mass struggle and who passively set their expectations on Washington.
Can an exhausted regime undermine the foundations of society?
Politically, it makes no sense to say that a regime is worn out. Exhaustion is relative. An exhausted boxer could continue indefinitely in the ring if he doesn’t have an opponent; or he could recover strength. Hence, exhaustion doesn’t necessarily lead to an obligatory democratic change in direction.
Every political analysis begins with an evaluation of the changes in the correlation of forces; that dynamic relativity of change forms the basis of politics. In the current moment, since April 2018, politics must evaluate that changeable correlation, not only to foresee the causes of its ebbs and flows, but also to discern tendencies. That is, how to alter the social composition of the movement and its consequent strategies. Cruz doesn’t do this, because he’s not a politician.
Cruz himself says that, despite the fact that the regime is worn out, there’ll be no exit without pressure. And the exhaustion is undermining the foundations of society. He contradicts himself in both aspects without being aware of it.
To Cruz, the Ortega camp in Nicaragua is worn out because it seems to him it’s lost all of its legitimacy, and the only thing it has left is coercion and its organizational base. It has no future, he adds, but then concludes that he sees in it the possibility for a new democratic direction. It’s a question of time – of the medium run, because in the short term he still has resources to play with. He contradicts himself two or three other times, without noticing. What does it mean that Ortega has no future?
With respect to the future, the economist Keynes mocked predictions made without a method, by noting one that’s irrefutable: “In the long run,” he said, “we’ll all be dead.” Keynes would say that what occurs in the medium term is based on the policies that are adopted at the current juncture. So it would make sense for the debate to be based around those immediate policies. By the medium term, a good part of us will be dead.
Ortega never had legitimacy and has always used coercion, fraud and the buying of consciences (including when Cruz was his ambassador.) What’s been lost now is his alliance with large capital and the trust of the actual powers, who have distanced themselves from him upon seeing him in crisis. The principal novelty, of course, isn’t his illegitimacy, but the combative rejection of the regime on the part of the population, after he unleashed the brutal repression that is still ongoing.
When Cruz speaks of the medium term, it’s not because he’s deciphered a slowly evolving tendency – he doesn’t speak of tendencies, as a social scientist would be obliged to – but because in the short term he can’t see anything. If Ortega has resources to play with in the short term (using Cruz’ ambiguous language), then… Logically, with that he can undermine society and wouldn’t then be worn out (at least not in the short run). And Cruz doesn’t even say how he might wear himself out in the medium term, but merely hopes that time will produce a change.
What new direction? We don’t know, because Cruz doesn’t analyze the tendencies, leaving everything to time, in an oligarchical economy, with pre-capitalist remnants that generate dictatorships.
Is a new direction possible without political perspectives?
Ortega has suffered a strategic defeat, but he’s suffered it from his own hand, so that he’s not definitively defeated, because there’s no alternative power that could consolidate his defeat day by day.
The problem is that Cruz’ ambiguous language masks a confused, incomplete and incoherent train of thought. He says that he sees the possibility for a new democratic direction. But, due to his lack of a method he speaks like a carnival gypsy who predicts the future from the coffee grounds. Before, he stated that any change would be in the medium run. But he doesn’t describe the circumstances that would operate in that lapse of time, and that would then make possible the change in direction.
Once again, a social scientist would refer to the real developing tendencies, and the probability that, in those favorable circumstances (which would have to be described), the inevitable struggles could result in a change of direction with a victory for the nation. Unless it’s believed, in slapdash form, that changes occur mechanistically, without any struggle, on the basis of pressures and outside of the objective conditions: as Cruz states – “It’s a question of time.”
No electoral reforms, but for Cruz an electoral vehicle is required…
In effect, Cruz doesn’t foresee any willingness on the part of Ortega to facilitate an electoral reform. “I see it as very difficult,” Cruz adds, speaking as a visionary, “that in these next months they would give (the opposition) the electoral legitimacy they require. I don’t see this on the horizon.”
From there, a serious politician would ask themselves what alternative should be considered in the face of some elections organized by Ortega in his fraudulent way. It’s a tactical question of how to confront the Ortega camp’s tactics. Politics obligates you to make tactical decisions.
The Citizens for Liberty party “is the surest electoral vehicle,” Cruz asserts.
The vehicle that is required (to use Cruz’ language) is a vehicle for struggle, a revolutionary party (clearly not Citizens for Liberty) with which to participate in the electoral process as well, as in a confrontive arena, with a combative strategy that together with the mass mobilizations would strengthen the capability of inflicting tactical defeats on Ortega.
Cruz states: “My great fear is – How to pressure without destroying?”
Cruz poses an irrational dilemma with this. The priority – for Cruz – isn’t defeating the Ortega regime in Nicaragua, but instead not affecting the economy. He separates politics from the economy and throws politics into the wastebasket.
The restrictions of reality
Cruz’ great fear is like asking: How can we eat the cow without sacrificing the poor animal? The methodological error consists not only in seeing the economy as an activity that’s independent of society’s contradictions, or worse yet, above the social and political contradictions. It’s also that Cruz separates himself from the dilemmas of reality and ignores the restrictions that affect decision-making under concrete circumstances. This creates an irrational subjective dilemma.
The way to not destroy the Ortega economy (given that an economy doesn’t exist in a vacuum, as a metaphysical abstraction) is to strengthen the Ortega structure. Generating confidence in the regime. The irrational problem planted by Cruz has a reactionary and anti-national solution: to transform the rebellion into support for the authoritarian regime, so that the deformed Ortega economy, that loots the nation, blossoms.
As in an infection, the longer society takes to get Ortega out, the greater the irreversible harm to society. That’s the restriction posed by the real problem. The tendency, with Ortega in power, is to advance towards a humanitarian crisis, and towards the prevalence of an unpunished criminality that has been armed by the regimen. So that human rights becomes the essential great fear of the nation. And the economy, cleared of pre-capitalist and speculative obstacles, could advance rapidly towards a new more humane direction.
Ortega’s strategic logic of oppression in Nicaragua
At some moment, Cruz states, Ortega is going to have to take a series of measures that are more sensible from the point of view of his own interests.
Here I have how the change in direction that Cruz couldn’t explain would take place: out of the eventual sensibleness of Ortega! It’s what Cruz thought when he said it was a question of time.
When society finds itself wrapped in a selective political conflict (and it’s obvious that the regime in this case is selective), the decisions from one side or the other can’t be made from self-interest but are adopted in function of the respective strategic situations. What a political analyst does then, instead of spouting platitudes, is to ponder methodically, in the form of probabilities, the uncertain evolution of the confrontive strategic situation.
The country’s fate, in the short and medium terms, depends on the next struggles of the workers, that Cruz surely doesn’t see on his horizon from his Citizens for Liberty vehicle. And which he will undoubtedly recriminate for their lack of moderation.
*The author is an electrical engineer