The political situation in Nicaragua resembles a boat adrift in the middle of a storm, where the population is the crew. The opposition can be seen as a captain and officials that have no political or moral authority over the anguished crew. They’re fighting amongst themselves, and can’t agree on a direction to follow to reach a safe port. The result is chaos and desperation.
Opposition on the defense
When it abandoned the demand for the presidential couple to resign and to hold early elections, the opposition resigned itself to waiting for the uncertain electoral process of 2021. Ever since, its road has been relatively long and painful.
Since mid-2018, the body imposing the political agenda and the rhythms is the regime, not the opposition. The current ills can’t be attributed only to the regime’s brutal repression. We must also analyze the weaknesses demonstrated by the opposition camp.
The inability of the current opposition groups to assume a strategy that attracts the popular masses is a very grave problem with no short-term solution. This weakness has been exploited to the utmost by the regime. Social discontent continues growing, but the regime isn’t waiting with arms folded for a new social explosion to occur. On the political plane, they’re applying that highest of military maxims: “the best defense is a good offense”. Towards that end, they’ve initiated pressures and attacks against the Catholic Church to frighten the high clergy and dissuade any hint of popular rebellion.
The Coalition’s original sin
Amid the nonexistence of clear strategies for resuming the political offensive against the regime, regrouping the population and reorganizing the civic resistance, a monumental improvisation has arisen: the premature construction of the National Coalition.
Despite its pompous inauguration proclamation, the National Coalition didn’t manage to unify criteria regarding our most important problems: the pandemic, the electoral reform, etc. Since it didn’t do so, it also didn’t attract any popular sympathy or expectations. Rather, the opposite occurred: the National Coalition was seen as more of the same.
The Coalition’s original sin resided in the fact that it was constituted with the participation of what we call the “mosquito” parties – parties that have been opposition in name but have historically collaborated with the regime. It was, and continues to be, a tremendous paradox. The majority of the existing parties have a history of collaborationism, and for that reason, new parties or political forces must be constructed.
It’s very difficult – not to say impossible – to try and organize a profound democratic change in Nicaragua with the same forces that have collaborated with the old order. In the necessary process of joining forces against the regime, no one should be excluded a priori, but you also can’t be so ingenuous as to close your eyes to the trajectory of the mosquito or collaborationist parties.
Before they were given full entrance and decision-making power in such a Coalition, these parties should have been asked to demonstrate before the citizenry that they’ve really broken all ties with, or dependence on, the regime. It wasn’t like that, however. The Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), YATAMA, and the Democratic Restoration Party (PRD) were all received and treated as “prodigal sons”.
The conflict over the Statues
The internal instability of the National Coalition became evident with the first big crisis over the approval of the Statues. This aimed at resolving the contradictions by requiring a two-thirds majority. This formula might function in single organizations where the majority can decide over the minority, but not in political fronts or alliances where the member organizations only march united on the points they agree on, since each one wants to maintain the independent profile of their organization.
This crisis motivated the temporary withdrawal of the Civic Alliance. It was then partially overcome, after a tremendous political push and shove, with the approval of a transitory article that established a solution worthy of Solomon. One part of the most important decisions would be resolved by consensus, and another part by voting.
This internal struggle became an open confrontation, reported in the media. It left a bad impression among the citizens, because they weren’t discussing policies or strategies for struggling against the regime but engaging in a raw fight for control of the National Coalition seal.
Youth representation strangled
Immediately, another great crisis arose, related to the yearning of the youth groups to have their own representation. Both the Blue and White Unity and the Civic Alliance have student or youth organizations that have aspired to maintain their own identity. From the beginning, there was an attempt within the National Coalition to force the youth groups from both organizations to put aside their political differences and to occupy a single seat within the National Coalition.
It was a humiliating proposal that was rejected by both youth sectors. This incident caused the youth groups affiliated with the Civic Alliance to definitively resign from the Coalition.
The crisis continued latently, along with the disagreements. The Student and Youth sector of the Blue and White Unity made several proposals, including increasing the number of seats allotted the youth delegation to 50% of the positions within the National Coalition. Of the three delegates allotted each party or organization, the youth proposed that at least two be occupied by young people: one by a person in the 18-27 age group, and another for a person aged 28-35.
The youth were converted into an abstract category, forgetting that young people organize themselves according to sectors and social conditions, and that they hold distinct political positions.
In reality, the problem of youth representation can’t be resolved by a quantity of seats within the National Coalition. Instead, the youth groups that arose in 2018 and that find themselves greatly weakened, must construct a political proposal, so that young people – who make up over half of Nicaragua’s population – can assume the leadership of the nation.
The debate then took an unforeseen turn: it began to seem like a war between generations, the youth against the old, and vice versa.
This discussion was aborted by a conspiracy on the part of the mosquito parties within the National Coalition, backed by other forces. When the National Coalition was designed, it appeared that organizations without legal status, such as the Civic Alliance, the Blue and White Unity, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force and the Farmers’ Movement would be in control and not the mosquito parties. However, it didn’t turn out like that.
The legally constituted parties – the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), the Democratic Restoration Party (PRD), and YATAMA formed a bloc with the Farmers’ Movement. Together, they then commanded five of the seven votes.
This bloc decided that the youth would be represented by the youth groups within these existing organizations. In few words, they wouldn’t have any independent representation. The Student and Youth sector of the Blue and White Unity then threatened to withdraw from the National Coalition. There is a lot of anger amongst the youth.
If the twig is bent…
With this discussion and this decision, the bloc of five has effectively assumed control of the National Coalition, opening up a new crisis and more uncertainty about its future. Like Frankenstein, the National Coalition will end by strangling its founders.
There are many topics still pending, like the electoral reform that has been accommodating the status of the PLC as the party in second place.
In a recent letter sent to Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, the PLC pronounced itself in favor of a two-party system for the electoral organs, adding that “we consider that the changes should be realized once we manage to end the dictatorship.”
The National Coalition is now in the intensive care ward, attacked by the “mosquito” virus. As emerging forces, the Blue and White Unity and the Civic Alliance face the challenge of turning their backs on this mosquito or collaborationist history, and of becoming a new pole of attraction for a belligerent opposition.