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Nicaragua: From Hope to Tragedy

At 39 years of the heroic deed, the tragic events happening in Nicaragua are particularly painful for Chileans.



In July of 1979, after 40 years of an opprobrious dictatorship, the Nicaraguan people put an end to the Somoza family dynasty. An overwhelming majority of citizens, led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), rebelled against economic pillaging, political repression, death and torture. The Sandinista Popular Revolution not only opened a path of hope for Nicaragua, but also became a point of reference for the struggle in Latin America, a region crushed by disgraceful dictatorships.

On last July 19th, 39 years since the historic deed were completed. But, it was a tragic celebration, because the new dynasty of the Ortega-Murillo family oppresses the Nicaraguan people. The Police, headed by Ortega’s son-in-law, along with paramilitary groups, have killed 300 civilians, with thousands of wounded, missing and tortured. This has been the answer of Ortega’s regime to citizen’s demands against arbitrariness, pillage and corruption. 

The social security reforms against workers made social discontent, gathered over the years, explode in April. But, before that, there was the agreement between Ortega and former President Arnoldo Aleman, a liberal “somocista”, which showed the turn to the right, and [later explained] the authoritarianism of the new government. That “pact” provided a blanket of protection to Aleman’s thefts and, at the same time, guarantees his support to Ortega’s administration. From that moment forward, the FSLN and the Liberal Party divided between themselves the public institutions, from the Supreme Court to the Electoral Council.

In the Electoral Council three Sandinistas and three liberals were nominated, to which was added a member of the Church, nominated by Cardinal Obando, who appointed his nephew, Roberto Rivas, whose illicit enrichment has been recognized “urbi et orbi.”

From his first term in office, in 2007, Daniel Ortega built a solid alliance with the Supreme Council of the Private Sector (COSEP), backed by the IMF and the World Bank. He also received the blessing of the United States, in exchange for ensuring a strict control of drug-trafficking, with an active presence of the DEA in Nicaraguan territory.

The new “Sandinista” Government with a clear turn to the right and towards authoritarianism, favored the enrichment of the traditional oligarchy, but also of a new bourgeoisie, the “Orteguista” bourgeoisie.

The understanding of the government with national and foreign capital had its most brutal expression in the concession to build an interoceanic canal through Nicaraguan territory, given to a Chinese adventurer. This is the most shameless surrender of national sovereignty. It gives continuity to mining, forestry and fishing concessions handled directly by the Ortega Murillo family and their closes associates, which has provoked the repeated rejection of peasants and environmentalists.

On the other hand, it must be recognized that, thanks to economic growth and social policies that provide assistance, poverty reduction has been achieved. In this regard, Venezuelan aid has been useful thanks to an advantageous oil agreement. Funds that never entered the national budget and were directly managed by the presidential couple and their associates. Funds that also served to multiply the businesses of the presidential family, including the purchase of television channels, managed by Ortega’s children.

Under the conditions described, it was easy for Ortega to be reelected in 2011 and later on 2016, thanks to a constitutional reform to begin a third term. This time accompanied in the Vice-Presidency by Rosario Murillo. All the efforts of the opposition forces to build an alternative have been crushed by Ortega and his PLC partners, thanks to the institutions they monopolize.

Former Commander Hugo Torres, summarizes very well the nature of “Orteguismo”, comparing it to “Somocismo.”

“The similarities between the current government of Daniel Ortega and the fabric that the somocista dictatorship was able to create, makes one shiver. Daniel Ortega has appropriated the party of the revolution, of the Sandinista Front, has distorted it and transformed it into his party, into a one-family party, notes Torres.”

“Through the agreements with Arnoldo Aleman, Ortega has been turning the PLC into his own “zancudo” (mosquito or subordinate) party, giving them power quotas, which allows him to sell the image of legitimacy because he has “opposition.” While, at the same time, he keeps the rest of the opposition political forces divided. He was not able to control the whole hierarchy of the Catholic Church, but in that effort he pulled to his side Cardinal Obando, making him an accomplice of his misdeeds. He also had handled very well the relations with big capital. And, big capital is happy doing business and does not question the regime. And, as if that were not enough, Ortega feeds a messianic and outrageous personality cult, superior to that practiced by the Somozas.”

In short, Ortega privatized the FSLN and the State, making them instruments at the service of his family and friends. All the State institutions—Judiciary Power, Electoral Power, Prosecutor’s Office, Comptroller’s Office, Ombudsman’s Office—are under his control.

Today, the commemoration of the 39 years of the Sandinista Revolution fills us with sadness. 

In the eighties, the FSLN not only had succeeded in overthrowing the dictatorship, but also defending the revolution, negotiating peace and ensuring democratic alternation. It was an unprecedented political process. This provided a massive international support of governments of varied political signs and citizens of different countries that came to Nicaragua to support the revolution.

Today, the FSLN of Ortega and his government, are a shame. They dishonor Sandino’s memory.  The turn to the right, nepotism, corruption and, now, the mass murders of defenseless citizens, have erased with one act the reference point that the Latin American left had in Sandinismo.

Ortega bases his support on repression, because he has lost all legitimacy. Most of the historical commanders are no longer with him and neither is former Vice-President Sergio Ramirez. Entrepreneurs, the Church and the United States themselves, who had been the main source of his support, have disembark. Even his ally, the General Secretary of the OAS, Almagro, has begun to make speeches against him.

But, most importantly, the citizenry massively rejects him.

For Chileans, the tragic events that take place in Nicaragua are particularly painful.

Our relationship with Nicaragua has a long history. Ruben Dario, the father of modernism, wrote his novel Azul in Chile, supported by the son of President Balmaceda. Gabriela Mistral, our distinguished poet, committed herself to the anti-imperialist struggle of General Sandino, who named her as a standard bearer of the Defense of National Sovereignty Army.

Finally, it is impossible to forget the role played by Chilean revolutionaries in the triumph of July 19, 1979. Particularly in the Southern Front, the military presence of our compatriots was decisive in the defeat of the Somocista Guard. The role of Chileans was also important in the reconstruction of the new Nicaraguan institutions and in the defense against US aggression.

The hope that, at that time, dignified people and democrats from the whole world placed on Nicaragua, has been frustrated by the shameful government of Ortega. However, I am confident that the courage of the Nicaraguan people, together with decent “sandinismo”, will put an end to the Ortega dynasty, as they did once before with Somoza.

*Economist, former Dean of the Faculty of Political Economy of the University of Chile and former Minister of Planning of Chile. Published in www.eldesconcierto.cl