As an exercise, let’s use our imagination for a minute. What if the National Assembly approves the law for punishing “hate crimes”, as Daniel Ortega wishes? Our future won’t just be determined by the threatening trucks full of police, stationed at strategic points in the country’s main cities. Nor on the confiscations for imaginary overdue taxes. Nor on those imposed for profit margins that only existed in the minds of greedy lawyers.
We won’t just be bowing our heads and swallowing the slow, antiquated discourses of the ruler, whenever he decides to scold us. Nor will we merely be enduring the incendiary verbiage of the assistant dictator. Or having to accept the statistics that they choose to dictate regarding pandemic-related deaths. Or dealing with the other arbitrary policies that we’ve had to bear in this dysfunctional Ortega-Murillo government.
No, it won’t only be that. Now, in addition, we’ll have to resign ourselves to living in an enormous jail. A jail in which the least sign of protest will be punished with a life sentence. It could be a blue and white flag, graffiti, a protest yell, a news post the regime doesn’t like. Any situation that the regime sees as threatening could be a motive for punishment. And not just any punishment, but one that carries a life sentence.
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At least the world doesn’t accept the death penalty, since according to the rulers, we also deserve that. The deaths that the regime carries on its back are mute witnesses to this. Such deaths topped 300 after April 2018, plus hundreds or thousands more uncounted deaths in the rural areas.
Living in a state of fear
What’s happening to us? How have we reached this extreme? We can find a ton of guilty parties, or not find any, but that’s not what it’s about. Rather, it seems to me, the important thing is to recognize that we can’t live like this. We don’t deserve to live in a state of fear; the terror the regime wants to impose isn’t sustainable.
What does seem clear is that the regime is raising its repressive bets. Perhaps its zeal to confront a hardliner like Trump has led it to assume harder positions. At any rate, every day the regime reveals more clearly its cruelty. This threat of life in prison shouldn’t pass unnoticed among Nicaraguans, whose rebellious spirit is extremely well known.
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I don’t believe that the hardening of positions works in Daniel Ortega’s favor. Those who recommended the strategy of “going in with everything” in 2108 disaffected a good portion of his sympathizers. I’m sure that a life imprisonment law like this will cause still others to turn away from him. Maybe he thinks he can manage as Maduro has. The Venezuelan ruler has only 13% of the electorate behind him, but the armed forces are ready to back him.
Mirroring other dictators
In his growing eagerness to mirror Somoza, might Ortega apply the “3 P” rule attributed to Somoza Garcia? “Plata [money] for friends; Palo [the stick] for the indifferent; Plomo [bullets] for enemies.” Or perhaps he’ll imitate Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator. In the words of intellectual Soledad Loaesa, Franco left his political enemies only three options: “burial, imprisonment or exile”.
It’s clear that in this atmosphere an electoral contest isn’t in Ortega’s favor. In this situation, he won’t be able to fool anyone. The majority will seek other options, except for those who can’t conceive of life without the benefits of a party credential, or those raking in great profits from the little that’s left of the country.
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It seems to me that this is the key. He’ll surely be looking for a way to eliminate the elections. He’ll recur to the constitutional legal fictions that he’s used on other occasions. If he can’t do that, he’ll keep looking for a way to divide the opposition. His expertise in seeding discord and spreading dirt is well known. It’ll be in the hands of the citizens to assure that this doesn’t happen. It will be the work of organized groups to see that he doesn’t get away with this.
If we don’t unite the opposition to thwart Daniel Ortega’s desires, the future isn’t very bright. What will await us is jail, the cemetery, or exile for the few who can. I wonder if we really aspire to live in that immense jail that Ortega is offering us. Are the aspirations for freedom that we Nicaraguans have proclaimed so many times still valid? I’m placing my bets on the latter and trusting that we’ll be sensible enough to achieve it.