Every day I read fiery statements. Various trends, fears and dreams are expressed from social networks about what should or should not happen in the Nicaragua of the future. The opinions are very diverse, but it is remarkable how the patterns of our history are repeated in them. While arguing against the past that led to massacres and crisis, myths that lead to exclusion and intolerance are raised again.
I quote one: “No to protagonism and leadership.” We do not want to return to the time of leaders, it is said. Leaders are dangerous; they always reflect personal interests, deify themselves, destroy, and all they want is protagonism.
As soon as a rumor spreads that someone aspires to be a candidate, people come out of the woodwork to show disapproval. Each prospect is ruled out as ambitious, for wanting to “be in the running,” for wanting “to take personal advantage,” or for being a “protagonist.” It seems that there are those who propose a new democratic Nicaragua governed by a committee of the many.
Could it be, I wonder, that from the backwardness in which we have lived politically we could pass to a Swiss system? I sincerely doubt it. Understanding leadership as empty protagonism and not as the ability to lead, has its origins in our experience. We have had tyrants in our history, we are suffering one now. Nobody wants this cycle to repeat itself. But there were also the so-called “thirty conservative years” where presidents peacefully alternated power. The sixteen years that began in 1990 and ended in 2007, even with all its defects, also had alternation in power. Disqualifying leadership based on the fact that we do not want a repetition of Ortega, is to ignore the fact that it was the dismantling of institutions that allowed him to prolong his period.
In order to elucidate leadership, one must put “what” is needed first, and then think about those who have the quality to do it. More importantly: it is necessary to review and strengthen the institutional mechanisms that guarantee alternation in power.
Knowing the styles and political cajolery, it will be necessary to create, through the independence of powers, the restrictions between the institutions to submit the Executive and the Legislative to strict controls that ensure that they do not stay in power beyond their established period of time and that they fulfill their obligations.
There will be those who would say that I am talking about a “bourgeois” state or system. So it is. I believe that to change our system of government we will have to go through several stages and we will have to start with what we know. Before considering a reengineering of traditional democracy, we must create the institutional bases to pass -with prior study, and prior training of officials and leaders-, to a democracy that, with significant effort, can evolve into a more inclusive and effective system, to that still vague dream of democracy, which like making castles in the air, some suggest as the immediate possibility after Ortega leaves.
Currently there is so much mistrust towards this myth of protagonism, that those who should occupy leadership positions, because of their abilities, their experience, their tenacity and example, are constantly forced to “humility,” to remain in the shadows, to justify their ideas not to “offend,” so that it won’t be said that they are seeking protagonism.
Often what I hear reminds me of the famous “democratic centralism” of the failed Leninist scheme. It makes me think that the seed is still there of an idea that history teaches us the path, in all cases, to totalitarianism. In our day, we cannibalize one another, based on a utopian democracy that, it seems, only has room for those who think alike. Not only are we intolerant, but we do our best to disqualify people and put them out of the game.
At this point in time, when our civic decision and the reality of the oppression we live indicates that the most viable option is elections, we must be thinking about leaderships, in people who can be capable and honest candidates, because the people we choose are crucial to make the difference.
We tend to worry about presidential candidacies, but there will be many positions to fill, from deputies to mayors. We must organize to demand and achieve electoral changes that allow us to have free and fair elections, but also to present to the people a group of men and women that won’t betray their trust.
Let’s bet on changes, but do not make the mistake of believing that, in months or a year, we will change our political culture and government system. Let’s think about stages, and let’s land on the reality of who we are and the country we have.
It is time to stop cutting heads.
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