Is Nicaragua now, and will be later, better off with or without Ortega?

This question stems from Daddy-yo's reply on another post about who will be better for Nicaragua, Obama or Romney? Daddy-yo says: Ortega autocratic government has produced stability and a growing business environment. Nicas, for the most part, seem to accept him. Sandinista solidarity is more effective in battling the drug lords than anything the US might superimpose". First Ortega Autocratic government. In the most simple terms, an autocratic government by definition is a Tyranny, thus making Ortega a tyrant. We were once under another autocratic government and we can agree that the people didn't feel they were better off then so the people led by the Sandinistas got rid of it. And now we are back were we started. We had " Stability " and at one point people from El Salvador and Honduras came to Nicaragua looking for work. But that stability came with a price. Intimidation, repression, persecution, jail, torture, exile, censure, corruption at all levels, and murder. The manipulation of our Constitution to fit the agenda of the government, which was not the people's agenda, in order to make what was illegal, legal. Little by little that's what we are experiencing now. We are witnessing another Dynasty on the making. " Nicas, for the most part, seem to accept him ". Somoza also had the " Support " of the people. Unfortunately, hunger and desperation, for many doesn't stir a sense of self worth instead, maybe due to ignorance, cowardice, laziness or utter indifference, I don't know, they prostitute themselves in exchange for crumbs. Somoza knew this and Mr Ortega is a quick study, that is for sure. There is another side that their individuality, dignity and self steem is not for sale. If having stability and prosperity, supposedly provided by the government, we have to look the other way and Hacernos los Majes, while they wipe their butts with our Constitution and throw it to our faces and tell us that we have to like it, we want no part of it. We rather be Pobres pero Libres than Prosperous but Slaves. One way or another this too shall pass. We aren't dogs that the master kicks around and still comes running, tail wagging to lick his hand whenever he calls. Hell no. We weren't better off with Somoza, nor are or will be better off with Ortega and the likes of those two. Yeah I can see Patrick Henry contemplating that same question then and see the determination in his eyes as he fill in the blank.

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found this.. not pro or con D. O. i just one bothers me..have bought and sold biz. and properties ..and never had a problem..and i get a good bang for my buck here

Good article

I read the whole article and it shows both sides of the argument. I am glad that your experience in Nicaragua has been good for you and continues to be so.

Ortega is not a tyrant, IMO.

A benign (as of yet) dictator - OK. He won the 2006 election with the clever help of Alemán and by swinging the church's support to outlaw abortions. He usurped rule 'democratically' in 2011 by having the constitution rewritten (or reinterpreted) beforehand, and by dividing or eliminating legitimate opposition, plus all the shenanigans with vote rigging & the CSE, as I saw it. He & his Sandinistas have a tight lock on government; they are in authority. But I've yet to see their exercize of power as being cruel or tyrranical. And the economy is growing, with efforts to help the poor. (The poor who get the most help must become party members.) So far all appears reasonable, albeit onesided by design.

It's a pity Nicaraguans have lost - for now - the ability to vote in a new leader. But Nicaragua will hardly be the only country holding sham-democratic elections. That's no excuse. It's the nature of rule by wealth &/or military might.

The Somozas ruled Nicaragua for more than 40 years. They, with their National Guard, were cruel & abusive & excessively greedy. (Ortega is greedy but inline with most politicians & CEOs, IMO.) Nicaraguans tolerated much with the Somozas. I wouldn't say they 'supported' them (unless you mean the few on their payroll). The mistreatment of the people by the government peaked after the earthquake of 1972; it caused underground revolutionary movements to flourish. The Sandinistas got Cuban (& Soviet Union) support, guidance & training. Still it was the assassination of their brave opponent Pedro Chamorro in 1978 that upset the general population of Nicas to the point where they took their anger into the streets. And the Sandinistas were ready, more or less.

I don't see any similar provocations happening today. Nor do I see any real strong opposition movements. Nicas are, for the most part, better off as to their 'standard of living' than they were before Ortega's return to power. "Poor but free" is a noble sentiment but again & again people around the world choose 'stuff' over 'freedom'.

At some point, will it get worse? As they say, "absolute power corrupts absolutely." Nicaraguans are a people who have shown they won't take abuse lying down.

A work in progress

I wrote that Ortega is a tyrant because you mentioned his autocratic government, and, after double checking, in the simplest form of definitiion autocratic equals tyranny. Ortega is showing the same traits the Somozas had. With time he'll show his true colors. I hope, for our sake is like you said. Then again when told by your doctor he detected prostate cancer but it can still be treated, is not terminal yet, what are we supposed to do then?

If any group was working curb Ortega's ambitions, it's not likely that it's going to be discussed in public.

Rebecca Brown

No simple answer

I have thought about this many times over the past 30 years and my answer would be different depending on when the question was asked. What's diffrent, for me, today is my almost nine years living in Nicaragua. What it has made me realize is that you can't just apply US rules when looking for the answer. That is not just true for Nicaragua but other countries in Latin America as well.

In the US, government policy is not set by the leader but much more so by a combination of long-term insiders (for lack of a better word) who, quite often, pass through the revolving door between government and big business during their careers. I offer Dick Cheney as one of many US-based examples. That, along with the inertia caused by the size and population of the US, really means little change in the hands of the population itself.

In much of Latin America, it appears to be quite different. The leader really does seem to set direction. Obvious examples are Chávez in Venezuela, Morales in Bolivia and the husband/wife teams in Argentina and Brazil. There are many other less obvious examples of this sort of teamwork but that will do for now.

It seems to me that Ortega became the leader because the US government put itself in the position of "the external enemy" at a time when Nicaragua was trying to sort out its options. Once in that position, deviation from Ortega as leader didn't produce useful results. That is, for 16 years, Nicaragua should have done well (if neo-liberal approaches actually do work) but it did not. With Ortega back in the driver's seat, Nicaragua is doing better than most other countries.

Thus, at this point, Ortega is that stable leader. My feeling is that any serious deviation from the path he has established would be a negative for Nicaragua.

An Ace up your Sleeve

I understand and appreciate what you say, but your opinion will always be influenced by one very strong point: Unlike the great majority of Nicaraguans, you have options. You can choose where to live, when to go or stay if things aren't aligned to your style or are getting to meddlesome for your comfort. Mr Ortega as Somoza, before him, know how to play his cards right. As long as you play by his rules he will leave you alone and you can pretty much do many things that otherwise you wouldn't be able to do in the US due to all those pesky regulations. Sure there are ways to get around those regulations but in comparison to Nicaragua you'll have to pay a pretty steep premium. From a business man point of view things couldn't be better for them in Nicaragua as long as they get to do without too much interference from the government and Mr Ortega will go along. why you left the US? Was it 'cause the never ending taxes? All those regulations? Or got tired of all the lying to your face by the government? Since there wasn't much you could do, most of your peers were too busy chasing that American Dream, or trying hard not to lose it they lost sight of what really counts, but not you and the next best thing to do was to find a place where you can live the life you want to live, or at least as close as you could get. And if things were to turn for the worse you can go. It is nice to have options. Not so for the rest of us. And please believe me I am not trying to be judgemental and if I come accross as such I am sorry not my intention. The problem here is that we are talking about the same thing but from different perspectives. Stability and prosperity are good things to have that's for sure. The problem though is that for the longest time we keep getting the short end of the stick. Not only from Ortega, but from all before him too. As much as I dislike this label nevertheless Nicaragua is poor but our so called leaders, past and present, have always managed to keep us poor if not make us poorer. Throughout the years as far as I can remember there had always been money coming in through donations and loans, with strings attached I am sure, but what a coincidence those governing manage to get rich while the country keep getting poor. How is it that they cannot apply whatever finance practices or formulas they employ for the amazing growth of their bank accounts, stock shares and real state holdings out of barely nothing and apply them for the benefit of the nation's coffers? Still that is not the main point of our dislike for Ortega and all the rest like him. The main thing is the feeling we get that they are playing us for fools, la burla, and short of taking armed action nothing else can be done because he doesn't play by the rules. Those rules are written on the sand shifting according his whim and convenience. They are raiding the indebted coffers but hey we have stability. Stability, why, because we are no longer killing each other? The Chinese have stability too, don't they? Sr Fyl we want stability and prosperity but we don't want to be made fools for it. Some of us still have a little dignity left. I've been in Nicaragua a little over 3 months now, I've been up and down from Cosiguina to San Juan del Sur, up to Esteli, was tempted to look you up but wasn't feasible at the time. I've ridden the buses, taxies and tricycles, go into the mercados and talked to a lot of people, and no bs but even among those that are Ortega's followers, both young and old there is this tacit, or is it implicit I can't recall, aknowledgement that something is amiss. Yet they still want to believe because before Ortega nobody gave even 10 lousy sheets of zinc for them, at least that's better than nothing,right? And all we have to do in return is go along with the charade and pretend that things are getting better and better every day and as long as we vote for him and his appointed officials, and participate in his demonstrations and display the rojo y negro and never question his decisions he will protect us and provide us with prosperity, stability, peace and harmony. What a deal. Now pass the Kool Aid will you please, thank you.

Don't mis-interpret what I said

I could write a book on the subject on the direction of government vs. what those governed actually want/need. The main difference between the US and Nicaragua is that, at least up until now, the US could afford to fight an oil war under the previous president and bail out Wall Street under the current one. People were willing to accept this because things are "not as bad as Nicaragua". I have described myself as a Green Libertarian. That is, don't trash the planet but have as little government as possible.

Here is where I feel Nicaragua has an advantage. The government is and always will be less in your face than the government of the US and most of the first world just because it is small. Being small makes it a lot harder to pretend things are better by, for example, starting a new war somewhere else in the world.

I have simply tried to answer your question and feel I am being pragmatic in my response. If you were asking me this question 33 years ago (and assuming I had the same understanding of "how things work in Latin America" which I clearly did not at the time) I would have a very different answer.

In general, my feeling is that each time the US attempts to "fix" a government, starting in Guatemala in 1956, the result is a more polarized situation which is typically at the expense of the locals being governed. Without that external help, it seems likely that representative governments are more likely to evolve.

No mis-interpretation, I think

Your stance: It works therefore is good. My stance: How can it work better? I don't claim that everything the government do is bad but there's a lot that's lacking no matter how we dice and slice it. Our government is small yet it manages to affect the lives of every single one of us. If I happen to make enough noise calling attention to myself from any of the government's agents that small government will be on my face pretty fast but the difference is that unlike the past, where the guardia would come and take you away openly, now things are done more covertly, more subtler, as in Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Maybe I am wrong but I don't think the US start new wars solely as a tool to distract your attention from the matters at home, there are other issues at play. The one that comes to mind quicker than the other ones is the need to ensure National Security and maintain the American Way of Life. 33 years ago, and before, "how things worked in Latin America" were pretty much the same way things work in Latin America now. Not much has changed. I am not biased on my observations or criticisms due to an irrational sense of political party affiliation and loyalty. The fact remains the same throughout : all of our leaders past and present were and are egotistical and corrupted to the core, with maybe a few that weren't as bad as the rest. The US, directly or otherwise, has tried to "fix" our government long before Guatemala in 1956, and yes the result has been as you said; the same goes for the "help" from Russia, East Germany, Cuba and now Venezuela's. Both sides motives for "helping" have not been for creating a society were the rule of law is not a slogan on a t-shirt or a billboard so that we can live with relative peace and dignity. To them we have been and are like the pawn on a chess board : small and not that important. And still won't leaves us alone. Like Cantinflas said " Ahi esta el Detalle "

Actually, no

My stance is that because Nicaragua is a little player in a game of big players and because "the leader" in Latin America tends to be that (as opposed to in the US where leadership is clearly moderated by other entities) that it seems necessary to "stick with" that which you have. That doesn't mean I think things should not be better -- I just don't think, for all so many reasons, that a leadership change will accomplish that.

My reference to 33 years ago was not that I felt there had been a change in how Latin American governace works. It was simply that what I understand of it today because of what I personally have learned.

You describe all our leaders in reference to Nicaragua. I would expland that far beyond Nicaragua and, unfortunately, it may be what is required or at least expected. Of all the US presidents in my adult life I can think of, the exception I see is Jimmy Carter and most label him as a failure exactly because he seemed to try to govern without being egotistical and corrupt.

Jimmy Carter and Eisenhower

Eisenhower was enough of a realist from his long experience in the military to know what it could and couldn't do and how it could be abused. When he left office, my impression (and I was a child then) was that he was perceived as pretty bland and not much of anything. He sent troops to Little Rock to get black kids in the public schools there; he didn't go to war in South East Asia or the Middle East; and he warned us about the military-industrial complex (I worked for them for a short while and some of them are really scary).

Eisenhower might have been before your time, but he was the first president I was aware off. Funny that election -- Adelai Stevenson was running as a Democrat. Either of them would have been good, maybe great Presidents.

Kennedy was utterly cynical about Civil Rights (what I heard from people who'd been doing voter registration drives in Mississippi) and an ass about Cuba. Invade it, don't invade it, just don't believe the Cuban exiles' claims that if a token force shows up, the Cuban people will rise -- why does the US keep falling for that guff from exiles and how much money do those exiles get out of advising the US?

Rebecca Brown

If it Ain't broken ...... except that

Here it is broken and needs fixing and if it can't be fixed it must be replaced. We are not talking about a pair of hand me down shoes, if they don't fit make it fit. Why should we 'stick with that which you have'. And I didn't say you don't think things should not be better. On a democracy The leadership works for the people and the people have the right to make sure that said leader does his-her job as best as they can. Ah Democracy, I've heard of it all my life. How people have died to defend it and introduce it to those that want to have it. It has proven to me as elusive and ghostly as the widly believed apariciones of my beloved departed mother. Most everyone has seen her except me. Sorry I digress. A leadership change will not accomplish that. So it is my way or the highway type of situation for us. Man we are screwed. 33 years ago I was almost 17 and by then I knew how things worked in Nicaragua and was glad for the change. 33 years later I know, more or less how things work not just in Nicaragua, and I would gladly hope and help to bring a change, and if that one doesn't work do it again as long as it is necessary.

Bluntly, Patrick Henry was the Commandante Zero

....of the American Revolution. He owned slaves and opposed the US Constitution (but did contribute to the Bill of Rights).

Since people will talk to people they don't know, the worst you can say about Ortega is that he's Boss Tweed. Wikipedia has a good article on Boss Tweed. I think you'll recognize the pattern.

If people have other options, they don't cut cane or coffee or work cattle on open range or prime tobacco. If your economy is productive enough and workers have other options and are free to exercise them, then machinery help farm more efficiently and more economically, but if your labor is close to free because it's self-sustaining (grows its own and your food, makes its own clothes as Washington's slaves did), then you're not going to buy machinery and you're not going to want to lose your labor.

Same goes for mining, though some mineral extraction jobs require more skills and pay better -- like being one of the mine bookkeepers as Ortega's father was, or the mining geologists and chemists. Banana export firms also had some middle income jobs in the offices.

Being cheap manufacturing labor for someone else -- there's always someone cheaper -- one firm in the US is now using prison labor for electronic component assembly -- twenty-six cents an hour, $2.60 a ten hour day. The US has 2,266,800 prisoners in state and Federal prisons, a bit less than the whole population of Nicaragua. Thirty states have passed laws to be able to sell prison labor to private companies.

Okay, get rid of all the corruption, make Nicaragua a country of laws. Have honest elections. How is the country going to earn its living? If you can't solve that problem without a high GINI index, then you have social unrest because the rich price the poor out of housing first, then food.

Take a look at Germany -- strong labor unions, strong protection of its own manufacturing, but they have iron and coal, and very good schools. Or Switzerland, with some factories running as worker-democracies, again, strong social controls, not a lot of natural resources.

Rebecca Brown

It is like a dog chasing its own tail

Patrick Henry as Eden Pastora weren't perfect and frankly don't expect no one to be, but at least make the effort to be decent. Boss Tweed had the run of New York state's politics, was a thief and likely had a few thugs to lined the toes. Mr Ortega has the run of a country, small but still a whole country, it is getting richer by the minute through veiled thievery and has thugs that do his biding. What is different? Not much, except Mr Ortega has put people in harms way in order to keep his position of absolute corrupted power. A lot of people have gone to their graves so he can be where he is now and he won't hesitate to make it so again until his appetite is sated, which according to him and his wife it could be until the day he dies. " If you can't solve that problem without a high GINI index, then you have social unrest because the rich price the poor out of housing first, tnen food " What do you think it's been happening all this time? Do you know where the house and food costs are going down and the salaries are going up in Nicaragua? As long as you keep getting that check, even if it is a small one, you can't really know the pressure a father and mother feels when their money is not enough to provide decent housing and food for their family, and that is providing they have a somewhat decent paying job. Is the government making affordable housing available to everybody regardless their politics? Oh well the Empresarios don't want to ease their grip so there's really only so much we can do. Private sector and government scratch each other's back. Educate our children. All that money spent on propaganda and indoctrination should be invested in good schools and training better teachers. What good taking a kid out of class to go see a freaking soccer game does to make him read and write and do math better? There are better ways to inspire and motivate learning in kids. How about providing reading materials or maybe a few computers to each school. Oh but there is not enough money, you know not everybody pays taxes here and the money that came in as loans and donations has decreased with each passing year, what can we do? How about start by revising, as in cutting the salaries of all those diputados on up, that are not in step with the reality the real Nicaragua lives. Here is a joke for you: Salario Minimo= Canasta Basica. Please take my life or is it wife? Same difference. Thank you I'll be here not just a week but the rest of life.

The Real Question

for me is, What are DO's true intentions? No doubt his position is less than 100% legitimate, based on what the Nicaragua people fought their revolution for. Was Aleman more representative of the revolution? I think not. On the other hand Ortega has brought a level of stability that is allowing the country to make steady progress. This stability will make possible larger investments (like the canal). These investments will provide jobs for a growing population. A more statesman-like Ortega and a more conciliatory tone from the US seem to be ruling the day. Less eye-poking from Ortega should bring less trash-talking from the US, to everyone's benefit.

Look at CR. For all the talk about how democratic the country is, there is still much wealth concentrated in the original 12 families. And corruption is equally present in our enlightened neighbor to the south. Serious corruption. The difference: Costa Ricans enjoy a universally full belly, excellent opportunities, and good educations. And plenty of jobs.

Ortega has become wealthy, and so has his family. But, I don't see the pathological level of greed that was characteristic of Somoza (and many other small country dictators around the world). Has Daniel betrayed the revolution? Maybe in the short term, but the book hasn't been completely written yet.

One of the things I find impressive about Nicaragua is the relative freedom of press that exists. Or, is that an illusion ?

Eden Pastora "Walked across the floor of the House"...

"Turncoat" if you are saving words.

But he came back to the red and black and has done well since.

Article of Confederation didn't make a strong country

The US Constitution did. I have a biography of Eden Pastora on my Kindle. Very much lots of firey words that he didn't die by. Same with Patrick Henry, along with the hypocrisy of owning slaves and talking about liberty, and after the Constitution was ratified, he retired to his plantation to sulk. Samuel Johnson on the American revolutionaries was something about the irony of slave owners squealing for liberty, though the American revolution also had Ben Franklin, who started out with the common bigotries of the day and came to realize he was wrong about the intelligence of blacks, among other things.

As long as Nicaragua needs cheap and unskilled hands for its major sources of foreign exchange, the situation stays fairly tragic. The hope is that at least some of the people making the money will go on to invest in less exploitative industries. I doubt seriously that most people could reinvent the sorts of indigenous communities that Belts described as being better for the people in them than the mestizo communities in his day. The Coffee Wars destroyed those here. Guatemala seems to have kept more of them. I believe that optimally, they could develop as the Cherokee did in the 19th Century, end up mastering and using modern technologies in their own ways, and making more prosperous lives for their people. I don't think that's possible here.

The problem with revolutions is that to make them work, you do have to have top down discipline and a certain amount of ruthlessness. Making the transition from that to politics is not trivial. El Salvador has a left president, in the party that came out of the guerrilla movement, but he wasn't one of the fighters.

Doing the non-violent thing is less high adrenalin, but it leaves a country far less damaged and with far fewer people who learned to get their way by being at the top of a violent hierarchy.

I'm watching the kids who can figure out how to get Mac OS X to work on their Toshiba laptops without an NGO teaching them how. Those kids will be the future here, I think. And you'll need them in your tourist industries, too.

Rebecca Brown

Ironies, well aware of them

They even rationalized 'owning' slaves as a God given right supported by scriptures. Our problem is serious and it will need a great effort and a conversion of mentality and attitude from all involved, similar to an enlightment of the national conscience. I am not advocating a change through violence but a change is needed. Besides we don't get involved because of the adrenaline kick, if that's what move us, hell I'll go to San Cristobal's top when is spewing smoke. Wait I did that, actually didn't make it to the top but was abiout half way to the top. I don't remember where I read that Revolution is not synonym of armed conflict. Is the intransingency of one side or both that leads to war.