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Nicaragua’s Tragic Paradox: Vote Unconditionally or Not At All

Nicaragua, fraude electoral, Ortega, elecciones, votar, no votar

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Nicaragua is immersed in a paradox: to vote in a tyranny, without conditions and without a chance to win or simply not to vote. The latter would be intended as a sort of protest, so that the world will see how Nicaraguans don’t go to the polls in the upcoming presidential elections in November, knowing that the fate of this rigged process is none other than a Sandinista victory.

The panorama is bleak: all the actors acting as opponents, from the most progressive to the most conservative, with all their notable differences, condemn the “electoral reforms” imposed by the Sandinista regime.

“Today in the National Assembly the pro-government steamroller —with the vote of the collaborationist parties— elected a Supreme Electoral Council formed by political operators and collaborators of the regime and approved a reform to the electoral law that gives this group of magistrates very broad discretion,” said Kitty Monterrey, president of Citizens for Freedom, a Nicaraguan right-wing political party persecuted by the Ortega regime.

“It is clear that Ortega has wanted to leave the fate of the upcoming electoral process in his hands without any legal restrictions. It is also clear that Ortega is afraid of the electoral process and is doing the impossible to try to prevent the opposition and the citizens from going to the elections”, Monterrey told El American, adding that the solution to break free of this regime is a fair electoral process with international observers and true reforms so that the will of the majority is imposed.

Unfortunately, Ortega’s regime seems to have other plans.

Nicaragua, elecciones, noviembre, sin garantías
The National Assembly, loyal to Ortega, handpicked its electoral magistrates. (Imagen: EFE)

Opponents and the international community are reacting

According to the Nicaraguan portal 100 % noticias, “The Sandinista steamroller elected the new magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council, seven proprietors and three substitutes. The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), kept in their positions the sanctioned Lumberto Campbell and Mayra Salinas, tokens loyal to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo”.

Brenda Rocha Chacón, Alma Nubia Baltodano Marcenaro, Devoney Johaira McDavis Álvarez, Campbell Hooker, Cairo Amador and Leonzo Knight are the other regular magistrates, besides Campbell and Salinas.

The three alternates are Adriana Molina Fajardo, Maura Álvarez Ortiz and Alberto Julián Blandón Baldizón.

Today, May 7, the OAS published a communiqué condemning the Sandinista regime’s elections of magistrates and also the previous electoral reforms which, according to the opponents, far from guaranteeing a minimally convincing electoral process, only exacerbates the lack of democracy and plurality in the country.

“The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) observes with extreme concern the election of the high magistrates that will compose the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and the approval of electoral reforms that go against the principles and recommendations made by the international community (…) The election of magistrates and the approval of these reforms designed by the Special Commission on Electoral Affairs of the National Assembly of Nicaragua clearly give absolute advantage to the official party in the control of the electoral administration and justice, eliminating the necessary guarantees and the minimum institutional credibility for the development of a free and fair electoral process in November 2021.”

The OAS communiqué is clear: Nicaragua is not going to hold fair elections in November. Ortega’s authoritarian control and the Sandinista system of government prevent it. However, there are opponents who believe that elections should still be held, despite the fact that fraud is guaranteed.

This is the case of Juan Sebastián Chamorro, who last April 22 registered his pre-candidacy for the presidency of Nicaragua through the Citizens’ Alliance. Chamorro argues that Nicaraguans should go out to vote massively, even though he is sure that the process will be “fraudulent.”

Chamorro explains that, for him, a massive vote would expose the regime to the international community in an eventual fraud. However, there are those who argue that going out to vote in a dictatorship is a way to legitimize the process.

The Articulation of Social Movements (AMS), a left-progressive politicalorganization, criticized from the conservative strata of Nicaraguan society for its links with the “dissident Sandinistas”, were also clear in condemning the outrage of the regime and calling for the express non-participation in the November electoral process.

Just as the politicians in Nicaragua condemned in unison the outrages of the Ortega regime, the exiles also spoke up.

Cristhian Fajardo, a political express currently exiled in the United States, who was an important part of the 2018 rebellion, told El American that “Anything that comes from the regime is not for the good of Nicaragua.”

“He could make the reforms expected by those who call themselves opponents and he will surely look for a way to stay in power, Ortega never keeps promises, even if they are signed and with guarantors,” Fajardo said. “The ideal scenario for Nicaragua is to hold elections without Ortega in power and without participating. That could and can be achieved, but there are de facto powers that hold him in power.”

Fajardo explains that elections can only be held in democratic countries, and Nicaragua is not the case.

He points put that the ideal scenario would be to go to international instances so that Nicaragua can get out of the Sandinista regime.

“In the case of Nicaragua, Ortega is a criminal who has used politics to enrich himself in an enormous way, we are talking about around 4,000 million dollars. Personally, I do not believe that he will give up power easily, with this I am not saying that we go by the way of weapons, there are options such as the sanctions that are being given, take Nicaragua out of CAFTA until there is a democratically elected government, apply the democratic charter of the OAS, activate the R2P, the TIAR, treat Ortega as a criminal and take him to international courts, apply the Palermo convention, Rome statutes, and so on”

cristhian fajardo

Not only the OAS condemned the regime in the International Community, the United States also spoke out through the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Julie Chung, who wrote the following tweet: “The Nicaragua National Assembly’s new electoral law disappoints its people & doesn’t reassure the int’l community. Its Electoral Council is heavily biased. Nicaragua is headed for deeply flawed elections unless it implements a free and fair process that respects the people’s will.”

Nicaragua, between a rock and a hard place

Nicaragua is one of the most vivid portraits of a socialist hell. In 2019, it was already heading towards its worst economic depression, and the 2020 pandemic further exacerbated this crisis. Debt under the Ortega regime grew and unemployment is also skyrocketing. Nicaraguans have a lower purchasing power and depend more and more on remittances from relatives abroad.

Insecurity is also on the rise, violence institutionalized by the dictatorship is a reality and civil rights are increasingly disrespected.

But the most serious problem is the lack of fundamental freedoms. Freedom of speech and press is curtailed, political dissidence is systematically persecuted, civil protest is repressed. Nicaragua is a country suffering the consequences of socialist authoritarianism.

A child walks in front of a mural with the image of dictator Daniel Ortega. (Image: EFE)

Despite all of the above, plus the impossibility of a serious democratic process, the international community is excessively docile towards Ortega’s Sandinista regime.

The communiqués are tedious and unproductive, similar to what happens in Venezuela and Cuba, countries submerged in totalitarian systems. The United States and the OAS make pronouncements, they also sanction, but Ortega and his wife, Murillo, are comfortable in Managua. They do not feel the real threat like Maduro or Díaz-Canel.

And without an international community willing to act, the Nicaraguan opposition submits citizens to the paradox of voting unconditionally or not voting at all. The other is to protest, but there again Nicaragua finds itself between a rock and a hard place: the former represents the bullet of a Sandinista repressor, the latter is the systematic loss of freedoms.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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