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  Number 346 | Mayo 2010
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Nicaragua

Broad Brushstrokes and Fine Touches

President Ortega’s words on April 14: “I can assure you, brother Nicaraguans, that God is giving Nicaragua its historic chance. God brought President Chávez to Venezuela’s presidency. And through the people, He also brought us to government.” President Ortega’s words on April 30: “I thank you, brother Nicaraguans, for the wisdom God gave you, which enlightened you so the FSLN could come govern this country to benefit the poor.” Religious-messianic touches for the reelection campaign, which also contains sweeping brushstrokes and some fine swipes in varying colors.

Nitlápan-Envío team

Reelecting Daniel Ortega in 2011 is the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s absolute priority. But given that the Constitution prohibits him running for reelection on two counts, Ortega had to finagle a judicial sentence declaring that constitutional prohibition unconstitutional. He also needs to ensure a compliant Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the branch of state that calls elections and registers candidates, so it will agree that his candidacy doesn’t violate the Constitution and will subsequently help him win, whether or not he gets the required votes.

Ortega’s determination to be reelected and the covert support provided by Liberal party boss Arnoldo Alemán—who is equally determined to be his only rival in the electoral race—is at the root of the institutional chaos Nicaragua has been suffering for several months. It explains all the government’s shuffling of ministerial and other posts, as well as the violent disorder in Managua in April, a preview of what we will surely see in coming months until Daniel Ortega’s candidacy and then reelection are imposed.

First brushstroke:
504 vs. 147

President Ortega and his group have been sketching out the reelection plan on the political canvas and filling it in mainly with broad, careless brushstrokes, and only a few fine lines. There’s still a year and a half to go before the elections, after all, and anything could happen. But are they not measuring the consequences of spattering paint in all directions?

There have been two particularly heavy-handed strokes so far. The first was sentence 504 of last October 19, issued only by the Supreme Court justices who answer to the FSLN. Usurping functions of the legislative branch, they ruled that article 147 of the Constitution—the one that limits a President’s reelection to two terms and prohibits consecutive reelection—cannot be applied to Ortega. The second was to declare in the same ruling that the constitutional principle prohibiting the consecutive reelection of mayors is unconstitutional, thus favoring the 109 FSLN municipal mayors currently in office, 40 of them thanks to the 2008 electoral fraud.

Metrocentro 2 vs. 504

Although this isn’t the first time President Ortega has issued decrees that violate the Constitution and decisions that violate various laws, it was the first one clearing the path to his reelection, and it mobilized all opposition parties, uniting them for the first time in three years. They held an emergency meeting on November 9, welcoming representatives of civil society organizations and private enterprise, and signed the Metrocentro 2 Agreements, named for the major shopping mall where they met.

In that unprecedented agreement all the opposition parties assumed three commitments regarding the pending reappointment or replacement of 25 top government officials whose terms were about to end: “Not to reelect the current CSE full and alternative magistrates. Not to elect new CSE magistrates unless there is a profound transformation of the CSE that guarantees transparency and respect for citizens’ votes. Not to elect any of the officials that must be appointed by the National Assembly unless capable, honest and impartial individuals are chosen for those posts in accord with constitutional precepts.” The problem was that, even united, the opposition, made up of some half a dozen parties or fractions, falls short of the 56 votes required to approve an appointment because the FSLN bench has 40 of the 92 National Assembly members.

To his embarrassment, Arnoldo Alemán was obliged to participate in the meeting and sign the agreement, although, with the complaisance of much of the opposition, he was quick to get good mileage out of both his presence and his signature. The government’s fear that the opposition actually might not break ranks for the usual perks or intimidation, provoked another swipe of the paintbrush, aggravating the institutional crisis.

The launching of 03-2010
and the discovery of 201

Aware that it would be a huge obstacle to his reelection project if the opposi¬tion remained united behind those three commitments, President Ortega himself usurped the legislative branch’s attributions on January 3, decreeing that the 25 officials, whose terms were variously due to end in January, April or June would remain at their posts until the National Assembly either reelected them or elected their replacements. Arguing that he had a responsibility to “avoid the chaos” of a state without these key posts operating, Ortega issued his illegal Degree 03-2010 to force a predictably difficult negotiation in the terms most advantageous to his interests.

The opposition rejected the new affront and again closed its normally scattered ranks. As time passed and the opposition stuck to the agreement, making it impossible for the FSLN to beg, buy or steal the votes it needed, Ortega decided to give his illegal decree a veneer of legality, hoping to scuttle any attempt to overturn it. On April 7, parliamentary president René Núñez—a longtime FSLN legislator—announced he had “discovered” that paragraph 2 of article 201 of an early edition of the 1987 Constitution—modified several times since—establishes that legislatively-appointed officials will remain in their posts until their replacements are named. It looked like a win-win situation for Ortega: if he couldn’t break the unity to get enough votes for new officials to his liking, he would keep the ones he has, with whom he is perfectly satisfied.

This quasi-archeological discovery overlooked the fact that the article was a transitory one no longer valid following the change of government in 1990. That is why it doesn’t appear in later editions of the Constitution, including the one on which the pro-government Councils of Citizen’s Participation base their existence. The ploy did little more than reveal that Ortega doubted the validity of his own decree and wanted his “defense of the Constitution” to appear as a more elegant, convincing stroke on his reelection canvas.

Steamy April in Managua

The fact that four of the five chief comptrollers in the Office of Comptroller General remained in their posts after their terms were up, citing Ortega’s decree, produced little more than media articles and political controversy. But as expected, the crisis ratcheted up a few notches when the date rolled around for the Supreme Court justices to be replaced. Comptrollers can’t reverse the reelection project; the Supreme Court can.

The term ended on April 11 for three justices appointed in accord with the quotas set by the pact between Ortega and Alemán a decade ago. But while the one Liberal justice left his office, the two FSLN justices, Rafael Solís and Armengol Cuadra, remained actively at their desks. The result was two institutionally chaotic weeks involving a succession of unusual, shameful and even violent events.

A rattled Solís publicly shouted insults at a Liberal justice who was berating him for clinging to his post. Courthouses all over the country closed for several days so FSLN judges and other court officials could demonstrate their support for Solís and Cuadra in Managua. The required simple majority of 47 opposition legislators responded by renewing their decision to annul Decree 03-2010. That prompted the government to send both armed youth gangs and state employees to surround the National Assembly to prevent the 47 legislators from entering and getting the annulment proceedings underway. The august Supreme Court Justices Solís and Cuadra led the charge.

Unable to get into the Assembly, the 47 reacted with an unprecedented move: on April 20 they held a session in Managua’s Holiday Inn Hotel and began drafting the annulment legislation. The government duly shifted the public employees and paramilitary gang members, still with Solís and Cuadra in the lead, to the hotel. There the youths shot dozens of homemade mortars and threw rocks against the building, causing destruction and a stampede of fleeing hotel guests. The police stood passively by.

The next day they again surrounded the National Assembly, preventing the parliamentary session with another shower of mortars and rocks. Meanwhile, groups of public employees closed one street and armed paramilitaries confined 18 Liberal and 1 Sandinista Renovation Movement parliamentarians to the offices of the We’re Going with Eduardo Movement where they had been meeting, torching two of their vehicles and bashing in another.

After three days of this, an ephemeral calm took over the streets on the afternoon of April 23. But it was likely only a breather, because the motives behind all this disorder persist. The fear is that the crisis will become even more menacing as June approaches, which is when the term of all seven CSE magistrates ends. Ortega has let it be known he would like them all reelected. Will he get the 16 votes he needs by then? And if not, will the opposition negotiate as a bloc, insisting on qualified candidates, or break ranks and negotiate their own self interests?

Opposing interpretations

Assembly President Núñez defended the acts of violence as “an expression of people’s justifiable rage,” while Ortega’s Vice President, paradoxically a Liberal businessman and the chief contra negotiator in 1990, declared them the work of delinquents and hired guns.

The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) said in a communiqué that this crisis and the unleashing of violence has “an impact as negative to institutionality as that of a coup d’état.” The Supreme Court President, Liberal Manuel Martínez, recognized that the Court is currently “anarchic, chaotic, a mob” and qualified what had happened as “embarrassing, unheard-of, shocking, Dantesque and without precedent.”

The bishops weigh in

On April 23, just as things were calming down a bit, Nicaragua’s Catholic bishops released a Message to the Nation, drafted in an emergency meeting held the same day. These are excerpts from the text: “We view with pain the fact that many Nicaraguan brothers and sisters who work in state institutions are sometimes obliged to participate in party activities contrary to their own conscience, which they must accept to remain in their work posts…. We view as a sign of serious social decomposition the reappearance of violent groups, and still more serious that they are tolerated and approved by those who should be the first to reject and condemn them. From no point of view can we approve these brutal manifestations of violence, which are contrary to Nicaraguans’ desire for peace, sow chaos and terror and create a very negative image of our country abroad. We call on the conscience of Nicaraguans, above all its young people, not to let yourselves be dragged blindly by the manipulation of irresponsible leaders who incite to violence…. We exhort certain members of the government party to stop using these violent means, whose end is to intimidate and exert political pressure, as the only thing this achieves is to further increase the social tension, promote irrationality and put people’s dignity and life at risk.”

Fifteen days after these offenses attributed to Daniel Ortega’s tactics, the President had still made no reference to them. And the National Police, following presidential orders, had not detained a single individual.

These are only some of the expressions of the somber political scenario being sketched out today in Nicaragua.

A strident signal

The government was willing to exhibit such chilling violence just to send a warning to the entire opposition united around the Metrocentro 2 agreement and to organized civil society. The message was loud and clear: we’ll do whatever it takes to get Ortega reelected. Put more simply: reelection or violence.

Did the signal get beyond these two sectors? The threat probably didn’t have the same intimidating effect on the population outside of Managua, or those Nicaraguans channeling all of their energies into just surviving from day to day, who have long since had their fill of politicians and their interminable infighting, knowing that almost all of them live very well, have shares in the same businesses and “eat off the same plate.” And it probably didn’t have much impact on those who don’t know what to make of the pseudo-legal debates over 147, 201 and 03-2010 in a country short on technicians and overly long on lawyers.

Although most Nicaraguans who remember the half-century Somoza dictatorship reject multiple reelection on principle, what they want even more is peace, an end to violence in the streets. This of course doesn’t mean that there’s not a pro-Ortega sector that assumes “the streets belong to the people,” understanding that their hour has come and that taking over the streets is a legitimate way to defend themselves from rightwing parties and leaders that have never responded to their poverty and lack of opportunities. But not all of them are comfortable with the use of armed thugs as a means to that end.

Above the fold in the
international media

What remained clear once the gunpowder from the mortars had dissipated was that the signal sent with so much violence was a misplaced brushstroke that did real damage to the government’s reelection portrait. The FSLN’s demonstration of force embarrassed a good sector of the aware population. It also added another layer of disappointment for the ambassadors stationed in Managua, even though most were sparing in their comments. Nicaragua’s international image suffered an important new setback.

After a long drought of international news coverage of Nicaragua, our country returned to the major Western media in the worst possible way. The full-color photo published on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, April 21, accompanied by the headline “Nicaraguans battle in the streets over new presidential powers,” is the best example of the negative effect of the violent events the government whipped up to instill fear in the opposition.

Did the economic Cabinet perchance drop a hint?

Nobody’s more interested in legitimating Ortega’s reelection than Ortega himself. His reelection plan and the crisis it’s generating domestically hadn’t previously captured much attention beyond our borders. But the three days of unpunished vandalism by his followers in three points of Managua, particularly against an international hotel, altered that media silence and put the heart of the crisis—the illegality of the President’s reelection—in the international public eye. The mortar shots boomeranged.

Surely it was President Ortega’s economic Cabinet that suggested ending such unnecessary violence. It’s incomprehensible if the government wants the next elections to have any legitimacy. Moreover, such acts are affecting the country’s fragile economic stability, which depends not only on the admittedly abundant support Venezuelan President Chávez is providing his Nicaraguan business partners, but also on the IMF and other multilateral lending institutions. Regrettably an IMF mission was scheduled to arrive only two weeks after the street violence.

Business as usual…for now

Following the week of violence its protagonists spent days staunchly defending the trenches they had built beforehand. The government denied the validity of the session the 47 deputies held in the besieged hotel, and defended both the decree and the transitory article of the 1987 Constitution. The opposition representatives, who reiterated that they will stay united to annul the decree, were particularly elated about having finally achieved a bloc of 47 votes—sufficient for approval of normal laws—thanks to Ortega’s violent reaction. At the same time, Liberal backers of both Alemán and Eduardo Montealegre maintained their rivalry-plagued “hidden agendas,” failing still to achieve the unity that Estelí’s Bishop Abelardo Mata has been trying to mediate for months.

Alemán, determined not to lose the quotas of power the pact gave him in the Supreme Court, is insisting on his presidential candidacy and reaffirming that the only commitment his Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) will honor is not to give its votes to reelect any sitting electoral branch magistrate.

Montealegre disappointed his allies by confirming that he had met secretly with Ortega on April 10, almost certainly to get his people into some of the 25 posts. Organized civil society, meanwhile, began pushing for a “Metrocentro 3” to reaffirm the commitment to elect only honest officials, break with the logic of divvying up posts as perks for the party leaders’ followers and begin to design a single opposition coalition. And pro-Alemán legislators didn’t miss the opportunity to disqualify these civil society demands and ridicule Sandinista Renovation Movement warnings of a new pact...

Multiplying ALBA’s loaves

The government is working with particular zeal to win the educational network over to its reelection project. It is the densest and broadest network in the entire country, taking the state’s presence down to the most remote rural communities with a school, thereby carrying the teachers’ word into their households. Winning over teachers thus assures votes well beyond their own.

But volunteer teachers putting in extra hours and days, as has been happening, isn’t enough. To mark International Workers’ Day, the government decided to apply some more serious pre-electoral political clientelism. The Worker’s Day rally, attended by thousands of public employees—not necessarily voluntarily given that it was held on April 30, a working day—centered on precisely such clientelism. In his speech, the President announced that “we are multiplying the loaves” of ALBA by issuing a “Christian, socialist and solidarity bonus” equivalent to $25 a month between May and December to the roughly 120,000 lowest-paid state workers.

The bonus will unquestionably alleviate the precarious situation of the salaried workers in such important categories as health, education and security (police and military). But it is also a preventive measure to put a damper on the strikes being contemplated by various sectors and stave off displeasure about the President’s undisclosed use of the significant annual earnings obtained from the oil agreement with Venezuela. The bonus thus expresses both Ortega’s sense of political smell and his concern that the economic crisis could affect his reelection.

Ortega would appear not to be sharing the secret about the size or destination of the earnings from the oil agreement even with Hugo Chávez himself. The Venezuelan President visited Nicaragua again on April 14, this time only for 12 hours, to review the private businesses and investments of Albanisa, the joint Nicaraguan-Venezuelan company managing the income from the petroleum deal, and to sign cooperation agreements with the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Tourism and the state basic grains company ENABAS. During a four-hour tour through Managua barrios, Chávez responded to questions from independent journalists that the cooperation his government is providing Nicaragua is “State to State.” But that cooperation is not reflected in the national budget or subjected to parliamentary control. It is going into private companies related to the FSLN, the President and his family and other FSLN leaders. Chávez’s declarations revived the controversy about the cooperation, since if it really is State to State, it is generating a huge public debt that Nicaragua will have to pay for many years.

It’s not a raise

The bonus is much less than the salary increase demanded for years by these public employees. Moreover, come January, they will return to their former salaries, which are below the average even for Central America.

According to economist Adolfo Acevedo, the bonus “is being granted as if it were a generous gift from the President and ALBA, but an authentic ‘restitution of rights’ [one of the central slogans among those in the social Cabinet] for teachers and other state workers with such incredibly low salaries can only be achieved through adequate recovery of their basic salary, reflecting it in the general budget and including the employer’s contribution to social security. That would make it permanent and institutionalized, meaning that its maintenance would not depend on anybody’s discretionary will or take the form of a gift or a political perk whose continuation would depend on the benevolence of those in power.”

Nor does Acevedo see any “miracle” in the multiplied governmental “loaves.” He explains that the bonus will be financed by the increase in the average international oil price from $61 a barrel in 2009 to $80 so far this year. Given that Venezuela supplies oil to Nicaragua at the world price, the joint Venezuelan-Nicaraguan company called ALBANISA passes on this increase when it sells the Venezuelan oil and its derivatives in the domestic market. It is thus reflected in the prices we pay for our gas, diesel and cooking gas, as well as our mainly oil-generated electricity. He adds that the monthly total of the bonus (equal to some US$32 million) represents barely 12% of this year’s monthly earnings from the Venezuelan oil deal.

The bonus makes waves

While the beneficiaries and government officials praised the bonus and the opposition carped about its populism, contradictions or limitations, the IMF mission planned for May 5 to review the program with Nicaragua was suspended at the last minute. In a terse communiqué the mission announced it will only come after evaluating the impact the bonus will have on the national economy. The IMF is troubled by the logic of the bonus, as it will be issued by ALBA’s private companies to public employees.

In the program presented to the IMF by the government and ultimately agreed to, the government assumed the commitment to continue restricting the growth of its payroll bill because salary increases to teachers and other state employees would generate inflationary pressures, putting the country’s competitiveness at risk. In response to the postponement of the IMF visit, Central Bank President Antenor Rosales, a key figure in the government’s economic team and the FSLN’s business group, assured that the Central Bank would neutralize any inflationary pressure resulting from the bonus even though, when signing the agreement with the IMF, it had declared itself unable to do so should public employee salaries increase by an amount similar to the bonus.

In this respect, economist Acevedo mused that “official concerns about inflation seem to be selective: a salary increase to teachers would be dangerously inflationary and only in the case of the bonus is the Central Bank declaring itself willing to deploy its entire arsenal to neutralize that potential inflationary impact.” It could be that issuing the relief in the form of a bonus is precisely because the faucet turns back off after seven months, thus closing the valve on inflation in a way that a genuine salary increase would not do. How does the government plan to deal with the renewed, probably aggravated discontent once January rolls around and those employees’ pay packet is $25 smaller again?
.

Fine touches that
complete the picture

In June 2008, Ortega expanded his wife’s already varied and important attributions, decreeing her coordinator of the Social Cabinet. First Lady Rosario Murillo has expanded that coordination into increasingly centralized management in the social areas, which include health, education, social security, production and programs financed by ALBA (Zero Usury, Zero Hunger, Houses for the People...). She also is at the top of the pyramid of the Councils and Cabinets of Citizens’ Power, which implement her social orientations at the departmental, municipal and local levels.

While rough brushstrokes are being applied rather rashly on the national legal plane, the fine touches are being applied in institutional social arenas and at the territorial level. Continuous readjustments are being produced to guarantee Ortega’s reelection.

Ruth Herrera pushed
out of ENACAL

One such readjustment was the surprise resignation on April 8 of Ruth Selma Herrera, executive president of the National Water and Sewage Utility (ENACAL), which provides drinking water to half the nation’s population. Unlike previous “resignations” of ministers and others who left quietly or declared themselves “soldiers” obedient to party orders, Herrera didn’t go silently. Her firmness was coherent with her history prior to being appointed to this quasi-ministerial post.

For years Herrera had been an active defender of water as a human right and a tireless fighter to renationalize the public services from her post as head of the Consumer Defense Network, a civil society organization. It was in no small part due to her mobilizing efforts that water remained a national utility, having teetered on the edge of privatization.

In a press conference, Herrera explained why she had left her governmental post with her usual frankness and eloquence. She charged that she had been pressured to leave by union leader and FSLN National Assembly representative Gustavo Porras, who is exercising increasing control in all unions with Sandinista origins, and by government economic adviser Bayardo Arce, who represents the business interests of the governing party. “I have decided to leave at this time because I reject the interventionism of Dr. Gustavo Porras with the corrupt unions that have been sacking and robbing… feeling supported by the position Dr. Porras has had in the FNT [National Workers Front, an umbrella organization of Sandinista union federations headed by Porras in recent years].”

While several ENACAL unions accused Herrera of covering up administrative corruption, she declared herself satisfied with all she had done and said she was turning ENACAL over to a transition commission in orderly fashion accompanied by a report. The legal adviser for one of the unions countered that he would also present documents showing corruption under her administration to the transition commission, which is headed by Salvador Vanegas, an adviser to President Ortega. The Ministry of Labor will mediate between ENACAL and the unions. Will justice be done?

Porras has been entrusted with applying the fine touches in the Sandinista unions, and is complying with gusto. Long-time union leader Onofre Guevara coined the concept “porrismo” to define the current crisis of the union movement, subsumed by the FSLN to ensure Ortega’s reelection. According to Guevara, porrismo is characterized by the party’s manipulation of workers with the threat of being fired—which has enormous clout in a country with such high unemployment—and the neutralization of their social and labor demands to prioritize party activities and objectives. The unconcealable tension between the FNT and the Sandinista Workers’ Central, headed by Roberto González, are one consequence of porrismo.

With Herrera’s departure, the rumor circulated that she would be replaced by former Sandinista mayor of Managua Dionisio Marenco, isolated for years within the Ortega-controlled FSLN. Porras immediately and publicly vetoed the possibility. In an extensive interview by La Prensa, Marenco said he had never been offered the position, although he made clear he would not turn it down. “When I graduated as an engineer, my first job was in water. I worked for a year on the Water Plan for Managua,” he explained “I know a little about the issue and it’s a company that relies a lot on engineering…. Yes, it appeals to me to direct ENACAL; I like the idea. I know it’s a difficult problem, but it’s my specialty, my career. I know I could help people a lot…. But now that I think about it, it would be really tough. There are a lot of people who don’t want to pay. It’s a public service that people take for granted. I think Ruth did a great job; she’s a very dedicated woman. But a number of enormous unions are used to benefits that are probably beyond the company’s capacity.” These are the very unions Porras controls.

Miguel de Castilla pushed
out of the Education Ministry

The dismissal of Education Minister Miguel de Castilla a week after Herrera’s departure also caught people off guard. He was the only minister named by Daniel Ortega even before winning the 2006 elections, in recognition of his experience and his defense of free public education. Over the three years he headed the ministry, De Castilla never lost the chance to show his unconditional support for the President’s decisions, from the illegal change of the national coat of arms to the firing of homemade mortars against opponents in Managua’s traffic circles. But apparently loyalty isn’t enough. Both De Castilla and his deputy minister, Milena Núñez, left after a long, unexplained paralysis in the ministry. The adjustments there include other dismissals, substitutions and rotations in central ministry management and the decision to entrust the appointment of departmental and municipal delegates to the respective FSLN political secretaries.

The government’s justification was the inefficiency and even corruption in the acquisition of educational materials “leaked” to El Nuevo Diario by anonymous labor union and internal ministry sources. In response, the non-governmental Education and Human Development Forum (FEDH) courageously issued an unconditional statement of support for De Castilla: “We recognize Professor De Castilla’s honesty, integrity, commitment and professional ethics and under no circumstances would our organizations, which work for the right to education, remain silent in the face of the public abuse to which he is being subjected.”

The readjustment of the Education Ministry included throwing out the main project to which De Castilla had dedicated his three years as minister: the Ten-Year Education Plan 2011-2021. The national teaching profession was already involved in the first assessments to put the plan into effect when it received the information, unaccompanied by any explanation, that it was being replaced by something else... That “something else” turned out to be a new National Education Strategy.

What’s new about the strategy is its emphasis on adult education to provide continuity to the proclaimed “zero illiteracy” achieved in 2009 employing Cuba’s “Yes I can” method, which UNESCO is currently analyzing to distinguish the political propaganda from the genuine pedagogical successes. Critics say the Cuban method is mechanical, far removed from the teachings of Paulo Freire on which the 1980 Literacy Crusade was based. They argue that while it does familiarize people with letters and words, it doesn’t construct literate and thus critical thinking.

The teaching profession will now be burdened with the new strategy’s specific goals, which sound highly unrealistic: the entire population will have completed sixth grade by 2012 and have the second year of high school under their belt by 2015. By that latter year there will also be an annual total of 60,000 graduates from six-month technical courses. These targets exceed the scope of the Millennium Development Goals for the same year, which most experts have already assumed are beyond Nicaragua’s capacity.

The common denominator

Readjustments have also occurred at the central and territorial levels of the Ministry of Health and the Agricultural and Forestry Ministry. The health minister was abruptly replaced, although he bowed out like a good soldier and remained as a presidential adviser, while the agricultural minister has become little more than a figurehead.

All these readjustments have the common denominator of centralizing decisions and seeking to align the institutional decision-makers in the social Cabinet behind Ortega’s reelection project. These brushstrokes are painting out all the decentralizing efforts initiated years ago.

The President’s initial Cabinet, which sought to integrate the different “sensibilities” in the FSLN, turned out to be too eclectic and perhaps not very functional for today’s dynamic. That initial mix of independent professionals, business people, union figures, intellectuals, social activists and even former military officers, didn’t ensure the ideological consistency the government now needs to deal with what promises to be very controversial elections in 2011. Surely the time had finally come to airbrush these contradictions out, leaving only two groups in the painting: the business group represented in the economic Cabinet and the reconfigured social Cabinet containing people who have proven their unconditional loyalty.

Meanwhile, the country is sinking ever deeper into miseries and the population is increasingly taking refuge in the idea of that rousing “God save Nicaragua” with which so many opposition spokespeople now close their “analyses” and speeches. They are invoking the same God that Daniel Ortega assures us is on his side, making the Almighty yet another unconditionally loyal backer.

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