We Don’t Want Fear to Rob Us of Hope
This pro-Montealegre political leader
analyzes the national political situation
and some aspects of next year’s elections,
including the significance of Fabio Gadea’s announced candidacy.
Eliseo Núñez Morales
We in the We’re Going with Eduardo Movement (VCE) recently decided that Eduardo Montealegre should resign his candidacy in the 2011 presidential elections, convinced that this would be the best way to achieve the change we want for Nicaragua. We want Nicaragua to take a different path from the one it’s currently on. We want the institutions to work and be solid so they can achieve development. We’re convinced that, if we want to promote this, we shouldn’t continue insisting on a candidacy that is reducing Montealegre’s legitimate pretensions to a personal fight between himself and Arnoldo Alemán.
What we were actually doing with the recent attempts at Liberal unity and an inter-party primary election to choose a single opposition presidential candidate was placing Arnoldo, despite all his erosion, at the same political level as Eduardo. Everything was polarized between these two. And choosing between Eduardo and Arnoldo was no longer choosing between a discourse advocating a break with the present system and a discourse advocating maintaining this system, which is effectively what Arnoldo’s doing. Our perception was that we were choosing between two people, not two proposals. We were convinced that if we didn’t break this polarization we couldn’t continue forward with our project, which isn’t limited to making one person or another President of the Republic. That’s why we sought a consensus candidate and how Fabio Gadea Mantilla’s name came up.
A brief history of the VCEHow have we got to where we are today? The VCE is a Liberal political movement. It was started in 2005 as the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN). That year we made an agreement with what called itself the Liberal Salvation Movement (MSL); a split from the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC). We joined the MSL and called ourselves the ALN. We participated in the 2006 presidential elections with this name and under this flag. And, along with the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), we made advances that I think changed the political face of this country. Between us we made it so that people weren’t polarized into having to choose the lesser of two evils in those elections. They could choose from four options: Daniel Ortega, Edmundo Jarquín, José Rizo and Eduardo Montealegre. That was a real improvement over earlier campaigns, which were based on a polarization that assumed Nicaragua to be a black and white country, which it no longer is.
In those elections, which Ortega won, the ALN got 700,000 votes and the MRS 268,000, which is over 33% of the registered voters. Seeing a change of this proportion, Daniel Ortega’s authoritarian government tried to reduce and even remove these two political and ideological expressions in 2008. To do so, the Supreme Electoral Council stripped the ALN of its elected board, giving the seats to others, and then stripped the MRS of its legal status.
Those of us who founded the ALN did it as if we were conceiving a baby: we gave it statutes, principles… and that infant has ended being transformed into what we see today. The VCE resurged in 2008 as a rejection of the new ALN and, like the MRS, still acts in Nicaraguan politics although without legal standing.
Although nullified as political parties both decided to participate in the November 2008 municipal elections. After a great deal of discussion, the VCE decided to ally with the PLC and the MRS decided to ask its supporters to vote for candidates in each municipality who could defeat the FSLN candidates. Supported by those votes, candidates from our movement carried a large number of municipalities.
PLC and FSLN complicity The outcome of those elections was an electoral fraud, which we denounced and which the international com¬munity—among them the GTZ from Germany, the Carter Center and the European Union—proved and documented in various reports. All clearly show the procedures the government party used to carry out this fraud. All reports agree that in 37 of the 39 municipalities where fraud occurred, the winning mayoral candidates were those the VCE had been allowed to select. In only one municipality of those stolen, Wiwilí, was the candidate a PLC Liberal. And in the case of the municipality of Jinotega—also subject to fraud—the candidate was from the PLC but had been a dissident and had organized the ALN in the 2006 campaign.
in the electoral fraud
Discovering the PLC’s clear complicity with the FSLN in the 2008 electoral fraud was a lesson that many in our movement found hard to assimilate. It was hard to grasp that the FSLN and the PLC are two sides of the same power system in Nicaragua, that power is controlled between them and the task of those of us outside this system is to break that power structure. It’s hard to understand that the debate we see today in the Supreme Court, the Supreme Electoral Council, the Comptroller General’s Office or other governmental bodies have only one purpose: how to share public posts between the two parties. There’s no debate about how to choose people capable of cleaning up the Court, the Comptroller’s Office or electoral branch. The debate is only about how much you get and how much is for me. Over the years the split in this share-out has increasingly favored Ortega’s group, with less and less going to Alemán’s. The arguments between the two parties are only about how to divvy up a cake that both parties consider belongs to them. No one from these two groups discusses how to place the cake in a democratic game so the people can decide what to do with it.
The pact’s balance of power Despite all the criticism that can be made of the FSLN, it has to be recognized that it operates based on a strategic vision of power while its allies, the PLC Liberals, take over the posts they were given based only on a short-term vision of taking charge. And that’s one of the reasons why the Liberals have ended in the hands of the Ortega group in the pact between Arnoldo and Daniel. One side is playing for power and the other side for positions, with the advantage going to those who play for power. This has totally shifted the correlation of the pact.
Arnoldo’s Liberals couldn’t even operate efficiently within the pact. One very clear example shows this: if Arnoldo Alemán had really made a “quality” politically-grounded pact from the power point of view (obviously setting aside ethical considerations), he shouldn’t have spent even two hours in jail given the eight justices he had in the Supreme Court in 2002. Did Daniel get locked up when they accused him of sexual abuse? Arnoldo and Daniel each had eight justices in the Court, but the PLC ones were so politically inefficient they couldn’t even save Alemán from being tried. Not even in that case did they know how to play the game. How are they going to act now to change the system?
The business class’ visionThis power pact also has an economic aspect and from this perspective we should ask what’s happening today with the Nicaraguan business class. There have always been people who prefer to play with those who can get things done and we know that those in power can do a lot. That’s why we see many people in private enterprise today with no ideological links to the FSLN or the PLC who have decided to play along with them because they have power and can share out posts from which things can get done… What things? French academic [and European New Right founder] Alain de Benoist, has characterized the moneyed Right as people who don’t have principled convictions, but rather interested principles. It is a Right that plays in an absolute ideological relativism. They don’t care who’s in charge; they make accommodations with anyone to ensure their financial interests. They don’t care if institutions collapse or if they’re called short sighted; the only thing they care about are their businesses, making money.
This is the current vision of a large part of Nicaragua’s business class. For some time they have sought power only to make wealth: either personal wealth—in totally corrupt regimes—or national wealth created from the exercise of power. Now they’re looking for wealth in order to be in power, to stay in power. The priority is making money. It’s a diametrical shift, and one that explains the strange political alliances we’re seeing today in Nicaragua, with a government that says it’s on the left but makes a lot of money and has its main allies among the country’s big business sector, not among small and medium businesses.
From this perspective, the comment I heard Eduardo Montealegre make when Ortega’s government presented its first General Budget to the National Assembly in 2007 isn’t unusual. We know that the budget (how they plan to use public resources, what will be invested in) is any country’s main development tool. When Eduardo read it through (and, as a former finance minister, he knew how to), he told me: “This is any rightwinger’s golden dream.” The way the budget was structured, the way social spending was cut, the way the fiscal deficit was handled, all the decisions taken not for economic development but according to fiscal and monetarist criteria… were those of a rightwing government. Daniel Ortega’s government is one where “they do as they please, and let the chips fall where they may.”
We have to break with this systemSo where is Nicaragua headed? Anyone who asks which model we’re following will be given many contradictory answers. Some claim we’re an agricultural country, others that we’re a cattle-raising country, others that we are a country with free trade zones… We haven’t created a shared vision of where we should be heading, where the government should be going to obtain development and see that this development reaches the people so we get the human development we need. This volition isn’t apparent in the present government.
What do we do about all this? How do we respond? We believe we have to break with the system, that there’s no solution within it. In the 2008 municipal elections we allied with the PLC to build something different from municipal power. Many people opposed us at the start—myself included—but the majority opinion prevailed, a decision made through fear, through desperation to stop the Ortega machine.
In those elections we backed the PLC, which is part of the system… and it didn’t work. What worked was fraud, resulting in the collapse of the Nicaraguan electoral system. It’s now clear that the PLC magistrates in the electoral branch weren’t our allies but rather were allied to the FSLN to create fraud in the municipalities where the VCE had put in our Liberal candidates. I recall that November morning, when we left the PLC headquarters and we from the VCE and those from the PLC went together to the Supreme Electoral Council to protest the fraud. On the way, I got a call from someone very trustworthy who told me: “Don’t stick your neck out; those who turned on you are from the PLC.” It was obvious that there had been an agreement between the FSLN and the PLC to leave our movement without municipal political capability, to get the Liberal sector committed to radically changing the system of which they are a part out of the game.
The power system we see today, built by the FSLN and the PLC, isn’t good for Nicaragua. But we also know that many people are banking on stability. We see that attitude in many businesses that have accommodated themselves to this government because it guarantees them stability and profits both for them and for big foreign investors. In a meeting he had with our parliamentary bench, I once heard the president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) say something with a candor that left me dumbfounded. He wanted to give us an example of how well they were working with this government: “When an investor of interest arrives,” he told us, “President Ortega takes charge himself. We take the investor to his office and the President personally orders the ministers to open doors and resolve any problems.” I wondered why they get this special presidential-level treatment, why the governmental institutions don’t give this treatment to any investor at any level. Obviously, it was an unspoken, rhetorical question that I knew the COSEP president wouldn’t want to answer if I asked it…
Attracting both the rural and urban voteMy Liberal background tells me that the struggle to change the institutionality makes sense, that a strong, well structured rule of law generates development, progress and social justice. But we also know the importance of discussing and deciding on issues of public interest and concern, because institutionality is important, but irrelevant for most Nicaraguans whose priority if they’ve managed to scrape together breakfast is what they are going to find for lunch. This majority doesn’t care if the Supreme Court is illegal because it is composed of associate judges. It cares about work, food, health…
We in the MVE and the MRS know that our speeches on how institutionality guarantees development appeal to the urban population, the most informed; we know we both have a solid and significant urban vote. But we also know that we’re absolutely weak in the rural vote, and we’re not afraid to say so. If we are to confront the FSLN we need to win the rural vote, which the PLC captures when it’s opposing the FSLN. The choice of Fabio Gadea Mantilla as a consensus candidate seeks to capture that rural vote and also the emotional vote.
Another thing we both know is that the vote we have in the urban areas is at the same time both captive and non-captive. This means that it’s not captive in the sense of being a vote for us as a party, but loyal to a rational, logical discourse, a discourse for change. The vote we obtained in 2006 and still have today reacts positively to a rational proposal, to a discourse and coherent proposals for change. Some people say we lost the 2006 elections because we appealed to people’s reason but not their feelings, that we don’t touch that emotional identity that fuels political parties in Nicaragua and only the combination of rational and emotional arguments wins an election. Today, we can win the urban vote with a good program, a coherent well-structured proposal, while Fabio will help us attract the rural vote, which is an emotional one, and he can guarantee it because of his history and trajectory.
There’s a socio-cultural phenomenon that we must accept to know what to do. We have to understand that caudillo leaders like Arnoldo and like Daniel exist in Nicaragua because they fill people’s deep-rooted socio-cultural need for them. Many people still have a mindset rooted in colonial structures that we haven’t shaken off yet that see power as based on land ownership. Minds molded in the relationship between plantation hands and landowners and their overseers, that mixture of feudalism and nascent capitalism, even with traces of slavery such as the colonial encomienda system, still permeate society keeping us bound to the “strong man” ideal. We can only escape this by reeducating society.
We have to educate and train people, and that’s what we are going to bank on. What we’re proposing, our government program, is based on two pillars: institutionality and education. We’re totally convinced that institutionality has to be strengthened, that we need a dependable Supreme Court, a credible electoral branch, a capable Comptroller’s office, a National Assembly that brings representatives and their constituencies closer together, an executive branch that respects the institutions, and a country with an educated citizenry.
We derive all the other focal points from building a dependable institutionality and gambling on education. We consider these two pillars to be basic; all else grows out of them. We are a country with an average fourth-grade educational level! Some years ago Tanzania rose from a third-grade to a fifth-grade average and with these two extra school years almost doubled per-capita income and significantly improved its citizens’ living standards. We often talk about the “Africanizing” of Latin America. Africa is unquestionably a continent that is growing less than Latin America, but it is also growing with less inequality.
The inequality has to changeLatin America is the region of the world that has grown the most in recent times, but at the same time it’s the region with the greatest increase in inequality. I believe no particular ideological flag is needed to understand that this has to change, that it’s shameful. An economist explained to me that two-thirds of the economy in first world countries is based on national consumption, on the domestic market. And when the inequality levels increase in these countries, consumption is deactivated and the economy slows down. Therefore, inequality becomes an economic problem and the governments try to level it out.
What happens in Nicaragua and in our countries in general is different. As the economy isn’t based on domestic consumption but rather on what we sell abroad, inequality doesn’t affect the economy as much. In our case, the reasons we should be concerned about poor people and their poverty aren’t economic but rather ethical, moral. Inequality doesn’t seem to be a serious economic problem for Latin American governments because of the export models prevalent in our countries. However, we should be ashamed of the inequality in Nicaragua.
We believe that the economic model has to change totally in order to achieve equality. To start with, the economy in Nicaragua today is managed by two institutions whose objectives aren’t development. It’s managed by the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance, two institutions’ whose objectives are monetary policy and fiscal policy. If the economy is managed by these two bodies it means that the priority is to maintain the macroeconomic parameters to control fiscal deficit and accumulate reserves. Where’s the development planning? What development do we want? This is a discussion we should be having with the public and those who believe in the country and I don’t mean in the way President Bolaños did it with his development plan, designed with an induced decision-making method: Bolaños’ advisers arrived with their surveys and gathered together a lot of people so they would end up saying what they had already brought written in the book.
We’re convinced that education should be the pillar for attaining development. Nicaragua has few resources. It’s absurd for us to continue saying we’re a country with vast resources, but impoverished. We’re a country with agricultural resources and certain other minimal and limited resources. We have land to plant in and lumber but we have no coal or iron or oil or minerals—all of which are resources that have elevated other countries, albeit at the expense of their environments. We’re not taking care of our ecosystems. Haiti, a country with continuous authoritarian governments and a total disregard for its environment, shows us what could happen to Nicaragua if we go on as we are.
Our main resource is our people We should understand that our principle resource is our people and that we haven’t valued them. In Nicaragua we have to put our hopes in our people. Why doesn’t the government give scholarships to the best students in each subject so they can study in the best universities abroad and offset our technological gap? Why don’t the best high school graduates enter into quality government-funded training? Why not sponsor excellence? Of course, we have to sponsor mass education but we should also select and highly train the best students so that they can bring us the technology we don’t have. In Nicaragua we‘ve never sponsored education. This is what we want to offer: convert the economic system not by decree but by going to the base, to the people, banking on education.
and we haven’t valued them
Why is Ortega so like Somoza?We’re putting our bets on building dependable institution¬ality and on education, convinced that in this way we’re fighting for equity. This is our program, knowing that it’s a long-term path. The desperation of seeing Ortega advancing in authoritarianism could make us unite in any way and with anyone just to get rid of him. But we can’t let fear rob us of hope. How is getting rid of Ortega the solution in Nicaragua if we don’t resolve the causes that created a system like his? We have to ask ourselves why Ortega is so like Somoza. I don’t think he’s so mentally deranged that he intentionally resembles him. He resembles him because the social conditioning in Nicaragua has led him to make the same mistakes.
Today’s Nicaragua is very like the Nicaragua of 1947, when Somoza had just committed electoral fraud; the oligarchy protested about it and the Somoza government instigated a coup against Leonardo Argüello; and Somoza resolved the problem by decreeing concessions to the oligarchy—franchises, tax exemptions and the like. That was when the electoral exercise started to become a vacation exercise. One man recently told me that “if things go on like this, if we continue having an electoral system so lacking in credibility, the same thing will happen as in the 1960s: every time there were elections it was a long weekend and we went to the sea and didn’t even vote.”
People at that time lost the ability to hope, to believe that things could change. To vote was synonymous with wasting time. Those who could, went to the beach or to a farm with their family, and those who couldn’t, stayed home. Only the poorest had to queue up to vote because they had to show they had voted if they wanted the handouts given by that system. Such a system is anchored in poverty; there is no real interest in taking people out of poverty. The current regime isn’t interested either because political favoritism is based on people in need. If the people are taken out of poverty, it is detrimental to the politicians’ interests. We saw this with Somoza.
With the economic upturn due to the cotton boom, a strong middle class began to form in Nicaragua through the trickle-down effect and other factors. In the end, this class wasn’t satisfied with improved financial income but aspired to greater freedom and more opportunities. A lot of people went up the social pyramid during the Somoza era and that changed their needs. And as those needs changed, this middle class headed up an armed struggle that overthrew the government that had sponsored the economic bonanza Nicaragua was experiencing at that time. Somoza is the best example that an authoritarian regime can’t create a bonanza because if it does it will eventually be brought down by those who aspire to have more and more. Human beings forever move towards greater freedom… as soon as their basic needs are met, they look further, aspire to more.
All of us in politics are Ortega’s current regime is acting like Somoza’s. And if we don’t shake people out of the apathy they’re in, many years will pass before this changes. All of us in politics are responsible for people’s apathy, some more than others. The country’s leadership has been depleted, has failed, among other reasons because we haven’t involved new people in politics. I was 17 years old when I began in politics, in 1990. And everyone in the party was at least 20 years older than me. An entire generation was lost: they went to war, emigrated, became disillusioned…
responsible for the people’s apathy
A generation was built during that time gap that we still have today. At that time we were basing political activity on politicians who were getting old, which is why today’s inter-generational conflict is so extreme. I’m now 38 and Eduardo Montealegre, considered relatively young, is 55. And there’s another gap between Eduardo’s generation and most of today’s politicians. Daniel Ortega is now almost 65, the same as Arnoldo: the two were born in the same year, 1945. The generation between 25 and 35 years of age, the one we should have replaced, isn’t yet moving or still isn’t convinced. This is one of our big failures.
I feel that the urgent need for a change is widely felt in Nicaragua. That’s why our movement is allied with Sandinistas from the MRS and also with conservatives. Although we come from different ideological families we all feel the need for a change. And when I say conservatives I’m not talking about the Conservative Party because today both the PC and the ALN are in Ortega’s hands. He now has his Liberal party and his Conservative party to play with in favor of his interests.
Allied in ideological divergenceToday we’re allied in ideological divergence, each with our own ideas and viewpoints about the best solutions for Nicaragua, but allied because we’re all convinced that Nicaragua is no longer divided between Right and Left, but that the current contradiction is between authoritarian Left and democratic Left and between authoritarian Right and democratic Right. Put more simply, the real division is between authoritarianism and democracy. Those of us who believe in democracy have to join together because those who believe in authoritarianism—the FSLN and the PLC—have already done so. Although I would like to clarify that, for me, Ortega isn’t left, but fascist. When the mob attacked us in the streets, I couldn’t help remembering that this was the tactic used by Hitler and Mussolini and copied by Somoza: imposing ideas by paramilitary forces hitting people in the streets.
We’ve had an ongoing alliance with the MRS since 2008, a little before the municipal elections. We both understand that, despite the differences in our ideological focus, we have to resolve something together: power can’t continue to be exercised the way Ortega is exercising it. We understand the crosscutting nature of the need for change, and have been working from this base ever since. Certainly, if we were to win the government together, we would have debates about the economy: about whether prices should continue to be controlled through subsidies or through products entering the market, for example. Discussions of this type seem very healthy to me, because what comes out of them enriches everyone’s thinking.
The current debate is obviously about economic management, but I don’t think this country is ready yet for a debate between a welfare state and an entrepreneurial state; there are far more urgent needs. We Liberals advocate freedom of opportunity. But, what equal opportunities can there be, for example, for people who live in Nicaragua’s eleven poorest municipalities, families who have suffered poverty for generations, where the malnutrition levels give people less opportunities from birth than in the rest of the country? Until we can level this out, what equality of opportunities are we talking about? Surely the difference in approach to a situation like this would be that the leveling we propose will be palliative until people are inserted into the economy as small entrepreneurs under a private enterprise model born of economic development, while the MRS would possibly level out with a proposal looking more like the government-based welfare state in the Scandinavian countries. But while we have to get to it, that discussion is still far off.
It is urgent to get people out of poverty rapidly. Nicaragua can’t go on with the poverty levels it has today. And this means many social policies, but with a component ensuring a lot of freedom, which produces the perfect combination. The World Bank did a study a few years ago with the leaders of different countries. They met together to analyze the miracle-economies, those that have substantially improved people’s living standards, such as Ireland, Taiwan, South Korea… And they concluded that all these countries managed to lift themselves up through a combination of many social policies and a large dose of freedom and openness. Over time, as the processes of change advanced, the social policies were cut back as people leveled out. Thailand is a good example of this combination.
The VCE and the MRS Neither the VCE nor the MRS has a place on the ballot or legal status, but we both have structural strength to offer. We’re a political reality in the country despite the fact that the MRS’ legal status was revoked and we were left without a party. This is why we’ve continued to be negotiated with. Arnoldo asked us to be with him because we represent a voting bloc. But we’re convinced that this bloc isn’t ours; it belongs to the discourse for change, the rational discourse. If we were to depart from this discourse we’d lose those votes. For its part, the FSLN has always approached the MRS, because of what it represents.
are a political reality
The people in the MRS deserve my respect for their steadfastness. These people opposed a dictator. Their identity is based on opposing an authoritarian system and today, when another authoritarian system would spoon-feed them, they remain faithful to their own thinking. Let’s be clear: if the MRS went over to the FSLN they could all participate in power that same day. But no, they continue opposing the authoritarian system because what was wrong with Somoza continues to be wrong with Daniel Ortega. They still have the vision of being revolutionaries, not to be in power but to change the direction of power.
Even winning is no We know this struggle will be long and hard. We know that even if we lift people’s hopes and convince them to go out and vote and can get the votes counted correctly, and even if we win, a government made up of those currently outside the system is still no guarantee of change, because the strength of the established power system goes beyond government. Just one example: the Albanisa companies, owned by Ortega, now generate 54% of the country’s energy. In opposition, such a powerful man could boycott a government just by switching off the generators… and we would stay in the dark! In the 1980s Ortega based his first power plan on land and property ownership, now he’s basing it on the ownership of energy and communications. We have to recognize that the man has skills and long-term vision. With the economic power Ortega has accumulated, any government that is not his or the PLC’s will have to contend with this new reality.
guarantee of change
Ortega is taking control of the armyAnother, extremely dangerous, reality will also have to be taken into account and dealt with: Ortega is taking control of the army. It’s increasingly less true that the Nicaraguan army is nonpartisan. When talking recently about how they’re dealing with the emergency from the heavy rains, even General Pérez Cassar defended Ortega’s government.
Why are the military increasingly closer to Ortega? I see two reasons. The first is that Ortega is guaranteeing important positions to retired military personnel. Officers know that under previous governments they went home with their pensions on retirement but now they can continue holding important posts. There’s Antenor Rosales heading up the Central Bank, Roberto López in charge of Social Security, Ramón Calderón Vindell as general manager of the ALBA energy generating companies… They have the opportunity to continue in active economic life with Ortega. The second reason I see is that until recently the army high command was composed of civilians who became military in the fight against the Somoza dictatorship. Joaquín Cuadra, Javier Carrión, and Omar Halleslevens all earned their military positions and importance from having fought against Somoza. General Avilés, the current army chief, is the last of that group. From now on, commanding officers will owe their promotion, their position, their posts after retirement to one of the two Ortega brothers: Daniel or Humberto.
If Ortega’s government continues we run the risk that an army that has so far been nonpartisan could become the right hand of a new dictatorship, which was what happened with Somoza. The first rebellions against Somoza came from the National Guard. Francisco Aguirre Sacasa’s father was an officer in the Guard; he rebelled against Somoza and ended in exile. The same with Abelardo Cuadra. The National Guard formed by Somoza as a Constabulary rebelled against him early on, but as time passed more of its offers became unconditional Somoza supporters and thus became a praetorian army.
And we know what happened next: Somoza didn’t walk out of Nicaragua through the front door of the presidential palace. He left because of a war. And it cost 50,000 lives to get him to leave. Then there was another war that took another 50,000 lives and—we can’t deny it—had its origins in the same polarization inherited from Somoza’s authori¬tarian regime… an authoritarian response to an authoritarian regime. That was the cause of the 1980s civil war, which was even more bloody than the previous one.
One hundred thousand people dead and a million and a half in exile, 50% of this country’s population affected by the decision of just one man, Somoza, who was determined to create a dynasty and stay in power forever. We’re still paying for that decision, which is why we can’t stand idly by now. That’s why we are committed to creating a mass movement to oppose this. Perhaps we’re wrong but, as Gandhi said, our children may look us in the eye and tell us we were wrong but not that we did nothing. This is what lies behind the alliance we want to build to change the power structure in Nicaragua.
Our votes are loyal to a rational We feel that dissent has grown a lot among people. We know we can’t expect change from the FSLN and the PLC because it would go against their interests. We can’t ask for a change from people who don’t want to change, unless the PLC structures miraculously pressure their leadership so much that they have to give in. But giving in would mean the PLC joining the efforts for national unity as just one more element, no longer imposing its own rules.
discourse, not a party option
We see that Ortega has lost a lot of votes in the cities but has gained votes in the countryside. He has support in the countryside. Authoritarian governments like this invest in the countryside because with the level of poverty there it’s enough to open a road, dig a well or give away some animals to win people over. Winning people over by investing in the countryside always costs less than in the cities; more political followers are created at a lower financial cost. Country people have less so they can be given less. The PLC had a good base in the countryside, but it’s losing it to Ortega without winning anything in the cities, for a net loss.
All this is fueling a rational and independent vote that we don’t own. We are slaves of our discourse for change. Every time we depart from it, from the proposals of strengthening institutionality and improving people’s standards of living, we lose support because our voter is loyal to a rational discourse, not a party option. That’s why they migrate to where they see the most logical, coherent option. These are the people we are banking on.
In trying to build an alternative for change, we know what we are. Not having our own box on the ballot paper, we will have to choose the one that offers least risk. We’re discussing with our allies the program we should present to the public. We want a candidate like Fabio Gadea who, we are sure, will be committed to change.
We have a duty to prevent We want the alliance to be about a programmatic proposal, not just an electoral aliance. All alliances and coalitions formed for elections in Nicaragua fall apart immediately after voting day. This alliance must last beyond the elections in order to ensure that someone like Fabio isn’t prey to blackmail. That’s what has happened during the previous three governments in this country (those of Violeta Chamorro, Arnoldo Alemán and Enrique Bolaños): they surrendered to blackmail. Every time Ortega took out a mortar or a gun and told them he would remove them from government if they didn’t do as he wanted, they gave in.
a return to the cycle of violence
We’re going to work hard with the people and with Fabio Gadea so that poor people can get a glimpse of hope with dignity. I believe there’s still hope of coming out of this situation by civic and democratic means. But I also believe that the day they turn off the last light that fuels this hope we will enter an era of darkness in which dissatisfaction will accumulate and eventually thrust us back into the cycle of violence in which Nicaragua has always lived. We have a duty to prevent that day coming. The day the first bullet is fired in Nicaragua will be the day the politicians’ failure will be writ in blood. Will that be within two years, five years or more? As things stand, if we don’t find a solution soon we’ll be leaving the seeds of the next conflict well sown in Nicaragua.
Eliseo Núñez Morales is the president of the We’re Going with Eduardo Movement and representative to the Central American Parliament (originally elected on the ALN ticket in 2006).