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  Number 471 | Octubre 2020
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“It’s time to be clear: Without unity we won’t defeat Ortega”

Rector of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua-Leon from 1994 to 2006 and of the American University in Managua from 2007 until resigning in December 2018, Ernesto Medina has represented academia in the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy since the April uprising of that same year. Here he offers his reflections on the difficulties the organized blue and white opposition is facing.

Ernesto Medina Sandino

I ’m thankful for the opportunity to share with envoi things I’ve had stuck in my heart and my mind for some time and for which I’ve not always found receptive ears. My reflections are those of a citizen concerned with what is currently happening in Nicaragua. I love the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy and have done everything I possibly can so it can play a positive role in this country’s history. But today I’m very worried about the Alliance’s internal situation and more so about the opposition’s unity, essential to face this dictatorship that is oppressing us.

It’s high time we speak out

After speaking as a representative of the Civic Alliance at the Independence Day event put on by the National Coalition, I was surprised by the strong show of solidarity with what I said. I simply talked about what was happening among those of us who claim to lead the opposition. I did it because I see that many of us don’t dare speak out and also because I believe we’ve reached a point when we can no lon¬ger remain silent, when we have to speak clearly and fran¬kly.

I believe the big mistake some of us in the National Coalition, especially some of the Alliance members, are ma¬king is to believe we have an almost divine mandate to decide and do anything in the name of opposition to the regime. So far, the National Coalition hasn’t responded to the expectations of the people, a good number of whom think we’re not on the right road. In this sense, the most serious mistake is not to accept the responsibility each of us has for bringing us to this situation and not having made the needed effort to avoid it, knowing the risks, knowing that what’s at stake is everyone’s hope and freedom.

Some complained because I talked about the Alliance’s internal issues, and said nobody other than its members needs to know about them. I believe that in these times, in which Nicaragua’s future is at stake, nothing should be internal. The people who have placed their trust in us should know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The bishops of the Episcopal Conference placed their trust in me in 2018 to go to the National Dialogue and help find a way out of the serious national crisis, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I had and still have no other commitment beyond this one, other than to my own conscience. And I consciously assume responsibility for everything I say and do.

A qualitative
leap in repression

We’re in an especially dramatic moment for Nicaragua. On September 22, we heard about the foreign agents regulatory bill, with which the regime intends to turn every Nicaraguan who receives resources from abroad into a “foreign agent” who needs to be investigated, could have his/her possessions confiscated and cannot seek any public office.

This bill is a continuation of what Ortega announced on September 15, Independence Day: to impose life sentences on those who commit “hate crimes,” understanding, according to the regime itself, such crimes to be those committed by those opposing the dictatorship, simply for exercising their constitutional right to express their opinion against a government they don’t agree with.

These two bills, which surely will be approved, represent a qualitative leap in repression. If we don’t take them seriously, we are either dumb or irresponsible. They leave no doubt about the direction this regime is taking us in. Nobody should be fooled.

Many say it’s Ortega “grasping for straws” because he’s weak. True, Ortega is internationally isolated. It’s also true that despite his brutal repression and having turned the country into a police State, he hasn’t been able to silence the voices of protest and the feelings of indignation and rejection from most of the population. Those laws are Ortega’s punishment for a rebellion he has been unable to stifle.

That doesn’t mean, however, that his regime is on the way out or is weak. To the contrary, it is taking advantage of the organized opposition’s own weakness.

Ortega will only feel secure
with a total dictatorship

Ortega knows full well what’s happening among us and he knows that so far we have shown a total inability to present a credible, coherent and solid proposal to the blue and white population, which is waiting to find a way out of this nightmare we’re living through.

The opposition’s internal problems are allowing Ortega to do what he’s doing and move forward with his project. That project is nothing more than to come out of the 2021 elections legitimized to stay in power and finally consolidate an absolute dictatorship without any questioning, with a defeated opposition. That is what characterizes totalitarian regimes of one sort or the other: Hitler in Germany, Kim in Korea, Castro in Cuba, Stalin in the USSR, Somoza here in Nicaragua. Ortega still doesn’t feel secure or consolidated because he knows there are still many who oppose him. That’s why he has decided to enter another phase of greater repression with laws enabling him to eliminate any possibility of claims, protest, rebellion, or even freedom of expression.

Those of us who know the history of totalitarian regimes know well that laws like these mean his project isn’t over. The real end is the total annihilation of any form of rebellion or opposition and, with this, of absolutely all liberties.

We can only stop
him if we’re united

The only way to stop this is with a strong, coherent, responsible and united opposition. That’s why the National Coalition was formed. It’s a project for unity that we as Nicaraguans are building, where we have dedicated a lot of effort, and which has raised great hopes. It’s a project I still believe in. Today, the National Coalition is going through a difficult moment. The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, an important force that promoted the creation of the National Coalition together with the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB), is now questioning this project. Even worse, it is discussing whether to leave it.

In mid-September, the Electoral Reforms Promoter Group presented its finalized proposal to the nation. This document had the consensus of all National Coalition members, although the Alliance debated whether to sign it right up to the last minute, even after having worked on it with the Promoter Group more than a year then joining the Coalition team working on it after the Coalition was formed this February. This hesitancy was the first clear sign that a group within the Alliance didn’t feel part of the National Coalition. This group even reached the point of trying to present its own electoral reforms document to the public.

The political consequences of the Alliance not signing would have been very negative for this unity process. In the end, after intense internal discussions, the Alliance’s plenary approved signing the consensual proposal. These discussions, however, delayed the presentation of the proposal, which should have happened during a key moment of the unifying process in the struggle against the dictatorship. Instead, it went unnoticed and virtually unperceived by the public.

The National Coalition’s birth pains

A very brief account of the genesis of the National Coalition should help explain where we stand today. As everyone knows, its creation was an initiative of the Alliance and the UNAB announced publicly in February of this year. Both organizations by that time had decided to continue working on a strategic alliance in which each would maintain its organizational identity, founding principles and values.

Conflict one:
How inclusive to be

When we decided to form a national united movement that would invite other opposition forces in the country, our first debate was about who we should include. There were two positions. Said diplomatically, some felt it should be a selective process, even though the selection criteria were never discussed. Others thought that, given the enormity of the challenges and the task we had before us, it should be as inclusive as possible. In the end, this second point of view, promoted mainly by the Alliance, prevailed. The Alliance promptly took the first steps in that direction, meeting with some political parties, despite criticism, in some cases vicious, from some allies and population sectors. In reality, they were exploratory meetings to feel out the parties’ interests and willingness to participate in a united movement like the one we were planning.

Those first steps by the Alliance created friction with UNAB. We had to resort to mediators, who helped us sit down and discuss the problem in search of solutions. This happened way back in mid-2019, when we were feeling urgency because we thought it was possible to have early elections in 2020. An agreement to invite organizations without exclusion, as open as possible, came out of these bilateral meetings.

What date to unveil the unity process? We also agreed to propose February 25, 2020 as the date to make our effort public. We chose it for its symbolism: the date in 1900 when the people decided to end the FSLN’s first government by their votes. On February 25 the Coalition did in fact presented itself with four political parties that had joined: The Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), the Evangelical Democratic Restoration Party (PRD), the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN),and Yapti Tasba Masraka Nani Asla Takanka (Yatama) from the Caribbean region, as well as the two organizations that had promoted this effort: the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White National Unity.

Conflict two:
Decision-making method

I believe one of our first mistakes we that UNAB and the Alliance promoted the Coalition and took steps to convene others without first discussing in depth our ideas about structure, organization and decision-making methods, and above all without discussing the strategic objectives of this new movement. It’s true that to eliminate mistrust and facilitate the inclusion of new organizations, we said those issues would be discussed once the process got underway, but logically, the two promoting organizations should have discussed this and reached common ground on these important issues. These later turned into the source of the main obstacles hindering us from moving forward.

Once the united movement got going, and there still was nothing in writing, the political parties took advantage of the gap and controlled the Coalition’s first phase of development. This got worse when the voting method was approved for deciding on issues where consensus couldn’t be reached. The two promoting organizations ended up in the minority, four against two. The representatives of the Alliance in the Coalition’s decision-making body let their discomfort be known, but real efforts to find a solution were never made.

This situation reached a critical point when the signing of the Coalition’s statutes was announced, because as things were going, they carried the mark of the political parties. The Alliance announced that it would not sign the statutes and would take a temporary leave to discuss the situation. The crisis was averted, in a way, when the Alliance proposed provisional articles to be included in the draft statutes aimed at compensating for some of the most controversial points the Alliance disagreed with. Those provisional articles were included, and the crisis passed. All members of the National Coalition signed the statutes. Unfortunately, that crisis was not taken advantage of to discuss the other problems that were generating discomfort inside the Coalition.

Conflict three: Youth representation

We were still dealing with that when another problem arose: that of the youth’s representation in the National Coalition and its governing bodies. I think everyone handled this poorly and we all have our share of responsibility for letting it turn into another huge obstacle to moving forward in consolidating the unity process.

When the youth organizations that belong to the Civic Alliance demanded specific and independent representation in the Coalition, the four parties promptly claimed the same for their respective youth organizations. Under the logic of decision-making-by-vote, the parties’ demand boiled down to a double-vote problem for both founding organizations in— the Coalition.

Although the differences between the nature of the youth organizations that came out of the April 2018 clashes and those under party discipline were pointed out, I don’t think it was discussed enough to really demonstrate the differences. Above all, not enough work was put in to turn those differences into a proposal that would do justice to the moral authority and value of these new youth organizations as a changing force, to achieve a numerical rationality that wouldn’t distort the already precarious balance of forces within the National Coalition. As of now, the absence of a proposal that gathers the diversity of the youth groups both within and outside of the Coalition’s member organizations has also made it had to reach a fair and satisfactory solution to this problem for all.

That is how in a short period of time three big conflicts came together: the structure and governance of the Coalition; decision-making mechanisms and youth representation.

The PLC letter causes
a temporary shake-up

The PLC’s letter to the Organization of American States (OAS) proposing to postpone renouncing its posts in all electoral structures as the “second force” until after the next elections was a torpedo straight to the Coalition’s vulnerable spot. [It was sent unliterally to OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro in August after the reform to depoliticize all those structures had been added to the reform proposal and was strongly supported within the Coalition. As the PLC was already on thin ice, the self-interested move did nothing to increase trust in its participation.]

As expected, it provoked unanimous rejection within and outside of the Coalition, reaching the point of demanding the PLC’s immediate separation or exclusion from the united movement. The PLC authorities, however, acknowledged their very serious mistake and decided to support the proposed reforms to the electoral law, in which both the PLC’s “privilege” is eliminated and the participation of broad alliances, including nonpartisan organizations, is granted the right to have their own symbols and voting slot, something the PLC also originally opposed.

Under the assumption that very complex processes such as the one we are experiencing demand at least a minimum of tolerance and trust, the PLC’s rectifying gesture should have been enough to surmount the crisis its letter sparked. However, the PLC ’s credibility within the National Coalition is already undermined by its recent history and by the internal [leadership] crisis it has been unable to resolve for several months, which leaves it in the hands of the Supreme Electoral Council.

Will the Alliance withdraw?

Based on this brief history, I think it’s pretty clear that both the political parties and the Campesino Movement have shown signs of flexibility and openness to seeking solutions to the problems that have popped up within the National Coalition. It’s also clear, however, that this openness has to a large extent been the product of the Civic Alliance’s pressures and the attitude it has taken. Obviously, that is not the best method to solve conflicts in such a diverse and complex organization as the National Coalition, much less in the context of escalating repression by the regime and with time running against the opposition forces.

In spite of all these demonstrations of flexibility and important advances, such as the joint approval of the electoral reform proposal, the Alliance maintains that it’s at a disadvantage impossible to overcome under the current conditions. It argues that its delegates are not treated with the respect they deserve and the effect this is having is to wear down the prestige and image the Alliance has earned for its role in the struggle against the dictatorship since 2018.

There are sectors within the Alliance that believe this can no longer be corrected and the only option is to leave the National Coalition. This issue has been discussed within the Alliance these last weeks but no decision has been made yet. The decision not to participate in the Coalition’s leadership body or in the formation of work committees, and the distancing from public events organized by the Coalition have in fact amounted to a withdrawal, even when the decision has not been made to do so in the Alliance’s plenary. This contravenes what the Alliance’s statutes mandate and some members consider it disrespectful of the National Coalition members and also of those of us Alliance members who are demanding explanations and an in-depth discussion of the real reasons for proposing the withdrawal.

Is the Alliance’s rupture
with the Coalition inevitable?

I believe discussions in the Alliance’s plenary of whether or not to leave the Coalition have caused damage that will be hard to repair. The only way to avoid this damage becoming irreversible is to let go of those prejudices once and for all and establish a new framework for relationships based on respect and transparency, moderating personal egos and moving personal and group interests to the back burner.

I also believe it will be difficult but not impossible to mend our presence in the Coalition. In fact, I think meaningful arguments to justify such an important decision have so far not been presented. It’s been said that the problem is the preponderance or control the political parties are exercising. It’s also been said that the internal dispute affecting the PLC is affecting the Coalition’s image and credibility. It’s the PLC’s problem and they need to solve it. Once solved, the Coalition should analyze the resulting situation based on its statutes. To use this conflict as a reason to withdraw from the Coalition seems like an excuse to me.

The discussion has reached a dead-end without meaningful arguments, without any willingness to engage in open, honest and respectful debate, and above all without clearly and honestly placing on the table the alternative the Alliance has for its withdrawal from the Coalition. This is not worthy of the seriousness and prestige the Civic Alliance has previously shown in its actions. To begin to solve this, both sides of the Alliance should show a willingness to enter into an honest dialogue based on concrete proposals.

What alternative do they propose?

What is the alternative of those who want the Alliance to abandon the National Coalition? Those of us who believe it’s a mistake to leave the Coalition have said several times: “Fine, if we don’t want to be in the Coalition, what is the alternative? If we don’t like the parties in the Coalition, which ones are left out? And why aren’t they in it? Are those still outside the alternative?” These questions are still waiting for a clear answer.

It has been rumored insistently that the sectors that favor the Alliance pulling out of the National Coalition already have an agreement with the Citizens for Liberty (CxL) party. I’ve said several times that this issue has never formally been taken up within the Civic Alliance and thus continues to be nothing more than a rumor. CxL hasn’t wanted to join the National Coalition and has given its reasons, which I respect. It’s no secret that sectors of the Alliance are sympathetic to this party. Nor is it a secret that members of the Alliance have recently participated in activities organized by CxL. I believe they have the right to do that, as long as they don’t implicate the Civic Alliance because it has not been discussed and no decision has been made.

The lack of a clear and explicit proposal for the path the Alliance will take if it leaves the National Coalition is the main obstacle to being able to make a responsible decision about such an important issue to Nicaragua. The problems and weaknesses attributed to the National Coalition are real and need to be resolved, but pulling out isn’t the way to help seek the solutions needed to move forward.

In these times of escalating repression by the regime, any member leaving the National Coalition, especially one with the Civic Alliance’s weight, would be a hard blow to the national unity project. It would be one more reason for the disillusion and despair most of the population already feels seeing us divided. They know perfectly well that the only way to end the dictatorship is with solid monolithic unity. No less important, leaving the Coalition, which could only be interpreted as a split opposition, would sow distrust and doubt within the international community about Nica¬ra¬guans’ capacity to build an authentic alternative to replace the dictatorship.

The Alliance youth were treated poorly

During these last few weeks, I’ve been asked several times about the youth’s position in this crisis. They have publicly expressed their unhappiness about and rejection of the way their request to participate in the National Coalition was dealt with. I think they are right to feel that way. Unfortunately, their proposal wasn’t treated with the seriousness and depth it deserved. The importance of youth’s representation not only gives the united movement a new, fresh face but also, and perhaps more importantly, embodies the spirit of the April insurrection.

This error needs to be amended. Otherwise, the unity that’s being constructed will have a vacuum that will delegitimize and could seriously compromise its future. I have insisted that this problem can only be solved by presenting proposals that can be debated to bring positions closer, which would have to mean a willingness to dialogue. Nothing will be solved by resorting to positions of force.

The National Coalition members have the great responsibility of finding a solution to this problem, and so do the youth organizations themselves. Within their diversity, they have to find a way to surmount the perception of dispersion they are demonstrating now and use their moral authority to seek a solution for the greater interest, which is the future of Nicaragua. The Civic Alliance’s youth organizations have a big responsibility in their hands. I hope they will take it seriously, conscious of the consequences of their decisions.

Then there’s the business sector

There are also many questions regarding the role of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) in this crisis and its relationship with those who want to leave the Civic Alliance. I have expressed my opinion many times about the role COSEP played before April and afterward. And I have always said that after April they have played a congruent and coherent role in the search for a way out of the national crisis. In acknowledging that the private sector in general and COSEP in particular is a key actor in finding a peaceful way out of the crisis, it’s important to have an in-depth discussion to learn COSEP’s vision of the country’s current crisis is and possible ways out of it. After COSEP’s September 8 election of a new president, representatives of the business sector in the Civic Alliance clarified that their representation wasn’t institutional, but personal. This clarification, though important and necessary, left open the question of what COSEP’s institutional position is with respect to the Civic Alliance, the National Coalition and the national unity movement itself

Denying that the private sector is an important force in the country would be stupid. There is a lot of prejudice toward big business these days, which could negatively influence the unity we must achieve. I think the more or less rightful attacks on COSEP could make those in it who are critical of the opposition’s state today choose another option. I think losing strategic perspective on the private sector’s weight in this country would be a serious mistake. Erica Chenoweth, the Harvard professor who spoke recently on Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s program about the importance of civil insurrection to overthrowing dicta¬tor¬ships, said that in situations of extreme repression that cause demobilization and wear down the opposition forces, the private sector becomes a decisive factor in the search for ways out of the crisis. Naturally, the particular solution the private sector choses will largely depend on its strategic relationships with the rest of the opposition forces and on the basic agreements that would serve as a platform for the national opposition unity.

The big question is what COSEP’s new leadership that emerged from its recent elections is going to say to Nicaragua. To get clear about that response, we should already be talking to COSEP’s new board of directors. I have no doubt that they want change, but we don’t know what color or size or depth of change. These are the discussions that a political organization such as the National Coalition should be promoting. We also have to talk with big businesses per se, presenting them with our position. So far, nobody from the National Coalition has done this.

Big business and
the “soft landing”

I think many things conspire in our favor and against Ortega, who is facing the real possibility of leaving the country with a destroyed and disjointed economy, no longer due to the cruel and bloody repression, but to his stubbornness and incompetence.

The social political crisis and the pandemic have left Ortega with little economic maneuvering room. The contradiction between his socialist and solidarity discourse and his economic policies, which exactly follow the neoliberal manual he criticizes so much, can’t give any more. That’s why it’s not by chance that he has destroyed the country’s institutionality and turned the Police and Army into the real underpinnings of his power. By now, it shouldn’t surprise us that he couldn’t care less about the economic crisis. It will always be a good excuse to blame others for his new failure.

Even if Ortega doesn’t care about the economic disaster, big business does. And I believe they have to be considering their alternatives. One is the famous “soft landing.” They could be thinking about that alternative again. It is currently up in the air. In April 2018 we saw big business realizing that the strength of the popular movement in the streets wouldn’t allow them to seek the soft landing they wanted t from the start. They tried again in February 2019, during the second dialogue they had orchestrated. But that was also unsuccessful. The Alliance’s business sector, which participated in that dialogue, knew people wouldn’t accept a soft landing for Ortega if it didn’t solve the issues of de¬mo¬cratization and justice. Besides, at the time, Ortega didn’t want to negotiate seriously in any event.

The country Ortega is configuring is one where nobody will be able to exercise their right to think differently or re¬ceive financial aid from anybody or express any opinion con¬trary to official thinking. I don’t believe any sane person would want to live in that kind of country. The private sector must be aware of its weight in the search for a true and prompt way out of this profound crisis. They know very well that gambling on a way out with Ortega still in power and without real changes would be gambling on what could work for them in the short run, as already happened. But, just around the corner, it would cause another crisis and this time of unpredictable proportions. This reinforces the idea that there is no other alternative than an honest and sincere dialogue between all the forces that want a different Nicaragua. It is time to dialogue and every one of us has to be prepared for it

The danger of ideological
credentials becoming the issue

The greatest strength of the April movement was the massive mobilization of people demanding justice, peace, freedom and the departure from power of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The strength of that movement came from everybody uniting under the blue and white flag. Nobody asked anyone what party they belonged to; nobody was interested in the party or ideology of the people they were marching alongside. Marching together is what was important; feeling protected and sheltered by being together. One of the greatest risks we are running in the way the National Coalition’s problem is being approached is placing an ideological burden on the problem and beginning to review and worry about ideological credentials, especially of those who are the main object of our prejudices.

When the argument to disqualify the National Coalition is that it’s controlled by the “Left,” I get concerned. Others attribute the Alliance’s intent to separate from the Coalition to pressure from the “Right.” That tendency to ideologically label things based only on our own prejudices threatens to polarize the movement. If we want to preserve any of the “spirit of April,” we need to see each other as brothers and sisters, travel companions in this struggle, without caring about who’s from the Left or the Right. Faced with the huge challenge we have before us, these things should be secondary. We’ll have time to discuss this later, in case we still think it has any relevance to Nicaragua’s future.

Defining the crisis as an ideological conflict will make the debate about what kind of country we want even harder. If we’re going to have a bloc from the Right defending positions from the Right for a country as impoverished as Nicaragua, confronting another bloc of emerging forces that still dream of a different Nicaragua with true social justice, we are going to cause a huge clash that will make any possibility of national unity very difficult. If we reduce our crisis to an ideological conflict, no forecast is very hopeful. We will be helping Ortega with his discourse that only he can keep this country in line, eliminate the conflicts and return to the golden period of 4% or 5% annual economic growth, but without the rule of law and with the prisons full.

Does the opposition not
get that divided we fall?

Nicaragua’s situation is very serious and the draft laws announced this September make it even more serious. If the Alliance leaves the National Coalition it won’t be the end of the world, but it is wrong to think it can do so without anything happening. The Alliance had problems with the Coalition because the parties were imposing their majority, yet we’re supposed to accept a decision that affects Nicaragua’s future because a majority wants to? I’m not going to accept that because I find it unethical to have them tell me we’re leaving and I have to be disciplined and agree or they will apply the ethical code against me. Accepting that would be denying my right to continue existing. But staying and working with the Coalition means acknowledging that there’s a lot to do to turn it into a united movement.

To perpetuate a dictatorship, they need to put an end to all opposition. And although Ortega is so far facing a weak opposition because of its quarrels, he still doesn’t feel comfortable because that opposition is still causing a stir. The international community thus still talks about Nicaragua and people are still angry. Ortega knows that if we manage to solve our problems and the people’s dissatisfaction joins under a more capable leadership, he could be in trouble, so he obviously wants to get rid of us entirely. If we don’t get what this regime is about, with these very clear signals it’s sending us, it’s because we’re irresponsible.

I believe in the power of dialogue

How do we get out of this bind? Many of us have big dreams for Nicaragua’s future that surely don’t fully coincide with those of others, especially those who represent important economic interests. All these dreams are legitimate and each person inevitably thinks his or her dream is the best, most realistic and most viable. However, we must understand that if we want change in Nicaragua, we have to find common ground in which there is room for all those dreams and interests to coexist and find support. I say this convinced that there must be an enormous diversity of dreams in Nicaragua, and that with the attitudes currently characterizing the opposition, it will be hard to find that common ground to reach agreement and struggle together to begin rea¬lize all our dreams for our country.

I believe in the power of dialogue and negotiation. I believe there needs to be dialogue with all the forces that one way or another have remained in the resistance against the dictator, including, in my opinion, big business. To think that Nicaragua’s big business is ‘t important to the outcome of this crisis is a serious mistake, whether we like it or not, whatever our prejudices may be. They will want a Nicaragua that will work moderately well and in peace. Are there people so stubborn among them who could be dreaming of returning to an understanding with Ortega similar to the one they had before April 2018? I believe there is a large majority of honest people in COSEP’s new board, in its chambers and in the private sector in general who would be ashamed if it turned out that any were opting for a return to pre-2018 with Ortega. I’m sure they would feel it as a betrayal of the sacrifice and hopes of so many people.

If there are people considering this path, it shouldn’t be made easy for them. I believe the National Coalition should make the effort to talk to those sectors, if they exist, to reach agreements on the country we want to build together. Nicaraguans want to live in peace; they are demanding justice so the crimes committed against the people are not repeated, ever. They want decent jobs for everyone and good education for their children. They want security and hope for a better future for the youth. It shouldn’t be all that hard to reach an agreement on these points.

We need a strategy,
not just declarations

I believe if the National Coalition reaches firm and serious agreement on a clear strategy for confronting the dicta¬tor¬ship, there are political ways to handle this. But it needs orga¬nization, planning, people who are watching the pulse each minute, each second because things here change in an instant. What we can’t continue to do is to respond to the government’s abuses only by putting out communiques. If we live off of communiques and declarations, and don’t take the time to work on a clear strategic line, we won’t move forward, the population’s frustrations will continue to increase, and they’ll keep calling us incompetent.

Those who are demanding that we come to our senses and not leave the National Coalition have a lot of weight and authority. They aren’t people who entered the struggle for a better Nicaragua yesterday. We should listen to them. I feel the Coalition still has elements for reinventing themselves, recognizing the mistakes made and becoming a better alternative. I continue to believe the Coalition, even with all its problems, is the alternative.

We need to leave our
inflated egos behind

The big egos that have come together have been a major obstacle to progress towards unity. From the beginning each one of them started to position him/herself as the “chosen one” and wanted all the rest to follow. We Nicaraguans who are in politics believe we have the absolute truth. It’s time to leave this burden behind. To do so, we need to acknowledge that the problem exists and we’re part of it. And then, we have to be willing to build a new kind of leadership and a new way of doing politics for the welfare of others and not for satisfying egos.

Failing to overcome our egos and prejudices, being snuggly tied up in discussions that may not be foolish but definitely don’t take us anywhere, while people are suffering the consequences of the pandemic, the economic crisis and the arbitrary acts of the dictatorship is hugely irresponsible.

We’re reproducing our
confusion in the interior

Another serious problem we haven’t discussed in depth but should is the organizing of this united movement in the departments and municipalities. There are people all around the country who define themselves as from the Civic Alliance or UNAB, or claim to belong to the National Coalition. The parties are also organizing their grassroots bases… People want to do things and know how to do them, but what we see in the territories is a replica of what we’re doing at the central level, increasing confusion and sometimes hopelessness among people. We should agree on the formation of a united movement in the interior. Does it make sense that the Alliance and all the other organizations in the National Coalition continue organizing their own territorial groups on the margins of the unity efforts? In practice, the result of reproducing in the territories the same problem we have at the central level is more division and separation.

The ideal would be for a representative group of the opposition forces to go to the territories and present themselves as an expression of the united movement. We have to stop being the sum of small bits with different letterheads, in part because it makes it too easy for Ortega to pick people off, make them disappear or imprison them. There needs to be one united movement.

People in the municipalities want to work united and don’t understand the conflicts we’re having here at the top; it only delays the consolidation of unity. I believe we’re just afraid to try new ways, to accept that each one can organize anyway they want and only consult us if necessary. We should let new forms of organization emerge, closer to the people and their problems. That’s where the democracy we say we want to construct should arise.

Are the elections the
solution we’re looking for?

I know this is an issue that unsettles us and I fear that approaching it superficially could cause more confusion and misunderstandings that wouldn’t allow us to talk calmly later about an event so crucial for Nicaragua’s future. But we must speak the truth: I don’t believe the international community is going to solve the problem of the dictatorship for us. If we get to the 2021 elections divided, the international community will recognize the results the way Ortega is preparing them, no matter how bad they end up being,

Even if we don’t participate, there will always be parties that serve as puppets for Ortega in the election pantomime. Under these conditions, if Ortega wins the elections, as is to be expected, especially if we are split, there will be more or less strong statements, maybe a few sanctions, but nothing more. The international community can’t afford to have a pariah in the middle of the American continent, which could become a center of narcoterrorism and destabilization. If we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, we can’t expect the international community not to recognize Ortega.

I believe the elections will be a very important moment. And I say we participate, even under the most difficult conditions. If we manage to keep the organization in the territories alive, keep people’s anger alive, and convince people to go vote, a massive fraud will be hard to cover up. And if people know that once again their votes were stolen, they will be angry and willing to fight. Several countries with civil struggles have gone through moments like this. Belorussia is in one now. Serbia went through something like this. Therefore, I believe it’s a mistake to start saying we’re not going to participate, that if Ortega denies us the con¬ditions, we won’t go. Who thinks Ortega is going to give us ideal conditions? However, knowing that most of the people are angry and want a change, elections will be the moment to show it. What we have to do is demonstrate that Ortega commi¬tted a blatant fraud again.

The regime is working so that we mot participate. Police presence all over; repression of any attempt to organize, no matter how minimally; the recent bills… everything points to discouraging and causing fear in the population. There are possibilities, but we won’t be able to take advantage of them if we campaign so people don’t turn out to vote. Ortega wins the elections as soon as one group calls a boycott, calls for abstention. And with the elections won, the international community will recognize them. Reluctantly, with criticism, but they will recognize them.

Ortega’s plan isn’t to suspend the elections. He needs them. His plan is that after them, nobody think there will be any more, because it’s a waste of time and money to test power every five years. That’s the future scenario awaiting us. But if Ortega continues increasing the repression and creating an impossible scenario, yet we maintain that we want an electoral way out in spite of that, the international community will pay more attention to Nicaragua and will have to say something. If we say: “They’re going to steal them and there are no conditions so we aren’t going to participate,” the international community will say to us: That’s up to you!!”

Electoral campaigning in the worse conditions will have to be in silent resistance. That is what they did in Serbia and they succeeded in ousting Slobodan Milosevic from power thanks to the massive protests against the shameless electoral fraud. The struggle won’t end with a massive and blatant fraud; it will start a new stage if we begin preparing now.

What’s going to happen?

Everything indicates that most of the Civic Alliance’s plenary members will vote in favor of withdrawing from the National Coalition. Arguments from neither side have changed. The representatives of the Alliance’s territorial structures, most of whom have requested that the Alliance not withdraw, have been ignored and will very likely not be taken into account in the final decision.

With this scenario, if the decision is made without offering an alternative on the table, without explaining what new alliances will be formed and their content, and without responding to the concerns those of us who aren’t in agreement presented in due time, there will probably be a split in the Alliance. It is very probable that if the territorial structures aren’t taken into account, some of them will also split from the Alliance. These groups will surely start a process to unite with the National Coalition for the purpose of discussing and seeking a way out of their current problems as soon as possible. The Coalition will have to show flexibility and wi¬llingness to find a solution to these problems, convinced that without unity we won’t be able to defeat Ortega.


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