Material World: Ortega – The new Somoza?

There are those on the Left who view the protests in Nicaragua as instigated by US imperialism intent upon creating a compliant client state. Kevin Zeese, for instance, describes the disorder as an attempted coup

‘This unrest is a full-scale regime change operation carried out by media oligarchs, a network of NGOs funded by the U.S. government, armed elements of elite landholding families and the Catholic Church, and has opened the window for drug cartels and organized crime to gain a foothold in Nicaragua.’

A great number of the poor do support the Sandinista National Liberation Front, as it introduced free healthcare and education. Ortega reigns as a paternalistic ‘caudillo’ strongman with a grassroots loyalty to him as a party leader.

There are others, however, who see recent events very differently. According to Dora María Téllez, founder of the Sandinista Renovation Movement:

   ‘The family of Ortega and Murillo have taken over the Sandinista National Liberation Front like a parasite, using their control to benefit their family. It is basically the same as what the Somozas did. He’s a representative of big capital. He and his family are now among the richest in Nicaragua. This is a profoundly corrupt system that completely betrays the principles of the Sandinista movement.’

Alejandro Bendana, Nicaraguan ambassador to the UN from 1979 to 1990, says about Ortega:

    ‘He embraced corporate capital in Nicaragua. He adopted the most retrograded positions of the church and entered into an alliance, and reached an understanding with the US, so that he was able to barely win the presidency in 2007. But by that time, he himself is no longer a Sandinista. Yes, the trappings, the colors are still there, but his entire government has been, in essence, neoliberal. Then it becomes authoritarian, repressive.’

Prof William Robinson, who worked with the Nicaragua News Agency and the Nicaragua Foreign Ministry in the 1980s, says:

  ‘… In Nicaragua, the Ortega government has presided over this new round of capitalist expansion, including a wave of transnational and local corporate investment in free-trade zones, agroindustry, mining, logging and tourism, spurred on by the government’s tax breaks, land concessions and other policies that have been praised by neoliberal institutions such as the International Monetary Fund…the international left cannot seem to let go of the illusion that governments such as the FSLN in Nicaragua or the African National Congress in South Africa still represent a revolutionary process that advances the interests of the popular and working-class masses — this, even as the new ruling castes turn to escalating repression to dispossess those masses, plunder the state and impose the interests of transnational capital…’

Ortega’s own brother, Humberto, admitted that people shouldn’t pay too much attention to the Sandinista government’s anti-capitalist rhetoric, because ‘one thing is discourse for the political clients, and another thing is what the reality shows you are doing.’

The cause of the current unrest arose from an attempt to increase workers’ contributions to their pensions while reducing the pension payments themselves. Ortega later cancelled his plans but the demonstrations had turned into a wider opposition against his government. Over 300 demonstrators have been murdered, thousands injured. 23,000 Nicaraguans have applied for political asylum in neigbouring Costa Rica since the unrest began.

Robinson concluded:

  ‘…The real tragedy of the April protests is not that they threaten a fictitious revolutionary process, but that the population is caught between the corrupt and repressive Ortega government and the traditional oligarchy, backed by the international right wing which has never been comfortable with the Sandinista monopoly of political power and wishes to hijack the revolt to recover that power for itself…’

This was a view reflected by the anarchists of Crimethinc:

‘Doubtless, various capitalists and state actors have their own agendas for Nicaragua and they hope to take advantage of the uprising to implement them. But ordinary people have legitimate reasons to rise up. We should identify the participants in the uprising who are pursuing goals complementary to our vision of a world without capitalism and the state, in order to direct our solidarity towards them. Otherwise, as the Ortega government attempts to retain power by brute force, the revolt will likely be hijacked by right-wing and colonial interests.’

There exists a conflict between rival factions of Nicaragua’s ruling class, a clique who possesses political power and an oligarchic elite who seek control of the state. Being few in number and too cowardly to fight themselves, both appeal to working people to act for them. Workers should understand that they are pawns in a power struggle and rather than become a tool for another class, they must democratically and independently organise with the object of placing their own interests at the forefront.