Sunday, March 13, 2005

Nicaragua: Alemán and Ortega, Worse than Somoza

That's the evaluation of Henry Lewites, the former FSLN mayor of Managua, and theoretically the most popular politician in the country, in an interview in today's La Prensa Grafica. But I also noticed an editorial in the Boston Globe, the first in a series. There we learn more about Lewites' situation:
Lewites wants the Sandinistas to hold a primary to determine their candidate, as they have done in the past. The Sandinistas, supposedly representing the mass of the people, ought to be eager for the kind of voter enthusiasm that this contest would generate. But Ortega had Lewites expelled from the party on Feb. 26, and on March 5 at a routine meeting of the Sandinista Congress, he had himself nominated for president. Ortega fears democracy when it might diminish his power as the chieftain of the Sandinistas.
Despite lots of very depressing news about the sad state of affairs in Nicaragua, I've generally avoided commenting on it. The Globe editorial provides a good summary of just how bad things have become:
The idealism that fueled much of the Sandinista revolution has been replaced by cynicism and careerism fostered by Ortega and his followers. This decline manifested itself just a few weeks after Ortega was defeated by Violetta Chamorro in 1990, when the Sandinista-dominated Assembly passed the ''piñata" laws that legalized property expropriation. The party leadership got to keep the houses they had commandeered when they took power. Ortega now lives in a two-block walled compound carved out of the center of Managua that also houses party headquarters.

Ortega has survived allegations of sexual abuse by his stepdaughter in 1998, defeats for the presidency in 1996 and 2001, and the notorious ''el pacto" he reached in 2001 with the corrupt Arnoldo Aleman, who succeeded Chamorro as president and dominates the majority Liberal party. This bargain divvied up power between the Liberals and the Sandinistas in advance of Aleman's exit from office. Ortega has endured despite continuing hostility from the US government, which he reciprocates.
It will be worth keeping an eye on these editorials in the coming days. It's hard to say which is worse these days, the Ortega-dominated FSLN or Alemán and his cronies in the Liberal party. A renewed left or right would be a positive change, but the outlook isn't good.

1 comment:

Boli-Nica said...

Old Herty was being disingenuos, he should have included the entire FSLN in the comment.

Whatever Tacho didn't F-Up the Sandinistas finished.

At least Tacho ran the rest of the economy (the part he didn't own outright or wasn't stealing from) fairly well, Nicaragua in the mid 70's was actually growing faster than Costa Rica.
The Sandinistas started out with what Somoza had - in terms of the public sector - completely screwed that up.

Then they screwed up what was left of the private sector, from top to bottom.

That happens when you put Bulgarians and Cubans as economic advisors. Doesn't help much that you pick the losing side in the Cold War, at its last peak.

"Nicaragua in the mid-70's:
-50,000 dead in the revolution, 120,000 exiled, 600,000 homeless.
-Richest 9% owned 38% of the land. Poorest 60% owned about 4%.
-Richest 5% earned 30% of national income. Poorest 50% earned about 15%.
-Don't forget the 1972 earthquake! I can't imagine either Aleman or Ortega responding in a similar manner.
-Literacy rate of about 50%.
-Lowest life expectancy in Central America, 52. (Maybe still the same I grant you.)"