By Carlos Alberto Montaner
At the beginning of the Nicaraguan slaughter, Daniel Ortega spoke with a senior official of the U.S. government. It seemed that he was willing to advance the elections, hand over power and get out. He only asked that he and his family not be persecuted. Then he changed his mind, or maybe he never seriously thought about it and his only goal was to buy time. The third possibility is that the gringo, despite his excellent command of Spanish, would have misunderstood Ortega. I don’t think so.
At this point, it does not matter. The only sure thing about Daniel Ortega is that he assassinates his opponents without any consideration and then he denies it. He did it on Fox network during a magnificent interview he gave to Bret Baier, described by journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro in La Prensa newspaper as a total exercise of cynicism. Ortega had no contact with the paramilitaries. Relations with the Catholic Church were good. No one had died inside the temples. The rebellion was already under control. Pure lies.
Ortega does not usually give interviews, but the only way to reach Donald Trump was through Fox. If the medium is the message, as Canadian Marshall McLuhan said, the chosen one left no room for doubt. The implicit message was, "I am not worse than Putin or Kim Jong-un. I am the guarantee that Nicaraguans will not become an immigration problem for the United States. I was democratically elected and I will finish my term. In spite of everything, we can get along." Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice President, replied immediately. For Washington, Ortega was still a murderer.
Nothing Ortega said was true. The Nicaraguans are going into exile again. They escape from the government’s cruelty and the hunger that is already looming. The economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro, president of FUNIDES, the country’s great think-tank, explained it to me in dismay. Tourism has already disappeared. The entrepreneurs are desperate. There are no foreign or domestic investments. Capital is fleeing. The reserves go down, and they will end up disappearing. A devaluation-inflation awaits the córdoba like that of the eighties. The Nicaraguan bankers, perhaps the most competent in Central America, know that they will inexorably be swept away by a crisis that could be avoided.
How could it be avoided? Giving a political answer to a political problem. A little more than 100 days ago, before the crisis, Nicaragua grew at 4.5% per year. There was confidence in the future of the country and it is known that the economy depends on perceptions, and these, to a large extent, on the stability and predictability of society.
If a small country like Switzerland, with just eight and a half million inhabitants and half the size of Nicaragua, is perhaps the most prosperous and best organized nation on the planet, it is the consequence of its rational stability. Exactly the opposite of what happens in Nicaragua today.
The problem is that the advice that Daniel Ortega is receiving comes from Cuba and Venezuela. In the recent Forum of Sao Paulo held in Havana, both rulers, Miguel Díaz-Canel (the Cuban president designated by Raúl Castro) and Nicolás Maduro, gave Ortega the formula to stay in power: to resist, to kill without contemplations, for which he can count on the help of both, because international circumstances change over time. The Organization of American States (OAS), which today condemns him, will open its doors to him within a decade.
It may be true, but there is something that doesn’t change, and even gets worse, and that’s the country’s image as a destination for investment and trade. Those murderous dictatorships, based on repression, can last as long as their respective tyrants are willing to defend them, but what they will never achieve is to bring prosperity and happiness to their people. This can only be achieved with democratic institutions, alternation of power, circulation of government elites, transparency, social mobility, the rule of law and the rest of the attributes of civilized and mature nations.
What will Daniel Ortega do? Will he choose to continue killing, which is synonymous with continuing to impoverish the Nicaraguans? Until when? Until he dies, until he is deposed by a military coup or until another revolution triumphs? Is staying in power at any price all he cares about to show Cuba and Venezuela that he's still a tough guy like the ones Fidel Castro applauded?
Poor Nicaragua. It will continue to sink into misery until it dawns again.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.