By Carlos Alberto Montaner
I repeat the question: how do we get rid of Daniel Ortega?
Perhaps it is simpler than it seems – putting against him the different liberal and conservative groups in the country, previously unified. The same way as in 1990, when Mrs. Violeta Chamorro was used as a banner.
Confronting Daniel with the nation’s truly democratic and peaceful factors, which are, roughly, at least 56% of the electorate. The Liberals lost against Ortega because they went divided to the elections.
If you scratch the skin of most Nicaraguans, a liberal or a conservative appears. The two creatures have merged into a supporter of “liberal democracy.”
At this point being a liberal or a conservative doesn’t make sense. If one believes in the separation of powers, in the government’s power limited by the laws, in private property, in the peaceful occupation of public powers through authorities elected in transparent and plural elections, and in the inalienable Human Rights, one believes in “liberal democracy.”
That happens in the Constitutionalist Liberal Party of Haroldo Montealegre, in the Ciudadanos por la Libertad (Citizens for Freedom) to which Kitty Monterrey, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios and Arturo Cruz are affiliated, or in the Conservative Party, represented today by Alfredo César.
Daniel Ortega is more clever than his detractors claim. He is not a cultivated man, nor a theorist of the revolution, but he has the natural intelligence and experience of the fierce Nicaraguan that he has learned the hard way. He was in prison. He was hit. He killed adversaries and his companions were killed. He was released from jail thanks to a daring maneuver by Edén Pastora, the Comandante Cero. Eden was with him, against him and in the end they were reconciled. His personal story, which has just ended due to Covid-19, summarizes the adventure of Sandinismo.
Daniel fell into Marxism because it was the religion of his time, not out of conviction. It was Fidel’s religion.
In the summer of 1979, he was an ignorant young man who could think that democracy and freedoms were doomed to disappear as the United States’ relative importance in the world diminished. It was what Fidel supposed was happening and what he confided to the Venezuelan historian Guillermo Morón.
We were in the twilight age of Jimmy Carter. Bank interest reached 20%. Ayatollahs in Iran had ordered the kidnapping of dozens of Americans and plans to rescue them had failed. Cuba had won in Angola and in the war against the Somalis in the Ogaden desert (1977-78), led by Cuban general Arnaldo Ochoa, later assassinated by the Castros along with other officers.
In July 1979 the government of Anastasio (Tachito) Somoza collapsed and the National Guard disintegrated. Daniel Ortega’s attitude in favor of Castroism was logical. It seemed that the West was breaking apart.
In 1990 the panorama was different. In that long decade, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko had all died. There were so many deaths that Ronald Reagan had said that “the Soviets did not organize governments but funerals.”
The ruler was the “youngster” Mikhail Gorbachev, elected, among other reasons, because he was a 54-year-old kid when he came to power. He was a reformer who was going to save Soviet communism with the drastic remedy of “perestroika” and “glasnost.” The most knowledgeable people warned him that the system could only be saved with a strong repression. But Gorbachev wanted to rescue Russia from the weight of the USSR’s commitments and Boris Yeltsin was already appearing on stage.
Today Daniel is as ignorant an adult as before, but he knows intuitively that he has to respect Human Rights and abide by a democratic narrative in order to prevail. Despite the gibberish of “Socialism of the 21st Century,” Ortega perceives that the current reality is not revolutionary. What is revolutionary is Guevarism: killing and breaking the law without consequences. How happy were the times when Miskitos could be slaughtered with impunity!
It is true that Daniel Ortega has had about 200 people murdered, and has imprisoned hundreds of others without trial, but he has paid a high price in international support. OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro can’t stand the sight of him. He and his wife are two outcasts.
The democratic opposition must be flexible in everything. The first thing is to seek the unity of the liberal factions. But if eventually the path leads to the ballot box, it is necessary to talk with the tyrant. You cannot expect that he will voluntarily go into a dungeon, waiting to be shot at dawn. He won’t do it. Peace must be negotiated despite of the stench. They did it in Central Europe with the communists. They did it in Chile with the military. They are not doing it in Cuba and the result is obvious. Ortega left once and will do it again, as long as the price is affordable, of course. @Firmas PressCarlos 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 Sin ir más lejos (Memories), published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House.