The “Nica Act”

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Daniel Ortega won in Nicaragua his third consecutive election victory in November, the elections in which the FSNL (Sandinista National Liberation Front) vetoed any presence of observers, national or international: “Scoundrel observers. The observation is over here, go observing to other countries,” said the president when he was proclaimed candidate. Ortega entered in the election along with his wife Rosario Murillo, candidate for the vice presidency, after having the main opposition group excluded from the ballots.

The controversial presidential couple recalls Frank and Claire Underwood, the main characters of the award-winning ‘House of Cards’ series: Two ambitious main character who end up deciding in pairs the United States’ fate. The plot has its simile in Nicaragua. Only it is not a TV series. This time the characters are real and will come out in the history books.

The main actor of the plot is 70 years old, he fought a war, is a former revolutionary commander and is the current President of Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega is part of the FSLN, the group who made the revolution against the cruel dictator Anastasio Somoza in the late 70s, and it is the party which Ortega has led the country between 1979 and 1990. His Vice-president is his wife Rosario Murillo, and for many, she is the person who leads the destiny of the second poorest country in America, only surpassed by Haiti. Husband and wife in the same election ticket which has caused much controversy in the region.

Ortega and Murillo have seven children, all of them very well known in Nicaragua. The Ortega’ stems are coordinating the macro project of the country’s inter-oceanic canal, like the Panama’ Canal, but in Nicaragua, a $ 50 billion Chinese investment which does not seem to move forward; They are also managers of TV channels, 33% of the TV grid in the country, as well as most radio stations and they also have interests in the oil industry. “Nicaragua now competes for the continent’ first place in family tyrannies. It is impossible to separate clearly the economic interests of the ruling family and Nicaragua’s economic interests” says a high-ranked former Sandinista and currently in the opposition, because of his differences with Ortega.

Some analysts compare the current political situation with the dictatorship of the Somoza, dislodged from power by the Sandinista guerrillas in the late 1970s. “There is a lot of ‘Somocism’ in the Ortega regime. The wealth’ concentration, the presidential family as a source of power, and the decision not to jeopardize the power into free elections, are the common features between Ortega and Somocism. The FSLN has ceased to be an ideological project and has become a machinery at the service of Ortega’s real project, which is power and money. He has gone from being a socialist revolutionary to a tyrant, ” adds the former high rank Sandinist, and now dissident.

The opposition’s pessimistic view contrasts with Ortega’s great popularity: The president has 64% approval, according to a Gallup poll conducted in mid-October, just before the election. Many of those who support Ortega mention the security of the country as an incentive to continue voting for him. The National Police has managed to contain the violence which are suffering in neighbouring states. Nicaragua is an oasis of tranquillity compared to Honduras and El Salvador, two of the most dangerous countries on the region.

Tourism has grown exponentially with  Ortega’s rule. It has benefited from the country’s low prices, the security and the improved industry’ supply. The economic boom has also been possible by Venezuelan oil cooperation for the recent years. The country would have received from Venezuela oil worth over $ 4 billion  over the last decade. Part of that money has been invested in social policies. What will it happen now when Venezuela stopped sending the money, or worst, the debt must be paid?

At the end of September, the North American legislative body passed a resolution, the so-called ‘Nica Act’, which will prevent multilateral financial institutions from making loans to Nicaragua until Ortega guarantees ‘free, fair and transparent’ elections. This is a bipartisan initiative, driven by Republican and Democratic congressmen. The text, promoted by Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen  and the Democrat Albio Sires, both of Cuban origin, criticizes Ortega’s re-election in 2011. A court statement allowed Ortega to stand for the election, despite of the fact that the Nicaraguan Constitution prohibits the re-election of presidents. It also includes election fraud’ reports submitted by the international observers during the 2011 election; the dismissal of opposition deputies of the Assembly; the lack of transparency in the public funds’ management; the expulsion of US Government’ officials; the obstacles to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the Ortega’ control of the powers of the State, especially the Supreme Court, among other points.

The freezing of loans from multilateral financial institutions would mean the annual losses of US $ 250-300 million, coming from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. The Washington text leaves out of the prohibition those sums dedicated to meet the basic human needs and the promotion of democracy.

There is also the sceptical position of other countries, mostly European, who have also withdrawn their cooperation. “When Ortega came to power, he found 22 countries in the cooperating community. But there are only four of those left, ” said the analyst Norman Caldera, a former liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs. The deficit has been so far covered with money from Venezuela, which is no longer available.

Ortega’s authoritarian drift is also on the Organization of American States (OAS) discussion’ agenda. The OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, has produced a particularly critical report, whose publication is pending a meeting requested by Ortega. There seems to be no good times coming for Ortega and his wife.

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