With the coming in of the New Year Nicaragua prepares to inaugurate its new President early in January. Meanwhile, the dust still fails to settle on the Nicaraguan elections, held on November 6. As we have commented before, much of the initial reaction from the mainstream media consisted of nothing more than rants, peddling the US line on the elections. This was no where better exemplified than in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Dec 1, with a statement by Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, playing to her Cuban exile crowd in Florida. Her statement – Democracy Held Hostage in Nicaragua: Part I (!) – went downhill from the title onwards (see here).
More serious analysis is now emerging, but still from two vastly different view points. The first, that the Nicaraguan elections were fraudulent, in both their preparation and conduct. An analysis eventually appeared from COHA on Dec 21, more than six weeks after the election results (see here). The Many Political Faces of Daniel Ortega, by Hannah Stone, touches briefly on some of the election controversies, but focuses more on the character and leadership of Ortega. Whilst many astute commentators have noted the contradictions in Nicaragua today, one of Ortega’s major failings according to Stone (and for many who went to Nicaragua during the 80s) seems to be that he has changed since the Revolutionary decade. In a reposte commissioned by COHA, which appeared the next day on Dec 22 (see here) Fred Morris in Nicaragua: The Other Side, concentrates more on the election process, answering many of the criticisms in the first COHA article.
A more detailed attack appeared in the November issue of Envio (see here), followed by more articles in the December edition. Envio has been detailing the contradictions of the FSLN government over the past five years, but has also been vociferous in its condemnation of Ortega and his ‘dictatorship’. Many of the points raised by the Envio piece are dealt with in an article (see here), by Daniel McCurdy, who has written some of the best analysis of the elections over the past two months. In In Defense of the CSE he deals with most of the main points of controversy – the size of the FSLN victory; the reports of international observers; the accreditation of voting centre observers (mainly from the PLI); and the failure to accredit national observers (including Etica y Transparencia), and the issuing of voter registration cards.
Despite the polarisation in the articles (in the best traditions of Nicaraguan politics), reading all of them will give a better idea of what are the issues, and what are the main arguments of both sides. What seems to be widely accepted is that the FSLN now command a majority of support from the Nicaraguan people.
And just to give some regional context, in another article – The US Double Standard on elections in Latin America and the Caribbean – by Daniel McCurdy last week (obviously a busy boy), this time jointly authored with Alexander Main, the pair contrast the Nicaragua elections with the deeply flawed Haitian elections last year (see here), about which the international community, including the US, were strangely silent. The widescale fixing led to the lowest turnout for any Presidential elections in the Americas since 1945 – twenty three per cent.
In an end of year post, Tortilla con Sal (see here) gives an up-beat forecast for Nicaragua for the coming year, contrasting with the continuing economic strife facing North Americans and Europeans.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda/Prospero Año Nuevo/Happy New Year
There’s no doubt that politics in Nicaragua can be tough, even Machiavellian. But the other narrative of the past four years has been the solid social achievements of the Sandinista government.
One of the most considered constructive critics during this period has been William Grigsby. His latest analysis, published in March’s Envio and summarised on tortilla con sal, lists the social gains, but also some of the things which have failed. Click An FSLN victory will permit deeper change. to read it.
It is a considered political judgment on the performance of the FSLN, and their prospects for the November elections.
His analysis is all the richer for him being a critic within the FSLN. It’s good to compare his latest article with his last contribution to Envio, in early 2007. Click You can’t organise people and raise consciousness by decree. It assessed the propects of the Sandinistas at the beginning of their term of office.
Envio, no friend of the Frente, should be praised for allowing the debate within its pages.