Political maneuvering is a human deficit that knows no boundaries, to be sure. East or West, rich country or poor, man or woman, pale or of color, elected or pundit, left or right, the condition infects us like a virus that has no cure. Presently, I’m not sure whether I’m more discouraged at the discourse heard within the U.S., where I live, or the antics of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, where I work. Take your pick.
If you scrutinize the U.S., you already recognize the issues: health care reform, economic repair, reasons for war, who has influence, our priorities. Hardly a day passes anymore without some new outrage over postures, slurs and behaviors which, if they were to take place in our schools, might even warrant dismissal or even arrest. And if you scrutinize some of the latest news from Nicaragua, the behaviors and gamesmanship are at least as disappointing.
For economic reasons, government offices in Managua have been closing at 1:00 P.M. each day. The officials leave their offices for whatever other endeavors they may have, whether personal or political, but the machinery grinds to a halt. Keep this in mind.
The empty-office circumstance was not lost on the administration of President Daniel Ortega, who has been maneuvering since his re-election in 2007 to create a change in the election rules of the constitution, to allow him to run for office once again at the end of this term. He hasn’t been able to capture enough votes in the national assembly for such a drastic change, so he filed the equivalent of a civil rights complaint against the government, claiming that the constitutional edict violates his rights, essentially preventing the population from voting for whoever they want as president. To press his claim, he needed to present it to the Nicaraguan Supreme Court. When they reviewed his case, they ruled that a similar issue had already been decided by the court some years ago, and that they would not hear it again.
Now, remember the closed offices? Late one afternoon in October, long after most offices had been vacated for the day, the Sandinista judges (those loyal to Mr. Ortega) announced a special gathering of the court to review once again the President’s claim. They served notice to the other judges by sliding the meeting announcements under the vacant office doors. When it was clear that the more liberal judges would not be present at the court gathering, their chairs were filled temporarily with other Sandinista judges and the outcome, as you might readily guess, was unanimously in favor of Mr. Ortega’s claim. End result? He is free to run for the presidency once again, as proclaimed by no less than the “Supreme Court.” The liberal judges have proclaimed the pronouncement a fraud, and they might have been able to make a good case of it, but for their own use of the very same ploy several years ago on a different issue.
The ultimate losers in these maneuvers are the poor and disenfranchised, shouldering the effects of still more dysfunction and short-sighted self-service. Is it nonsense? Of course. The action even threatens Nicaragua’s recognition as a democratic nation under Organization of American States agreements. But it’s a graphic example of how people’s character is oftentimes corrupted by the lure and practice of power. Not unlike what we experience here in the United States, where it has become increasingly more difficult to find leaders in either political party who are not a part of the destructive and dirty games people play.
We truly ARE more like one another than we are different….