Ortega-Murillo: Against the Ropes?

Oscar René Vargas is a well known political analyst, now in exile in Costa Rica after the government ordered his arrest in July. He  joined the FSLN in 1967 and was forced into exile during the Somoza regime that same year, after rescuing Ortega from a safe-house surrounded by Somoza´s military. He was named Nicaraguan Ambassador to France shortly after Ortega came back to power in 2007.

In this piece he analyzes the impact of a number of very recent events, including the arrival of the new US ambassador and his visit to the Nicaraguan Army; the impact of Trump´s executive decrees, especially on  the plans of big capital vis a vis the crisis; the surprising announcement of the retirement of some 24 military officers; the visit of Richard Feinberg; and the heightened attacks this past week on independent media.

Ortega-Murillo: Against the Ropes?

By Oscar René Vargas

Published on 100% Noticias website, Dec 6, 2018

[Spanish version at: https://100noticias.com.ni/nacionales/95148-ortega-murillo-contra-cuerdas/ ]

  1. The social movement is ebbing (stagnation phase), a result of the brutal repression and lack of adequate political leadership. Paramilitary repression in the streets, neighborhoods, highways and rural zones, and the violation of human rights, have increased.
  1. Due to the ebbing of the social movement, the political clock favors Ortega-Murillo in their objective of continuing in power until 2021.
  1. On Nov 14 the [new US] Ambassador Kevin Sullivan arrived in Nicaragua and began to move many political chess pieces of the country.
  1. The US sanctions on the Ortega-Murillo government have created in the population the hope for a quick departure of the regime, and lot of nervousness in the de facto powers.
  1. With Trump´s Executive Decree, the great majority of the members of big capital, weak and dependent, have been left very frightened and willing to literally do whatever would please the US. The question is knowing what is the next tactical step in their strategy against the Ortega-Murillo regime.
  1. The reaction of Daniel Ortega (DOS) against the Catholic Church and Humberto Ortega (HOS) shows me that DOS is afraid that in the conversations of Ambassador Sullivan with the different sectors (Army, Church, Media, NGOs, Youth, AMCHAM, etc) a solution to the crisis was contemplated that is not favorable to Ortega-Murillo.
  1. Is the attack of DOS against his brother the result of the fact that HOS has done work within the Army to promote an aggressive and independent action to the Ortega-Murillo regime?
  1. Is there some relationship between the move to retire the four colonels, 26 lieutenant colonels and the five mayors to the political work that HOS is doing in the ranks of the Army? That quantity of soldiers being retired is not normal, it is a cleaning, “purging.”
  1. There is the hypothesis about the resignation of Ortega-Murillo, and that Omar Halleslevens[1] would assume the interim presidency, with the support of the Army, HOS, big capital and the US. This would explain the reaction of DOS on December 3. It is clear that this would be the perfect solution for the de facto internal and external powers, leaving the self convened on the sidelines.
  1. In my view, it is not likely that Ortega-Murillo will resign. All their actions indicate their desire to stay in power at any cost until 2021. It is important to not forget that this past November 17 they retired colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors who commanded troops and had historical connections with Halleslevens, or who had manifested a certain amount of disagreement with the attitude of the Army during the height of the social and political crisis.
  1. A full fledged purge happened on November 17th in the military institution; nevertheless we cannot completely accept the hypothesis about the arrangement of the succession of Ortega-Murillo, above all because of the desire of the US to want to separate them from power.
  1. Also, it is important to be clear that the Army cannot put up with more economic deterioration of the country, nor can they expose themselves to be affected in their US investments. The Ortega-Murillo government does not have the capacity to maintain the Army as Maduro does in Venezuela.
  1. The attack of Ortega on the Episcopal Conference has the purpose of eliminating their participation in any future negotiation. Ortega´s objective is that in a new negotiation only people who are in agreement with Ortega-Murillo remaining in power until 2021, or a date close to that, would participate.
  1. On Tuesday December 4th in the conference organized by the financial newspaper, the “Wall Street Journal”, John Bolton, National Security Advisor to the White House, stated, “We have to confront these regimes (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba) and free their people. I believe that throughout the continent it is not just a US project, but more and more it is a project of all democratic countries in the region.”
  1. The different movements of the self convened have demanded more forcefulness with the Ortega-Murillo regime. Many of them are demanding a national strike, others a three day strike. The strike that decimated Somoza and precipitated his fall in 1979 is in the collective consciousness.
  1. Nevertheless, some sectors of big capital are thinking coldly about a negotiated solution with the Ortega-Murillo government, because they are afraid of a radicalization of the popular movement.
  1. These sectors of big capital and their allies think that some reforms and an amnesty can rebuild the governance pact with the government, with some variations.
  1. In this negotiated solution they want to involve the parasitical parties allied and/or subordinated to the Ortega-Murillo regime. They think that with the passage of time the “radical” sectors will lose their political weight in the current crisis, allowing for a negotiated solution.
  1. In the interview with Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the unofficial envoy of the US establishment sectors, Richard Feinberg, argued for an outcome similar to what some members of big capital and their allies are promoting.
  1. The rejection of the majority of the population to the Ortega-Murillo government continues. Nevertheless, the lack of a unified political leadership does not allow for the weaknesses of the government to be taken advantage of, nor to present an alternative government.
  1. The murders, amount of prisoners, people disappeared and exiled are what makes the rejection [of the government] on the part of the population continue, and complicates the solution that some members of big capital and traditional politicians are seeking.
  1. In recent weeks the repression has focused on the communications media (100% Noticias, Radio Darío, etc.), for the purpose of eliminating the possibilities that the population be informed about events in real time in an objective manner.
  1. All of the above indicates to us that the social and political crisis continues without being resolved, that the economic recession is going to worsen, that the de facto powers want a mild exit, and that the self convened continue demanding justice and democracy.

San José, Costa Rica

December 2018

[1] Previous Commander in Chief of Nicaraguan Military and Vice President in previous period.

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