This provides a good short summary of what happened last year and the principal tasks the opposition faces this year by former president of MRS.
What 2019 leaves us and where we are going
By Enrique Sáenz, January 10, 2020 in Confidencial
A strategy to displace the regime through peaceful means and begin a process of democratic change.
At the beginning of the year, the task asserts itself of seeing the prospects that are presented to our country for 2020 in the political, economic and social planes. Logically, the starting point is an assessment of what happened in the year that just ended, since the social and political processes continue their course and dynamics.
I want to clarify that I will not do a detailed recounting of events, but a panoramic review, focusing on what I think is central.
Let us start with the political field. Throughout the first semester, and more specifically between February and July, the dynamic was marked by the negotiations between the leaders of the regime and the representatives of the Civic Alliance. An unexpected encounter between Ortega and prominent businessmen served as the scenario to open the cycle. A notable fact of that stage was the withdrawal of the Catholic hierarchy from the role of mediator that they had played in 2018. They saw it coming and took their hands out of the fire. After the first month some general agreements were signed, that Ortega did not implement. The negotiations stagnated until the bigshot buried the process in the month of July.
What lessons can we draw from the negotiations with Ortega?
The big lesson is that for Ortega the dialogues are simply delaying or diversionary tactics which are part of his war strategy, and not a resource to find agreed upon solutions to the crisis that the country is undergoing. Ortega intends to subject or crush, through deceit, bribery or force. In 2018 he resorted to the first dialogue because of the internal pressure. He took on commitments. He pushed and pulled. And aborted the process when he felt that he had controlled the situation with fire and blood.
In 2019 he ran to call for negotiations when Juan Guaidó erupted in Venezuela, within a strategy combined with threats from the US administration, and actions of the international community, principally the Lima Group. The moment appeared to portend the imminent fall of Madura and Ortega, who tried to take precautions in the face of the risk of being left in the middle of the street, naked and feeble. When the threat dissipated, and he felt the danger exorcised, he started kicking the table again.
It is important to highlight this lesson, because Ortega will use the same ploy again when he feels the water up to his neck again. Let us remember that Maduro has called for eleven dialogues. The corollary is: the only language that Ortega understands is that of the correlation of forces, and therefore the prescription is to not give him breathing room and “squeeze and squeeze” as much as possible.
The positive aspect of this stage was the release from jail of a significant proportion of political prisoners. The way in which the release happened – an absolutist wave of the hand – showed that in reality it was a matter of hostages, which the regime used as a bargaining chip in the give and take, principally in light of the international community.
The second semester was marked predominantly by the expectations and actions of the international community: the opening of the procedure for the application of the Democratic Charter on the part of the OAS; the declarations of condemnation of different bodies of the European Union; the sanctions imposed by Canada and the United States, as well as the suspension of bilateral aid on the part of some European countries; they deepened the international isolation of the regime. To that is added the fall of Evo Morales, which broke a link in the chain with Cuba and Venezuela.
Nevertheless, the most decisive blows were the sanctions imposed on BANCORP, the financial arm of the business conglomerate of the ruling clique, and financial platform for the trafficking and laundering of capital. More than $2.7 billion of Ortega´s capital was under the custody of that bank in the form of trust funds. With its closing, it is a mystery where that capital has taken refuge.
The other blow were the sanctions against DNP, the head of one of the most lucrative, fraudulent businesses of the regime, that is, the company for the import and commercialization of hydrocarbons at onerous prices.
In both cases, BANCORP and DNP, the shameful confusion was made evident between public patrimony and the business interests of the ruling family. With BANCORP the operation was scuttled that intended to transform it into a state bank through a law that Ortega´s deputies approved, but was left non nata. The sanctions arrived before that, and did not leave any option but to proceed with its liquidation. With DNP they nationalized the inventory to ensure its liquidity at prices that would be borne by the backs of the people. But the lucrative business was deflated.
Based on these dynamics two constants occurred: fierce repression and the cancelation of citizen rights and freedoms, as the sole mechanisms for holding onto power. And the progressive economic and social deterioration, that affects families and businesses of every size. Unemployment, business closings, contraction of bank credit, loss of income, migration, impoverishment, indebtedness of families and businesses, economic recession.
In terms of the opposition, there are bright and somber elements. The ruling clique maintains power, but has not been able to re-establish “normality”. At the point of repression it keeps massive expressions of protest contained, but the rejection of most of the population is growing, likewise recurrent demonstrations of resistance leak out, particularly from families of victims and political prisoners.
It is appropriate, likewise, to record the progress in the unification of forces and efforts. We can cite: the publication of proposals for serious changes, on the part of COSEP, the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White Unity, which offer the bases for a substantial strategic agreement; the structuring of a proposal for electoral reforms, in spite of the fact that an electoral scenario is not visible; and the efforts to build a national democratic coalition. Slow and insufficient progress, certainly, but progress in the end.
With this background, the immediate challenge is, beyond the declarations of intentions, to agree upon a strategy that:
- Unite different political and social sectors committed to democracy;
- Connect the short and medium term
- Articulate the international plane, citizen mobilization, political communication, organization and reaching out to the daily problems and anxieties of the population, through the accompaniment of their demand with proposals and actions;
- Have the explicit purpose of displacing the regime through peaceful means and beginning a process of democratic change