The World Today for June 29, 2021
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Nicaraguan intellectual Emilio Álvarez Montalván once described his fellow citizens as “outgoing, imaginative, hard-working, and compassionate” to Stephen Kinzer, a Boston Globe columnist and senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
He also noted how they are “prone to short-term thinking, eager to solve problems through violence, open to corruption, and harboring a fatal weakness for charismatic demagogues.”
The nature of Montalván’s insights might explain why Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been in office for 14 years even though under the Central American country’s laws, he is only allowed one five-year term. Meanwhile, he has waged a brutal campaign of repression against political dissent to cement his hold on power.
Ortega had previously run the county as the leader of the leftwing Sandinista National Liberation Front that overthrew the country’s pro-US government in the late 1970s. He was in the opposition between 1990 and 2007, however, when fatigue from fighting the Contra rebels and corruption hurt his standing with voters. Today, he appears to be unwilling to lose power again.
In 2018, when protests against his regime broke out, he ordered a crackdown, killing hundreds. More recently, Nicaraguan authorities arrested presidential candidate Miguel Mora on charges of treason, the BBC reported. He was the fifth candidate to be detained in the run-up to elections in November when Ortega is certain to win a fourth consecutive term. Argentina and Mexico recalled their ambassadors in protest.
A host of other opposition leaders have also been seized off the streets for treason allegations. They include the wife of a former president, who is now under house arrest for crimes against the state, the Associated Press wrote.
Local Catholic bishops condemned the illegal and arbitrary detentions, the Catholic News Service reported. The editorial board of El Espectador, a Colombian newspaper, called for every government in the region to apply pressure to stop the repression.
Ortega recently blocked a New York Times reporter from entering the country, seeking to cut off communication to the rest of the world. It didn’t work. After officials raided newspaper offices and banned political parties, the US slapped sanctions on Nicaraguan leaders, including Ortega’s daughter, Reuters added.
Meanwhile, much of the population lives in fear. “It’s not that people don’t want to protest on the streets anymore,” Berta Valle, the wife of a detained opposition leader told CNN. “It’s that the risk is immense. The regime is willing to kill…We know that the regime is capable of doing anything.”
If only Montalván, who passed away in 2014, was around to generate some new insights for a way forward.
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