Today’s podcast topic:
Highlights from Mary O’Grady’s article, Ortega Squeezes, the OAS Is Silent Nicaragua’s president subverts its constitution.
While Mr. Ortega seems eager to take the money from Iran, he is long past relying on foreigners to ensure his tenure. He no doubt recalls that so many Kremlin “investments” 20 years ago were no match for a fair election. When Nicaraguans went to the polls in 1990, they gave Mr. Ortega the boot. The lesson he learned was that the key to a lifetime presidency is to see that no such election is held again.
This is what now occupies much of Mr. Ortega’s calendar. Using the power of his presidency he is systematically dismantling the institutional checks and balances that might thwart his plan. On July 6, the Spanish daily El País, which is hardly a right-wing publication, published a report headlined “Daniel Ortega Goes After All the Power.” The story said that he had “crush[ed] provincial autonomy” with the “irregular dismissal of five mayors and a dozen vice-mayors and elected councils, setting off alarms in the Central American country.” The paper further explained that “according to analysts, the maneuver is designed to take political control and guarantee the permanence of the government of the former Sandinista guerrilla.”
This is the same path that Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have traveled. In those countries civil liberties have been destroyed, the press is harassed and political adversaries are routinely imprisoned without due process.
The urgency of Nicaragua’s constitutional crisis is no secret. Hugo Barquero, in the city of Boaco, is the latest mayor to be kicked out. The city council claimed that it dismissed him for failure to comply with public accounting procedures. Yet no proof was presented, according to El País. There was merely a majority vote followed by forcible removal by police amid a throng of protests. Among the other mayors similarly removed, one was a Sandinista who dared dissent from orteguismo.
Mr. Ortega already controlled 105 of the country’s 153 municipalities. That majority was won thanks to fraud in the 2008 elections that was so blatant the U.S. and Europe Union pulled bilateral aid in protest. The effort now to do away with those mayors who managed to prevail in 2008 is a sure sign of Mr. Ortega’s determination to wipe out all dissent.
Equally troubling is his assault on judicial independence. As I reported in February during a visit to Managua, he wants the electoral-council judges who blessed the 2008 election fraud to be reconfirmed. Opposition congressmen have refused to comply so Mr. Ortega has decreed that his judges’ terms are extended indefinitely.
He also orchestrated an illegal “vote” by three Supreme Court judges and three “alternate” judges to lift the constitutional ban on his re-election. And now he is threatening to fire, and replace with alternates whom he favors, the judges opposing his power play.
This is what’s taking place in our hemisphere.
Later today, check out this week’s Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean.