Waiting for Change to Come to Nicaragua

Javier Padilla

On November 4, Americans went to the election polls and overwhelmingly voted for real change and progress, as opposed to reactionary fear and ignorance. The Republicans — largely seen as the party responsible for a disastrous war and the economic debacle — quietly accepted defeat, respecting the rules of the democratic game and the will of the American people. Similarly, Nicaraguans went to the polls on November 9 to elect new municipal authorities. The result was the most corrupt and fraudulent elections in recent Nicaraguan history.

The contest was widely seen as a referendum on Daniel Ortega’s disastrous presidency. Much like the Democrats in 2006, the opposition Liberal Party was expected to gain a number of municipal seats, including the capital of Managua. Earlier in the year two political parties were denied participation by the Electoral Council, a number of NGOs had been persecuted by the Sandinista judicial system, and — perhaps the most grave precedent — national and international observers were barred from the electoral process for the first time since 1990. In short, a tense environment had been brooding from months, even years, of corrupt political practices. The stage was set for massive electoral fraud.

Soon after the elections concluded the Liberals refused to recognize the results and independent organizations like the Catholic Church, the Carter Center and the Organization of the American States (OAS) expressed concern over the outcome. Burned ballots have been found scattered in landfills all over the country and Sandinista mobs have begun to intimidate citizens around the country. The fraud was so blatant that in some cases the Sandinistas claim to have won 100 percent of the votes in some polling stations. Daniel Ortega is not concerned with credibility. His main goal is to keep power at all costs.

As a result, the Nicaraguan state is collapsing. While it is true that Nicaragua is no stranger to political strife (I remember growing up wishing for “Protest days” so I could skip school), political conditions seem to have reached a boiling point. Corruption has accumulated upon corruption and the nation is extremely divided between those who support Ortega and those who believe in democracy and the rule of law. Single-handedly, Ortega and his circle of cronies have managed to destroy not only the institutional framework of government, but the very fabric that makes the state and society a cohesive structure. Conditions are increasingly fragile and civil war no longer seems an episode of the past.

It is hard, as a Nicaraguan, to witness from a foreign land the destruction of the place I love. It is especially difficult to see this from the United States, a country emboldened by the power of equality and democracy. As Nicaragua falls into the claws of yet another dictator, I encourage Americans to continue being an example of hope and liberty for countries around the world.