Nicaragua is experiencing a crisis that began in April with a mass demonstration starting as a protest against social security reform. The unrest quickly extended to rebellion against government corruption and tyrannical tendencies.
The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, is defending his fraudulent, corrupt and dictatorial regime with a fisted hand. More than 350 people were already killed and thousands were wounded as a result of government repression.
Ortega has approved a law defining protests as terrorism.
Ortega’s repression represents a pattern, one which is part of the painful legacy of the regional authoritarian tendencies sparked with the 1999 emergence of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
Indeed, after the rise of Chavez in Venezuela, a chain of similar regimes followed suit in Latin America — including Nicaragua.
These dictatorships have adopted different styles.
The Venezuelan and Bolivian regimes are openly revolutionary and hostile either to business, to capitalism and to the United States. Other dictatorships hid behind a pragmatist attitude while consolidating a despotic political regime.
One such regime is the Nicaraguan one.
Indeed, Ortega managed to deceive his people and the world by accommodating the business class and maintaining a free trade agreement with the United States.
The business class had no problem with Ortega as long as its interests were not harmed.
A tacit agreement was established between Ortega and business sectors.
Thus, Ortega guaranteed the proper environment for business investments while the entrepreneurs looked the other way as Ortega consolidated a dictatorship by securing its indefinite reelection through fraud, corruption, and subjugation of the institutions of democracy as well as those of the judicial system.
Nicaraguan entrepreneurs even managed to lobby U.S Congress against the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act).
The NICA Act, would require the president to oppose certain loans by international financial institutions benefiting the government of Nicaragua until the Nicaraguan government takes effective steps to combat corruption and promote democracy, free speech, civil society, and the rule of law.
The bi-partisan NICA Act passed the House of Representatives but it is still being held in the Senate, presumably under the pressure of lobbyists.
However, now the illusion of separation between economics and politics is over.
Repression in Nicaragua is being carried through the use of para-military forces, gangs, thugs and the Nicaraguan army. Following the Cuban and Venezuelan models, Ortega targeted the military in order to secure its loyalty. Ortega established a direct relation with top generals and they supported Ortega’s indefinite reelection.
Furthermore, Ortega also enabled the indefinite reappointment of the army chief of staff and gave the military all kinds of economic privileges. The army has become an economic power with investments in the stock market, the hotel industry, the health sector, real estate, and other sectors.
Thus, reports that army officers and soldiers have a role in the current repression came as no surprise.
Russia has been arming the Nicaraguan army esepcially, since 2015.
Indeed, Russia has been providing sophisticated weaponry to Nicaragua that, according to reports. have included T-72 tanks, war boats, warplanes, and powerful bombs. According to reports, most deaths were reported to have been caused by high-caliber weapons usually used by the military.
Russia is playing the role of guarantor of Ortega’s dictatorship. Russia is planning now to train Nicaraguans in the fight against "drug trafficking and terrorism" but that could well be a façade to train guardians of the regime.
The Nicaraguan people, like the Venezuelan, might be forever condemned to live in a situation similar to that of Cuba, namely enslaved to the caprices of an unending dictatorship.
Russia views the Nicaraguan and the Venezuelan regimes as allies against the U.S., and as such as bastions of Russian influence in the Western hemisphere Russia is also close to Iran.
Iran is close to drug cartels and already has a strong and solid presence in the continent and very strong relations with Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The U.S, may be condemned to live with this nefarious influence in its own neighborhood.
Before President Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin on July 16, the outgoing Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos urged Trump to demand Putin to cease his support of the Venezuelan regime.
This subject was probably not discussed during the meeting.
Russia is a greater challenge than President Trump is willing to admit.
Latin America is only a portion of that challenge but important enough to take seriously.
Luis Fleischman has worked as adviser for the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy on issues related to Latin America. He is the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." Fleischman is an adjunct professor of sociology and political science at Barry University. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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