Psychological sidenote…lots of things are hitting me hard lately. Well, at least my blogs will be more interesting now.A little more than a quarter through JVC in-the-field living. WHAT. My relationships are deepening and I am more aware of the situations of oppression that affect my friends here. One of these oppressive cycles is the Nicaraguan political sphere. Knowing, however, that my blog readers know very little about this (unless you´re a Vega, I´m aware they make up a large percentage of my fanbase), I have decided to divulge an incredibly partial story of this chaos. Prepare yourself.
The two main characters in my grossly abbreviated version are the United States and Daniel Ortega.
Ortega is the head of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), the revolutionary party which ousted Nicaragua´s most infamous leader, the dictator Somoza, in the 70s—the only revolution to ever ¨succeed¨ in Central America. Certainly, that´s saying something. The Sandinistas saved Nicaragua from a US-funded tyrant, and followed that up with a nationwide, unsurpassed literacy campaign. But it´s also saying something that Ortega´s face is more common in Nicaragua than Kim Jong Il´s in Corea del Norte. He´s currently running for a third term as president in November…which is against the Constitution. So he´s trying to declare the Constitution unconstitutional, and to brainwash people, there´s FSLN propaganda on every street, in every house, blasted from every radio station. VIVA DANIEL is the most common graffiti slogan, as if the people want him to live forever. Their billboards, quite inappropriately, are lazer pink and blue with yellow and green writing—straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Their slogans are ¨You win!¨, ¨United for the Common Good!¨, ¨Christian, Socialist, in Solidarity,¨ and, my favourite, ¨We continue changing Nicaragua!¨ I´m thinking…you´ve been in power twenty-plus years and Nicaragua is still the second poorest country in the hemisphere. I think someone else should get a turn.
I must admit that FSLN is doing wonderful things for certain people. A couple years back they built a million-dollar bridge leading into the neighbourhood where I work, allowing local residents and I to cross into El Recreo without entering a trash ditch. Also, in the mountain community where we went to language school, FSLN is funding a solar-powered irrigation system. But you never see the good works of the government without a huge announcement that Ortega did it, so you should vote for him in November, thank you very much.
All of this propaganda would be fine, I say, if opponents to the party were free to speak their minds.
This is not the case.
One of the only surviving opposition parties, the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC), recently approached the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) in hopes of submitting an official plea that Ortega´s bid for re-election is illegal—they´re right. But there were two hiccups with this plan. That morning, the Juventud Sandinista (JS) showed up on the steps of the CSE. Most of JS is formed by high-school drop-outs who are compensated by Ortega´s cronies, in good grades or cash wads, to do whatever he says. They pitched ten tents and said they would be camping in front of the CSE in the name of ¨peace and justice and free elections.¨ PLC couldn´t pass them to submit their election protest. So much for free elections. Oh, these kids were also accompanied by the national police, who are paid by—you guessed it—Ortega.
Second problem with the PLC´s plan. An article in one of the only havens of free speech left in the country, El Nuevo Diario, publicized that Ortega has been channelling millions of dollars into the pockets of upper CSE officials, guaranteeing their loyalty. Chances are, if PLC made it into the building, the plea would have been ignored, because the chamber is full of his beneficiaries.
Some, well, ¨fun¨ side notes connected with this case. The journalist who exposed the corruption in the CSE received multiple death threats afterwards, which have been submitted to Nicaragua´s human rights watch. And El Nuevo Diario, which has been drowning in the current economy, has announced that it´s going to be sold to a prominent Sandinista family who has the cash to run it. So much for free speech.
More evidence of Sandinista manipulation? A couple months ago, the opposition parties together announced that they would be organizing a march to—you guessed it—protest Ortega´s candidacy in November, which is, I repeat, illegal according to the Constitution. FSLN found out, and suddenly, every few blocks I came across a pink-blue poster announcing a ¨March for Peace and Justice¨ organized by JS (do they do anything new?) which just happened to be taking place on the same day and at the same time and place as the opposition´s march. The latter never occurred. I went to the market that day and was thronged by hundreds of Sandinista youth singing peace songs. No opposition in sight. The Sandinistas were too many. I do feel, sometimes, that I live in a temporarily subdued war zone.
But if you think Ortega sounds like a bully, wait til you here about the guy he helped overtake. This guy´s name is the United States. He has ransacked Central America for two hundred years, using the profit to make his richest citizens richer. If you need evidence of that and don´t plan on living here any time soon, I can send you more than a few book titles. Until then, suffice it to know that the US embassy in Managua is the biggest compound in the country, a marble and glass fortress surrounded by a twenty-foot cement wall decked in security cameras. I´ve seen it up-close when I entered to apply for Nicaraguan residency, and at a couple protests. The compound even includes apartments and a supermarket so that employees don´t have to enter the real Nicaragua. I can also tell you that ¨American Clothing¨ is all the rage (even if it is made in China), English is the coolest thing no one can afford since Hannah Montana on cable TV, and I am treated like a princess thanks to my skin and hair color…a privilege that has come in handy when I need a toilet and get ushered to the front of the line, but leaves me with knots in my stomach.
And that, friends, is the same feeling I´ve got now that I´ve offered my view on current Nica politics. Don´t take too much to heart, because there´s not much to be done about it. Yeeha. I mostly just wanted to share a little of the reality here with you. Obama´s not so bad. And no matter how many times I find myself protesting outside an American embassy, I´m grateful to at least feel safe lambasting my own government. This is a privilege Nicaraguans don´t have.