At present, there’s no end in sight for the crisis in Nicaragua. President Danny Ortega is tightening his grip on power as journalists, judges, students and other potential targets of his administration continue to flee. Worried that the Central American nation may soon follow in the same footsteps as Venezuela, officials from the EU, the United States and a number of the region’s governments have condemned Ortega. But is that all we can expect? How can global policymakers and corporations prepare for a future engagement with Nicaragua? The Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank, offers some clues:
Ortega’s belief in governing with the Maduro doctrine:
The intention is to maintain power through police and military force, using the legal system to intimidate and control opposition, dissidence, and protest. The monopoly of power and the legal and military approach that the regime has taken allows ample maneuvering room to stay in power through fear. […]
An imperfect but united opposition:
… the Nicaraguan Opposition at the hand of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (UNAB) will remain an important and legitimate voice for change […]
The Ortega-Murillo regime believes that maintaining an absolute monopoly of power will guarantee them control over resistance. However, they are underestimating the opposition: the Blue and White Unity is legitimate, has resisted, and has grown stronger. Its message has been consistent and unwavering.
The ‘Beans and Rice’ Economy
Nicaragua’s economic deterioration in 2018 is more profound than its -4% growth suggests. For Nicaragua recover to 2017 levels (levels that on their own were already insufficient to foster economic development), it would need a cash influx of at least $1 billion over a short period of time. Meanwhile, losses in production, access to markets, and international confidence, among other things, are structural factors that affect an already fragile economy.
The Specter of Armed Conflict and Sporadic Conflicts
Daniel Ortega didn’t read “The Patient Impatience” by Tomas Borge very well. He didn’t understand that the limits of tolerance are broad, and that tolerance itself is not passive. Nor did he understand that when these limits are set too narrowly, they can end up being justly transgressed […]
“Every Man for Himself”
Albert Hirschman wrote that people have three possible options at hand: exit, voice and loyalty, that is, to migrate or opt out, to protest, or to accept the status quo. Pressure and repression highlight the most primordial aspects among human beings, a sense of physical self-preservation, the belief that from now on what matters most is saving oneself.
The ‘every man for himself’ syndrome manifests itself in three areas: migration, dissidence, and accommodation. This repression has succeeded in expelling some people under direct threat or fear for their lives. In 2018, more than 60,000 Nicaraguans fled the country in the midst of political and economic collapse. Many have found refuge in Costa Rica, and given the continued deterioration, more people will flee in 2019 […]
A More Active and Critical International Community Responds to the Alteration of Constitutional Order:
The OAS started the year off with a fourth meeting looking at the situation in Nicaragua. Its interpretation of the conflict has been consistent and increasingly convinced that Nicaragua’s constitutional order has been altered. The OAS, however, is not the only international stakeholder that is mobilizing in favor of change. Nor is the United States. The United States has proactively established a foreign policy strategy towards Nicaragua that includes sanctions unless it carries out and commits to the political reforms it has promised. […]
Considerations on Political Change
The combination of these trends generates scenarios and clues as to the direction that Nicaragua is heading. In the face of growing international pressure, a more defined opposition leadership, and an economically weakened government facing emboldened opposition, the repressive capacity of the regime will not be enough to keep it afloat. However, if Ortega is betting on armed confrontation with those hoping for a fast track solution, Nicaragua may enter a violent period over the short term, creating even more divisions in a country that still has many wounds from the past. […]