Monday, November 06, 2006

The growing left bloc to our south

In case you didn't hear, Sandinista Daniel Ortega is poised to win the election that took place in Nicaragua today. The United States, which of course has a disgraceful history of interfering with Nicaraguan affairs, was actively campaigning against this result, supporting Liberal party candidate Montealegre. I was aware of this event from several articles at openDemocracy, but I didn't really pay attention until I saw this article from Reuters a few days ago: "Ortega comeback scares U.S. residents of Nicaragua." "Wow," I thought, "has he threatened U.S. citizens?" Well, it depends on how you define "threaten." In actuality, the owners of $200,000 villas are nervous that Ortega's election will slow down business. One man says "there's a good chance he'll confiscate property"; what's more certain is that the U.S. will withdraw aid and investment in order to punish the people of Nicaragua, 80 percent of whom, according to Reuters, live on less than $2 a day.

Ortega is a worry, but not primarily because of the early Sandinista government, which the US State Department falsely portrays as an "authoritarian dictatorship," when in fact this label certainly applies to the US-backed Somoza dynasty. Rather, it is from several shady alliances and pacts made in the 90s, especially with disgraced swindler Arnoldo Aleman, leader of the Constitutional Liberal Party. For instance, it is precisely because of a rule that Ortega and Aleman created--that presidential candidates need only win 35% of the vote with the other candidate trailing by at least 5% to be declared president, when it used to be 45%--that Ortega is probably going to win today.

Of course, the wider picture is that Ortega's is yet another in a growing list of Latin American governments which oppose the United States. How exactly he fits that description is unclear, since he has agreed in advance to go forward with CAFTA, but the US has certainly designated him as such, and Hugo Chavez is waiting in the wings with the victory champagne. No matter what, it will be interesting to watch the changing dynamic, and to watch with trepidation the state of the Nicaraguan people, whose new government is being called "pro-terrorist" and "hijacked by undemocratic forces."


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