July 17, 2008
Shock News: Sandinista Ortega Snatches Land for Pals... Again
The reign of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas -- the Stalinists who held that country hostage for 11 years, against whom we supported "Contra" freedom fighters -- came to a strange end in 1990 when Ronald Reagan's "Contra" policy managed to force free elections in Nicaragua (held under Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush), and the Sandinistas were voted out of office. But before leaving, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega seized millions of acres of land and gave it to his friends and allies in the movement... thus committing one of the largest land snatches in Latin American history.
And proving once again -- it seems to need relearning every generation -- that if you scratch a Socialist, you'll turn up a thief.
Those who thought they had finally seen Ortega's backside (especially after the land grab) were stunned when the Nicaraguan people once again elected him as president just two years ago... with a scant 38% of the vote (worse than Clinton!) in a crowded field. But I don't think anybody is shocked in the least that, having once again wormed his way into power, he is back practicing his favorite hobby: Grabbing other people's property for himself:
President Daniel Ortega Saavedra beams from the billboards, promising "Citizens Power" as a solution to Nicaragua’s endemic poverty. "The world’s poor arise!" the signs say. But beneath the billboards, on walls and benches all over town, others have scrawled "No to CPC. No to dictatorship."
The graffiti alludes to Citizens Power Councils -- or C.P.C.’s. In December, Mr. Ortega established the neighborhood committees, which are controlled by his left-wing Sandinista party and administer antipoverty programs, despite a vote against the plan by the National Assembly.
Mr. Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader [former?], maintains that the councils are meant only to let community leaders have a say in where and how government money is spent.
But opposition leaders say the councils are another step in what they call the Ortega administration’s drift toward an authoritarian and secretive government that does not have to answer to the legislature -- mostly because the president controls tens of millions of dollars a year in aid from Venezuela.
Some of the president’s opponents charge that the Citizens Power Councils are nothing more than patronage mills, channeling government largess to supporters of the party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. So a Stalinist thief is once again given the levers of power, and once again he abuses them to enrich himself and his pals; this is news?
But there is much more to this story; for what we are seeing in Nicaragua is stately but relentless "progress" from liberal democracy to Communist dictatorship, yet again under the direct command of the Sandinista Party... with Oogo Chavez as puppetmaster in Venezuela. These putatively private CPCs -- which are funded by low-cost loans from Chavez (and kept strictly off the books), and which are completely dominated by Sandinistas, despite that party's much smaller presence in the National Assembly -- have been given governmental power over many critical aspects of Nicaraguan society; they essentially take the place of government but are completely immune from legislative oversight.
Sandinista President Ortega has given these CPCs control over:
- Distribution of government food aid -- both who receives the food and which stores are picked to supply it; this is a critical function for a country that constantly mambos on the brink of utter economic collapse, and where a great many citizens are literally starving;
- Paving the roads, what few Nicaragua has left after decades of war;
- Approving small-business loans, typically the only funding source standing between poor villagers and welfare;
- Disbursement of free cattle, pigs, and seed stock as welfare for ranchers and farmers -- this way, Ortega gains control of both major sectors of society: the farmers and all other small businesses;
- Vaccinations for Nicaraguan children ('nuff said);
- And reading instruction for the poor, who are typically illiterate.
Overall control of the CPCs is in the hands of Daniel Ortega's communications director, Rosario Murillo; it's an irrelevant coincidence that Ms. Murillo also happens to be Ortega's wife. Council members are not elected; they are appointed by the president (or by his communications director). And while other party members can join the councils, the Sandinistas maintain a huge majority and can outvote everybody else combined.
This raises two interesting academic questions:
- At what point does a private organization, run by the president's wife and funded by a foreign dictator, which seizes control of many functions traditionally associated with government, and which proclaims itself to be the real intermediary between the proletariat and the government, become the de facto new government of Nicaragua?
The rhetoric is quite suggestive:
Jeannette Suazo, a Sandinista, is the chairwoman of the committee in a Managua neighborhood known as September 14th. She insists that aid is handed out without regard to politics, and she said that her committee had four members who belonged to the opposition party [the remaining 11 members, including the chairwoman, are Sandinistas, a nearly 3-1 voting advantage]. All are volunteers and get no pay, though some have government jobs, she said.
“We are the communicators between the people and the government,” she said. “It’s easier to solve these problems with an organized people than with a disorganized people.”
The other academic question:
- How do these "Citizens Power Councils" differ in any significant way from Argentina's Fundación Eva Perón?
To recap, the Sandinistas dominate these "private" councils about 3-1... even though in the National Assembly, the two Sandinista parties together comprise 46%, while the two liberal parties together add up to 53%.
In the election of 2006, Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front received 38% of the vote. Sadly, the two liberal parties, the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, split the anti-Sandinista vote, 29% and 27%. Had they unified, they would have had a clear majority of 56%, and Nicaragua would not be headed back towards Communist tyranny and government looting again. (Let that be a lesson to conservatives here who plan to "send a message" by voting for Bob Barr this November.)
This rolling catastrophe really makes one appreciate the hand of the divine that gave Colombia the brilliant Álvaro Uribe Vélez... instead of some Ortega-clone, who would have gotten his financing from either Oogo, the drug lords, or both. Too bad Barack H. Obama and the Democratic Congress are intent upon breaking our word to Colombia by tearing up the Colombian Free Trade Agreement and stamping on it; if we were simply to ratify the treaty, we could sell our own goods in Colombia and support freedom and democracy at the same time. Of course, that's almost certainly the exact reason the Democratic Congress won't even bring CFTA up for a vote.
Perhaps Democrats are hoping they can create some CPCs right here, ready to leap into the fray... just in case John S. McCain "steals the election" from the man who bought and paid for it.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 17, 2008, at the time of 12:47 PM
TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/2994
The following hissed in response by: LarryD
... received 38% of the vote. Sadly, the two liberal parties, the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, split the anti-Sandinista vote, 29% and 27%. ...
This is why I like approval voting over the traditional plurality voting system.
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