San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Reconciliation Sounded Like Such a Nice Idea

When Daniel Ortega won the 2006 presidential elections, he did so on the campaign promises of reconciliation and national unity. It was a positive and comforting message that people wanted to hear, even those who doubted his intentions.

In those few precious weeks when Ortega was still president-elect, it really did seem as if he was going to make good on those promises. He met with the business community and investors to ask for their partnership in moving the country forward; he met with former adversaries and extended the proverbial olive branch; and he met with the poor and downtrodden and promised to work tirelessly on their behalf a new revolution in peace.

Those were happy and optimistic days. And now it s hard to remember they ever happened.

Shortly after Ortega took office as president, it started to appear as though he d forgotten to pack the reconciliation and national unity that everyone was so excited about it was as if somehow that suitcase had gotten lost in transit between 2006 and 2007.

In a shockingly short period of time, the president s discourse went from peace and love to spit and fire.

Ortega & Co., now almost two years in office, is starting to enter into full battle mode by lashing out at perceived enemies in every direction, both at home and abroad.

Indeed, behind the administration s thin pastel-colored veil of courierfonted pleasantries lies a vindictive and nasty campaign that targets anyone who criticizes the government. Instead of unity and reconciliation something that Nicaragua still desperately needs the Ortega administration has only served to polarize the country to dangerous extremes. The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity has become too ironic to stomach.

Using the venomous Sandinista media outlets and yes-men underlings who staff various state institutions, President Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo the unmistakable generals of the governmental offensive are orchestrating a multi-flanked attack on their enemies. The campaign is systematic, using all the arrows in Ortega s quiver to investigate and punish those who are deemed a threat from critical journalists and non-governmental organizations to left-wing intellectuals and other Sandinista dissidents who have dared to question the emperor s new clothes.

Murillo s official government list server, NICARAGUA TRIUNFA, has deteriorated into a cyber attack rag that s about as professional as a high school bully s blog. Murillo regularly sends out opinion pieces written by obscure journalists or other like-minded folk who personally belittle Ortega s opponents and make wild or irrelevant allegations. Yes, this is what passes for official government press releases from the so-called Government of Reconciliation and National Unity.

Those who have been targeted by the wrath of Murillo such as 83-year-old revolutionary icon and beloved poet Father Ernesto Cardenal, who has long been at odds with Murillo and calls Ortega a false revolutionary have been pounded down to the point where Cardenal sadly told a reporter last week that he felt as if he s being pursued by rabid dogs.

To call them rabid dogs, however, implies they ve been driven entirely mad, yet the government s attacks are too coordinated, calculated and systematic to suggest insanity. A rabid dog could potentially and randomly attack anyone, but the presidential pair is targeting only those it views as a threat to their power a power that is inflated by the myth that they still represent a leftist revolutionary movement.

As a result, it s the undisputed leftists such as Cardenal and Dora María Téllez, intellectuals such as Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and human-rights activists such as the feminist movement and other nongovernmental organizations that pose the biggest threat to exposing Ortega s lie. These are the new enemies of a government that so desperately wants to think it s revolutionary, yet has allied with some of the most reactionary interests in the country namely the Catholic Church and former President Arnoldo Alemán for the sake of consolidating and maintaining power.

Unlike in the 1980s, when Ortega faced a real foreign threat to the stability of his government and the country, today he s become the very threat he denounces.

Instead of worrying about NGOs and foreign conspiracies that are allegedly trying to discredit and destabilize the Sandinista government, Ortega should focus on resolving the problems facing the majority of Nicaraguans. On the contrary, the more time he spends attacking his enemies in the name of Sandinista dignity, the more he ultimately ends up discrediting and destabilizing his own administration.

Ortega needs to think back on that short, happy time when he was still president-elect. And he needs to be more like that guy.


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