Following the example of the Socialist Bolivarian Venezuelan government, which in February 2009 supposedly won a referendum so that President Hugo Chávez could be reelected indefinitely, the National Assembly of Nicaragua last January reformed the Constitution to allow indefinite reelection. As a result, President Daniel Ortega will be able to run in the 2016 elections for his fourth presidential period.
Since the first days of the Sandinista government in 2007, this political party has been taking over power in all areas. Today the Sandinista Front controls the legislative, electoral and judicial branches.
But centralization doesn’t end there. In February the official media announced the implementation of the “Sandinista National Council of Government,” an organ that is not established in the Political Constitution of the Republic, yet will be charged with supervising all state institutions and municipal governments to ensure compliance with presidential orders. The concentration of power is not limited to the Pacific coast. On March 2, the governing party won the elections in the autonomous regions of the Atlantic Coast amid claims of electoral fraud, which have been ignored by the Supreme Electoral Council.
Besides the control in all areas of political power, the governing party has been implementing a model of “citizen participation” through the Councils of Citizens’ Power and the Sandinista Leadership Councils. These groups have a presence in different communities, neighborhoods, and in public institutions, with the purpose of engaging with and controlling political militants and other citizens. They act as the promotors of government’s clientelism.
Also, through measures of “political engagement,” they promote the cult of the Eternal Commander (Hugo Chávez) for the Commander Daniel and his wife, Comrade Rosario. Thanks to them Nicaraguans live in a country that is “Christian, Socialist and in Solidarity.” In addition, they distribute solidary consumer goods such as food packages, mattresses, zinc sheets, etc., to promote conformism despite the lack of employment opportunities. The neighborhood groups also guarantee that party supporters attend all political activities and official demonstrations, to make sure the plazas always seem full.
The radio and TV couldn’t escape from the government’s control either. The presidential family and its associates manage eight national TV channels and several radio stations, all of which broadcast propaganda all day. These media outlets centralize advertisement and information, leaving the rest without access to public information. As a consequence, the few independent media are perishing because of the lack of budget and political pressure. In September 2013, the report “Freedom of Speech in Nicaragua” (2010-2013) from Observatorio de Medios, stated the existence of censorship, aggressions to journalists, closure of media, purchase of media and pressure on owners of media so they do not criticize the government.
Without a doubt, the Sandinista government has been able to copy and implement the Chavista authoritarian model. Aggressively and evidently, they have taken political and social control of the country to incubate a new dictatorship. And they have prepared the conditions to declare themselves the undisputed winners of 2016 elections.
This article was originally published in“Open Society Online”