Can Nicaragua avoid Venezuelafication?

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    Tim Rogers
    Tim Rogers

    Is Venezuela’s unrest a preview of trouble to come in Nicaragua?

    Nicaragua’s best friend in Latin America has quickly become the region’s biggest mess. In the past three weeks, 11 people have been killed, 200 injured and 400 jailed in Venezuela’s worsening political and social unrest, according to figures provided by the opposition.

    The country is spiraling towards chaos, and government repression is — according to opposition protesters — worse than ever.

    “Motorcycle gangs of 50-100 people are driving around the city at night shooting at people on their balconies if they come out to bang on pots and pans in protest of the government,” says opposition activist Miguel Santos. “There are no mechanisms of protest allowed in Venezuela. It has become a terror state.”

    Despite winning 49% of the presidential vote in last year’s elections, Venezuela’s opposition essentially has zero political power on the national level. The ruling party, under the volatile leadership of President Nicolás Maduro, jealously controls the media and government institutions (some of which are staffed by de facto officials whose legal term limits have expired), creating a situation of dubious rule of law, failed institutions and an increasingly polarized and desperate citizenry. The opposition says the situation has become so bad that it’s now more of a human rights issue than a political one.

    Worsening the crisis is Venezuela’s flailing economy; a 60% inflation rate and black-market dollar exchange that’s 15 times higher than the official exchange rate has led to shortages and turmoil. Nicaragua’s ALBA amigo has become a basket case.

    Nicaragua has not followed in all of Venezuela’s footsteps, and Daniel Ortega is clearly a more savvy political leader than his bumbling mustachioed counterpart. But tough times usually bring out the worse in leaders, and there are enough similarities between the two political projects to raise the question: can Nicaragua avoid further Venezuelafication? After all, Venezuela’s cult-of-personality government, enfeebled institutions, dubious rule of law, rapacious one-party system, mind-numbing triumphalism and apotheosis of Chávez, co-optation of labor unions, violent marginalization of the opposition, and untouchable motorcycle gangs that putter about the city terrorizing the opposition with impunity mades the idea of a socialist paradise seem rather unpalatable. And for those who Nicaragua, the pattern is not unfamiliar.

    It begs the question: if Nicaragua views Venezuela as a model to follow, will the Sandinistas eventually steer Nicaragua off the Venezuluean-paved road to ruin? Anyone who loves Nicaragua clearly hopes the situation in Venezuela is not a preview of things to come to our fair land, but the fast-forward unraveling of Chávez’s project raises serious questions about the future of the Sandinista project and it’s plan for succession of power.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Tim Rogers Tim Rogers.
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