Nicaragua Will NOT Have The Next Coup

The following is Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice’s response to the attention the possibility of a Nicaraguan coup has received in the media today.

Nicaragua Will Not Be Next

By Chuck Kaufman
National Co-Coordinator
Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice

While the facts in the Prensa Latina article, “After Honduras, Nicaragua?”
on April 22, 2010, and some coverage by other international media, are
correct about the current turmoil in Nicaragua, the implication that
Nicaragua is ripe for a coup, like occurred in neighboring Honduras, is
not. The Nicaraguan opposition, generously funded by the US National
Endowment for Democracy and US Agency for International Development, has
worked to make the country ungovernable virtually since President Daniel
Ortega took office in January 2007. One of the periodic escalations of
those tactics is taking place now.

During the previous unpopular government of Enrique Bolaños (2002-2006),
laws were changed which were intended to adjust the balance of power
between the executive and legislative branches. There was a widespread
feeling among the two major parties — Sandinista Front for National
Liberation (FSLN) and the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) that the
Nicaraguan constitution placed too much power in the hands of the
presidency. As a result, the constitution was amended to give the National
Assembly the power to elect the magistrates of the judicial and electoral
branches and a number of executive branch positions such as comptrollers
general, human rights ombudsman, superintendent of banks, etc. In all, the
legislature gained the power to elect the top 25 appointed positions of
the other three branches of government.

Since no party has a majority in the current 92 member National Assembly
(the Sandinistas have 38 votes), no single party has the power to appoint
Supreme Court justices, Supreme Electoral Council magistrates, etc. Late
last year, as some positions terms were coming to an end and the remainder
of the 25 expiring soon, President Ortega took the only step he could take
to maintain a functioning government — he issued a decree that those in
appointed positions would continue to serve until the National Assembly
appointed their replacements.

Imagine if in the US all the members of the Supreme Court, the governors
of the Federal Reserve, the Attorney General and others all had to be
elected by the Congress over a matter of three months and the Republicans
decided to filibuster all the positions. That was the position facing
President Ortega.

Only after he issued his decree did the National Assembly even appoint a
committee to begin the process of making recommendations for filling the
vacancies. In the most politically cynical manner imaginable, the
opposition and apologists for US policy, such as the Washington Post’s
Jackson Diehl, are attempting to characterize Ortega’s action as one to
accrue powers similar to the dictator Somoza, rather than what it was, a
last ditch effort to maintain a functioning national government. Some
former Sandinistas, such as the previously respected Victor Hugo Tinoco
who represents the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) in the National
Assembly, have openly conspired with the right-wing opposition. Others,
such as Cmdte. Monica Baltodano, who was also elected on the MRS ticket,
have resigned from the MRS in disgust at its tactics.

Where the situation stands today is that the right-wing opposition is
attempting to find the unity to declare Ortega’s decree illegal and
effectively paralyze the national government leaving it without a
functioning judiciary, electoral authority, and with many agencies
headless. After more than four months of paralyzing the National
Assembly, indications are that they have either achieved the votes they
need, are engaging in political theater, or most likely both since only
the Supreme Court can rule a presidential decree unconstitutional.
Sandinista base militants are apparently clashing with the opposition
which is giving fodder to international media parasites such as Diehl to
continue their attacks on Ortega and the Sandinista government.

What is different in Nicaragua than Honduras or the rest of Central
America is that Nicaragua has a patriotic army that has maintained
absolute political neutrality since it changed its name in 1990 from the
Sandinista Popular Army to the Nicaraguan Army. Unlike the armies of its
neighbors, the Nicaraguan army also has no record of repressing Nicaraguan
citizens. The Honduran coup succeeded because the Honduran army was loyal
to the ruling elites. In Nicaragua the army is loyal to the nation and to
the institutions of government. There will be no coup in Nicaragua.