>Strategic Implications of Revived Sandinista Dictatorship:
– Nicaraguan Constitutional Experts: Ortega Intends to Declare State of Emergency, Invoke New Laws ahead of November 2011 Elections
– Retired Nicaraguan Army Colonel: Martial Law Package Part of Wider Red Axis Plot to “Militarize” ALBA States
– Ortega Now Possesses “Legal” Mechanism to Revive Cold War-Era Internal Security Apparatus, Suppress Opposition to Revived Russian Presence in Nicaragua
– Sandinistas’ New Military Government Opens Door to Cooperation between Office of Defense Intelligence, Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate, and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Intelligence Service
Pictured above: Anti-government protesters outside Nicaragua’s National Assembly on December 13, 2010.
Nicaragua’s post-civil war democracy died on Monday, December 13, 2010, as we long suspected would happen when Daniel Ortega was re-elected in 2006, after he stewed on the political backburner for 16 years. The MSM has rightly exposed President Ortega’s long-standing alliances with the USA’s most implacable enemies, such as Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Libya, not to mention his new-found and most lucrative partnership with Communist Venezuela. However, it has devoted less time to exposing the re-communization of this Central American country. Only a few English-language news sources like Inside Costa Rica and Tico Times/Nica News, are closely monitoring the demise of Nicaragua’s fledgling democracy.
Originally slated for a parliamentary vote on December 6, a defense bill package sent to the National Assembly by President Ortega for rush approval was postponed until this past Monday. On December 13, the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front secured the consent of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) in passing the bills, which effectively re-establish a communist dictatorship in Nicaragua. With the support of 70 of 91 deputies, the Sandinistas rammed the three bills—the National Defense Law, the National Security Law, and the Border Law—through parliament in less than 10 days, before the year-end recess, avoiding a legislative process that normally takes months.
The role of the PLC as a true opposition party is questionable ever since former president Arnoldo Aleman, who is widely recognized as one of the world’s most corrupt politicians, formed “El Pacto” with Ortega in 1999. Government critics suspect that, in return for ratifying Ortega’s bills, the PLC will be awarded seats on the Supreme Court and Electoral Commission next year.
In any event, Sandinista lawmakers chortled over their victory, which will probably lead to a declaration of a state of emergency before the November 2011 elections. Deputy Edwin Castro gloated: “Nicaragua is the real winner here. We have achieved laws that, contrary to what people are saying, have been discussed amply.” Journalist Tim Rogers, writing for Tico Times, expounds:
The three laws will empower the military’s role in administering the state, create a new intelligence-gathering network and possibly leave the door open for forced military recruitment in times of ‘emergency’ . . . The laws themselves form only the skeleton of the state’s new defense and security policies. The ‘meat’ will come next year, when Ortega passes the ‘reglamentos’ or presidential interpretations of how the laws will be enacted.
Earlier this month, in an address to the top military command, Ortega, who is constitutionally forbidden to contest the next elections, went so far as to label those who oppose his bills “traitors” to the nation.
Specifically, warns lawyer Victor Boitano, Nicaragua’s new military government provides “Comandante” Ortega with the legal mechanisms needed to employ Sandinista paramilitary groups and a revived state security apparatus to repress and spy on the opposition in the name of national security. In addition to practicing law, Boitano is a former Nicaraguan military colonel who graduated from a Cuban military academy in the 1980s. He resigned from the army in 2007. Boitano elaborates:
These laws are being imported from Cuba and Venezuela as part of a new plan to militarize the countries of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas]. The defense bill package is an attempt by Ortega to democratically impose a military boot upon Nicaragua’s democracy and force the population to participate in the revolution.
If the laws are passed and the new system of national security is implemented Ortega would move quickly to arm and mobilize Sandinista groups–the Sandinista Youth and the Councils of Citizen Power–under the pretext that they are “volunteer reservists” organizing to defend national security.
This is a terrible, terrible militarization of the society in an undercover way; Nicaragua’s past is returning.
Gonzalo Carrión, legal director for the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, warns: “These laws would change the whole dynamic of society from that of an institutional democracy to one that is subordinate to the military.” He adds:
The goal here is to militarize the country at a time when the trend in democratic societies is to demilitarize. The defense package shows that Ortega and the Nicaraguan Army still share an ‘umbilical relationship’ that goes beyond the president’s role as commander-in-chief. Ortega constantly reminds the police and army of their Sandinista roots. The message is that Ortega is more than just the head of state, he’s also the head of the political party and the revolution that gave birth to the army.
Constitutional expert Gabriel Alvarez agrees that Ortega’s military government is designed to subvert the constitution prior to the president’s unlawful re-election bid:
Since Ortega wasn’t able to get the votes he needed in the National Assembly this year to reform the Constitution to allow for his re-election, this package of laws is meant to substitute for the constitutional reforms. If the defense bills pass as is, Ortega will have use of the army and Sandinista-sponsored paramilitary groups to physically enforce the de facto Supreme Court ruling that okayed his re-election last year.
Any protests of his candidacy or demonstrations against next year’s possibly fraudulent elections can then be put down forcefully under the argument that such unrest represents a threat to national stability and democratic order. These laws would institutionalize Ortega’s paranoia and authoritarian style of government. And they would provide a permanent green light to legalize and legitimize the use of paramilitary force. This would institutionalize people’s fear of repression.
The defense-bill package does not represent a political vision based in democracy, rather that of a police state or an authoritarian state. Even the language of the bills, which talks about the need to promote a value-based “culture of defense” and the rights and obligations to defend their democracy and “supreme interests,” sounds “quasi-North Korean.”
Reviewing certain provisions of the three laws offers insight into “Comandante’s” intentions. We have previously looked at the stipulations of Nicaragua’s new Border Law.
The National Defense Law establishes the “right and obligation of Nicaraguan citizens to participate actively and belligerently in national defense.” Article 3 calls for “national mobilizations,” in which “all human, technical and material resources are put at the disposal of national defense in situations of conflict and emergency.” Article 21 calls for the creation of a “reservist force” led by ex-military personnel. Article 25 requires “all media outlets” to “collaborate in the education and divulgation of the values, principles and directives of National Defense with the goal of creating cohesion of the entire Nicaraguan society around the execution of an effective National Defense Policy.”
Article 3 of the National Security Law establishes “permanent, immediate and direct actions to preserve the integrity, stability and permanency of the state of Nicaragua, its institutions, democratic order, rule of law, people and property against any threat, risk or aggression.” Article 8 of the same bill creates a “National Security System,” consisting of “institutions specialized in intelligence and information” and empowered to collect information using “specialized methods of human and technical resources.”
Article 9 calls for the submission of intelligence reports to the president and, with a nod toward the red regimes in Havana and Caracas, the “cooperation and collaboration with intelligence services of friendly countries and international organizations.” Finally, Article 11 states that the army’s Office of Defense Information and the military intelligence network will be subordinate to the “Commander in Chief,” meaning the president of the republic.
It would appear, then, that the Sandinistas’ manufactured border dispute with Costa Rica and their opposition to the US Navy’s presence in Costa Rican waters are pretexts to militarize Nicaraguan society, re-consolidate their 1980s dictatorship, and justify cooperation among Latin America’s Red Axis intelligence agencies.
Nicaragua’s new martial law regime, moreover, will enable Ortega to suppress opposition to a potential revived Russian presence in that country. This dilemma exposed itself in December 2008 when a Russian destroyer appeared off the country’s Caribbean coast, the first time since the Cold War, to deliver “humanitarian aid.” Nicaragua’s opposition, no doubt recalling the baleful presence of Soviet Bloc advisors in Managua in the 1980s, went so far as to brand the Russian Navy’s arrival “unconstitutional” and a “violation of sovereignty.”
Nicaragua may be a small, poor country and its border tiff with Costa Rica a “tempest in a tea cup,” but its refurbished Soviet-built air base at Punta Huete can accommodate Russia’s strategic bombers. These did not materialize during the Cold War, but could conceivably land at Central America’s longest runway at any time in the future. The arrival of two Tu-160 bombers in Venezuela on September 10, 2008, suggests that the Kremlin may try such a provocation in the upcoming months.