« | Home | »

Why Ortega Won

Tags:

Right-wing cynics were trying their best in the run up to Sunday’s election in Nicaragua. Foreseeing victory for the incumbent, President Daniel Ortega (he won with 62 per cent of the vote), they argued that at the least sign of electoral manipulation the United States should put its foot down. Robert Callahan, the US ambassador to Nicaragua from 2008 until July this year, proposed a four-point plan for the US to follow in the wake of likely electoral fraud. His suggestions included refusing to appoint a new ambassador and cutting off US aid.

US criticism of elections in developing countries is highly selective, but in any case Ortega has much less need to worry than he would have done a few years ago. The USA’s poor political reputation in Latin America under Bush has barely recovered under Obama, especially given his failure to condemn the coup d’état in Honduras. Ortega can keep up his anti-US rhetoric while knowing that the United States, Nicaragua’s biggest trading partner, won’t put any blocks on US business or tourism, which helped Nicaragua’s economy grow by 4.5 per cent last year. Ortega doesn’t need America’s strings-attached aid programmes.

Besides, he seems to have won cleanly and by a clear margin. Turnout was nearly 70 per cent: people have only had a democratic vote since 1984 and place a high value on it. I’ve just spoken to someone whose family made a costly overnight trip to vote in the remote village where they are registered. The big vote-winner was the government’s anti-poverty programmes: ‘Plan Roof’, ‘Zero Hunger’, ‘Zero Usury’, ‘Streets for the People’. Under Zero Hunger, women in rural areas are given a cow, a pig, hens and some basic help with looking after them. Many houses now exhibit new zinc roofs. Partly as a result, rural poverty fell by 5 per cent in 2010. Even the elite shouldn’t complain: most main roads are better than ever, and investment in electricity generation – some of it from renewable sources – means that extended power cuts are a thing of the past.

But they do complain, of course. The two main national newspapers have been unremitting in their criticism, and Ortega’s running for a second consecutive term produced dire warnings of an imminent ‘dictatorship’. The social programmes and investment in infrastructure depend heavily on aid from other Latin American countries, especially Venezuela but also Cuba and Brazil. Ortega’s links with Hugo Chávez and Raúl Castro infuriate both Washington and Nicaragua’s US-oriented elite, but for most Nicaraguans they are a welcome alternative to dependency on US aid and the conditions that come with it. Nicaragua is the hemisphere’s second poorest country after Haiti. The anti-poverty programmes, combined with improved education and health services, and a growing economy, are seen as real achievements. It’s hardly surprising that people should vote for the party that has delivered them.

Comments on “Why Ortega Won”

  1. Geoff Roberts says:

    Not so sure about the ‘clean’ win, and surveys of one person should be treated with caution. I don’t doubt that Ortega has done some good things, but he did run after getting the approval of a High Court that was biased in his favour. I don’t think we should ignore the blemishes even if the overall picture is fairly positive.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement