Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Friday, November 14, 2008

  Nicaragua's election aftermath

Listening to rumors and hearsay, I hear all sorts of things... but Time, however, posted the most inflammatory piece, lacking almost entirely in substantive detail, but containing gems like:

"This week, the streets of Managua were once again aflame amid the boom of mortar rounds, as the Sandinistas and their rivals battled for control..."

Um, I haven't heard that from any local I know. I think the journalist is mistaking the common practice of lighting off large firecrackers ("bombas") for mortar rounds. You hear bombas all the time, day or night, anywhere you go in Nicaragua, on even the most trivial occasion. After a week or two you stop jumping under your desk for safety.

Yes, there are problems. Other news organizations, such as the Latin American Herald Tribune, have posted that At least two people were killed and several other injured in clashes Monday. Accusations of vote-buying and a miscount are rampant, and the losing party (PLC) is demanding a recount with international observers. Since the entire election process lacked international observers, and had two parties banned from taking part, somehow I doubt this will happen...

Update: The comment section of this economist article has a pointer to Citizen's Crusade Watch's accounts of the vote totals in Managua, which show some rather major discrepancies.

For my part, as an accidental international observer, the voting process in San Juan Del Sur seemed orderly and peaceful. It was a foregone conclusion that SJDS would go FSLN - it has for 27 years, after all. One image from the day sticks with me: As a victory parade stalled out in front of my house, one truck containing at least thirty men, women and children stopped, and one of those walking reached up to hand the driver a beer.

My amigos and amigas in Managua have told me that it IS tense there, that the police are doing nothing, and gangs of supporters of all factions are messing up the place.

One conversation (with a native Managuan) went like this:

S: Are you happy with your new president?
Dave: Um, er, not really. I hate the existing president with a passion I can barely express.
S: Wow.
Dave: Problem is, all the power that Bush gathered to himself is going to Obama next and I'd prefer that all that power... dissipate... vanish... so that no president ever again, has that much power. Obama is going to try to use his power for "good" and absolute power corrupts absolutely. U happy with your new Boxer mayor?
S: Not at all. To be honest, i didnt like McCain nor Obama. I think they are 2 extreme persons. One is too liberal. The other is too conservative when it comes to helping people from another race. But I do share McCain's values - I'm pro-life - and I can be a little conservative when it comes to values. I'm totally against war, though.
Dave: Yea, someone having a consistent pro-life position would be nice - no abortion, no war.
S: Yep. So those 2 guys are the extreme position.
Dave: Hmm. I regarded McCain as middle of the road... for the current crop of Republicans. I was going to vote for him until he selected Palin.
S: That too.
Dave: Ah, well, she was good for a laugh.
S: haha. managua is crazy today. Sandinistas are fighting against liberales.
Dave: I heard there was violence, is it still going on?
S: Horrible. Yes.
Dave: Well, I heard there was a lot of allegations of fraud - property for a vote, money for a vote, food for a vote - but I took that as "normal" for Nicaragua... not enough to account for a 51% vs 45% vote difference.
S: Yes i think it was like that. I think authorities are acting in a very irresponsible way
Dave: How so? In America, there are now "free speech zones" - one of the many reasons why I left, for here. Here strikes me as saner than America... or did, until a few days ago. You don't need a permit for a parade.
S: Yea.
Dave: How are the authorities acting irresponsibly? rubber bullets? gas?
S: They should stop people from acting the way they are acting. The police are not doing anything and the president doesn't care. I don't care what party is causing what... that's not the proper way to protest.
Dave: How can they manage better? Persuasion? Passing out good dope?
S: Increasing violence, killing people... each party should talk with its people and tell them to calm down. they haven't done that.
Dave: Police are killing people?
S: No, Sandinistas and Liberales are killing each other. Police are not doing anything. It is just sad.
Dave: Well, mass insurrection does not seem to be be happening (yet). People kill one another all the time - over relationships, over politics, over money or stuff... it's a fact of life.
S: I know, but Nicaragua is not ready for more wars. We have gone through a lot.
Dave: I'm essentially conservative (in the old fashioned, 1950s, American sense) that in case of doubt, the government should do nothing. I came here because I wanted to understand peace. No lessons to be had in Iraq, or the Balkans, or many other places in the world. Somehow, post-Chammorro, Nicaragua has retained a strong semblance of peace. It's amazing. I'd hate to see it go to hell.
S: I know. We need people who love Nicaragua with passion, people with good values and morality and people ready to make a change in this country without violence, using values,and discipline and morality as the weapon. That's what I think.
Dave: So get out there and BE peaceful!
S: We need a new face. People are getting tired of Ortega and Arnoldo.
Dave: Not enough tired, this time.
S: We'll see.

Outside my window, children play. Four came up, this morning, to ask for water. We talked - or rather, they talked while I tried to translate what they said - the most voluble among them was growing in a new set of front teeth, which made that doubly difficult - about baseball, television, and games.

Kid stuff, nothing important.

I wish politics wasn't important.

Labels: ,

 
Comments:
Most sensible. News reaching the US and Europe from Nicaragua are most often taken from the very biased right-wing press. As the current opposition controls almost 100% of Nicaraguan media, it's very hard to find alterantive accounts of what's going on.

Observing what's going on, and talking to people, I find it rahter obvious that the Sandinist triumph in the local elections comes down to this:

While 'ordinary people' most often don't vote here, thinking that politics are generally corrupt, after 2 years of Sandinist government lots of people have actually found that this government really tries to make a difference. Lots of social reforms are launched, and some of them seems to return results, despite a dramatic lack of economical resources to back them. Thus lots of people who didn't care to vote earlier, actually vote for the Sandinistas this time. Also the FSLN helped this trend by urging people who's left their home municipality to get work elsewhere, to vote.

There's been some riots, with supporters of both parties involved -- but considering the countries lack of democratic traditions, this is neither surprising nor very worrying.

The 'mortars' heard is of course firecrackers. In November and December there's lots of them here, in condition with both school graduations and religious holidays.
 
Well, I published an update containing my personal observations of Managua Sunday in my blog today. No mortars. Hand held rocket launchers, though.

Things in Nicaragua have otherwise become noticeably better over the past 18 months of my extended visit - in addition to the vastly improved road network, power has been much more reliable, and the new cable internet service amazing.

Hate to see all that go to hell.
 
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