On Wednesday, dozens of people demonstrated at the gates of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Buenos Aires to protest the repression of Daniel Ortega’s autocratic government in the Central American country. The protesters were called to the rally by the Argentine Socialist Workers Movement (MST).
The director of MST, Alejandro Bodart, spoke out against Ortega’s regime of government repression, which has recently heightened its deadly crackdown against protestors. Bodart stated that Ortega has become a dictator after overthrowing one himself and being elected to office in 1984. Before a group of roughly fifty people, Bodart called for Ortega to leave the presidency, in a move that he says is now long overdue.
While the left-wing Sandinista leader originally led Nicaragua through revolution and a civil war before assuming the presidency in 1984, he was later voted out of office in 1990 amidst skyrocketing inflation and a plunging national GDP. He made a political comeback in 2006, and in 2016 won his third consecutive five-year term amidst widespread concerns of voter intimidation and fraud. In 2014, Ortega expanded his personal powers by pushing a measure eliminating presidential term limits through Congress, and has been accused by many of his political opponents of consolidating his control over Nicaragua through the appointment of his close friends and relatives to key posts within the government.
On April 18th, a wave of unrest swept Nicaragua after Ortega tried to make changes to the nearly-bankrupt social security system—efforts that have now been abandoned—which gave workers fewer benefits while requiring them to pay more. The protests, which began as peaceful demonstrations by mostly younger Nicaraguans and students, were violently repressed by government security forces and Ortega’s regime militants.
Now, with 295 dead, thousands wounded, and over a thousand reported kidnapped and disappeared by government militants, Nicaragua is going through its bloodiest socio-political crisis since the 1980s.
From Buenos Aires, Bodart stressed that Ortega “calls himself supposedly progressive and leftist, when in reality he has nothing to do with that.” Instead, he emphasizes that Ortega has become a corrupt strongman, close to “businessmen” and “power.
“This Ortega has nothing to do with the Ortega who led the Sandinista revolution to get rid of a dictator,” said the Argentine labor leader, referring to Ortega’s leadership of the leftist revolutionary group between 1979 and 1990 .
In front of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Argentina, posters and signs were held by protestors calling for “solidarity with the Nicaraguan people” and an end to Ortega’s regime.
Bodart also tied the Nicaraguan crisis to IMF debate currently roiling Argentina, in which the IMF agreed to loan Argentina US $50 billion in the face of a sharply declining peso. In return, President Mauricio Macri agreed to accelerate the already existing plans to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit, which has proven contentious as many in the country blame similar structural adjustment measures imposed by the IMF for the 2001 economic crisis. Bodart has been extremely vocal against the deal between Argentina and the IMF, and pointed to Nicaraguan crisis as a warning to Argentina.
He has insisted that the Nicaraguan crisis also began “due to an adjustment program by the IMF”, which spurred the social security reforms that led to the protests and violent repression. Bodart thus emphasized that the international financial institution has an undeniable responsibility for the current crisis.
During Wednesday’s protest, Bodart claimed that Argentina “may very well end up in a similar situation” as Nicaragua. However, he also stated that past experiences of the Argentine people will “prevent” a government from producing the current “disaster that Ortega is carrying out.”
Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, Argentine politicians belonging to the ruling coalition, Cambiemos, led by Macri, wrote a letter asking Ortega to end the violence in Nicaragua.