Correspondent in Managua
Managua, the capital, woke up this Sunday in silence and empty. The morning of the election day passed in an atmosphere of passivity. Most of the attendees were supporters of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, and its faithful militants who guarded the polls against any situation that went beyond the script imposed by the party. In the country they are known as paramilitaries, and they are feared due to the level of violence and impunity with which they act.
Sandinista activists were the majority to vote in these elections, many under pressure or led by the Councils of Citizen Power (CPC), a territorial structure similar to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in Cuba, whose main purpose is the political surveillance. Ortega’s supporters do not dare to speak of the process. In response to the reporters’ question, they respond with a few words: “All calm, in tranquility.” And they leave, with his stained finger. Most are seniors who, at least in public, claim to fully trust the process.
But one can also run into certain exceptions. In one of the voting centers in the capital, a citizen said that she decided to go to the polls to “prevent others from marking my ballot.” A statement that can be understood as a form of protest against the long history of fraud executed by Ortega since coming to power in 2008. The woman showed her finger stained with ink, but not before making it clear that she did not want to give her name for fear of reprisals.
Ortega and Murillo did not need to use the fraudulent methods of before. They have created what many consider to be the perfect charade, the staging that takes it all to a sure victory. First, imprisoned seven opposition candidates along with some thirty activists, businessmen and social leaders. Later, imposed on some unknown candidates by the population. One of them, Gerson Gutiérrez Gasparín, from the Alianza por la República (APRE) party, voted this morning at a school in Managua that had no voters. The candidate did not respond to the incarcerations carried out by the government the day before.
Ortega breaks the electoral silence
The Sandinista president voted at noon in a center set up in his private residence, in the El Carmén district. He arrived accompanied by his wife, Vice President Murillo, and dozens of members of the Sandinista Youth, one of the many groups controlled by the government. Although there was not a single red and black flag, Ortega’s message was confrontational. “They kept conspiring and they keep conspiring. Those do not want peace, those are sowers of hatred, sowers of terror. Although they dress as they dress, they are demons, “he said in a speech after his vote.
He also recalled “the terrorist acts” of the April 2018 protests, the largest in the recent history of the country. These demonstrations are considered in the official discourse as an “attempted coup”, financed by the United States and Nicaraguan opposition groups. “We are still fresh about what a violent war of terror means,” he added.
For its part, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada downplayed electoral ignorance that could increase after November 7. “We are not going to intimidate us with their threats, with their unilateral measures, with their sanctions, with their threats of ignoring elections,” he declared in reference to the United States and the European Union (EU), after voting.
Arrests hours before opening the polls
The Nicaraguan government did not stop the arrests of opponents that it carried out since the beginning of June on the eve of elections. The police presence has increased, as have the arrests of opponents. During the night of Saturday, social movements in the country denounced the arrest of leaders in the country’s communities. Some of those identified are Nidia Barboza, from the Civic Alliance; Muammar Vado, from the Unamos party; Esterlin Soriano González, from San Juan de Cinco Pinos; and Yoel Sandino Ibarra, in Managua.
The independent body Urnas Abiertas alerted this Saturday a increase in political violence in the country. Given the distrust of government authorities, civil society organizations have created monitoring groups in order to warn about the acts of repression. “We have identified a permanent and constant siege on the outskirts of the houses of opponents, mainly executed by police, with the participation of parastatal agents, state workers and supporters of the Sandinista Front,” they said in a statement.
Despite the calm that the Ortega regime intends to impose, outside the Nicaraguan borders thousands of exiles they have been demonstrated in dozens of cities around the world. The largest focus was very close to Nicaragua, in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. Nicaraguans sing their national anthem and carry banners that they cannot raise in their own country.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism