A new chapter in a once promising story for Central American democracy is being written in the streets of Managua. Faced with possible defeats at the ballot box, it appears as if elements of the Sandinista Party have devolved to their old, Cold War ways.
In an speech before a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress in 1983 on the strategic importance of Central America to the United States, President Ronald Reagan said that “[v]iolence has been Nicaragua’s most important export to the world.” Back then, Nicaragua was ruled by dictator Ortega. Well, less than two years in office since his election to President by about 38% of the vote, and it appears that not much as changed since the 1980s.
Ever since coming to power, the Sandinistas moved swiftly to pick up where they left off. With the assistance of Cuba and Venezuela, they have attempted to erode democratic rule, free markets, and rule of law. Rather than work for regional security and stability, the Sandinistas have worked to undermine it by inviting our enemies, such as Iran, to set up operations in the region. They openly support terrorist groups such as the FARC in Colombia.
The Sandinistas biggest crime, however, is their attempted destruction of a democratic state based on freedom. They want to turn Nicaragua over to the Bolivarian Alternative led by Cuba and Venezuela. A misguided and backward looking idea, the Bolivarian Alternative will surely fail. It will fall under its own petard because it is based on socialist thinking and led by criminals.
A majority of Nicaraguans do not want a return to the days of the Cold War. Rather than allow the Sandinistas steal key elections, the opposition, too, has taken to the streets and demanded transparency, rule of law, and a recount. They do not want to go the way of Ecuador or Bolivia. Nicaraguans do not want the Foro de Sao Paolo, through a Bolivarian Alternative, further entrenched in Nicaraguas’ body politic.
We cannot allow the Bolivarian Axis to get a firmer footing in Central America. Cuba and Venezuela have failed in Nicaragua, now they seek to take by force what they could not take by subterfuge and twisting of Nicaraguan laws.
The United States needs to support the close to 60% of Nicaragua that did not vote for Daniel Ortega in 2006. Faced with a militant wing of radical Sandinistas leaders, the opposition is powerless. We need to send a clear message that we mean business.
The U.S. Congress and Bush Administration can start by curtailing foreign assistance to the Sandinista government. U.S. taxpayers should not underwrite a Sandinista state or, worse, a take over by the Bolivarian Alternative. Regional powers should chime in and call for calm and ask rational Sandinista leaders, if any remain, that the violence has to stop and that the electoral processes be honored.
During the past few decades, Americans have invested a great deal in Nicaraguan democracy. While Nicaragua’s road to democratic rule has been fraught with many challenges, it held great promise until the election of the Sandinistas in 2006. If the Nicaraguan opposition requests U.S. assistance, we should be prepared to assist. In a post-09.11.11 world, there is a lot more at stake in the region than just one country.