A farce and a tragedy

In “His View” of Nov. 19, Steve McGehee accurately condemns the United States’s history of imperialistic intervention in Nicaraguan politics and economy. If anything, he understates the case. But he pretty much lets Nicaragua’s dictator-president, Daniel Ortega, off the hook. That’s a mistake.

McGehee’s fantasy, that Ortega would be playing golf with Donald Trump if only Ortega’s dictatorship were not so socialistic and friendly with Cuba and Venezuela, hits one nail on the head. Trump and Ortega are very similar. Each has been trying to destroy democracy within his country. Trump has partly failed, so far, because the United States has strong legal and political traditions. Nicaragua, lacking such traditions, has fallen victim to dictators regularly, and Ortega is only the most recent.

Ortega’s models are the father and son Somoza dictators. Ortega helped oust the latter Somoza in 1979, and since then he has grown more and more like them. As they say in Nicaragua, “Ortega y Somoza, la misma cosa” (the same thing). Though many in Nicaragua believe Ortega is worse.

In order to condemn American colonialist policies, McGehee gets “Ortega’s real problem” wrong. Ortega can think only like a dictator. So in 2018, faced with a national wave of protest demonstrations, he did what dictators do: he ordered the national police to attack. He put snipers on rooftops with instructions to aim at the heads of protesters. The count of 300 protesters killed in the revolt of 2018 is probably an undercount, and Nicaragua has become a police state. Opponents who speak their mind end up in jail, or dead or in exile, and others live in a state of fear.

The political scene in Nicaragua is both farce and tragedy. McGehee treats it only as farce, which is unfortunate and misleading.

David Barber

Moscow

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