On Sunday November 8th, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega interrupted 19 days of absence and silence with a public appearance. In his speech commemorating deceased Sandinista founder Carlos Fonseca, Ortega asserted that he “respects” Donald Trump’s claims of electoral fraud.
Donald Trump raised these claims after losing his November 3rd bid for a second presidential mandate. Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden is widely considered the new president-elect, although official tallies have not yet been released.
Ortega stated that the election results were “a problem they have to solve [in the US].” He affirmed that in future Nicaraguan elections, he doesn’t want them [the US] “to interfere with ours.”
The Nicaraguan ruler continued: “We simply recognize whoever turns out to be elected. (..) Those contradictions, those conflicts, that polarization where they allege fraud, well, that’s a problem that they must resolve. We won’t get into it (..) because we don’t want them to get involved with us, as they have in other times.”
“Open” to a new dialogue
Daniel Ortega took advantage of his platform to indicate his intention to open the doors to a dialogue with the opposition. He declared: “the moment will come when we can hold a dialogue, even with the most venomous.”. However, he left it clear that the topics he plans to address will be “economic programs” and “social” issues.
Ortega, who also heads the Sandinista Party, didn’t utter a word about the opposition’s demands for the 2021 election. These include deep reforms in the electoral system, and reestablishing Nicaraguans’ rights and guarantees. They also include absolute freedom for all current and released political prisoners.
Furthermore, he noted that the scheduled 2021 presidential elections in Nicaragua are now one year away. However, he didn’t mention anything about guaranteeing that these elections be free and transparent, and open to observation. These have been the demands of the Nicaraguan opposition.
Ortega didn’t mention an order he recently issued to the FSLN members. He asked them to elaborate a proposal for electoral reforms that doesn’t involve changes in the Supreme Electoral Council. Instead, he wants these reforms to focus on technical aspects of the electoral law.
Once again he seized the public opportunity to attack the civic rebellion that broke out in April 2018. He again called this one of the “most terrible” attacks. He referred to it “as a stab to the heart of this people.”
Ortega then assured that they’re “going to battle”, so the 2021 elections will “have the results” they’ve been “fighting” for. He said they would fight for this outcome despite the “terrorism of April”, the pandemic, and the hurricane.
Daniel Ortega claims Eta left “not one single death”
Less than five minutes into his speech, Ortega recalled the crisis caused by the November 3rd passage of Hurricane Eta. He noted the hurricane’s impact on Nicaragua’s North Caribbean coast. Ortega said that the phenomenon “left damages”, but that these were “reparable”.
When he began to report on “the number of victims”, President Ortega seemed indecisive. He consulted with his wife, vice president and government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo. Only after consultation did he break the silence, without completing his initial sentence. He then stated: “what produced some deaths and fatalities was mining activity, but that was before the hurricane entered.”
Nonetheless, local media reported the death of two small-scale miners on November 3rd: William Castro and Ervin Ariel. These deaths were reported in the city of Bonanza, the same day that Eta made landfall in the North Caribbean. This was twenty-four hours after Nicaragua’s disaster prevention system had issued a red alert for the municipality.
Daniel Ortega affirmed that Eta “totally devastated” the North Caribbean zone. He didn’t offer any details about the number of people still displaced, or houses destroyed by the hurricane. No mention was made on the number of shelters set up. He was similarly silent about the attention being offered to community members who are demanding food and water. He didn’t give any details about government plans to support the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.
Ortega’s speech culminated with the assertion that “there wasn’t even a single death” from Hurricane Eta. This, he said, was because “they had evacuated [the communities] in time.”
NGO notes “inhumane” treatment of victims
Juana Bilbano directs the Center for Justice and Human Rights on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast. During an interview on the weekly internet news program Esta Semana, she termed the current situation of communities there, “inhumane”. Community members are suffering under terrible conditions due to the impact of Hurricane Eta. She also reported on a possible third death related to the hurricane.
Bilbana indicated that her center has received information about the death of 18-year-old Poanco Enriquez. Enriquez’ body was found November 6th in the sector known as Li Aura. He had been reported missing 48 hours before. Polanco Enriquez was last seen leaving the northern coastal town of Waspam in a cayuca, a small wooden boat. He was attempting to navigate the Ipri Tigri river there.
There have been reports of a dire lack of food, mattresses and water in the shelters set up in the North Caribbean. Advocates there warn of an impending food crisis in the indigenous communities, amid the lack of government attention.