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Miami Herald: Dealing democracy a death blow

Author: Marifeli Perez-Stable
December 17, 2009

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Marifeli Perez-Stable criticizes the Nicaraguan government under Daniel Ortega for damaging Nicaraguan democracy, and says that Ortega's attempt to hold on to power past 2011 may create a political crisis.

Nicaragua is nearing the brink. In 2006 Daniel Ortega campaigned in sheep's clothing but freed his inner wolf once inaugurated. He joined ALBA, Venezuela's alliance of autocrats, traveled to Iran, Cuba, Libya and Algeria and used then-U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli as a punching bag. The Sandinista machinery of clientelism, corruption and strong-arm tactics is back in full force.

True, Nicaragua remains in CAFTA-DR, the free-trade agreement with the United States, and signed onto the Merida Initiative, a joint U.S., Mexico and Central American effort against organized crime. The Nicaraguan National Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration have a history of reliable cooperation that has increased under the Sandinistas.

All the same, a political crisis is in the offing. Notwithstanding the Constitution's ban on consecutive terms, Ortega is set on remaining in power beyond 2011. In October, the Constitutional Court green-lighted Ortega's reelection, which sounds legitimate but isn't. Only the National Assembly -- where the Sandinistas don't have the votes -- can rule on the matter. Thanks to el pacto, Ortega has the luxury of cafeteria politics, picking and choosing institutions to get his way.

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