Last November 6 Nicaragua and Guatemala both held presidential elections, but while the Nicaraguan elections have been subjected to a series of challenges, those in Guatemala seem to satisfy those who claim to be troubled about the reelection of President Daniel Ortega.
It is striking that nobody is troubled about the triumph of General Otto Pérez Molina, who had been a candidate several times without winning. He was probably helped this time by the judicial denial of permission for Sandra Torres, former wife of current president Álvaro Colom, to run.
Political analysts consider that Sandra Torres was in the best position to win the election due to her work with the most dispossessed sectors of society; the judicial ruling left the Unión Nacional de la Esperanza, UNE, without a candidate.
This favored Pérez Molina, questionable because of his activity as a military officer in the previous dictatorial governments. He has been identified as responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, most of them indigenous.
That accusation was made again this year in the United Nations by the organization Waqib Kej in a document that charges he was “directly involved in the systematic use of torture and in acts of genocide during internal conflicts in Guatemala.”
What happened during that period was investigated by the Comisión Nacional de Reconciliación, which appointed bishop [Juan José] Gerardi [Conedera] to investigate the matter. The bishop issued a four-volume report, “Guatemala Nunca Más”[“Guatemala Never Again”], in which he documented more than 54,000 human rights violations, holding the army responsible for most of them.
Two days later, Gerardi was assassinated brutally in the garage of the parish house. His head was crushed with cement blocks and his face was disfigured to the degree that he had to be identified by his episcopal ring.
The book [by Francisco Goldman], El arte de un asesinato político: Quién mató al obispo? [in English translation as The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?], supplies much information and points to the military perpetrators of the era of Pérez Molina. There has been no talk of these acts and of the indigenous people who were in the Spanish embassy and were burned to death when that diplomatic site was set on fire.
Attention is directed toward the insecurity caused by delinquency but little is said about the lack of an organized police force. Those who are in fact responsible for security in this country are the 120,000 private security guards, untrained but armed and five times the size of the police.
In the elections in Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega was re-elected with 64 percent of the vote, his nearest opponent receiving 30 percent. Nonetheless an attempt has been made to dismiss these results, wihout the observing organizations offering evidence of any irregularities.
There has been speculation due to the long report put together by the group sent by the European Union. That document nevertheless does not indicate that any fraud was committed or that any manipulation was practiced with the intention of changing the vote.
The report refers to the election law, to the training of those who made up the vote collection boards, makes comparisons with past Nicaraguan elections, makes recommendations, but does not indicate that there was fraud.
Furthermore, the head of the mission, Spanish representative to the EU Luis Yáñez of the Partido Socialista Obrero, as he offered to the press in Managua the preliminary report on the election, clarified that no one was mentioned in it as winner but “says, on a personal note, that Ortega won, but with some irregularities,” according to La Prensa, which is opposed to Ortega.
The Organization of American States observation mission, headed by former Argentine Foreign Minister Dante Caputo, complained in the first hours of voting that those in charge of the polls were not allowing them access, a problem that was resolved in a short time.
Although Caputo was seen to be influenced by the European Union, statements by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza were clear when he said that peace and democracy had advanced in Nicaragua with this election.
The opposition, which suffered setbacks as large as those of the Partido Liberal Independiente, which received half the number of votes as the Sandinistas, or the Liberal Conservador of former President Arnoldo Alemán, which got only five percent, insisted on the existence of fraud and asked for annulment of the election.
No one offered concrete facts but their statements served as incentive for the United States which, lacking any, chose to express its “concern” over claims made by others.
While the Nicaraguan press, all of it in the opposition, published the claims, it finally had to admit as well that denunciations like those by Alemán had no basis and that the spokesman for his party admitted that the heads of the campaign had ignored the election judges, who, in any case, had not been in the polling places.
Reasons for the win
We should look at the reasons for such a wide victory for Daniel Ortega, when it is evident that there is a split among the Sandinistas. This was expressed in previous statements by persons who were known to have participated in the past.
The Ortega government has launched a series of initiatives that benefit the most vulnerable sectors of society. Observers indicate that he has been supported by new business groups in launching efforts that are lowering the prices of basic products.
A recent study by the polling group M&R Consultores found that the main problems are unemployment and poverty, with responses of 26.2 and 20 percent respectively, and that only 0.3 percent of those surveyed complained of an increase in the cost of the basics.
The Central Bank of Nicaragua indicated on November 11 that inflation in October had been 0.43 percent and that the level for the year had risen to 5.34 percent, figures notably lower than last year.
The stores are well stocked and prices are low; a pound of chicken sells for 18.5 córdobas, which is the equivalent of US$0.80. Of course this is not the case in private sector markets.
Government funds come largely from savings for the country from membership in PetroCaribe, the organization created by Venezuela which sells petroleum to its member countries under favorable conditions; 50 percent is paid within 30 days and the rest in 25 years, which leaves a surplus for these programs.
But Moody’s does not like this and, although it kept Nicaragua in the category of “B3 stable,” it decided the day after the elections to warn of the risks that Nicaragua could run, in its opinion, because of its nearness to Venezuela, which has become part of the new budding offensives.