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Tens of Thousands March Against Government In Nicaragua; The Irony of Ortega's Downfall

Nicaragua's unrest began last month after President Daniel Ortega approved reductions to pension and social security payments, but it had been simmering for some time. There is a growing feeling that his government is corrupt and out of touch with the people. As more Nicaraguans take to the streets, Ortega's hold on power continues to slip. There is no lack of irony in what will likely be Ortega's fall from power.

Ortega first came to power in 1979 after the Sandinista revolution overthrew Nicaragua's corrupt and brutal dictator, Anastasio Somoza. His government remained in power for 10 years and created a socialist economy by removing Somoza's cronies and undertaking much-needed land reforms. He stepped down, however, to end the bloody "Contra" revolution financed by the United States.

Ortega made a comeback in in 2006, this time as a conservative with a right-wing agenda that embraced "traditional values" and business oriented economic policies. In order to get evangelical and Catholic support, he backed Nicaragua's strict abortion ban and opposed gay rights.

Ortega held on to power because his opposition had been splintered and ineffective, but that began to change in 2014 when he forced through legislation removing presidential term limits and it became clear that Ortega was becoming what he had opposed in 1979; a dictator. As protests grew, security forces responded by killing dozens on the streets and soon the social security protesters were joined by students and other Nicaraguans demanding Ortega's removal.

Nicaragua's congress set up a commission to look into the deaths of the demonstrators, but few believe that Nicaragua's Ortega-controlled Congress can be independent and fair. Thousands of protesters took to the streets yesterday to call for a truly independent investigation with the participation of international organizations such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. So far, Ortega has resisted an outside investigation.

What happens next may well depend on what Nicaragua’s security forces do. Generally, dictators only survive mass protest movements if the military is willing to brutally repress protesters; and even then, as in the case of Anastasio Somoza, it's not a sure thing. The irony is lost on no one in Nicaragua.


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