Latest update June 2nd, 2023 12:49 AM
May 11, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Ask the leader of almost any country about what kind of State he presides over, and the answer is sure to be a ‘democratic’ one. Even some of the worst autocrats have claimed that their governance represents democracy, with its ideals faithfully observed. There is the Latin American sovereign nation of Nicaragua, and what it is doing to some of its citizens reeks of what is the undemocratic; just do not whisper any such thing to the leader, Daniel Ortega.
Governments and leaders do not take kindly to public postures and public pushback to their messages and actions, to what they claim to be in the best interests of citizens. Those who stand in objection, through protesting in the streets, or making good use of the media, attract the rage of powerful leaders. We have had that in Guyana through the decades under different governments and leaders. There are these consistent levels of impatience and intolerance manifested against those who question, who probe, who will not accept the deceptive answers given, and who stand out because they disagree. To go against the grain is to risk being targeted and wounded most abrasively, with angry and determined leaders employing the great resources of the State to inflict pain and anguish.
In Nicaragua, President Ortega now stands as the newest Exhibit 1 in a region long known for brutal leaders callously cracking down on opponents, and making them feel the weight of the State misused to deliver punishing blows to their heads. Some have been jailed, hundreds stripped of their citizenship, and forced into exile. The victims are many and growing, and represent some of the most luminous in Nicaraguan society. Still, that did not immunize them from the expansive wraths aimed in their direction.
A former insider of President Ortega’s cabinet stands out among the dissidents. Sergio Ramirez served almost 40 years before as Vice President during President Ortega’s first term and is an acclaimed writer, who won the prestigious Cervantes award. But that did not shield him, nor an Auxiliary Bishop of Managua now living in Florida, nor a former ambassador, nor a poet, nor some Roman Catholic priests and an archbishop. According to Nicaraguan authorities, former Vice President Ramirez has been stirring up hatred and conspiring to destabilize the country. Further, Judge Ernesto Rodriguez, in his February ruling that deprived 94 Nicaraguans of their citizenship, all of them participated in some way in “criminal acts to the detriment of peace, sovereignty, independence, and self-determination of the Nicaraguan people” (Nicaragua strips 94 prominent dissidents of citizenship” -BBC February 16). This batch of almost 100 Nicaraguans was preceded by another group of 222 citizens of that Latin American country treated to the same fate. They have not only lost their citizenship, but have all their assets seized by the State, plus all of them have been branded with the mark of “traitors to the fatherland.” In a surprising twist, some living abroad for years, and before any charges were brought against them, have been declared “fugitives from justice.”
For their part, dissenters and those deported (or jailed) have labeled President Ortega as possessing “autocratic tendencies.” It is a sentiment echoed by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken who spoke of what happened in Nicaragua “as a further step in solidifying an autocratic regime” (New York Times, February 17). As a Carter Center senior adviser on Latin America said, “This is a cleansing of opposition voices at all levels, from the political elite to the campesino in the pueblo.” Indeed, even the simple peasant in his village is targeted by Ortega’s crackdowns on democratic institutions and dissenting citizens.
Guyanese are seeing worrying traces of such leadership behaviours right here. This publication is being singled out and squeezed more often, civil society activists are targeted and tarnished, and the few citizens speaking out are vilified. As in Nicaragua, the Guyana Government pretends in its words and images to be about openness and balance. The current reality is of malicious attacks, the courts used as a weapon before, and citizens left to wonder how long before Guyana degrades to a Nicaragua. That is, jailing, confiscating of property, and deporting becomes the experience of Guyanese.
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