Nicaragua’s Private Sector Calls for an End to the Ortega Gov.
Havana Times - 100% Noticias / ElPaís
June 6, 2018
Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) declared that President Daniel Ortega should leave government “as soon as possible”. The declaration occurred in the course of an interview with the “El Pais” news publication based in Spain.
The Nicaraguan government maintained a close relationship with the large private business sector for over a decade, a relationship that facilitated large-scale negotiations on economic topics. However, as a result of the social crisis that exploded on April 18th, when Ortega and Rosario Murillo unleashed a brutal repression against demonstrators opposing a reform to Social Security, private businesses have terminated that model of public-private cooperation with the government.
Jose Adan criticizes the government’s response to the demonstrations demanding the end of the Ortega-Murillo regime. Their reaction has left more than a hundred deaths, many hundreds of wounded as well as arbitrary detentions.
“If I had known that the result of this whole process was going to be what’s happened since April 18th, at no time would I have pursued this direction of work. Never,” Aguerri assured us.
Below is Jose Adan Aguerri’s complete interview in “El Pais”.
Queston: Are the business owners in agreement that Ortega should leave power?
Jose Adan Aguerri: We’ve published a letter that we delivered to the president, signed by all the presidents of the business organizations that make up COSEP, plus all the advisors who represent the most important company owners, a private sector think tank, and also the American-Nicaraguan Chamber, the most important binational chamber of commerce in the country. This is a historic moment for what the representation of the private sector signifies in Nicaragua. The pronouncement was clear in stating the position of the entire private sector that Nicaragua needs an early end to this government and as soon as possible.
How should their departure be worked out?
What we’re proposing is to find a way to hold elections in the short term, as soon as possible in 2019. The important thing is that no more blood be spilled, and that this tsunami that’s already affected us and that’s going to have a very large social and economic impact next year not continue growing.
You’re proposing elections for 2019. With this situation, can the economy of the country withstand another six months of violence?
No. For that reason it’s important to find a solution within the framework of the efforts the Episcopal Conference is making.
President Ortega has already stated that he’s not leaving the presidency. What options does the country have for finding a way out of this crisis?
I concur with the position of Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, bishop of Matagalpa, who said that the president should be clear whether what he said effectively meant that he wasn’t going to leave power. Because, on the other hand, if what he wanted to say was that a way out needs to be found so that all Nicaraguans could remain in the country, that’s a different scenario. Monsignor was clear in asking the President to better define what it was he wanted to say.
You maintained a “consensus relationship” with the Ortega government through which the big decisions were made by the two of you (government-COSEP). Why did the private sector’s relationship with Ortega change?
After April 19, which is when the first heroes and martyrs of this effort died, we’ve seen how the country changed. Conducting negotiations under autocratic conditions isn’t the same thing as doing so in a situation where there are assassinations, repression and destruction. We’ve been clear in pointing out that we take responsibility for both the good and the bad that’s been done in the country within the format that we were working with up until that date. But once this panorama of violence began on April 19, our immediate decision was to suspend all meetings with the government and we’ve gone on increasing the levels of action to confront what we’re living through.
The large business owners have been accused of putting business before democracy and the rule of law. Do you think that was a good bet?
The private sector is responsible for the stability that this country had. It’s responsible for the growth this country had. The private sector has assumed the responsibility of offering the chief response to the needs of this country’s population, which is employment, improving the quality of life. We’re also responsible for the fact that the growth we enjoyed wasn’t accompanied by any strengthening of the country’s institutions. We’re not a political party, but an institution that had to make sure that every day the shipping containers entered by land, air or sea. Or that every day the companies had the permits they needed to operate. Or to accompany the companies that were being fined or pressured by the Government.
There’ve been eleven years of accumulated tension in Nicaragua. There was discontent among the people about unemployment, the State violence, the erosion of liberties. Did you anticipate that this tension would explode and unleash the situation we’re seeing now?
If anyone in Nicaragua tells you that what happened beginning on April 18th was bound to happen, they’re a liar. If anyone believes this was written on the walls, they’re a liar. What we never stopped doing is looking for an answer to people’s needs within the reality of what it means to stand before a government that has absolute power and control over all the powers of the State.
Seeing what’s happened and the situation in which the country is immersed, would you say you were wrong about Ortega?
Obviously. If I had known that the result of this whole process was going to be what happened on April 18 and since – my answer to you is, obviously. At no time would I have pursued this direction of work if we’d known what was going to be the final conclusion. Never.
What’s your opinion of the president’s violent response to the demonstrations?
A barbaric repression. It’s a situation that goes way beyond anything we would have wanted. Unfortunately, such situations are in the country’s historic DNA. But although we’re seeing great tragedy, let’s hope that this brings an opportunity to change that historic DNA once and for all, and that a new structure for the future of the country comes out of this. It must be recognized that the private business sector didn’t connect with all the other sectors at the right moment; and today, as a result of this situation, we’re doing so. That’s a very valuable lesson.
One of the main demands of the demonstrators is that the large companies call for a national work stoppage. Have you analyzed that option?
It’s a measure that’s out there, but we need to take great care to allow for continuity of the process that is currently in march and that all of those in the Episcopal Conference are leading. We hope that the dialogue can be resumed with international guarantees when the bishops determine it should be. Once this process has taken place, and if we see that it’s not working, a national work stoppage is one of the measures that will be taken into consideration. What needs to be understood is that a strike by itself isn’t a magic wand to stop the repression, nor is the government going to fly away on an airplane because a strike has been announced. You can’t create unreal expectations.
Is there a possibility for a new arrangement of the private sector with the government in exchange for stability?
No. With this government, we’ve been clear that in our case, no such possibility exists.