The history of dictators repeats itself. They repress and terrorize their population when they should protect and respect them, while at the same time hiding the terrible truth. And, as if that were not enough, they blame the victims themselves.
Franco, after the bombing of Guernica by the Condor Division, hastened to blame the Reds of the devastation caused by the fire produced by the bombs—a lie he kept while the war lasted—and also denied that the German and Italian aviation supported his side.
Four years earlier, Hitler blamed the communists for the fire at the Reichstag—headquarters of the Parliament—which led to mass arrests and the consolidation of the Fuhrer’s power. It was necessary to wait until 1980 for justice to be done posthumously and the convicted person acquitted for causing the fire.
If we go back to the times of the Roman Empire, Nero—who ordered his own mother to be executed—stopped the rumors that he was responsible for the burning of Rome by accusing the Christians; and, incidentally, exacerbated the persecution against them.
Ortega is not an exception. In the XXI Century, as ruler of Nicaragua, he is the champion of liars. He denies any responsibility for the crisis that this Central American country goes through. A crisis, let’s remember, that in only four months—from April 18th when it began, to August 18th when the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of the UN issued its report—more than 300 fatalities and 2,000 injured have been counted, the majority of them from police and paramilitary repression.
This is a crisis that has forced over 23,000 people to flee violence from Ortega’s paramilitary forces and seek refuge in neighboring Costa Rica. A crisis that includes, as has been reported by the OHCHR: the disappearance of people, obstruction of medical care for the wounded, illegal detentions, mistreatment, cases of torture and rape in detention centers. And, a crisis, in short, that is leaving a severe economic impact on the country and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. The disregard for human rights that protect the freedom of assembly and expression is total.
Neither is Ortega an exception when it comes to blaming his detractors and denouncing unspeakable interests, such as the thief that shouts “the thief!” to divert attention from his crimes. He says that it is a “coup d’état” organized by imperialism and forces from the right; that the Catholic Church—his ally for many years—is part of the conspiracy; that leaders of non-governmental organizations and civil society are in on the plot.
By doing so, he aims to justify police and criminal prosecution against the opposition, which has already taken 126 people to the dock accused of terrorism and organized crime, simply for having participated in peaceful protests. Add to that the countless dismissals of public officials for showing insufficient enthusiasm with the Government.
Indescribable abuses against a people that includes the dismissal of 200 doctors and health personnel from hospitals and health centers for the “serious crime” of curing those who were injured by police bullets.
But, Ortega has the nerve to reject all these accusations and also to accuse the bishops of being liars. To sustain that Paulo Abrau, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IAHRC) “lies every day” when referring to Nicaragua, and of rejecting the OHCHR report “as subjective, biased, notoriously partial and drafted under the influence of sectors linked to the opposition.” Not content with that, Ortega allows himself the gesture of expelling the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nation’s team from Nicaragua.
And now, after clearing with bullets the roadblocks and barricades that the students and peasants had lifted, after violently removing the students held up in a university and after pushing into exile thousands of terrified citizens, he announces that he stays, that he will not allow early elections, that he will not leave before the elections scheduled for 2021—and we will see if he loses then, with the tricks in place to guarantee that he wins.
Ortega is allowed to disregard an undeserved way-out offered by the Organization of American States (OAS) and supported by business people and the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, as well as by many governments in the continent, including the United States. It was a solution that favored him a lot, because the population wants him to resign now and be judged, and not to have a government presided by him to call for elections, because, who in their right mind could trust him? But, in the interest of a consensus that would allow a solution to the conflict, early elections could have been susceptible to an agreement with the opposition.
Dictators are also known for their greed and their attachment to wealth. Let us remember Tachito Somoza and Leonidas Trujillo, the tyrants who became the two most affluent men Latin America in their time, with fortunes estimated in billions of dollars.
We also have Pinochet and, on the Iberian Peninsula, Franco. Of both it was said by some that “they could be dictators, but they were honest,” until we learned about their fortunes, suitable of the tales in “A Thousand and One Nights”, thanks to their legacies.
The first [Pinochet], such a patriot, hid many secret accounts in the Riggs Bank of the United States. The second [Franco], the “Caudillo,” had amassed several billion pesetas that allowed his family until today to have an endless list of real estate properties in various Spanish cities, without counting the famous “Pazo de Meirás”, which had belonged to the writer Emilia Pardo Bazan and that was “donated” by the local authorities to Franco to use as his summer vacation home.
So now, given his Sandinista origin, Is Ortega at least an exception among dictators regarding greed? Everything indicates the contrary. The interests of the Ortega-Murillo family, a numerous group consisting of the presidential couple, eight children—without including his wife’s daughter who, as an adolescent, was sexually abused by him—sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, are distributed in various sectors of the economy.
From energy to the distribution of oil to banking and to the communications media, including four television channels—and the news programs of a fifth—that the family controls directly. There will be a time when an investigation could be done of the agreements related to the Venezuelan oil sold to Nicaragua under very advantageous conditions, which led to the formation of companies controlled by Ortega outside the State and the public budget. Then, we will also learn the origins of the enrichment of this wealthy family.
Besides their cruelty, deception and greed, what else do dictators share? Well, another thing that is very clear: that history will never absolve them. The tyrants that massacre their people appear in books and encyclopedias as villains and infamous. Posterity will never let them resemble admired figures, such as Allende, Olof Palme, Sandino, Marti or even Pepe Mujica. The Somozas, Trujillo, Pinochet, Franco and Hitler will always remain as the plague. They will always be characters that no one will want to have as an ancestor. And, that group has now been joined by Ortega and, along with him, his wife and Vice-President, Rosario Murillo. What a pity, considering what they could have become!