14ymedio, Carlos F. Chamorro, 22 January 2016 — The arrival of the first Cuban migrants to the United States, although they represent only a very small number compared to the more than 6,000 who are still stranded in Costa Rica, symbolizes the fall of the hated wall raised by President Daniel Ortega to block their way through Nicaragua. A wall built with the deployment of military troops, police and tear gas, citing reasons of “national security” to not grant Cubans temporary transit visas, although Ortega’s reasons failed to convince anyone in Nicaragua, nor in the member countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
The wall was knocked down by a diplomatic operation with the decisive participation of Mexico, which facilitated an agreement with Costa Rica and the northern countries of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize – and with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the approval of the United States and no objection from Cuba. A safe route has emerged to resolve an outstanding immigration problem, whose solution was always in the hands of SICA, but was boycotted by the arrogance of Commander Ortega.
Indeed, the underlying problem will not be resolved until the US Congress repeals the Cuban Adjustment Act and its policy of wet foot-dry foot, which gives Cubans a differentiated and unique treatment in the world with regards to migration. It is a law as anachronistic as the US embargo, in these times of normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba and sooner or later its turn will come.
But it is one thing to demand the repeal of this law and quite another to orchestrate blackmail like that which Ortega imposed on SICA to keep his southern frontier closed. At the end of the day, the Cubans flew from the town of Liberia in Costa Rica to El Salvador, and from there made the trip to the United States through three countries.
Ortega’s wall raised the price of the journey, but cost the government of Nicaragua still more, leaving the Commander “out on a limb” and politically totally isolated in a region he is trying to lead against the United States on the issue of migration. In addition, Ortega dropped the mask of “Christian solidarity,” demonstrating to his neighbors and to international public opinion the existence of a demagogic discourse that only masks the authoritarian regime we suffer in Nicaragua.
At the root of this apparently irrational action by Nicaragua, there is a structural cause. With Ortega, a state foreign policy ruled by national interests ended. He substituted a conspiratorial strategy based exclusively on alignments with friends and enemies according to the Commander’s own interests. A conspiracy managed by a closed family circle, marked by a lack of transparency and public debate.
Thus, the canal concession was negotiated with the Chinese businessman Wang Jing, in detriment to the national interests, and in the same dynamic, in virtue of the alliance between Ortega and Putin, Nicaragua supports the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
And as we are also patronage partners with Venezuela’s Chavistas, Nicaragua denounced in international forums the “economic war” and “international plot” to overthrow President Maduro, while Ortega is profiting from private businesses sheltered under the diversion of millions in cooperation with the Venezuelan State.
On the issue of Cuban migrants, Ortega has taken advantage of an ideological alignment with Cuba to attack the United States. The paradox is that as long as the Cuban one-party regime occupies the center of his personal political ideology, the economic model does not represent a pattern to follow given its palpable failure and because the Commander, ultimately a Stalinist pragmatist, holds among the greatest amount of private capital in the country and is a partner in huge businesses.
In addition to his alignment with Cuba, the blockade of Cuban migrants has also affected Ortega’s political blindness leading him to perceive the democratic Government of Costa Rica as part of the enemy camp conspiring against him. A perception rooted in the cold war of the eighties, which, with the necessary collaborators on the part of Costa Rica, has prevented the two countries from maintaining a political dialogue over the last eight years.
Nicaragua being a country of emigrants – more than 20% of our population lives in the United States, Costa Rica and other countries – the absence of a permanent dialogue with Costa Rica is inexcusable and represents a mockery of the interests and rights of our fellow citizens who are working temporarily or permanently in that country.
For legal reasons, but also as a moral and human rights issue, Nicaragua should have a state policy to support legal and safe migration of our citizens to Costa Rica. However, Ortega has never designed a policy to support our migrants, and was even less prepared to accept the claim that Cuban migrants crossing through Nicaragua was not a political conspiracy, but a legitimate matter of migratory human rights.
Now we are facing the third consecutive failure of Ortega’s foreign policy over the past two months. The first was during the COP21 on climate change in Paris, where his government was one of the few in the world – forming a select club with North Korea – that opposed the global agreement, refusing to submit a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A few days later, in The Hague, there was the ruling of the International Court of Justice condemning Nicaragua for violating the sovereignty of Costa Rican territory and even obliging it to negotiate compensation. The third is obviously the fiasco of Cuban migrants.
Common sense suggests that we should wait for a correction, but that will not happen until there is a democratic political change in Nicaragua. The worst of times, therefore, comes with the same lofty rhetoric of Ortega, fighting “battles” against his enemies. But at least we are left with the consolation that on matters of human rights, Ortega’s demagoguery has come to an end.
Confidential’s cartoonist, Pedro X. Molina, immortalized Commander Daniel Ortega in a cartoon entitled “Dany-Trump,” a fusion of both characters, in which Trump’s stuck-on blond tuft replenishes Ortega’s baldness like one of the metallic yellow “Trees of Life” installed by the First Lady of Managua, presenting us with a new symbol of the regime.
14ymedio Editor’s Note: This article has been previously published in the Nicaraguan online journal Confidential. It is reproduced with the permission of the author.