Ortega liquidates his last significant partner, the private sector, and reinforces “totalitarianism” in Nicaragua | International

The decision of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to decapitate one of its last partners and weighty allies, the Higher Council for Private Enterprise (Cosep), together with its 18 associated chambers, came as a “surprise” among the main employers. Nicaraguan. Especially since the current business president, César Zamora, had tried to “ingratiate himself” with the ruling party since he assumed the helm of the organization in October 2021, critics of this corporatist relationship, which cracked after the 2018 protests, and which this March 6, it was liquidated with the publication of the ministerial resolutions in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

“What happened today? It is the legal break, as when you had already been divorced verbally, without legally registering it… But, beware, it is a unilateral divorce that makes the dictatorship. They legalize the divorce with Cosep. Somehow, César Zamora’s Cosep wanted to maintain a certain relationship with the government, but it didn’t work out,” Luciano García, an exiled opponent, close to the private sector and director of the organization Hagamos Democracia, told EL PAÍS.

The private sector distanced itself from the Ortega and Murillo government as of 2018, when its main leaders repudiated the human rights violations committed by the police and paramilitaries. Two former Cosep presidents, Michael Healy and José Adán Aguerri, were arrested and held in the gloomy El Chipote prison from 2021, until their exile in the United States on February 9. Aguerri was one of the architects of the relationship of “dialogue and consensus” that reached constitutional rank; it brought tax benefits to businessmen and foreign direct investment, while the bosses avoided the destruction of the institutional framework at the hands of the presidential couple.

Zamora, a powerful businessman in the energy sector, assumed the guardianship of Cosep in October 2021, after the organization’s executives were arrested. Although he has never been a Sandinista, he is described by private sector sources as a “type of pragmatic thinking”, close to the government, who installed in Cosep the idea of ​​economic recovery, above the demand for the release of political prisoners and the systematic violations of human rights.

Zamora, president of the Nicaraguan Energy Chamber, one of the canceled organizations, has tried to approach the Ortega-Murillo government since he assumed the presidency of the bosses. However, his attempts were not reciprocated, at least publicly. In January 2022, the Divergentes outlet revealed that Cosep was “ready for a negotiation” with the Government to release three political prisoners associated with the Nicaraguan employers, but in the end the threat failed.

Then, in June of that year, Zamora said that the business chambers had reactivated dialogues with the authorities of the regime and that the facilitator in these negotiations was the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), the great financier of the Sandinista regime.

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“During 2013 and 2018, what happened was that there was a Cosep of businessmen who were not Sandinistas, but were Vivianes. [aprovechados]. They took economic advantage,” says García, who was stripped of his Nicaraguan nationality by the regime. “In other words, they did not care about legality and the rule of law. The ambassador (of the United States) Laura Dogu told them the same when she left: “You preferred to sacrifice the stability of a country for economic stability.” From 2018 to here what comes are the ay ay ay after the break with the government. Cosep is coming to this side (opposition), because they are not murderers, and because they saw that there is a pain in the people of Nicaragua with all the atrocities that have been done. Obviously they are backing down, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss all the business and profit they got from it.”

The news of the cancellation activated the fear among businessmen and investors on Monday for the confiscations that the cancellation of the corporate legal status may imply, as has happened with the assets of more than 3,200 NGOs beheaded since 2018. EL PAÍS learned that the bank accounts of the Nicaraguan Association of Motor Vehicle Distributors (Andiva), while other businessmen “run” before the “surprise” measure to safeguard real estate and assets.

“Accelerated Cubanization”

For Felix Maradiaga, an exiled political prisoner and former presidential candidate, the closure of Cosep and its cameras is another step towards “the accelerated path of Cubanization undertaken by Ortega.” “Like other illegal and tyrannical measures, this new blow to public liberties is also a blow to the economy and well-being of all Nicaraguans, without exception,” warns the opponent.

Maradiaga reminds EL PAÍS that the right of association “is a human right”, but above all that the private sector is the main driver of the Nicaraguan economy, so the effects of this measure will be felt soon. “Business associativity is key to agreeing on actions that create employment and attract investment. For this reason, the closure of Cosep is not only a blow to the private initiative, but also a blow to the working people. With this measure, Ortega further isolates the entire country from the free market, and brings it closer to tyrannies like Cuba, Venezuela, China, and Iran,” he said.

Another source linked to the business sector commented that these “are bad signs for foreign investors.” The regime’s decision, continues the economist, causes “nervousness” in investments, since the “message being sent is that the laws are not solid, they are not respected, and this scares away investment.”

For his part, the former opposition deputy in exile, Eliseo Núñez, maintained that the background of this decision to close the business associations is “totalitarianism: not allowing any association, except those of the Sandinista party and the State.”

Cosep was dissolved after 32 years of existence, in one of the hardest blows against the business chambers that the Ortega and Murillo regime has dealt. The only businesswoman who has reacted until the publication of this article is Lucy Valenti, former president of the National Chamber of Tourism of Nicaragua. “It is part of the process of radicalization and Talibanization of the regime. The dictatorship feels cornered and takes desperate measures,” she said.

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