Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bicaudillismo in Nicaragua

Gabriel M. Telleria, "A Two-Headed Monster: Bicaudillismo in Nicaragua." Latin American Policy 2, 1 (June 2011): 32-42.


Since Spanish colonial times, Latin America has lived under the shadow of caudillismo. Today, caudillismo takes on a different form. I refer to this new phenomenon as “bicaudillismo”—a state of affairs in which two caudillos control and share extensive political power. Current President Daniel Ortega and former President Arnoldo Alemán spearhead the two largest and most powerful Nicaraguan political parties in caudillo-like fashion, exerting control over their respective parties, as well as over government institutions and individuals. The power held by Alemán and Ortega reached new highs in early 2000. In what Nicaraguans commonly refer to as “the pact,” Alemán and Ortega colluded with one another to back a series of constitutional reforms to the electoral law, resulting in a repartition of judicial, legislative, and electoral power. In this article I argue that, under the pact, Alemán and Ortega share political power in a fashion similar to two that of duopolistic firms in a market situation. Power is channeled through tit-for-tat strategies in which the actors engage in “signaling,” much as duopolistic firms do in a market situation.

An interesting take on power sharing. I like the term "bicaudillismo."

Weber and Parsons describe Ortega and Alemán, who not only have used their charismatic positions within their parties to “overthrow resistance,” but also have exerted their domination and will over individuals, institutions, and government branches through legal means, as well as illegal means such as sanctioning. Ortega has the power to “put Alemán in jail” when it suits him; Alemán on the other hand still exerts significant influence over the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Electoral Council. Without Alemán’s support, Ortega’s ability to govern is limited. 
Notwithstanding the seemingly hostile relationship between Alemán and Ortega, which at times has included aggressive tactics such as sanctioning and incarceration, both caudillos understand that, to maintain a balance of power that is favorable for both, they must be able to communicate and cooperate with each other.

So the essence of this particular brand of power sharing is fundamentally antagonistic, but it functions efficiently as long as both sides recognize how to maintain the balance of power.


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