Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Where Will Unrest in Nicaragua Lead?

I'm quoted in this Financial Times article about Daniel Ortega's standing amidst the large protests against him. Can this lead to regime change? Yes, it can, but it's also true that in authoritarian contexts your best bet is always on the incumbent.

The quote itself refers to protest fatigue, and we can see that in Venezuela. Simply put, it's hard to keep people on the streets. If the government holds firm, the initial excitement starts to wear off, and the reality of needing to get to work, live your daily life, etc. settles in. There were several moments in Venezuela where the opposition hoped the government was on its last legs, but that wasn't the case. People went back to get in line for food.

I've said this umpteen times and it's not novel, but if the security forces are behind the government, then you're not going to get too far. It's impossible to gauge this from the outside and it is fluid. For example, if (as is the case now in Nicaragua) the police are called on to restore public order and end up killing people, then you might see the development of discontent in the ranks. There are now rumors of that happening with some police officers. Where is the army in this? We don't know.

Meanwhile, the FSLN is understandably alarmed and wants dialogue, stopping short of asking Ortega to step down. The government has already backed off the social security policy and now is a turning point--will Ortega accept dialogue or keep cracking down? If he does the former, that likely defuses the situation, at least in the short term. If the latter, then we see how long protests can keep up and how far security forces are willing to go. It could even be a combination of both. In Venezuela, it's been a long time.


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