The Blog

Ortega Follows Zelaya

12:00 AM, Aug 12, 2009 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Surprise! Now the Nicaraguan president wants to change term limits.

A few weeks ago, at a public celebration to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Sandinista revolution, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega moved one step closer to creating an autocracy. Speaking to a large crowd, Ortega called for changing the Nicaraguan constitution to allow his own reelection. Under current law, Nicaraguan presidents are prohibited from serving consecutive terms and are limited to two five-year terms overall. In order to be "just and fair," said Ortega, whose term ends in 2012, the country should amend its constitution to let presidents seek reelection.

His timing was impeccable. The ongoing political crisis in Honduras began when its former president, Manuel Zelaya, tried to rewrite the Honduran constitution in hopes of changing term-limit requirements and prolonging his presidency. Now Ortega wants to do something very similar. Like Zelaya before him, he is following the Hugo Chávez playbook. The radical Venezuelan leader rewrote entirely his country's constitution shortly after taking office in 1999, and earlier this year he succeeded in demolishing presidential term limits. Two other Chávez imitators, President Evo Morales of Bolivia and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, have also changed their countries' constitutions. The pattern is unmistakable: Chávez established the model, and his fellow populist leftists are copying it.

Ortega, Morales, and Correa are all members of Chávez's Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, as was Zelaya prior to his removal. It's clear that they receive their instructions from Caracas. While all claim to be democrats, they have a curious understanding of how genuine democracy works. Upon searching the headquarters of Zelaya's unconstitutional "referendum" project, Honduran authorities seized computer files with voting results--even though no actual voting had taken place. (This story has been widely reported in Honduras, though not in the United States.) According to Honduran reports, one of the confiscated files already contained 480 "valid" ballots out of 530 ballots "cast." Not surprisingly, 450 of these ballots said "yes" to Zelaya's proposal for a constitutional convention and only 30 said "no," meaning that 93.7 percent were in favor and only 6.3 percent were opposed. In addition, there were ballot boxes stuffed with the prearranged results, all courtesy of Hugo Chávez, who actually had them flown in from Venezuela. This evidence suggests that Zelaya and his allies were planning to perpetrate massive electoral fraud.

Zelaya's attempt to fix the Honduran vote before it even occurred provides further evidence that he is no true democrat. His conception of democracy is more like the "democracy" practiced in Iran, where Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his cronies recently stole a presidential election through the use of mobile ballot boxes rigged with their desired results. Unfortunately for Ahmadinejad, even his dictatorial regime was not able to conceal the embarrassing fact that there were more votes cast than the number of registered voters.

Ortega is a big supporter of the Iranian leader--he has honored him with two of Nicaragua's most prestigious awards: the Liberty Medal and the Rubén Darío Medal--and, like Ahmadinejad, he has committed blatant electoral fraud. The November 2008 mayoral "election" in Managua represented a shameless theft by Ortega's Sandinista party. Indeed, the election-rigging was so shameless that it prompted European nations to suspend aid to Nicaragua. If Nicaragua holds a vote on changing its constitution, there is no doubt that Ortega will use whatever tricks and shenanigans are necessary to secure his preferred result.