Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, before the president began his trip to the G-7 Summit declared that the purpose of his trip was to ‘rally the world’s democracies to tackle the great challenges of our time’. Biden reiterated this challenge on arriving in Britain. While Biden was rallying down democratic forces in Europe, [...]

Sunday Times 2

Democrazy runs wild around the globe


Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte is seen with daughter Rosa.

Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, before the president began his trip to the G-7 Summit declared that the purpose of his trip was to ‘rally the world’s democracies to tackle the great challenges of our time’. Biden reiterated this challenge on arriving in Britain.

While Biden was rallying down democratic forces in Europe, in his own hemisphere, down south in Nicaragua, preparations were underfoot for the consolidation of rightist dictatorship by a legendary Marxist socialist revolutionary.

Daniel Ortega (75) joined the revolutionary Marxist Sandinista movement in 1963, was arrested and jailed in 1967, released in 1974 and was exiled to Cuba. Trained in guerrilla warfare provided by the Fidel Casro government, he played a leading role in the insurrectionist faction of the Sandinista organisation that staged the Nicaraguan Revolution and overthrew the dicatatorship of Anastasia Somoza in 1979.

He was the leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, first as the coordinator of the National Junta for Reconstruction and then as president from 1985 to 1990.

Ortega was looked upon as a revolutionary in the class of Che’ Guevara by generations of post-Vietnam-War leftists, social activists and political romanticists the world over. Even in Sri Lanka, in addition to the vociferous remnants of disappearing Lanka Trotskyites, the journalist tribe in the 1980s had some fervent belief in the Sandinista leader. He won the presidential election in 1984 with more than 80 percent of the votes.

But Ortega the Marxist was anathema to the United States, successive administrations having backed the Somoza dictatorship and during President Ronald Reagan’s tenure the Contras (put together by the US) strongly opposed Ortega. In 1990, Ortega was defeated by Violetta Chamarro and suffered defeats in subsequent presidential elections in 1996 and 2001.

In his second administration after the 2006 election, Ortega the Marxist-Leninist who in his first term adopted socialist measures such as land reform, redistribution of wealth and nationalisation of privately owned property, metamorphosed and came to be identified more with the rightist dictatorial policies of his predecessor Somoza. After 2006, Ortega took over control of the armed forces, the police, the Supreme Court, the judiciary, the prosecutor’s office and every aspect concerning governance.

Ortega, reports say, had also metamorphosed from an atheist to a strong Catholic and is now hand in glove with big business.

Since then it has been a one-man show for the ex-revolutionary – 2011 (presidential), 2014 (National Assembly) and the 2016 (presidential) elections. The next presidential election is in November this year and Ortega is making preparations.

Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega

The pivotal point for any democracy to tilt over to a dictatorship, it has been noted, is the seizure of all powers of governance by a single individual.

With elections scheduled for November, Daniel Ortega has introduced an unprecedented feature into the democratic process: Arrest all those who would be a potential threat to his candidacy including potential rival candidates.

“The government of Nicaragua arrested five opposition leaders in a major crackdown in what appears to be detention of anyone who might challenge the rule of Daniel Ortega,” the Washington Post reported last week.

Four arrests two weeks ago suggest Ortega moved beyond arresting potential rival candidates for the November 7 elections and has begun to arrest any prominent member of the opposition, the Washington Post report said.

Twelve arrests of opponents have been made since June 2.

Last Sunday, police arrested Dona Maria Telliz, an ex-Sandinista dissident who had been among those who led the assault on the National Palace in 1978 taking hostage Somoza in exchange for release of Sandinista prisoners. Telliz was Minister of Health of the first Sandinista government of 1979-1990, but has fallen out with her former comrade.

Ortega had already arrested four potential opposition candidates who might challenge him for the fourth consecutive term and opposition leaders fear it will be a matter of time before the police will come after them, the report said

The case of Ortega, the revolutionary, turning out to be a dictator will not surprise many students of contemporary history because when revolutionaries become strongmen and vest in themselves absolute power, it has been found that that they use those powers to suppress opponents in the same way fascist dictators do.

Russian Bolshevik dictators under the theoretical cover of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat killed thousands, if not millions of poor peasants, the Kulaks, in the implementation of their harebrained scheme of collectivisation of farms of peasants

Even Fidel Castro had his jails for his opponents — ‘Yanqui stooges and collaborators’ and other names he called them.

Many of today’s petty and potty dictators are not only revolutionaries who have seized power through armed revolutions like Ortega but through the democratic process. Some of them continue to go to the polls seeking election by duping masses with their demagoguery. The mixture of ethno-religion is a heady mix and in the 21st century has seen the emergence of many dictators/strongmen with two-thirds majorities that enable victors ‘to make a man a woman and vice-versa’, using this formula.

Joe Biden himself knows all about it very well having emerged the winner in the battle for presidency in the Greatest Democracy, not very convincingly. It was a close shave for American democracy when a mob stormed the holiest of holies, the Capitol, housing the Congress, in an attempt to declare the results of a presidential election null and void.

Democracy today is running wild around like a pandemic. We see preparations ahead for its funeral in Nicaragua in November. In Mali, a military strongman favoured by the French government has been replaced by another military man on the promise of holding elections.

In Myanmar, a political tragedy of epic proportions is taking place where a populace of poverty stricken, unarmed 50 million is resisting a military junta having arrested their leader and her party that swept the polls at a recent election and being held incommunicado by the junta. The people are on the streets and now in jungles fighting the well-armed military thugs with improvised, primitive weaponry, reports from neighbouring Thailand say. Tears are shed by world powers about the plight of the once prosperous Land of the Pagodas but there is no help being offered to these fighters for democracy.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest democracy is recording the biggest number of deaths caused by the Covid 19 epidemic. Its messianic leader was on an electoral rampage with its Hindutva ideology aimed against Muslims and at attempting to capture power in a number of states while the Covid epidemic was raging and is now gone out of control despite India being a manufacturer of Covid vaccines.

Democracy despite its restraints on autocrats/dictators is the government they still desire. Most, if not all, dictators of today want to end up as democrats by holding elections or getting some sort of approval by the people. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Tayip Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte, Kim Jong Un, Nicolas Maduro, Bashar-al Assad and many others claim they are democrats. Most of them have been ‘elected’ by the people. Naturally cynics say people deserve the governments they get.

Reports from the Philippines say that Rodrigo Duterte — by no means an epitome of democracy — wants his daughter Rosa to succeed him as the next president of the country. Forty-two year old Rosa has already succeeded her father as the mayor of Davao from which her father took off in politics to be president.

The call of Duterte’s supporters is: Run Rosa Run say reports.

Every rose has a thorn and a thorn a rose, say cynics.

Filipino democracy may be blessed with a rose and the father seems to be the thorn.

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