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Volume 15, Number 1
January 5, 2009

opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: The Day of the Martyrs, and Is more violence the solution?
Bernal, City government and the economic crisis
Guevara Mann, An inappropriate Panamanian to head the OAS
Teamsters, Trade policies that work for workers
Jackson, Ancon Hill as a symbol of what's wrong with Panama
The Israel Project, Fact vs. fiction about Gaza
Nasser, Bush's farewell gift
Human Rights Watch, Civilians must not be targets in the Israeli-Palestenian fighting
Lerner, Israel right but not smart in Gaza
Avnery, Molten lead
What they're saying about the fighting in Gaza
Gutman, Will Afghanistan be an American Waterloo?
Reporters Without Borders, Press freedom in 2008
Pilgrim, In the light of another New Year
Committee to Protect Journalists, Petition for jailed Cuban journalists
Kula, Panama: coming and going
Sirias, Open letter to a young Nicaraguan
Letters to the editor

An open letter to a
young Nicaraguan
by Silvio Sirias

For Sandra Mariela Peña

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts . . . perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
John Steinbeck

Man's nature is not essentially evil. Brute nature has been known to yield to the influence of love. You must never despair of human nature.
Mohandas Gandhi

Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.
Saint Thomas Aquinas

Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.
Aristotle

Today you’ve made me realize how blessed I am to have several countries I can call my own. Being so fortunate allows me to look away when something painful is occurring in one of my homelands, and find solace in the good things that are taking place in another. Thus, whenever the United States, Nicaragua, or Panama experience painful events that have been inflicted by the worst traits of human nature, I take respite in the positive that’s alive in another of my countries. This blessing certainly helps me fight off despair and often allows me to see light in the darkness.

Of my three homelands, Nicaragua is, by far, the one from which I’ve most often had to avert my eyes. We’ve been unable to learn from the suffering we’ve inflicted upon each other for the sake of gaining and retaining power. In Latin America we’ve become the quintessential example of the danger inherent in surrendering to caudillos: warlords, dictators, and strongmen who possess just enough charisma to make vague promises of future populist reforms in order to gain the sympathy, at least at the outset, of the working class. Such men have been the plague of our nation throughout the last three centuries. And Daniel Ortega, as the world can clearly see today, is no exception.

What makes matters seem grimmer for those, like you, who reside in Nicaragua is that the twenty-first century brand of caudillismo --- as practiced by Ortega’s new mentor, Hugo Chávez --- has emboldened the Sandinista leader, allowing him to believe that by hiding under the banner of the elected leader of a sovereign developing nation he can govern as he wishes, like a spoiled child, without scrutiny or criticism. The manner in which Ortega orchestrated the theft of the recent municipal elections --- and, to all appearances, got away with the dastardly act --- can lead those who dream of a better Nicaragua to despair, to have little hope of a just and fair future.

You may believe, at present, that the world will soon forget recent events and allow Daniel Ortega to get away with his electoral crime. You may also believe that he is now free to move toward becoming our nation’s next dictator.

This, I assure you, will not happen. The world has changed, and Ortega and his allies have failed to realize this. They underestimate, to their great detriment, the power that young, intelligent, educated people --- just like you --- possess. You have the means to tell your stories, to keep the world outside your borders informed of the truth, to not allow us to forget.

During the 2001 Nicaraguan election campaign, Daniel Ortega, who lost that race, came to San Marcos, the town where I was living, to give a speech. What I heard that day, as he spoke in the central park before a largely unresponsive crowd of 500, convinced me that he is a relic. For more than twenty minutes he lectured --- and boringly --- about the virtues of the World Wide Web. What’s more, he promised that if he won the election every Nicaraguan home would be connected to the internet. (I guess he didn’t realize that people would first have to buy computers, which the Nicaraguan working class certainly can’t afford.) The more Ortega spoke, the more obvious it became that he was largely ignorant about the cyber-world. Cynically, however, he took advantage of his public’s greater ignorance. But what I realized that day was that Daniel was afraid of the ability people have to use these instruments of mass communication, as he continues to be afraid of that power today.

But what Daniel Ortega fears most is to become irrelevant again (and if it were not because Nicaraguans became fed up with the idiocy of the opposition, he would continue to be irrelevant). He misses the international limelight of the days of yore, when he was the leader of a highly romanticized revolution that many in the world adored. He even appeared on the Donahue Show (the Oprah Show of its time), and some of us still remember the scandal of the $3,000.00 pair of glasses he wore at the taping while many in Nicaragua went hungry.

His mistake, then, in these municipal elections is that he succumbed to his fear of being forgotten.

Believe me, this gross miscalculation will cost Ortega dearly --- the entire world witnessed what he did, and as a result he took a big step toward becoming irrelevant once again. And the days of the caudillos are numbered: people want change, and not posturing --- of this they are already growing tired.

Daniel Ortega and his outmoded allies have started their journey toward the sunset. The Sandinista Party is sure to lose the next presidential elections. And you, I promise, will be rid of him for good.

But that’s when your greater challenge begins. The youth of Nicaragua are easy prey for the merchants of despair. The world saw the bat-toting, stone-throwing, mortar-launching gang members who under the banner of the Sandinista Party intimidated those protesting the electoral fraud. This is the battle that you, and others like you, need to win. The education of Nicaragua’s youth is the key to our nation’s future: an education free of political or religious indoctrination; an education that will make us a better people.

The time has come for young Nicaraguans to learn to place the common good far above the cult of personality.

Although this task is monumental, I have faith that you, and those like you who love Nicaragua and are ready to place the fruits of your schooling at its service, will start leading the rest of us there.


Silvio Sirias is an award-winning novelist who resides in Panama. For more information, visit http://www.silviosirias.com


Also in this section:
Editorials: The Day of the Martyrs, and Is more violence the solution?
Bernal, City government and the economic crisis
Guevara Mann, An inappropriate Panamanian to head the OAS
Teamsters, Trade policies that work for workers
Jackson, Ancon Hill as a symbol of what's wrong with Panama
The Israel Project, Fact vs. fiction about Gaza
Nasser, Bush's farewell gift
Human Rights Watch, Civilians must not be targets in the Israeli-Palestenian fighting
Lerner, Israel right but not smart in Gaza
Avnery, Molten lead
What they're saying about the fighting in Gaza
Gutman, Will Afghanistan be an American Waterloo?
Reporters Without Borders, Press freedom in 2008
Pilgrim, In the light of another New Year
Committee to Protect Journalists, Petition for jailed Cuban journalists
Kula, Panama: coming and going
Sirias, Open letter to a young Nicaraguan
Letters to the editor

 
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