Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The New Oligarchy in Nicaragua: The Sandinista Elite


Roberto Rivas Reyes
President of the Supreme Electoral Council of Nicaragua

We know the tale of the Nicaraguan leftists as they describe themselves in their own words; revolutionaries, working-class heroes, anti-Somozistas, friends of the poor, and idealists leading their country to a more socially just future.

Please forgive my break with decorum as I must now resort to that frank American colloquial euphemism I regard as the only appropriate commentary on the collective self-image of the Sandinistas--Bullshit!

So what is going on here?  Well, the Nicaraguan government is now in the midst of a very terse diplomatic back-and-forth with Costa Rica because the latter has seized a Porsche belonging to the family of FSLN leader Roberto Rivas Reyes, President of Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council, whose brother Harold is Nicaragua's Ambassador to Costa Rica.  The controversy stems from a violation of user and, what is especially important under Costa Rican law, import tax privileges accorded to the personal vehicles of accredited diplomats, who are permitted to avoid paying excessive licensing fees normally required for private individuals who bring high-priced automobiles into the country to use while they reside there.  The catch is that Costa Rica offers the exemption to diplomats provided that the car is maintained exclusively for their own use, which leads us to the problem.  Apparently the Porsche 911 in question was for the personal use of Maurice and Laureano Ortega, sons of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who are students at a university in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and who also, evidently, have been driving back and forth to Nicaragua using the official diplomatic vehicle.

News of the car's seizure first broke from Costa Rica and was picked up by Nicaragua's La Prensa newspaper about two weeks ago.  How surprising is it?  I submit, not much.  Those who have followed my blog might recall how I posted Nicaraguan journalist Luciano Cuadra's complaint last November about disciplined schoolchildren waiting in line at stoplights who find themselves forced "to get up on the sidewalk when the Comandante passes by quickly in his Mercedes Benz."  And evidently the frills of power also extend to Ortega's two sons as well.  But hey!  Maurice and Laureano are college students.  They need to get the chicas!  And they required some help to gather the accoutrements of jet-set status about them.  Enter Roberto Rivas, who has such means at his disposal as would make a Las Vegas pimp jealous.

Somehow--we can only imagine--Roberto and Harold Rivas seem to have acquired rather extensive personal wealth as evidenced by property they have in Costa Rica.  In addition to the Porsche 911 in question, the Rivas family has also brought a Mercedes Benz S 500 and a BMW M3 into the country as accredited diplomatic vehicles, the latter of which was registered to Guillermo Matus, third secretary of the Nicaraguan delegation in San Jose.  In late November of last year the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación reported the misuse of these two vehicles, which may have started this investigation by Costa Rica's Ministerio de Hacienda, i.e. Finance Ministry, since Roberto Rivas, who is not a diplomat attached to the Nicaraguan embassy, was reported driving the Mercedes and that his wife had an accident the previous July in the same vehicle.  Moreover; their son Roberto Miguel Rivas, who is also a student in San Jose, was photographed using the BMW.  And where were Roberto Rivas and his family residing while in San Jose, Costa Rica?  Well, in their luxurious private residence in the prestigious Villareal district of the capital city where, according to La Prensa, homes go for between $980,000 to $3 million (U.S.).

There has been some back-and-forth on this controversy which, in the larger scheme of things, may not appear too significant, though the irresponsibility of the excesses of the Rivas and Ortega families and their inattention to Nicaraguan interests cannot be denied.  During December the affair seemed confined largely to a public scandal played out in the news media, but evidently it had an effect, given that the Costa Rican government eventually seized the Porsche.  Daniel Ortega's response was low-level intimidation, he ordered official police protection withdrawn from the Costa Rican embassy, which was reciprocated in kind in San Jose when Costa Rica also drew back its police guard from the Nicaraguan diplomatic compound.  Nicaragua then issued an order forbidding Costa Rican diplomatic vehicles from leaving the country.  Sandinista old-guard Comandante Tomas Borge, who you may remember as one of the facilitators of the Medellin Cartel in the 1980's, blasted Costa Rica and its President Oscar Arias from Lima, Peru, where he serves as Ambassador from Nicaragua.  The Costa Ricans obviously took offense and Nicaragua's Foreign Minister Samuel Santos sought to distance his government from Borge's remarks, after which the controversy seems to have settled down for the moment.

But what does all this say about the FSLN leadership?  That there exists a pervasive personal corruption among them is too easy a conclusion to draw, there is more.  It is the arrogance that follows the corruption that is particularly disgusting and which marks the Sandinistas as something comparable to the old-style Central American oligarchic elites.  Forget the rhetoric, the Sandinistas represent nothing more than a new oligarchy for Nicaragua, a modern elite made rich from public thievery and criminal associations.  We can only hope that their tenure is short-lived and that Nicaragua and its people are once again given a chance for a prosperous and democratic future.



Recommended Link (in Spanish):  Los hijos de Daniél Ortega y el "diplomático" Roberto Rivas: La corrupción sandinista by Gustavo Coronel at his Las Armas de Coronel blog.



Marcos Urbina said...

Well, this isn't a related post Mr. Jacobs, but... would it be right if I post this? My commnt would be an interesting one. Thanks.


While Brazil’s President Lula and Castro brothers were conversing joyfully at a big luxurious dwelling in Havana, Cuba, suited with a wonderful swimming pool, poor humble Cuban people were mourning one sibling who had died at a Cuban prison: a family tragedy.

These new negotiations between Lula and Raul Castro were going on in the middle of the smart remarks and wisecrack heat, only a pretentious talk bold and deceitful as the happy compadres had made a deal to update, renew and modernize one of the oldest docks in this island. I myself saw on TV how Lula smiled happily at Raul Castro’s absurd, justification about why this prisoner had died, showing no sorrow at all.

Despite a Nation’s responsibility as well as a compromise to attend and care for a prisoner’s life and safety, in what it concerns to jail reclusion, these bureaucrats rushed to blame the Americans for the misfortune.

They had met again as the “old friends” they’ve always been, but rather provoked a whole continent anger and commotion around the civilized globe.

At the same time this was happening in Havana, another meeting was going on in Cancun at the “Dude’s Club” just hours before. These are the same guys that had made Honduran people embarrassed, and mortified to the utmost just because Honduran people had dared to get rid of an authoritative, corrupt pal.

These guys were too proud at accepting and support a dictatorship system in Cuba, along with Raul Castro, one more among the many Latin American has had to now. Cuban totalitarianism has always been an emblem of the most sinister and prolonged ones around the world.

It’s been rare or strange seeing President Lula protesting and moaning in his demands at urgent want for democracy in Honduras, an incongruity a gang leader maintains as he ended up in Habana carrying 150 million dollars in his saddlebags to mend Cuban communism.

This is about an irrational and contradictory silence and conformity on the part of these governors over the young politic prisoner’s dead body.

Castro’s regime has already reached and accumulated more than 200 politics imprisoned individuals. These Latin American presidents would rather play marbles with Raul Castro in Mexico -Cancun- while people watched astonished.

President Lula has led and ruled his country formally within an acceptable degree of democracy, but whenever he gets close to Fidel Castro, it is lips. On the other hand, it out of the question, Lula won’t be bothered by the prisoner’s fate in this island’s regime.

Let’s not hope too much coming from Venezuela either, as its constitution is like a virgin maidservant in the Black Jungle, already raped a thousand times. These Latin American leaders are far from feeling a people’s suffering while they meet to pretend negotiate and struggle at Cancun, seeking firm readjustment, discredited instead. I’m judging them as less prepared and equipped each time to face those gigantic countries that they claim to be crushing us and hinder our progress. Besides, they’ve met in a Latin American summit leaving the U.S.A. out.

A self-satisfied, puffed up autocrat was heard around conclusions reached at this summit, yet turned the deaf hear to the weeping and tearful Cuban people ignominy.

A sore and afflicted crowd was carrying a coffin along the street bound for the cemetery, while President Lula from Brazil counted the bills he would hand in to the Castro’s in Habana.

We can’t expect anything better from the perfect Club!! Companion in the crime. They won’t care about our disgrace any more.

firepigette said...

The Sandinista elite reminds me of the story of " Animal Farm" by Orwell.The pigs drive out the oppressing humans from the farm house only to start walking upright, behaving like humans themselves and exploiting the animals.

The corruption and attitude of entitlement shown by the Sandinista Elite is the same if not worse as the Somoza dictatorship.

When corrupt government as that of Nicaragua deals with other countries, it is bound to expect special treatment and acceptance of their deviant ways.The problem is that their neighbor Costa Rica is a country where the rule of law exists or at least they are striving for it.This is bound to create friction when the Nicaraguans are not accommodated.

The irony of a regime like the Ortegas is that instead of being put off by the contrast between their avowed helping of the poor and the reality of their exploiting and stealing from it,often left wing sympathizers accept their communist credentials as a guarantee of their integrity in thinking of others first instead of themselves.

StJacques said...

For Marcos Urbina,

I do consider your post relevant, so please feel free at all times to post a comment.

Right now I am preparing my next post on all the recent news about Chavez, the ETA, the FARC, narcotics smuggling, the Human Rights report of the IACHR, and Luis Correa (thank you for that Marcos). I should publish this coming post either tonight--if I sit still at my PC and write--or tomorrow.

But my following post will cover the recent Cumbre de Rio meeting in Cancun and will address the matter from the perspective of U.S. Foreign Policy. I believe that my country must try to reform the OAS (esp. OEA), which means opposing the re-election of Insulza and especially supporting the proposed Inter-American Charter on Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms.

I am convinced that Lula, Morales, Chavez, Correa and everyone else who supports the Sao Paulo Forum want to build a new organization around the Cumbre de Rio in which the U.S., Canada, and even Mexico cannot push for respect for constitutional law and secure democratic elections. The proposed Inter-American Charter on Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms threatens everything Lula et al. have accomplished. And I do not have to say much about Cuba, they are still the worst.

Look for my post on Chavez, etc. soon.

And again, thank you for your information.



StJacques said...

For firepigette,

Before I wrote this post I did some research trying to bring together enough information to demonstrate an underlying motivation for Costa Rica to get tough with the Sandinistas. You may remember that one important event which followed the seizure of the Raul Reyes laptops was that a home in Heredia, Costa Rica was raided and $480,000 in cash was recovered from a FARC safe, along with some very valuable information relating to FARC-sponsored cocaine smuggling networks that extended into Mexico, but which also included Nicaragua.

I found all kinds of bits of information, but putting them all together and connecting the dots is difficult and requires a little too much conjecture at this point for me to publish my theory that the Costa Rican government is sending a message to Managua about the nefarious activities of its regime leaders in Costa Rica. The fact that Tomas Borge spoke out from Peru speaks volumes in this regard, because his connections to cocaine smugglers are very solidly documented.

But I am going to keep an eye on this.

BTW, do you remember that it was Ortega who gave asylum to the two Mexican college students who were present in the raid on the Reyes encampment and who were about to face trial in Mexico?

Too many dots, too few lines for me to run with it just yet.



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