Pondering Nicaragua’s Broken Democracy

While Americans remain focused on the troubled economy and a political firestorm rages over the man who’ll give the invocation at President Elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, a battle over democracy rages south of the U.S. border.

The AP reports:

The U.S. ambassador [to Nicaragua] warned Tuesday that Nicaragua could lose millions of dollars in development aid if it does not resolve a dispute over municipal elections in three months.

There are “profound doubts over the transparency of the count” in Nov. 9 elections in which President Daniel Ortega’s leftist Sandinistas won a majority of mayorships, Robert Callahan said.

But a MUST READ on this comes via Real Clear World:

The advice from Carlos Chamorro is simple, and it resembles a plea: Don’t forget about Nicaragua.

Chamorro is Nicaragua’s leading investigative journalist and a scion of one of the Central American country’s most storied families. His father Pedro Chamorro was assassinated in 1978 for going after the dictator Anastasio Somoza in the pages of La Prensa, Chamorro’s daily newspaper.

Carlos Chamorro offered these words as a new period of unrest unfolds in Nicaragua, in the wake of municipal elections whose results are believed by many – including opposition members and segments of the international community – to be fraudulent.

In a process marked by repression, intimidation and a laundry list of irregularities, President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinistas (FSLN) declared victory in 94 of 146 municipalities across the country on Nov. 9. But the opposition wants the results thrown out. The center-right Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) disavows the official tallies, most strikingly in the capital Managua, where former presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre claims he is the winner. Third-party evidence suggests they are right to challenge the outcome – and not all of that evidence is subtle.

The marred elections set a disturbing precedent at an awkward time, as Ortega prepares to take over presidency pro-tempore of the Central American Integration System. Nicaragua is highly dependent on external aid, mostly from the United States and Europe. Aid programs are dependent on good governance, and their administrators expect recipients to be accountable, and more fundamentally, legitimate. Yet organizations such as the U.S. government-run Millennium Challenge Corporation must be mindful not to punish the people for the sins of their politicians.

There’s a lot more so read it in its entirety.