Once allies, Nicaragua’s elite aim to unseat Ortega

By Drazen Jorgic and Ismael Lopez
Reuters
MANAGUA (Reuters) – When Nicaraguan police pulled over his luxury SUV, businessman Jose Adan Aguerri thought it was a routine traffic stop.
Suddenly, a group of men rushed the vehicle as the cops stood by and watched. Rocks pounded the car. A large ball bearing shattered the driver’s side window. Aguerri hit the gas and escaped.
Recalling the September incident in the western city of Leon, which was corroborated by three passengers and mobile phone footage, Aguerri said he has no doubt who ordered the attack: the government of leftist strongman Daniel Ortega.
“It was a message to the private sector,” said Aguerri, the leader of Nicaragua’s most influential business association, the Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP).
The government and the police did not respond to requests for comment about Aguerri’s allegations.
What’s clear is that an unorthodox alliance between Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, and the nation’s most powerful capitalists has splintered. After a decade of working with the president to grow the economy, the business elite are now looking to unseat him after a violent state crackdown on anti-government protesters left around 325 people dead last year. More than 2,000 people were injured and around 600 jailed.
Ortega’s well-heeled adversaries include about a dozen of the nation’s wealthiest families known as the “gran capital.” Two people in this exclusive group, whose members rarely speak with the media, talked to Reuters, as did six prominent business people. Most declined to be identified for fear of retribution.
If Ortega does not heed calls by his opponents to step aside, they say they will fund opposition candidates in the next election, an effort some estimated could cost $20 million to $25 million.
“Money will start flowing. There is no doubt,” one businessman from a gran capital family told Reuters.

 

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