A protester displays a bloody flag during a protest against Daniel Ortega’s government. INTI OCON (AFP)
The latest opinion poll by the renowned polling institute CID-Gallup paints a bleak picture of Nicaragua: the lack of jobs as the country’s main problem, coupled with a political and economic crisis that has led to an exodus of at least 328,000 citizens in 2022 alone, especially towards the United States, while 55% of the population rejects the management of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. A perception of the Sandinista government, which has remained in the red with an index of -20% since the social outbreak in 2018.
“At the beginning of 2023 and just after Christmas, when there are family reunions, celebratory dinners and the finest gifts purchased with remittances from distant brothers, the people of Nicaragua show ‘resignation and trust in God that there will be one soon change of government. In this sense, they coexist with the country’s social, economic and political situation and they have or are adapting to this new life with cost reductions and lifestyle changes,” summarizes the survey conducted between January 3rd and 16th. The sample consists of 1,204 people over the age of 16, random phone calls. Respondents, adds CID-Gallup, “are waiting for a better life” and “hope that the situation will change and they can find work so they don’t have to leave their families and their country”.
In this sense, 62% of Nicaraguans agree that “the country’s course is on the wrong track”. The perception of the cost of living (68% believe it has risen sharply) is linked to the assessment of the country’s course: “If the country goes in the right direction, it will have a better economic situation.” The mothers and fathers of families are the ones who have felt the blow most in all areas: “food, clothing and transportation”.
The opinion poll shows that Nicaraguans’ economic forecasts for this year are 47% negative, compared to 42% who believe things will get better. This last group, seeing improvement and a sense of stability, is motivated by receiving family remittances from abroad.
“That was evident at Christmas when in some homes it was possible to celebrate Christmas as a family with a special dinner – stuffed loin, chicken, shellfish and drinks – and there was also the option to buy a bigger TV and close the drawers remove – old with drawers- . Some also received help to improve their homes with the money they received from their relatives,” explains the polling institute.
What CID-Gallup reveals about remittances matches the record set in 2022 when they surged 38%. In other words, Nicaragua received about $2,970 million in 2022, an amount that exceeds the republic’s total budget for 2021, which was $2,918.4 million. This foreign currency injection was motivated by nearly 4% of the Nicaraguan population fleeing abroad just last year, specifically to the United States, not counting the 161,269 who left earlier, in 2021. It’s an unprecedented exodus that began after social protests of 2018 with a first wave of 180,000 exiles who, like everyone else, after having reached their destination and settled down, start sending money to their relatives.
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According to Inter-American Dialogue researcher and specialist on migration issues Manuel Orozco, of the 1.6 million Nicaraguan family nuclei received 850,000 remittances by the end of 2022. And the dependence on this money is about 70% in these families. Despite immigration measures imposed by the Joe Biden administration to stop the herd of Nicaraguans on the southern border with Mexico, the majority continue to leave the country due to political persecution and a lack of jobs. According to political analysts, it is the “perverse profit” that the Ortega and Murillo regime makes by displacing people: remittances from family members that flow into the economy. For example, between January and October 2022, they accounted for 18.4% of gross domestic product (GDP).
A disapproved management
CID-Gallup notes that the Ortega-Murillo presidential duo continues to provide a “more negative than positive” rating, reaching out to citizens of all walks of life, age and education. The polling institute’s rating index notes the decline of the Sandinista leaders: in January 2012 they had a positive balance of 27%, in 2017 a 16% favorable balance and now, in January 2023, -20%. The Ortega-Murillos retain the support of Sandinista supporters, who are the only national political force after opposition parties were beheaded by the ruling party, and in November 2022, the Sandinistas won all of the country’s 153 mayoral offices in cataloged elections. sham”.
Despite the fact that Sandinista sympathizers have “loyalty and trust” to the Ortega-Murillos, CID-Gallup reveals that “few believe the presidential couple is able to cope with their unemployment and food problems and needs due to the lack of supply.” to solve sources of work and the increase in the cost of food and basic services, which are the main difficulties of the country and the family”.
When asked if Nicaraguans “approve or disapprove of the way Daniel Ortega is running as president,” 57% said they didn’t, and another 62% agreed it “not at all or unlikely.” is that the Sandinista government claims authoritarian management to “resolve family issues.” 56% believe that Ortega is not “doing what is best for people” and those who think so are mostly “women and people on low incomes”.
“In this environment, there is one issue that is attracting attention and, to some extent, some concern, and that is ‘poor relations with the United States.’ On the one hand, one is satisfied with the measures (sanctions) taken by the US government, on the other hand, one has the feeling that President Ortega currently owns the most important assets of the country and has everything “in his hands .” : gas stations, TV stations, radio stations, Hotels, digital newspapers, universities, shops for various items such as clothing, accessories, groceries… This position gives power and access to the majority of the population,” emphasizes CID-Gallup.
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