Category Archives: Announcements

The crisis in Nicaragua: chronology of the principal events

The month of April marks the 2nd year anniversary of the uprising that started in April 2018. A team of researchers at the UCA for this anniversary published a book on this ongoing crisis. The last chapter contains a chronology of the principal events. Given all the day to day events experienced in the country, reading the chronology does provide perspective, and that is why we provide the translation here.

The crisis in Nicaragua: chronology of the principal events

[Chapter VI in the downloadable book, Nicaragua 2018: The civic insurrection of Abril]

Hellen Castillo Rodríguez[1]

What follows is a chronology of the principal events that occurred since the beginning of the social and political crisis of Nicaragua between April 2018 to April 10, 2019, starting with some brief immediate background events.

Evolution of the social and political crisis in Nicaragua 2018-2019

(Immediate background events)

Feb 7,

2018

Law 331, Electoral law of Nicaragua, reformed to provide more powers to the Vice President of the Supreme Electoral Council, Lumberto Campbell, who in practice assumed the presidency of this body.
March 12, 2018 Alarm in Nicaragua over the intention of the government to issue laws to control the internet and social networks
March 20, 2018 Mothers, sisters and friends of female victims of femicide in Nicaragua–16 femicides are registered in the course of the year–, protest in front of the Supreme Court in Managua, who demand that public measures be taken to put an end to gender violence.

 

April 3,

2018

Forest fire in the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve in the Río San Juan province, bordering on Costa Rica.
April 7,

2018

The Nicaraguan government declares a yellow alert- four days after the fire began- when the fire had burned more than 3,000 hectares in the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve.
April 11, 2018 Demonstration of more than 500 people, mostly youth, to denounce “governmental negligence” and “State inefficiency” in the face of the fire in the Indio-Maíz Reserve, considered the worst ecological catastrophe in the history of Nicaragua. This was the first of other demonstrations over this issue.
April 12,

2018

Self-convened youth march to demand a response to the fire that started on April 3. Minutes later, members of the youth organization of Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), known as the 19 of July Sandinista Youth (JS), National Police officers (PN) and special forces of the Anti-Riot Police repress the demonstration.
April 14,

2018

The central government reports that the fire in the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve has been completely controlled. Some 5,484.7 hectares or 7,786.44 manzanas, are affected by the fire that lasted 10 days, and that was able to be put out through the efforts of local community members, the Army, firefighters, international aid, and finally, the rainfall in the area.
April 16,

2018

The Nicaraguan government through the executive president of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) surprisingly and unilaterally announces a reform to the social security system, imposing significant increases in the respective contributions from employers and workers, and establishing a tax of 5% on the pensions of retired people.

 

April 18,

2018

The Nicaraguan government publishes in La Gaceta the reforms to the Social Security Law of Nicaragua, announced the previous day.

 

Eruption of the crisis

(Outbreak of protests and governmental repression)

April 18, 2018

In the cities of León, Managua and Matagalpa the elderly, women and youth take to the streets to protest the reforms of the INSS. Journalists from different media cover the news.

Police agents, shock troops and members of the JS with tear gas, sticks, metal pipes and stones repress the self-convened youth and adults who have gathered in the Camino de Oriente shopping center in Managua to protest over the INSS reforms. The journalists are also attacked, and their cameras and equipment stolen.

The government suspends the transmissions of several independent TV channels: 100% noticias, Canal Católico, Confidencial, CDNN 23, Canal 12 and Telenorte from Estelí. The only channels available are official media, owned by the offspring of the Ortega-Murillo presidential couple.

April 19,

2018

Students of the National Engineering University (UNI) and the Polytechnical University of Nicaragua (UPOLI) join the protests over the reforms to INSS.

Police repression begins to use lethal weapons and munitions. The first three people die during the police repression: two students and one policeman.

For the first time since the 1979 revolution, the indigenous community of Monimbó, in Masaya, rise up in repudiation of the governmental repression and in support of the protests. During more than 6 hours they confront the special forces of the Police.

The Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) demands that the government respect the constitutional right to protest and not repress the demonstrations.

 

April 20,

2018

The demonstration against the INSS reforms are multiplied throughout Nicaraguan territory; at the same time the repression intensifies and lethal weapons and sharpshooters are employed. Independent media, national human rights commissions and social networks point out that just in those days close to 30 people die, mostly students.

The population supports the protesters, opening up collection centers for food and medicines, and creating medical support brigades.

The death of the youngest victim is reported: 15 year old adolescent Álvaro Conrado. He is urgently transported to the Hospital Cruz Azul, but the staff of the center close the doors and deny him medical attention.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua is attacked by anti-riot police. More than 500 people are left trapped inside.

In Managua demonstrators cut down the first structure of the so-called “trees of life”, or “metallic trees” in repudiation of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. These felling of metal trees will continue throughout the protests.

In the provinces of Managua, León and Granada the burning of some public buildings takes place, along with some municipal installations and university centers. The attitude of the Police is complete passivity in the face of these acts of vandalism.
In the face of the crisis, COSEP asks the government to begin a dialogue process and calls for the first national march, held on April 23 in the Rubén Darío traffic circle, to demand respect for constitutional rights: freedom of expression, information and the right to demonstrate.

 

April 21,

2018

Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, accepts installing a negotiation roundtable with COSEP to analyze the INSS reforms and address the issue of exonerations and subsidies, as international financial organizations are demanding.

The context of the protests takes a turn and moves to demanding the resignation of the presidential couple, in response to the repression and abuse of human rights carried out by paramilitaries and the PN.

The journalist Ángel Gahona is killed while transmitting live the events occurring in the judicial complex in the city of Bluefields. His program, El Meridiano, was transmitted through social networks.
April 22,

2018

A wave of looting begins in commercial establishments and supermarkets in Managua. The population in the media and social networks report that members of the JS, supported by the Police, are responsible for these acts. In response, the population protects commercial centers, supermarkets, and businesses.
Daniel Ortega transmits through state television a message to the nation where he revokes the INSS reforms in order to defuse the protests
April 23,

2018

From Spain, where he traveled to receive the Cervantes award, the Nicaragua writer Sergio Ramírez dedicates the award to those killed in Nicaragua for demanding justice

Thousands of Nicaraguans lead a large march in Managua to the UPOLI to present a new list of demands to Ortega that would mean the end to violence and a dialogue to addresses the profound causes of the crisis

The Vice president of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo, calls for a replica of the large opposition march and calls it: “The Government wants dialogue and peace”.

Peasants (men and women) call for a national strike until the demands are met of the youth entrenched in the universities, principally an end to the repression and immediate freedom of the more than 200 youth captured for exercising their right to demonstrate in the streets of the country.

 

April 24,

2018

−−

After the large march in Managua that demanded the resignation of Daniel Ortega, the president invites the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua to be the mediator in a national dialogue.

The government of Daniel Ortega tries to lessen the impact of social media, and to do so suspends free wifi in the public parks of the country.

The Catholic Church of Nicaragua accepts to mediate in the dialogue requested by COSEP and the government of Daniel Ortega, but a date is still not set.

 

The first warnings come from the International Community. The High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights (OHCHR) urges ensuring that immediate, profound, independent and transparent investigations be done on the deaths in Nicaragua

120 students are freed, the victims of arbitrary and illegal detention and confined to the La Modelo penitentiary system. Those arrested report having been tortured.
April 25,

2018

Peaceful protests and attacks from pro-governmental forces continue in different parts of Nicaragua. Civil society calls to take three days of national grieving.
April 26,

2018

The Permanent Commission on Human Rights (CPDH) counts 63 deaths and 15 people disappeared during the protests.
April 27,

2018

The Nicaraguan Prosecutor´s office announced that it will investigate the deaths occurred within the framework of the protests.

The National Assembly, whose majority are members or sympathizers of the party in power, announces the creation of a Truth Commission, completely composed of recognized militants or allies of the party in power. Demonstrators and NGOs describe this endeavor as a farce.

 

April 28,

2018

Thousands of opponents march again in Managua and several cities of the country to demonstrate against the government. The slogans maintain the demand that the rulers resign, and now demand democracy and electoral reforms to hold early elections.

University youth demand the presence in Nicaragua of the Interamerican Human Rights Commission (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS).

April 29,

2018

Another big march is carried out in Managua called by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua to pray for the victims and the success of the dialogue.
At the end of a religious service, a motorcyclist barges into the central aisle of the Cathedral of Managua in an act of disrespect and intimidation of Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, mediator and witness to the National Dialogue at the government´s request.
May 5,

2018

The University Coalition is created, composed of five student movements: April 19 University Movement, April 19 Student Movement, Nicaraguan University Alliance, April 19 UNA University Movement, University Coordinator for Justice and Democracy.
Demonstrations continue in the cities of Managua, Chinandega, León and Estelí. The bishops of Nicaragua demand “in depth clarification” of the deaths occurred in the student protests.
May 7, 2018

Civic protests are generalized throughout the country. The response of the regime is repression in Managua, Masaya, Chinandega, León and Estelí.

Students entrench themselves in the state National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN-Managua) and demand social justice and support for the demands of the movement.

The University Coalition chooses their 5 representatives to participate in the National Dialogue.
May 9,

2018

Demonstrators hold the third large march against Daniel Ortega, in which the Movement for Nicaragua, the Peasant Movement and civil society participate. More than 70,000 people attend. The government responds with their own smaller counter march in Managua.

 

May 10,

2018

Movement begins of civil society to recover national symbols. They paint curbs, posts and pedestals of monuments that had the colors of the FSLN blue and white, and remove the red and black flag from public places and municipal institutions.

The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy is created, composed of those invited to participate in the National Dialogue: members of the University Coalition, Peasant Movement, private enterprise, civil society and academic sectors.

May 11,

2018

Self-convened people begin the installation of roadblocks in several cities in the country. Large protest demonstrations continue throughout the country, in spite of the violent repression against the unarmed population.
Anti-riot and para police forces carry out violent attacks and looting in Masaya.
May 12, 2018

Masaya becomes the scenario for fierce confrontations between demonstrators and police, to which are added – according to denouncements on social networks and independent Nicaraguan press – armed groups allied with the government. According to local reports, the city awoke the next day looking like a “battle field.”

The Nicaraguan Army breaks their silence on the violent events in the country in which it says it had no participation, and issues a press release where it calls on  people to say “no to violence, no to instability, yes to tranquility, yes to peace,” and states that “We are the people themselves in uniform.”

 

May 13, 2018

Demonstrators in Managua hold a caravan in support of the city of Masaya, that has resisted for more than 48 hours a nearly uninterrupted fight against the attacks of anti-riot and para-police forces. There are nearly 22 continuous kms of vehicles along the Managua to Masaya highway.

A multi-sectoral roundtable – composed of the University Coalition, the Peasant Movement, civil society organizations, private sector and academic sector – send a letter to Paulo Abrāo, executive secretary of the IACHR, inviting the organization to investigate, evaluate and assess the denouncements of violence, persecution, repression and death occurred in Nicaragua since the beginning of the protests in April.

May 14,

2018

The Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (CEN) announces that the National Dialogue will begin in two days.

In the end the government consents that a mission of the IACHR visit the country to “observe the human rights situation”. This is reported by the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro.

May 16,

2018

The first session of the National Dialogue is held in the Seminary of Our Lady of Fatima in Managua. Protected by a disproportionate deployment of police and army, with special forces, helicopters, drones, planes and heavily armed bodyguards, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo attend in their capacity as heads of state. At the entrance to the area, angry multitudes boo at their passing and refute the defamatory remarks that the rulers have made about the demonstrators: in addition,  they reproach them for their responsibility for the killings of unarmed youth. The Civic Alliance, as counterpart in the National Dialogue, the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, as mediator and witness, and the diplomatic body credentialed in the country are present.

 

May 17,

2018

A group of representatives of the IACHR arrive in Nicaragua to observe the situation and collect denouncements from the civilian population. At the end of their stay, they publish a Preliminary Report in which, having as a source the official information of the government, confirm that 76 people died, 868 were wounded and 438 arrested. They recommend creating a Special Follow up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and a group of independent experts from the IACHR in order to clarify the events of April.
The Support Group for the Mothers of April is created.
May 18,

2018

The second session of the National Dialogue is held, where both parties arrive at the first agreement: 72- hour truce to stop the violence and relax the roadblocks throughout the country. Likewise, at the proposal of the Civic Alliance, all the participants in the dialogue roundtable approve the preliminary report of the IACHR and agree to abide by its 15 recommendations.
May 19,

2018

With the “Caravan of Bravery in Managua” the first month of the start of the protests is commemorated. Throughout the country marches and sit-ins are held to honor those killed by the government
In León the march of the Movement for Nicaragua and the April 19 Movement from that same city is held, in which more than 100,000 people participate.
At night police and para-police forces attack the National Agrarian University (UNA). The representatives of the IACHR observe the attack in person. With this aggression the government violates the truce agreement established in the first session of the National Dialogue.
May 21,

2018

The third session of the National Dialogue is held, without significant results.
May 23,

2018

The fourth session of the National Dialogue is held. The Civic Alliance makes a call to democratize Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega refuses, and denounces a “soft coup.” The lack of consensus forces the Episcopal Conference to suspend the talks, and proposes a mixed commission composed of three representatives for each party, in an attempt to overcome the impasse.
May 24,

2018

 

A cadaver appears in the drainage ditch of the El Plomo hill, with clear signs of torture. He is taken without identification to the Medical Legal Institute.

Arbitrary and illegal detentions continue. One of those detained is able to be released through social pressure.

It is reported that in El Chipote2 are found many other people arrested whose detention had not been reported.

More denouncements of disappeared Nicaraguan youth begin to appear on social networks.
The repression continues in several parts of the country. The cities of Chinandega and León are attacked by para-police forces, leaving three people killed as a result.

2 El Chipote is a jail located in the high part of the Tiscapa hill in Managua. During the Somoza dictatorship it was one of the principal torture centers. Currently the national human rights commissions denounce that there are many people detained there who are tortured, particularly in this period of crisis.

May 26,

2018

A report from Amnesty International (AI) states that the government has committed “crimes against international law” by “carrying out a lethal repressive policy”.

Marches, sit-ins and roadblocks remain. Those barricaded in roadblocks in several cities of the country are subjected to attacks with all types of weapons on the part of para-police forces.

A wave of street violence begins in which mobs and criminals that the population identifies as connected to the government go out at night, shooting at civilians and creating chaos.

An article is published in Confidencial3 that gathers several case stories that fully illustrate the pattern of shooting against demonstrators in Nicaragua, which allows one to surmise that the PN used sharpshooters.4
May 28,

2018

Students take over the UNI. At 10am attacks begin from the National Police, anti-riot and para-police forces. The clashes continue until 6pm. Three deaths are reported, along with many wounded and several people arrested.

The first round of work of the Mixed Commission was held; they reached a consensus to relax the roadblocks, as long as the first issue of the agenda in the dialogue – to be renewed on May 31 – would be the end of repression, dismantling of paramilitary groups, and the call for early general elections, among other points.

 

May 29,

2018

Demonstrations and roadblocks are maintained in a generalized way throughout the country.

Amnesty International presents a report on the situation of the country, titled “Shoot to Kill”, in which it concludes that the “Government of Nicaragua is using a strategy of lethal repression”.

3 Confidencial is a magazine that has been published in Nicaragua since 1996 as a media outlet for information and analysis among decision makers in government, diplomatic corps, private sector and civil society. In 2010 it relaunched itself to the public as an interactive digital newspaper.

4 The article is from the journalist Wilfredo Miranda Aburto, who singled out that: “Confidencial has in its possession 19 CAT scans done in the Lenin Fonseca Hospital. They show precise shots in the forehead, parietal, temporal and occipital regions of the heads of the victims. Most of the gunshot wounds present entry and exit wounds. Trajectories that leave a wake of destruction in the brain mass” (2018).

 

May 30,

2018

On the occasion of Mothers Day in Nicaragua, and in support of the more than 90 mothers who up to that point had lost their sons or daughters due to the governmental repression, held in Managua the so-called “Mother of all Marches”. It is estimated that more than 500,000 people participated. The march is reaching its end when the participants are attacked by sharpshooters and paramilitary groups allied with the government. At 5pm the first students are killed, among them a 15 year old boy, slain in front of his mother with a shot to the neck.
In other points in the capital, like the Highway to Masaya, clashes are recorded of police and paramilitaries against demonstrators. Similar events occurred in other cities, and a total of 19 deaths are reported and dozens of wounded. Daniel Ortega announces that he will not leave power.
May 31,

2018

The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy issues a press release announcing that, after the massacre of May 30, they are not willing to renew the National Dialogue as the government has not given the order to end the repression and violence against the Nicaraguan people

The inhabitants of the city of Masaya, the indigenous community of Monimbó and the municipality of Waslala call for a national strike, after the wave of violence and repression perpetrated by the government.

June 1,

 

2018

In the city of León groups allied with the government of Ortega burn the Agricultural Ministry (MAGFOR) and create chaos.

The Central American Province of the Society of Jesus makes a pronouncement repudiating the massacre perpetrated by the government, the National Police and para-police forces in Nicaragua. At the same time, they denounce in an open and public letter threats received against the life of Fr. José Alberto Idiáquez, the President of the Central American University (UCA) who is participating in the National Dialogue roundtable as part of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy.

June 4, 2018 Masaya suffers an armed attack that leaves 5 deaths.
Monimbó keeps up the struggle.

 

June 6, 2018 The OAS urges all parties to “promote peaceful negotiations with clear results that address the fundamental challenges of the country, including the strengthening of democratic institutions and holding free, fair and timely elections”.
June 7,

2018

Demonstrations against Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo continue throughout the country.

An undeclared curfew is imposed on Managua and other cities. When night falls, pro-government and paramilitary patrols take the streets

The bishops meet with the government to try to reactivate the dialogue. The president asks the Episcopal Conference for 48 hours to “reflect” on their proposal for democratization.

The United States decides not to wait and suspends issuing visas for “people responsible for Human Rights abuses and undercutting democracy in Nicaragua”. Even though names are not mentioned, the measure indicates that it will affect members of the government and the National Police.
June 10, 2018 Properties of between 5- 1,500 manzanas in size begin to be occupied by land invaders organized by the FLSN party and officials from municipal governments
June 12, 2018 The public becomes aware that Daniel Ortega, in order to resolve the crisis, show himself willing to move up the presidential elections, planned for 2021. The proposal supposedly was presented to the bishops and the Civic Alliance by the US Ambassador Laura Dogu and Caleb McCarry, a delegate of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate who visited Nicaragua on June 9 and met with Ortega. Later events and speeches will contradict this disposition of Ortega.
June 13,

2018

The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy calls for a 24-hour general strike to increase pressure on the government, a measure that up to now they had refused to take due to the consequences it could have on the Nicaraguan economy. At this point the crisis has cost the country $600 million dollars.

 

June 15, 2018 The National Dialogue is renewed. The government and the Civic Alliance address the “roadmap” for “democratizing” the country, specifically the proposal to move up presidential elections to 2019. At the request of the Civic Alliance, the parties agree to invite international observers to investigate the acts of violence

.

June 17, 2018

Six members of one family – including two small boys – die burned in their home in a fire deliberately caused by forces allied with the government in the city of Managua. One survivor and several neighbors state that the attack that produced the fire was committed by para-police groups of the government with the support of the PN.

With this crime, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) denounced an escalation in the brutal repression of the Ortega-Murillo regime. In addition, the organization lamented the fact that in these 60 days another 12 minors have been killed.

The 33 year-old young man Darwin Potosme dies at the hands of a sharpshooter during an attack on the central park in the city of Masaya.
Peoples uprising and attacks
June 18, 2018

The population of Masaya, 28 kilometers from Managua, declares itself “territory free from the dictator”. The city remains under siege from pro-government repressive forces.

The High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights, Zeid Ra ád Al Hussein, states that the situation in Nicaragua “might well deserve” the creation of an international investigation.

The renewal of the National Dialogue is planned, which finally is delayed a week, and included representatives of the IACHR.

 

June 19, 2018

The songwriter Carlos Mejía Godoy presents a new song: “Monimbó siempre con vos [Always with you, Monimbo´]”, in honor of the indigenous people of Monimbó.

New clashes leave at least 3 dead and 30 wounded. In the days that follow the repression increases against the students of the UNAN.

June 21, 2018 Work in defense of Monimbó is reorganized, where barricades are reinforced to prevent the entrance of anti-riot forces and paramilitary groups. The barricades are guarded 24 hours a day by the population.
June 22, 2018 The IACHR presents a report that raises the numbers to 212 dead, 1,337 wounded and 507 detained by “the repressive action of the State” which, according to the denouncement, “has been directed at dissuading participation in the demonstrations and crush this expression of political dissent”.
June 23, 2018

Armed groups attack a barricade guarded by students holed up in the Rubén Darío university campus, wounding 15 students with gunshot and kidnapping three youth protestors.

The 14 month-old baby Teyler Leonardo Lorío Navarrete is killed. According to his mother´s testimony, Teyler was hit by a bullet from the Police when his family was taking him to the home of his grandmother in a neighborhood in the eastern part of the capital. The Police refute this version and accuse a criminal of the act. His mother, nevertheless, maintains that her baby was killed by the Police.

June 25, 2018

The dialogue is renewed in the country, with the presence of a technical team of the IACHR. The group forms part of the Follow up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) responsible for oversight over fulfillment of the recommendations and cautionary measures previously issued by the IACHR.

Hundreds of Nicaraguans who live in New York and in other states close by in the United States walk twelve blocks in the center of Manhattan, NY, demanding an end to the repression in Nicaragua.

June 26, 2018 A team from the High Commissioner of the United States for Human Rights (OHCHR) arrives in Nicaragua to participate, along with experts from the IACHR, in the investigations on the violent acts in Nicaragua.
July 1,

2018

“The march of flowers” is held, that walked through Managua in memory of the minors killed during the protests. It is the first time that a large march is held since the tragic event of May 30. Shock groups and paramilitaries return to attack and kill another person.
July 5,

2018

The United States sanctions three high Nicaraguan officials, within the framework of the Magnitsky Act. They are Francisco Díaz, chief of the National Police and in law of Daniel Ortega; Fidel Moreno Briones, Secretary General of the Municipality of Managua; and  Francisco López Centeno, Vice president of Albanisa – state enterprise partner with the Oil Enterprise of Venezuela (PDVSA).
July 7,

2018

As part of “Operation Clean up” 5 Ortega launches a new offensive against “rebel” cities: Matagalpa, Jinotepe, Diriamba, León, Masaya.

Paulo Abrāo, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, denounces from Nicaragua that “pro governmental armed groups supported by the Police are entering into cities in a massive way”. “Shooting and bursts of gunfire. Yesterday Matagalpa. Now around Jinotepe and Diriamba”, he relates. In just four days nearly 40 dead are counted.

July 9,

2018

The roundtables of the National Dialogue are suspended due to the attacks suffered by the bishops in the basilica of San Sebastián, in the city of Diriamba.
July 10,

2018

Ortega appears before official media to clarify that finally there will be no early elections. “There will be time, just as the law orders, there will be time for elections. Everything has its time,” he notes.
July 11,

2018

 

The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, expresses his concern over the “intensification” of the violence in Nicaragua, and points out that dialogue is the only way of finding “a peaceful solution to the current crisis.”

5 “Operation Cleanup” – term used popularly – consisted in the joint dismantling by force of roadblocks and barricades, carried out by members of the National Police, paramilitaries, and mobs allied with the government, as well as armed attacks against the population that demonstrate against

 

July 12,

2018

The Permanent Council of the OAS meets to address the situation in Nicaragua. The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, advocates for early elections and offers his support to Daniel Ortega so that it might be a “clean and transparent process.”

That same day, dozens of thousands of Nicaraguans take to the principal streets of Managua shouting “Together we are a volcano” and “The people united will never be defeated.” Throughout the route of the march the pervasive slogan is “Ortega and Somoza are the same thing.”

 

The Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua (UPANIC) revealed that some 5,500 manzanas of land for agricultural, housing and forestry uses has been invaded by heavily armed people, who looted and violently stripped the legitimate owners of their respective possessions.
July 13,

2018

Nicaragua wakes up under a 24-hour national stoppage.

Accompanied by a military caravan of cars and motorcycles, the presidential couple celebrate in the police station of Masaya the 39th anniversary of the historic “Tactical Retreat”. For the first time since 1980 the Retreat did not end in the indigenous community of Monimbó, Masaya

During the Retreat, the people of Monimbó stayed hunkered down in the barricades, and all the population of Masaya closed themselves in their homes to show their repudiation of the government.

At the end of the “Tactical Retreat”, the National Police carry out a harsh attack against the population that protested in Monimbó. The attack lasts two and a half hours and leaves two people dead as a result.

Medardo Mairena, coordinator of the National Council in the Defense of the Land, the Lake and Sovereignty, and member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, is captured and transferred to the cells of El Chipote. The peasant leader is accused a priori of terrorism and the murder of four policemen in the municipality of Morrito, in the province of Río San Juan.

 

July 14,

2018

Armed groups attack the UNAN of Managua. The students seek refuge in the nearby Divina Misericordia Church, where they spend more than 15 hours under constant automatic gun fire from police and paramilitaries. This repressive act leaves another two dead.
July 15,

2018

Another ten people die at the hands of police and paramilitaries in a series of attacks on the indigenous community of Monimbó, in the city of Masaya.
July 16,

2018

With combined forces of the government, the so called “Operation Clean up” continues against five cities of the Pacific, among them Managua, Masaya, Diriá and Catarina; their inhabitants remain in a state of anxiety and high alert.

Two people are reported dead.

July 17,

2018

More than 1,500 troops of the Army, Police and paramilitaries lay siege to the city of Masaya and shoot at the indigenous neighborhood of Monimbó, an attack that lasts more than seven hours and leaves as a result four people dead.

The Organization of American States (OAS) calls an extraordinary session for July 18 to address the Nicaraguan crisis when it enters into its third month.

July 18,

2018

It is now three months since the start of the protests against the regime imposed by President Daniel Ortega, with close to 300 people killed.

A group of US senators, Democrats as well as Republicans, present the bill “2018 Law for Human Rights and the Fight Against Corruption in Nicaragua”, that seeks to put an end to the wave of violence that Nicaragua is suffering, and that includes the application of new sanctions on the government of Daniel Ortega and the demand to call early elections.

July 19,

2018

Daniel Ortega celebrates the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, reaffirming that he is not leaving power and launching a virulent attack against the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, accusing it of being “a coup supporter.” The event includes the presence of the diplomatic corps accredited in the country, among whom is the representative of the Vatican, Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.

 

July 20,

2018

In La Gaceta No. 138 is published “Law 977 Against Laundering of Assets, Financing for Terrorism and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction”. The organizational defenders of human rights in Nicaragua state that this legislation would allow for a high amount of discretion on the part of judicial authorities to process any citizen who opposes the regime of president Daniel Ortega for the crime of terrorism.
July 21,

2018

The Catholic church, which says “it does not suffer for being slandered (…), it suffers for those who have been killed”, calls the faithful to a campaign of fasting.
July 23,

2018

After nine years of not offering declarations to national or international media, Daniel Ortega offers an interview for the Special Report program of Fox News, the conservative television channel and sympathetic to President Donald Trump. In the interview- conducted by the journalist Bret Baier− Ortega denies the accusations of repression and human rights violations that international organizations charge him with, and states that there is a panorama of normality in his country, and rejects the call for early elections.
The 31 year-old Brazilian student Raynéia Gabrielle is killed. She dies from a shot to the thorax when paramilitaries blasted her vehicle that was passing through the Lomas de Monserrat neighborhood in Managua.
July 24,

2018

On the 100th day of the crisis, Daniel Ortega says he has “defeated the coup”. In an interview to the interstate channel TeleSur he accuses the United States of “interventionism” and expresses that it would be “ideal” to have a dialogue with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, to deal with the policy of that country toward Nicaragua.
Persecution y criminalization
August 2,

 

2018

The Organization of American States (OAS) approves the creation of a working group for Nicaragua for the purpose of supporting the National Dialogue and contributing to the “search for peaceful and sustainable solutions.”

 

 

August 26,

2018

In the neighboring country of Costa Rica, a massive march is held of repudiation to the xenophobia toward Nicaraguan immigrants who are arriving in the country, fleeing the social and political crisis that Nicaragua is undergoing.
August 27,

2018

Brandon Lovo is condemned to 23 years in jail, and Glen Slate to 12 years in jail, for the supposed murder of journalist Ángel Gahona, on April 21 in the city of Bluefields. Both Afro-descendent youth became the first political prisoners that are sentenced by the Ortega-Murillo dictatorial regime. The family of the murdered journalist refute the version of the government about the culpability of those sentenced.
August 31,

2018

Daniel Ortega terminates the invitation of Nicaragua to the representatives of the OHCHR, after it presented a report which denounces the human rights abuses and abuses committed by the security forces of the government during the protest that occurred since April in Nicaragua.

The European Union suspends the aid program with the National Police of Nicaragua, which had not executed 3.5 million euros.

Authorities of UNAN-Managua expel 82 students for participating in the protests against the regime of Daniel Ortega.
Sept 1,

2018

The delegation of the OHCHR leaves Nicaragua for Panama because the Government “invited them to leave” the country.

In the Jean Paul Genie roundabout in Managua groups of government party sympathizers destroy the memorial done by relatives and friends of the victims of the repression.

The National Police and members of the Sandinista Youth besiege the self-convoked inhabitants in the cities of Granada and Nandaime to keep them from marching.
Sept 2,

2018

Paramilitaries in three pickup trucks shoot at participants in the “March of the Flags” and wound two people.

Sympathizers of the party in power hold a caravan through the neighborhoods and principal streets of Managua to ask for justice against the “terrorists.”

 

Sept 4,

2018

Edwin Carcache (27 year-old) is arrested, a leader of the Movimiento Estudiantil 19 de Abril, for joining the university struggle and protesting against Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
Sept 8,

2018

The “Balloon March” is held, convoked by parents and relatives of all the people who have been detained and face different judicial processes, principally accused of terrorism. Blue and white, the colors of the national flag, stand out.
Sept 10,

2018

Amaya Coppens (23), student leader of the Movimiento 19 de Abril, is captured in León, along with Sergio Midence Delgadillo (28), accused of the crime of simple abduction, terrorism and minor psychological injuries.
Sept 20,

2018

A Solidarity caravan for Nicaragua arrives in Peru to expose and denounce the murder and abuse that the Nicaragua people are experiencing, in the face of the worst social and political crisis that the country has experienced in the last decade.

The selective eviction of some of the so called “land invaders” begins, people who had invaded land in some cities of Nicaragua. The last report of UPANIC indicates that of the 9,800 manzanas of private property that were invaded, some 2,483 manzanas are recognized as recovered.

Sept 21,

2018

The government of Daniel Ortega orders workers (men and women) of State institutions to hold sit-ins in the principal roundabouts of the capital, to prevent the gatherings of members of the self-convened movements.
Sept 24,

2018

An arrest order is issued against Félix Maradiaga, academic and director of the Institute for Strategic and Public Policy Studies (IEEPP), who at the beginning of September denounced before the Security Council of the UN the persecution and repression of the Nicaraguan government against civil society.

 

Sept 27,

2018

The university students Elsa Valle, Elizabeth Centeno and Yuri Valerio are freed from the “La Esperanza” women´s jail, after being arrested on July 14 for protesting against the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega. Days later, Elsa Valle would reveal that she suffered a miscarriage in prison as a result of the abuse suffered during her imprisonment.
Oct 2,

2018

The House of Representatives of the US approves the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, known as the Nica Act, a law that imposes sanctions on the government of Daniel Ortega. The legislation is opposed to international financial institutions granting loans to the government of Nicaragua and demands that measures be taken to ensure electoral transparency and the fight against corruption. In order to become law it requires the approval of the US Senate, and the approval of President Donald Trump.
Oct 4,

2018

The “National Blue and White Unity” is officially presented, composed of the different social sectors who are opposed to the regime of Daniel Ortega, among them the Civic Alliance and the Articulation of Social Movements, for the purpose of fighting for democratization and justice in Nicaragua.
Oct 9,

2018

The anti-governmental demonstrator Carlos José Bonilla is sentenced to 90 years in prison for the aggravated murder of the Policeman Jilton Rafael Manzanares, and for attempted murder of another four police officers.
Oct 14,

2018

The Police prevent the first march called for by the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB) and capture 38 people.
Oct 17,

2018

Red lipstick becomes a symbol of protest against the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega. Social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) propagate a massive digital feminist campaign called “#SoyPicoRojo” as a new form of demanding the release of political prisoners.
The National Police repress and militarize the island of Ometepe, for the purpose of capturing all those on the island who have demonstrated against the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship.
Oct 18,

2018

Amnesty International publishes the report “Instilling Terror”,6 in which a team of experts in the analysis of images, weapons and munitions show that: “During the months of June and July 2018 groups of national police in black uniforms were identified, using a wide variety of military style arms and weapons of indiscriminate impact. Among the weapons that they carried were identified AK-47 style rifles, which only use lethal munition, Russian Dragunov sharpshooter rifles, Remington M24 SWS and FN SPR rifles, that allow for precise shots over very long distances, light RPK machine guns and PKM machine guns (arms that are fully automatic, and therefore in no way applicable for public security tasks). In addition, slam gun Pistols, portable RPG-7 anti-tanks grenade launchers (…), all shot on occasions in an indiscriminate manner”.
Oct 20,

2018

The Nicaraguan Central Bank (BCN) notifies commercial Banks of the suspensión of the mechanism of online purchases of dollars. This disposition indicates that, in order to request the purchase of dollars, they must do so in writing 48 hours in advance, indicating amount, purpose and actors in the transaction. This type of measure was considered by some analysts as a type of foreshadowing of financial banking restrictions”.

6  On the “possible serious human rights violations and crimes against international law” that the Nicaraguan authorities would have committed between May 30 and September 18, see the complete report from Amnesty International Instilling Terror: From lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua (2018).

Oct 21,

2018

19 year-old university student María Alejandra Castillo García is freed, after suffering a miscarriage in the cells of El Chipote, where she was detained since Sept 23.

After Sunday Mass, after three weeks since the Police increased the harassment of the Blue and White marches, hundreds of Nicaraguans protested in the Managua Cathedral to demand the freedom of political prisoners

The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH)7 publishes a report where it reveals that the victims of the repression number 528 people killed; some 4,102 wounded; 1,609  people abducted by unauthorized armed groups, of whom 1,486 remain detained illegally or disappeared, and 21 homes of citizens destroyed due to the fact that their inhabitants protested civically and peacefully against the regime. From April 19 to this date the ANPDH has not ceased to register denouncements of abductions perpetrated by paramilitaries.

Oct 25,

2018

It is leaked that the government of Daniel Ortega will be taking 4% of the salary of each State worker for the purpose of mitigating the scarcity of funds in the party and the State.
Oct 26,

2018

Nicaraguan authorities deny entry to the authorities of the Center for International Law and Justice (CEJIL), who were trying to enter the country to meet with representatives of the IACHR for the purpose of analyzing the situation of Nicaragua.
Oct 27,

2018

President Daniel Ortega, through the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Mail (TELCOR) orders businesses that provide Cable TV services in the entire country to take off air the signal of 100% Noticias, an opposition enterprise that transmitted by cable on Channel 15, and put in its place the pro-government Channel 6.

7 This report of the ANPDH (2018) presents timely data on the victims killed during the crisis in Nicaragua for having exercised their right to civic protest.

 

Oct 30,

2018

17 political prisoners jailed in the La Esperanza National Penitentiary System for Women denounce- to their relatives and human rights organizations – that penal authorities allowed the incursion into their cell of some twenty hooded men dressed in black, who savagely beat them.
A delegation of MESENI and the IACHR request entry to the La Esperanza women´s jail to confirm the status of the health of the 17 political prisoners who were beaten. The authorities block their access.
Oct 31,

2018

The Petronic DNP gasoline station chain (Nicaraguan Distributor of Oil) changes their corporate image after the economic losses that the business suffered based on the campaign against them disseminated in social networks. Its current name is PETROCEN. This business is a partner of the Venezuelan oil Company

and is connected to relatives of the rulers of Nicaragua.

Nov 1,

2018

Rosario Murillo announces the creation of a policy of peace, and a bill called “Law of National Reconciliation”; the interpretation of the opposition of these measures is that their true objective is to prepare the conditions to promulgate a general law of amnesty which would leave the crimes committed during the crisis unpunished.

 

Nov 2,

2018

Alex Vanegas, known as the marathon runner, is violently arrested for the sixth consecutive time. This time his “crime” consisted in depositing flowers on the tombs of the victims of the repression. Alex, at 61 years of age, has run in different parts of Managua wearing a blue and white shirt – the colors of the national flag – in demand for freedom for the political prisoners of the dictatorship.
Nov 6,

2018

The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH)8 releases a systematization 9 on cases of the violation of freedom of the press where they reported that between April 18 and October 18 there were 420 violations against freedom of the press in Nicaragua.
Nov 7,

2018

The Prosecutor´s Office demands 21 years in prison for nine students of the UNAN-Managua who survived the attack on the Divina Misericordia Church on July 14th and were later arrested. They are found guilty for the crimes of terrorism and illegal arms possession.
Nov 8,

2018

COSEP presents a report monitoring economic activities in Nicaragua10 that reveals that between April and Sept of this year 417,000 people have lost their Jobs or have been suspended from their places of work.
Nov 26,

2018

The 62 year-old defender of human rights, Ana Quirós, is arrested and expelled from Nicaragua. Epsy Campbell, the Vice President of Costa Rica, reports hours later that Ana was taken to the border post at Peñas Blancas, where she was received by Costa Rican authorities.
Dec 13,

2018

The National Police without a warrant searches the offices of CENIDH, the Institute for the Development of Democracy (IPADE), the Leadership Institute of the Segovias (ILS), the River Foundation, and Popol Na, all of whom previously had been stripped of their legal status by the National Assembly.
The National Police attack and loot the newsrooms of the communications media Confidencial, Esta Semana and Esta Noche, of the journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro.

8 The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation is a civil society organization that works for the defense and establishment of freedom of press and information in Nicaragua.

9 Journalism in the Americas: “Nicaraguan organization reports 420 violations to the freedom of the press in the last six months”, November 7, 2018, available in Spanish at https://knightcenter.utexas.edu/es/blog/00-20318-organizacion-nicaragueense-reporta-420-violaciones-contra-la-libertad-de-prensa-en-los

10 See monitoring of business news of COSEP, November 9, 2018, available at http://www.cosep.org.ni/index.php/comunicaciones/monitoreo-de-medios/6754-monitoreo-de-noticias-empresariales-9-de-noviembre-de-2018

 

Dec 19,

2018

The IACHR reports that MESENI and the GIEI, entities responsible for monitoring the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, are suspended temporarily by the government of Nicaragua.
Dec 21,

2018

GIEI presents in Washington a report that concludes that there is no evidence of a coup, but there was a strategy of repression carried out with the knowledge of high representatives of the Nicaraguan government.

The Police raid the television station 100% Noticias and dismantle the studios and transmission equipment; in addition, they suspend their transmissions, based in Managua. In the operation its director, Miguel Mora, is detained, and the journalist and press director, Lucía Pineda Ubau.

Jan 9,

2019

Rafael Solís, magistrate of the Supreme Court, resigns from his post in that branch of the State, and also his militancy in the FSLN. In a letter sent to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, Solís points to the increase in violence and repression against the population and a complete party takeover of the Judicial Branch in Nicaragua.
Jan 11,

2019

The OAS holds an extraordinary session to analyze whether to apply or not the Democratic Charter to Nicaragua in the face of the social and political situation the country is experiencing, while understanding that basic freedoms and citizen rights are being violated.
Feb 16,

2019

The regime of Ortega reports that it had held an encounter with a group of private businessmen in the presence of two prelates of the Catholic Church, in order to “begin a negotiation” on important issues for the country.

 

Feb 18,

2019

Edgard Altamirano López, Judge of the Ninth District Penal Court of Managua, sentences to 216 years and three months of jail the peasant leader Medardo Mairena, who participated in the National Dialogue as part of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. In the same sentence the peasant leader Pedro Meña is given 210 years in prison, and Luis Orlando Icabalceta 159 years.
Feb 21,

2019

To overcome the social and political crisis that the country is experiencing since April 2018, Daniel Ortega calls for some negotiations to take the place of the National Dialogue.
Feb 26,

2019

The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy announces a preparatory session in light of the installation of a negotiating table with the government. In their press release,11 the Civic Alliance explains that their agenda is “(…) the freedom of political prisoners and the re-establishment of freedoms, rights and guarantees, established by the Constitution.”
Feb 27,

2019

A National Dialogue begins with representatives of the government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, but without the participation of President Daniel Ortega. A few hours before the start of the dialogue, the government reports that a hundred political prisoners have been released.
March 15,

2019

A second group of political prisoners is freed. Their release happens after the Civic Alliance threatened to abandon the negotiating table that seeks to resolve the social and political crisis that Nicaragua is experiencing.
March 16,

2019

More than 160 people are detained in Managua while they gather to participate in a protest called by the UNAB to demand the release of political prisoners. The people detained are set free after several negotiations carried out by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, as well as by the Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.
March 29,

2019

As part of the National Dialogue begun between members of the Civic Alliance and representatives of the government of Daniel Ortega, an agreement is signed12 that includes the freedom of all political prisoners and respect for constitutional and citizen rights.
March 31,

2019

UNAB declares itself to be in permanent mobilization and calls for the Nicaraguan population to hold campaigns of “express picket lines13 to demand justice from the government of Daniel Ortega and freedom for people jailed for political reasons.

11 To learn more about the preparation campaign of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, see the complete press releases published on Feb 26, 2019: Preparing ourselves for the start of the negotiations- in Spanish at (https://www.alianzacivicanicaragua.com/preparandonos-para-el-inicio-de-la-negociacion/).

12 The agreement “to strengthen citizen rights and guarantees” establishes the commitment to comply with at least 10 constitutional principles in a term not longer than 90 says.

13 The “express picket lines” were called by the National Blue and White Unity (UNAB) as a form of protest that protects the safety of the demonstrators, after the National Police prohibited the blue and white protests throughout the national territory.

April 5, 2019 50 political prisoners are released by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega, who were detained in the La Modelo jail for men in Tipitapa.
April 10,

2019

The journalists Lucia Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora have spent 110 days of forced enclosure in the El Chipote jail, after having been detained arbitrarily for bravely exercising their profession. Lucía and Miguel live their captivity under inhumane conditions, to which is added a judicial process that has been postponed three times.
May 20,

2019

The negotiations of the National Dialogue between the representatives of the government and members of the Civic Alliance are suspended with the murder in the La Modelo jail of the political prisoner Eddy Montes,14 who is shot by one of the guards.
June 11, 2019 The regime of Ortega and Murillo release 56 political prisoners, among them the journalists Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora. Nevertheless, police agents continue detaining youth who participated in the protest demonstrations, which is why there is more than a hundred people detained according to human rights organizations.
July 13,

2019

The 22 year-old student María Guadalupe Ruiz is detained, for having participated in student protests against the regime of Ortega and Murillo. She is currently the only woman who is in jail for political reasons, in addition to the 120 political prisoners who remain in jails in Nicaragua. The regime refuses to release them, in some cases denying they are jailed or accusing them without proof of committing common crimes.

14 See the article: This is how the murder of Eddy Montes happened, according to the accounts of freed political prisoners. Available in Spanish at https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2019/05/21/nacionales/2551494-asi-ocurrio-el-asesinato-de-eddy-montes-segun-los-relatos-de-los-excarcelados-politicos

 

July 31,

2019

The regime officially notifies the Vatican and the OAS of the end of the negotiations, entities that were mediators and witnesses of the process, through which the release of political prisoners is partially fulfilled and the agreement for the restitution of citizen freedoms is completely unfulfilled. The agreements on democratization and electoral reforms are also left without effect; the issue of justice, truth, reparation and non-repetition, as well as their respective mechanisms for implementation, among them the safe return of exiles, freedom of expression, restitution of legal status and assets confiscated from non-governmental organizations; disarming the para-police forces and the full autonomy for universities, municipalities, and regional governments of the Caribbean Coast.

 

 

[1]   Social Communicator and assistant researcher in the Interdisciplinary Institute of Social Sciences (IICS-UCA).

What 2019 leaves us and where we are going

This provides a good short summary of what happened last year and the principal tasks the opposition faces this year by former president of MRS.

What 2019 leaves us and where we are going

By Enrique Sáenz, January 10, 2020 in Confidencial

[original Spanish]

A strategy to displace the regime through peaceful means and begin a process of democratic change.

At the beginning of the year, the task asserts itself of seeing the prospects that are presented to our country for 2020 in the political, economic and social planes. Logically, the starting point is an assessment of what happened in the year that just ended, since the social and political processes continue their course and dynamics.

I want to clarify that I will not do a detailed recounting of events, but a panoramic review, focusing on what I think is central.

Let us start with the political field. Throughout the first semester, and more specifically between February and July, the dynamic was marked by the negotiations between the leaders of the regime and the representatives of the Civic Alliance. An unexpected encounter between Ortega and prominent businessmen served as the scenario to open the cycle. A notable fact of that stage was the withdrawal of the Catholic hierarchy from the role of mediator that they had played in 2018. They saw it coming and took their hands out of the fire. After the first month some general agreements were signed, that Ortega did not implement. The negotiations stagnated until the bigshot buried the process in the month of July.

What lessons can we draw from the negotiations with Ortega?

The big lesson is that for Ortega the dialogues are simply delaying or diversionary tactics which are part of his war strategy, and not a resource to find agreed upon solutions to the crisis that the country is undergoing. Ortega intends to subject or crush, through deceit, bribery or force. In 2018 he resorted to the first dialogue because of the internal pressure. He took on commitments. He pushed and pulled. And aborted the process when he felt that he had controlled the situation with fire and blood.

In 2019 he ran to call for negotiations when Juan Guaidó erupted in Venezuela, within a strategy combined with threats from the US administration, and actions of the international community, principally the Lima Group. The moment appeared to portend the imminent fall of Madura and Ortega, who tried to take precautions in the face of the risk of being left in the middle of the street, naked and feeble. When the threat dissipated, and he felt the danger exorcised, he started kicking the table again.

It is important to highlight this lesson, because Ortega will use the same ploy again when he feels the water up to his neck again. Let us remember that Maduro has called for eleven dialogues. The corollary is: the only language that Ortega understands is that of the correlation of forces, and therefore the prescription is to not give him breathing room and “squeeze and squeeze” as much as possible.

The positive aspect of this stage was the release from jail of a significant proportion of political prisoners. The way in which the release happened  – an absolutist wave of the hand – showed that in reality it was a matter of hostages, which the regime used as a bargaining chip in the give and take, principally in light of the international community.

The second semester was marked predominantly by the expectations and actions of the international community: the opening of the procedure for the application of the Democratic Charter on the part of the OAS; the declarations of condemnation of different bodies of the European Union; the sanctions imposed by Canada and the United States, as well as the suspension of bilateral aid on the part of some European countries; they deepened the international isolation of the regime. To that is added the fall of Evo Morales, which broke a link in the chain with Cuba and Venezuela.

Nevertheless, the most decisive blows were the sanctions imposed on BANCORP, the financial arm of the business conglomerate of the ruling clique, and financial platform for the trafficking and laundering of capital. More than $2.7 billion of Ortega´s capital was under the custody of that bank in the form of trust funds. With its closing, it is a mystery where that capital has taken refuge.

The other blow were the sanctions against DNP, the head of one of the most lucrative, fraudulent businesses of the regime, that is, the company for the import and commercialization of hydrocarbons at onerous prices.

In both cases, BANCORP and DNP, the shameful confusion was made evident between public patrimony and the business interests of the ruling family. With BANCORP the operation was scuttled that intended to transform it into a state bank through a law that Ortega´s deputies approved,  but was left non nata. The sanctions arrived before that, and did not leave any option but to proceed with its liquidation. With DNP they nationalized the inventory to ensure its liquidity at prices that would be borne by the backs of the people. But the lucrative business was deflated.

Based on these dynamics two constants occurred: fierce repression and the cancelation of citizen rights and freedoms, as the sole mechanisms for holding onto power. And the progressive economic and social deterioration, that affects families and businesses of every size. Unemployment, business closings, contraction of bank credit, loss of income, migration, impoverishment, indebtedness of families and businesses, economic recession.

In terms of the opposition, there are bright and somber elements. The ruling clique maintains power, but has not been able to re-establish “normality”. At the point of repression it keeps massive expressions of protest contained, but the rejection of most of the population is growing, likewise recurrent demonstrations of resistance leak out, particularly from families of victims and political prisoners.

It is appropriate, likewise, to record the progress in the unification of forces and efforts. We can cite: the publication of proposals for serious changes, on the part of COSEP, the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White Unity, which offer the bases for a substantial strategic agreement; the structuring of a proposal for electoral reforms, in spite of the fact that an electoral scenario is not visible; and the efforts to build a national democratic coalition. Slow and insufficient progress, certainly, but progress in the end.

With this background, the immediate challenge is, beyond the declarations of intentions, to agree upon a strategy that:

  • Unite different political and social sectors committed to democracy;
  • Connect the short and medium term
  • Articulate the international plane, citizen mobilization, political communication, organization and reaching out to the daily problems and anxieties of the population, through the accompaniment of their demand with proposals and actions;
  • Have the explicit purpose of displacing the regime through peaceful means and beginning a process of democratic change

 

 

The Catholic Church, on Daniel Ortega´s enemies list

In light of recent incidents were several parishes supporting mothers of political prisoners on hunger strikes were harassed and attacked by Sandinista supporters, the online news magazine nicaraguainvestiga did this report. Fr. Román and the mothers mentioned at the end of this article were evacuated from his church in Masaya on Nov 22nd, and were taken to the Vivian Pellas Hospital. 

The Catholic Church, on Daniel Ortega´s enemies list

Published in Nicaraguainvestiga.com Nov 18, 2019

[original Spanish version]

Looting, destruction, fires, death threats, physical aggression of priests and exile for others are some of the practices which have been directed against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua since the social conflict exploded in April 2018.

According to the “International Report on Religious Liberty”, published by the United States, the State of Nicaragua does not allow freedom of worship in the country. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes has stated that the role of the church has been being “on the side of the victims”.

Some Catholic churches functioned as refuges for opposition demonstrators, and the bells of some churches were rung as a sign of warning each time that a city was attacked, above all in the provinces and small towns like Jinotepe and Masaya.

Likewise, some parishes were collection and medical attention centers in the face of the refusal of hospitals to treat wounded demonstrators. This is the case of the Cathedral of Managua that on April 20 sheltered dozens of youth who were fleeing the state repression, and which remained under siege and threatened in the religious compound for more than 20 hours.

In May 2018 the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (ECN) were witnesses and mediators to the National Dialogue, and one week after starting the National Dialogue, the ECN denounced death threats and the discrediting of bishops and priests, above all against Mons. Silvio José Báez who usually spoke strongly against the government of Ortega.

The ECN stated in their press release that the attacks were “from the Government, orchestrated by anonymous official journalists and communications media on Facebook and Twitter”.

Like the bishops, some priests denounced having individually been the object of threats and aggressions, like the pastor of the Santiago the Apostle Church in Jinotepe, Juan de Dios García, who denounced that in May 2018 he was the victim of death threats on the part of Sandinista sympathizers after having provided refuge to young demonstrators.

Mobs Attacked the Bishops in Diriamba

One of the actions that most caused condemnation among Nicaraguans happened on July 9, 2018 in the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Diriamba, when Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes along with Mons. Silvio Báez, the Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag and other priests of the Archdiocese of Managua, were attacked by Sandinista mobs.

The religious arrived due to the fact that there was a group of 12 demonstrators in the church who sought refuge inside the Church after Sandinista paramilitaries were found in the city carrying out Operation Cleanup, which consisted in violently removing the roadblocks with firearms. The Catholic authorities showed up there to mediate the departure of the demonstrators, but the paramilitaries along with the FSLN mobs attacked the religious. From the time the priests got out of their vehicles they were insulted by Sandinista mobs who shouted at them “Murderers, coup supporters, pedophiles” and they in turn shouted “we want peace.”

Mons. Báez was wounded in his right arm by a knife. “Attacked by an angry mob that wanted to enter the San Sebastian Basilica in Diriamba, I was wounded, hit in the stomach, they took my episcopal insignia from me, and verbally attacked me. I am fine thanks to God. The Basilica and those who were there were freed”, wrote Bishop Báez in his Twitter account. Days before the event the ex-Sandinista guerrilla Edén Pastora publicly threatened Báez with death, saying on an official television channel that “bullets pass through cassocks.”

After the attack, Cardinal Brenes stated to the communications media, “We have never seen situations like this in Nicaragua. Our word has been proclaimed, we were content in the midst of weaknesses, insults.” That same day in Jinotepe the Santiago Apostle Church was looted by Sandinista mobs who beat the priest Elías Hernández, broke religious statues, threw some objects that are used to celebrate the Eucharist into the street, and some medical items that are used to treat the wounded were set on fire. The  priest´s house was also destroyed by the mobs.

For her part, the Vice president Rosario Murillo stated in her midday speech that July 9th that the ECN had notified them of the visit that the bishops would make to Diriamba, and that they would be accompanied by the Nuncio. Likewise, Murillo justified the actions of her mobs and said, “we understand that those emotions and this suffering were expressed. We are sure that the Nuncio understands how they are expressed and precisely how we Christians give witness to how our feelings are expressed.”

According to the Canon Law expert Fr. Camilo Díaz, that action represented part “of the religious persecution whose objective is to silence the church” that has publicly denounced and condemned the repressive actions that the civilian population has suffered during the political crisis.

Armed attack against a parish

On July 13, 2018 the parish Divina Misericordia was attacked for more than 15 hours by officials of the National Police and paramilitaries, who had removed at bullet point the youth who were entrenched in the Autonomous National University of Nicaragua (UNAN) Managua, and decided to take refuge in the parish.

The spray of bullets can still be seen on the walls of the Church and the priest´s residence of the parish located in Villa Fontana, Managua. “It was a devastating attack, with high calibre weapons. Military type bullets that even caused large holes in the walls of the priests´ residence” said the pastor Raúl Zamora, who worked to get wounded youth out of the UNAN and take them to the church in his pickup truck so that they did not end up murdered.

In the early morning of July 14, after mediating with Daniel Ortega, Cardinal Brenes along with other bishops of the ECN were able to get the youth to leave the parish on two buses on route to the Cathedral of Managua. Two young people Gerald Vásquez and Francisco Flores were killed that night as a result of the armed attack.

Ongoing siege of parishes

In 2019, especially starting in April, Catholic Churches have been seen to be constantly under siege and attacked by Sandinista sympathizers every time that masses are celebrated in memory of the demonstrators who died because of the state repression.

The last case occurred on Sunday November 17 in Matagalpa, in a mass in memory of the ex political prisoner Eddy Montes, who died in the Jorge Navarro Penitentiary System known as “La Modelo”, after a guard shot him in the thorax.

During the mass in memory of Montes, Sandinista mobs threw stones and attacked the faithful and some demonstrators who showed up to shout slogans outside of the San Felipe de Molagüina church, which is why a large police presence also arrived to besiege the church.

Likewise this past June 15th, Sandinista mobs along with the National Police attacked and threw stones at the faithful who arrived at the mass in memory of the altar boy Sandor Dolmus in the Cathedral of León.

In the report of the US State Department on the state of religious liberty on the international level, it highlights that in Nicaragua religious leaders find themselves under “threats, intimidation and persecution”, and mentions that the Ortega government accused the Catholic Church of being “terrorist and mentally dangerous”.

On July 19, 2018 in a public speech Daniel Ortega accused the bishops of the ECN of being “committed to the coup supporters. They were part of the plan with the coup supporters” and called them “terrorists”.

“I know clearly who is behind the roadblocks, in other words, encouraging crimes that on principle, as Christians, as pastors they should be completely rejecting, any crime (…) It has nothing to do with Christians and they act with a terrorist, criminal mentality. They happily joined the terrorist and criminal coup”, declared Ortega in another speech in December of last year.

Recently Ortega said in another public speech about the bishops that “there are a few schizophrenic and whitened sepulchers who are part of the conspiracy (…) They want to crucify Nicaragua”.

Another aspect that the US report details is the political manipulation of religious festivals, like the celebration of San Jeronimo in Masaya in 2018, which the Catholic Church refused to celebrate out of respect for the grief of the families of the mortal victims of the repression.

“The clergy cancelled the traditional patron feasts to respect the grief of the families who lost their loved ones during the protests, and announced that in stead they would mark the occasion with a mass. The municipal government officials of the FSLN, along with the local police, ignored the decision of the clergy, and held a parade with a replica of the statue of the original patron saint. At a very loud volume they played a mixture of religious and party music outside of the church during the mass”, detailed the State Department report.

Bishop Abelardo Mata stated that “the government through the institution of the police and other similar groups has intensified the persecution of our faithful, terrorizing them by filming them, taking their pictures, verbal and physical attacks and besieging the churches in the midst of liturgical actions.”

For his part, Fr. Edwin Román, pastor of the San Miguel Arcángel Church of Masaya, said that “coming to the church to surround it and then arrest those who leave is unheard of. The faithful and we priests go to the parishs to celebrate mass, worship God, and the people come to pray for the dead, for those who were murdered. They are not bearing bombs, they do not bear weapons, they go to celebrate mass.”

Today Fr. Román remains detained in his own parish in Masaya along with a group of mothers of political prisoners who have declared themselves to be in a hunger strike to demand the liberation of their prisoners. The San Miguel Church, where the priest is located, remains under siege by the National Police who cordoned off the zone in at least a 2 block radius around it and are not allowing vehicular access.

They have also cut off the potable water and electric energy services. A group of activists approached the night of November 15th to try to leave water for the priest, but the officers prevented them from approaching and detained 13 people who were brought to trial this November 18th.

Meanwhile the priest and the mothers in the hunger strike, remain dehydrated, without electric energy, food, besieged and harassed by the National Police and Sandinista mobs who threaten to “enter at any moment” and make an attempt on the life of the priest and the rest of the people.

 

 

Letter from Jesuit Provincials and Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean

Mothers of political prisoners have been holding a hunger strike in a parish in Masaya, and the parish has been besieged by riot police who have closed off access to the church, arrested 13 activists who brought them water. The police are also besieging 6 parishes in Managua, Masaya and Matagalpa, as well as the Jesuit University in Managua (UCA). This letter was issued on Nov 20, 2019.

San Salvador, November 20, 2019

The Conference of Jesuit Provincials of Latin America and the Caribbean – CPAL

The Central American Province of the Society of Jesus, and

The Association of Universities entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America – AUSJAL

Uniting our voices to that of the Bishops of Nicaragua and many other social actors, we make an urgent call to the international community that they show their firm rejection of the way in which the government of Nicaragua, through its security forces, have been disrespectful of the civil rights established in the national constitution:

  • Repressing demonstrations of peaceful protest
  • Provoking opposition individuals and groups to justify their own violence
  • Inhibiting the right to religious freedom and freedom of association
  • Arresting and disappearing opposition activists
  • Accusing their opponents of crimes which they did not commit
  • Preventing humanitarian works and acts of peaceful civil disobedience
  • Falsely and slanderously accusing authorities of the Catholic Church, among others.

We state our special solidarity for Fr. Edwin Román and all the mothers of families who are fasting in Masaya to ask that their jailed children be freed, as well as for the 13 activists detained recently for taking them water to ease their hunger strike. We condemn the taking of the Cathedral of Managua and the aggressions against Fr. Rodolfo López and Sr. Arelys Guzmán, as well as the siege of several Parishes.

We condemn the provocation of the students of the Central American University (UCA) on the part of anti-riot groups of the government, who once again, yesterday November 19, 2019, suffered their harassment in the installations of the Central American University in Managua. We reject and condemn the attempt of these groups, controlled by the government, to violate the campus of the University.

We ask Mr. Daniel Ortega that he immediately order the end to the harassment, aggression and violation of the human and civil rights of the members of the opposition, and we exhort all those responsible for these harassments to set aside this posture. “The pain that the Nicaraguans have suffered is too much. The families who find themselves harassed bear dual sufferings; the lack of freedom of their jailed family members and now, the state of siege that is an attack against their lives” (press release of the Episcopal Conference).

To the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY in humanitarian organizations, religious and humanitarian organizations, international organizations, democratic governments of the world, and particularly in Europe and America, we ask you to exercise your best efforts to ensure the return of Nicaragua to the democratic system through:

  • The public call for immediate respect for the civil rights enshrined in the Nicaraguan national constitution: freedom of worship, freedom of movement, freedom for peaceful protest, freedom of political organization, freedom of the press and information, freedom of research and learning;
  • The international public condemnation of the methods of repression that have resulted in more than 300 people murdered, more than 2,000 Nicaraguans wounded and more than 700 political prisoners, of whom more than 150 continue in jail;
  • The activation of the Interamerican Democratic Charter (OAS) to prevent a greater bloodletting of the Nicaraguan people, tired of so much oppression, extreme poverty and manipulation on the part of the regime, as well as to prevent the intervention of foreign powers who might want to benefit at this moment from very severe political crisis.

We send a special greeting and our solidarity to all the victims of violence in Nicaragua. We assure them of our fraternal support and our willingness to continue fighting for a more just and democratic society.

We implore the blessing of God on all, so that we might know how to be agents of reconciliation in justice and truth.

 

[Signature]                                                                  [Signature]

Rolando Alvarado, S.J.                                                Ernesto Cavassa, S.J.

Provincial for Central America                                   President of AUSJAL

 

[Signature]

Roberto Jaramillo, S.J.

President of CPAL

 

Not tripping over the same stone

Not tripping over the same stone

by Fabiola Zeledón, Freddy Pérez, Claudio Hernández, Hulda Miranda, Rebeca Espinoza and René Mendoza

Juan, president of the cooperative, got off the bus, and walked like a rooster, with his chest held high.

-Greetings, young lady. I am the president of the cooperative

-Good day, Juan.

-Call me “Mr Juan”. I was born a leader. I am the way, the truth and the money, hahaha.

-Ahh… Who said that…?

Didn´t you hear me…? Tell your Dad to send his contributions. I will give him a loan.

A sparrow that was flying around the area, seeing that was happening, crashed against a tree. The bird couldn´t believe what it was hearing!

When at last there was a restructuring of the organs and administration of a cooperative, winds of change were felt. Among other reasons, the cooperative was founded to be a democratic space and a place for learning for the members. Nevertheless, a short time after the changes, the cooperative tends to return to its old course: hierarchical structure, absence of information, disillusioned members, lack of ownership… How things change so as to not change. Why do we trip over the same stone time and time again? Here, in contrast to the sparrow, we reflect on what is happening. Then we add a second question: How can we avoid this stone and walk along the cooperative path without “crashing” into the first tree? In this article we reflect on these questions based on our own experience of recovering a cooperative.

1.     That tripping stone

In Chapter 12 to 16 of the Book of Revelation in the Bible, John, from the island of Patmos, warns about the first beast that shows itself to be powerful. But he warns us that its power comes from another beast, that we should not get confused. That second beast also is powerful, but its power is not its own either, but comes from a third beast. Something similar happens in a good number of cooperatives. See Figure 1.

The manager or president personified in a person tends to appear as the patron. He says: “Aid organizations only write to me”; “I am going to give the members directions because you are like children”; “I give you loans”; “You owe me”. The members resign themselves: “to whatever he says”; “we are small producers”; “I go to him for loans”. The leader or patron who centralizes decisions and concentrates resources, ends up believing that there is no need for assemblies, that he was born a leader and that is sacred. If some institution sees that that cooperative is like a hacienda, the patron shouts to the four winds about “autonomy” and against “third party [outside] actors”. He believes himself to be the general assembly, oversight board, administrative council and manager all rolled into one. The members dream of one day becoming that patron; Fanon said that then in Algeria: “The oppressed dream about being the oppressor”.

But his power is not his own. He or she is the face, generally, of a group that is as global as it is local, who live off the control of the resources that revolve around the cooperative. These include buyers, certifiers, agro-industry, State institutions, financial organizations…Behind these acronyms are individuals who manipulate their own organizations. They say: “information confuses the members”; “Buy coffee or cacao in the street and pass it off organic”. The patron senses that he lacks power, that his power comes from that group, so he goes to church and there whispers to himself: “I am not a bad person, I was tempted by money”.

The power of this group is not its own either. It comes from the patron-fieldhand structure, wedded to capitalism. This structure says: “everything is possible with money”; “more volume, more earnings”; “everything has already been studied”; “even God does not like stupid people”. Any natural force or wealth, economic wealth and friends of the member families remain diluted in the face of this structure.

Now we are able to understand how it is that we trip over the same stone. The saying goes: “human beings are the only animal that trips twice over the same stone”. We started a cooperative, and it is trapped by this harmful group, and this group responds to that hacienda and capitalist structure. If our patron is removed from his post, the new president or administrator takes his place, they make him repeat [his term] and keep him as an errand boy, while they make him believe that he is the top honcho! What happened? That structure awaits the new president or administrator as the “spare tire”, once he arrives, they exchange him for the “flat tire”, while the “vehicle” keeps rolling on. So it is that time and time again we trip over the same stone.

2.     Walking on the cooperative path

There were elections in the Reynerio Tijerino cooperative. The members were happy.

-Luis Javier Vargas, a member, quoting the Bible, exclaimed: “When the just rule, the people are happy”

-the recently named president, Justo Rufino Espinoza, responded: “Let´s not be overconfident”.

It was a moment of joy, heart, reason and consciousness.

A hummingbird that was flying by, began to sing of joy.

When we began to get tired of tripping, discovering those three “beasts” woke us up. We refused to be that patron, that “spare tire”. The brief conversation between Luis Javier and Justo Rufino reveals that individual and collective combination, between emotion and reason, between hope and reality. A person makes themselves just, they are not born just. “In an open treasure, even the most just sins”, says an old saying, that is why the new president warned: “Let´s not be overconfident”. In other words, the cooperative has to create mechanisms to build trust and produce justice. How can it do so? Here we list some mechanisms.

The first is preparing for each activity. This means studying each situation and reflecting on the notes that we have taken of past conversations and meetings. Claudio Hernández says: “I have been taking notes for years, I can lose anything in my house, but not my notes”. Freddy Pérez adds: “If I would have known that my notes were important for learning, I would have taken notes sooner”. On the basis of notes and other information, we prepare ourselves for each meeting, negotiation and activity – imagining each detail before doing things. In this way we overcome the old practice of the patron, of doing things impulsively, because you feel safe under the shadow of the second beast, we overcome relying on the patron who says “leave it to me, I will solve it”. The more we prepare ourselves and coordinate as a group, the more our confidence increases and the more we help the cooperative.

The second mechanism is realizing that in the cooperative people have the power that comes from interpreting and applying the rules of the cooperative. These rules are the result of the decisions of the Assembly, wedded to the values of our communities. Our patron are the legitimate rules and processes. We guide ourselves by these rules, and we apply them through the corresponding organs. Our loyalty is not to money, but to the general assembly composed of the members, who produce these rules and who every three years elect other members for the different posts. Money is a means; the end are the members.

So if a member is looking for a loan, he goes to the credit committee, and follows the rules that the assembly of the cooperative approved. No one should take the place of the credit committee in a cooperative; it is not like in the haciendas, where the patron is at the same time the credit committee, general assembly, oversight board and manager. Our statutes tell us that profits are redistributed in the cooperative, therefore we must redistribute the profits of the cooperative. In a cooperative each member has rights, voice and vote, without regard to whether they produce a little or a lot, each member has the right to become president, to their part of the profits, and to have a copy of the statutes of their cooperative. In a cooperative the directions do not come down from above, they are made in the Assembly, and in the other organs of the cooperative. “Oh”, said Freddy Pérez, “I thought that being a board member was solving the problems of the members, rather it is the members who solve their problems through the cooperative”. “It pains me what I experienced, I know that I should not lend the money of the cooperative to the members, but I did it again”, expressed Claudio Hernández, recognizing that those “3 beasts” have formed a nest in our minds, but that our consciousness wrestles with them, and that being a cooperative is gaining more and more terrain. “We do not need credit, we need our profits”, insists Josué Moisés Ruíz.

The third mechanism is connecting the inside forces with the outside ones. Figure 2 shows the harmful leadership style, the patron who believes himself to be the door to the cooperative and to outside the cooperative; while Figure 3 shows the style of leadership that a real cooperative practices. If the cooperative is guided by its statutes, the State will legalize its path. If this process happens making its organs function, external institutions and aid agencies will respect the cooperative; they will treat it as a cooperative, and not as a hacienda arranging everything only with the patron. For example, the credit committee will meet with the institutions or organizations that might provide credit to the cooperative. The commercialization committee will meet with commercial enterprises and organizations that provide processing services for their products.

Internally, the members of the organs visit the members, and encourage them to visit one another as members. Members of the commercialization committee visit a member family, see their product and their wet mill, and at the same time come to understand the family in their multiple interests – most deeply felt needs and dreams; it is on this basis that the committee advances in their work strategies. The members of the oversight board, credit committee, education committee and the Administrative Council all do the same. A visit is a blessing that makes friendship and trust, loyalty and truth blossom. The more informed a member family is, the more it contributes with their ideas and oversight to the cooperative; the more connections are cemented in visits that generate friendship, the more the cooperatives become instruments for the majority of their members.

The fourth mechanism is that organizational improvement must improve our farms and homes. The cooperative is not there to apply agrochemical inputs and then lie, saying that we have organic production. Nor is producing an organic crop leaving it “without applying anything”. If we visit the member families, each family should visit their plants every day as well. The cooperative is not there so that our members might consume the coffee dregs, but to consume the best of their coffee, honey, grains, vegetables, bread and the best of their enchiladas…

3.     In conclusion

This article is the product of 5 months of tension, and the pursuit of a cooperative to defend its rights, speak the truth and have the strength to change. This process taught us that a small group, in alliance, is capable of making cooperativism contagious. The biggest changes start in our own minds. The rule that “we will always need a patron” or that “leaders are born” comes from the hacienda institution and capitalism, and has built a nest in our minds. How can we get that idea out of our heads? To the extent that we reflect, demonstrating it, trying mechanisms out and being persistent, we can free ourselves from that idea.

At the beginning of the article we asked ourselves why we were tripping over the same stone. Throughout the article we have discovered the “three beasts”, who have trapped most of the cooperatives in our countries. These “beasts” make us trip time and time again.

The second question was how to avoid tripping again. We listed 4 mechanism that we have experimented with: preparing oneself for each meeting and not moving impulsively, following the rules of the cooperative, being a leader who connects with the members and the external actors, and making organizational improvement go hand in hand with the improvement of our production. Our aspiration is that these four mechanisms might help us to get those harmful norms out of our minds that come from the “3 beasts”. Being a cooperative is path that we peasant families need to hone. If we do it, the hummingbirds will be joyful as well, and the sparrows will not longer crash against any trees!

Let us end this article recalling another rule of the patron: “you should not help members, because they are ungrateful”, the patrons repeat. When Sandino decided to not surrender, General José María Moncada said to him, “The people are ungrateful; what is important is living well”. Sandino did not crack. There is no better gratitude than the members recovering their cooperative and closing the door on the thief, the patron, and the three beasts, and follow their own path.

 

Mass for the freedom of political prisoners in Masaya offered under the siege of the Orteguista Police

These translations of two articles in La Prensa are examples of the situation that opponents of the regime continue to face: harassment by the police of a mass for the release of political prisoners, and prisoners held for more than a year without trial. They provide confirmation for the position of  Yaser Morazón, when he says “if you demonstrate you are going to suffer, but if you do nothing you are going to live comfortably”.

Mass for the freedom of political prisoners in Masaya offered under the siege of the Orteguista Police

By Cinthya Tórrez García, Aug 28, 2019 in La Prensa

[see original Spanish here]

In addition to the Police, mobs aligned with the Ortega regime also showed up and shouted expletives from the park located in front of the church against the families of political prisoners and those released prisoners who attended the mass.

Contrary to what the dictator, Daniel Ortega, proclaims, that in Nicaragua there is religious freedom, Fr. Edwin Román, the pastor of the San Miguel Church in Masaya, this Wednesday had to celebrate mass for the freedom of political prisoners under the harassment of seven squads of the Orteguista Police, each one composed of some 10 policemen who stationed themselves around the church.

The general commissioner and also Assistant Director of the Orteguista Police, Ramón Avellán, was among the officers who monitored the Catholic Church while mass was held, attended by mothers of victims of political violence, prisoners released from jail, and family members of current political prisoners.

Mobs aligned with the Ortega regime joined the harassment of the police force, who shouted expletives from the park located in front of the church against the opponents of the regime.

One of the most tense moments happened almost at the end of the Eucharist. The police got down from the police trucks and formed a blockade with their shields in hand, covering two of the three exits of the church, in clear harassment of the opponents. Once the Eucharist ended, the faithful sang the National Anthem, left and formed a picket line in front of the uniformed officers, and shouted “murderers” at them, “the people united will never be defeated”.

The demonstrators threw out white and blue pieces of paper and balloons, symbols of the civic protest, while in front in the park the zealots of the dictatorship waved a red and black flag, and another white and blue one, without the shield in the middle. Both groups shouted their own slogans related to their convictions. Nevertheless, one of the Ortega sympathizers threw what appeared to be a bag of water at the principal entrance to the church. The Orteguista Police did not react.

For his part, Fr. Edwin Román, stated that the gospel shared this Wednesday addressed the issue of hypocrisy, which reflects what is being experienced in the country: “A government based on lies, hypocrisy, projecting a false image, talks about peace, love, and what it prescribes for us is death, violence, injustice”, he said.

Civic Alliance up to August 8 Counts 126 Political Prisoners of the Dictatorship

By Lidia López B on Aug 28, 2019 in La Prensa

[see original Spanish here]

The dictatorship of Daniel Ortega is holding 126 political prisoners, one of whom is a woman, for participating in marches and protesting against the regime, reported Álvaro Vargas of the Civic Alliance (AC).

The AC reported that of the 126 political prisoners, 53 have been sentenced, 37 processed and 36 are jailed. Of the total 75 are jailed in some installation of the penitentiary system, 38 are in police stations, and 13 in Judicial assistance installations.

According to Vargas, the list is based on cases of political prisoners collected up to August 8th, but it will be updated next week.

Among the cases of political prisoners there are many who now have spent more than a year detained in the Jorge Navarro Penitentiary System who have not even been tried. An example of this is the student Francisco Javier Jiménez Rayo, who this past July 23 had spent a year being a political prisoner of the regime. This 22 year old university student was abducted by the Orteguista Police in the area of the Bello Horizonte traffic circle, when he was returning to his home in the Cristhian Pérez neighborhood, after participating in a march of the self convened against the dictator Daniel Ortega.

Steadfast in their struggle

Pedro Gutiérrez González, another political prisoner, has been jailed for 14 months without being tried. Verónica Ordoñez, the wife of González, said that the trial has been “suspended indefinitely”, because since October 2018 no hearing has been held again. In addition she added that the Orteguista judge Edgard Altamirano, in charge of the case, had scheduled a hearing for this past July 4, but it did not happen and neither was it rescheduled for another date.

This past Tuesday afternoon, Ordoñez, along with family members of other political prisoners and those released and the AC, denounced in a press conference that her spouse needed a new prosthesis on his leg to be able to get around, but the judge who is responsible for the case has not responded to the request from the defense attorney, who is asking for a specialist to enter the Penitentiary System.

“He has had problems getting around. It just so happens on Friday (August 23) he fell and opened a wound on his left foot, it was bleeding and there was a hematoma. He is having a lot of health problems because of it, because his spinal column hurts, his sternum…and skin diseases have shown up”, said Ordoñez.

In spite of the limited conditions in which Gutiérrez finds himself, he says that he continues steadfast in the struggle – according to Ordoñez –t they will not shut him up even in jail. “They can kill my body but not my heart nor my soul”, the political prisoner said to his wife.

For her part, María Ruiz Briceño, the only woman reported as a political prisoner, was abducted on July 13th, after participating in a protest picket line in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua. The young woman, ex-barricade supporter in the UNAN Managua, is 22 years of age and is a student of Banking and Finance and Electronic Engineering.

The mother of the young woman, Dulce Briceño, pointed out that her daughter is sick and is being harassed by prisoners aligned with the Ortega regime. “I demand freedom for my daughter, she is innocent. Freedom for my daughter and the rest of the political prisoners”, said Briceño through a video published by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

 

 

The Strategy of Termites

The current FSLN administration  promotes itself as a pro-poor government, and rallies its supporters with the threat that the current opposition would not be as beneficial to the poor as the FSLN is. Yet this recent post by a key analyst in exile examines the economic policies that have resulted in ever increasing  inequalities  in Nicaraguan society  after 11 years of FSLN rule. He then goes on to address the current political struggle.

An interesting aside is to note the similarities just between the economic policies as such applied  here with the economic policies implemented in the US since the 1980s.

The Strategy of Termites

By Oscar René Vargas, July 30, 2019 published by Las Mesa Redonda, online magazine

[See original at Spanish at http://lamesaredonda.net/la-estrategia-de-las-termitas-oscar-rene-vargas/?fbclid=IwAR17AJ0Py30oYAbN_k3l2ir-BX2e_z7XQrywKmidnDqB9xtJiu3-UWjLzMs ]

 

  1. The waves of the sea grow gradually, they can be impressive in size, reach a maximum and then they fade away. One wave follows the next and so on. Social and political waves do not have the same regularity as those of the ocean. But in the present and the foreseeable future it is probable that we might have new social and political waves; lived social experiences do not die, they revive.
  2. In spite of being a country with a lot of natural wealth (minerals, water resources, forests, an extensive coastline on both oceans and enough agricultural land to feed its inhabitants), more than 50% of the population is found in conditions of poverty, the problem is that the distribution of wealth is very unequal.
  3. Wealth combines physical assets (buildings, cars, home goods and the other articles that individuals possess), as well as financial assets (bank deposits and financial investments), distributed in an unequal way.
  4. Nicaragua is a society where inequity predominates, with “unfocused” social spending that does not promote equity. The regressivity is the product of fiscal transfers in favor of large capital. Taxes are reduced and the capacity of large capital to evade them is increased.
  5. In Nicaragua the tax system is inefficient, generates a low level of collection – which limits social investment, maintains many subsidies to capital, and to sum it up, is unfair.
  6. In recent decades (1990-2019) the banking and financial sectors established their control over the economy. Transactions and investments were made and are made more and more to the image and likeness of the circulation of financial capital.
  7. The cycle of productive capital was more and more subordinated to the dictates of the interests of the banking sector. And the priorities of macroeconomic policy became a simple reflection of the needs of the banks and other agencies of the financial sector.
  8. Among the measures that constitute the basis for the economic model adopted by the regime is the indiscriminate promotion of large investment, which occupies a privileged place. Reality does its best to debunk the idea that any investment promotes growth and the distribution of wealth.
  9. The regime promotes, authorizes and supports agroindustrial, mining, logging or housing projects without taking into account the negative impact that they can have on the equilibrium of ecosystems, destruction of forests, water pollution, aquifer recharge areas, and the undesirable consequences derived from altering things.
  10. Insecurity, corruption and the repression of the regime are blocking productive investment, which has a negative repercussion on social investment or spending.
  11. Social spending or investment is slanted against the population with less resources, and principally benefits the wealthiest 10% of the population, who need it the least.
  12. Average capital yield in recent years has been higher than the increase in the minimum salary and the median nominal wage per worker. That is why we have growing inequality in income distribution.
  13. There is profound inequity in asset ownership that has a negative impact on income distribution. More wealth implies more income and viceversa, principally among those whose receipts come from income from property.
  14. The Somoza and Ortega-Murillo dictatorships were and are exclusive, and their policies have created strong authoritarian states that, in addition, have interest in keeping the population from knowing one another, communicating with one another, and mixing with one another, and on the contrary, do everything possible to turn their neighbor into a potential enemy.
  15. To organize those who authoritarian society and the dominant ideology do everything possible to keep as isolated individuals opposed to their peers, it is important to start from what is local, where people know one another well and interact, and where they have more security and trust.
  16. The governing caste is systematically destroying the economy of the country; it is wiping out the cream of the population and leading us toward a catastrophe.
  17. The regime promotes the political opportunism of the traditional politicians, which consists in passive adaptation to the regime and the parasitical nomenclature.
  18. It is clear that brutal social justices remain in the country, along with poverty, overabundance, unending increase in inequalities, the independence of institutions is ended, the lives of “those below” did not improve, sectors of the middle class were impoverished, and it is evident that the country exists immersed in a corrupt sea.
  19. The Ortega-Murillo regime did not transform the State, it went backwards in terms of human rights, did not progress in transforming the production model, there is an absence of fiscal transparency, many decisions are concentrated in few hands, the concentration of wealth was promoted, and for this reason it is not possible to provide continuity to the current model, a change in direction is needed.
  20. The democratic struggle against the dictatorship is a labyrinth and complex fight. It is important to begin from the cracks in the Ortega-Murillo regime, widen them, plant seeds in them, directly apply solutions to the small and large difficulties that arise in the fight against the dictatorship.
  21. At this point, the most reliable gamble of the regime aims at wanting to negotiate directly and only with the United States. For now it is only a gamble, a game of representiveness. There is an asymmetry between desire and reality.
  22. The crux of the democratic struggle consists in how to pave the way to defeating the dictatorship, how to find a way that would make the triumph of the social movements easier, how to mobilize the masses at each specific moment that would allow for the end of the regime. Finding the bridge that would allow the ebb tide to move to the second social wave; that is the task.
  23. It cannot be forgotten that one of the keys to politics resides in knowing how to correctly manage different moments. The most important part of a negotiation is listening to what is not said; to do so, an a prior analysis and strategy are needed.
  24. As known, the strategy of termites is based on their collective and coordinated action, which allows them to reach the point of eating up the structure of a house until making it uninhabitable or causing its collapse.
  25. The challenge of the social movements is to act like termites, collective and coordinated action, to defeat the dictatorship.

San José/Costa Rica, July 30, 2019.

 

“The snowball is starting to roll downhill” but still “swimming against the current”

“The snowball is starting to roll downhill” but still “swimming against the current”

WPF has been involved with farming cooperatives in Nicaragua for over 20 years. In 2011 WPF undertook an extensive study of cooperatives in Nicaragua, and we continue to learn and work with them. When I think about where our work with cooperatives is at now, a couple of mixed metaphors come to mind: we are definitely swimming against the current, but it seems like we are just getting to the point that the snowball might roll downhill.

THE CURRENT:

While Nicaragua is the Central American country with the largest number of cooperatives (5,000+), we have discovered that often those cooperatives were not founded by the initiative of their members, but by an external actor- frequently the State or foreign aid agencies– as a way to channel support to the peasantry. As a result of these origins, most of the members´ commitment to the cooperative is linked to its ability to offer them “projects”, i.e. externally funded benefits.

Furthermore the great majority of them essentially function using management styles more appropriate to single-owner businesses. This type of governance structure does facilitate communication with these external agents. But is not effective in protecting assets held in common, nor does it tap into the rich human resources that the many worker/owners represent. So even though cooperatives have the potential advantage of having dozens of owners all with diverse experiences, connections and talents at their disposal, they typically only rely on the knowledge and abilities of one or two people.

For most of the rural population their unconscious mental model for leadership comes from generations working on the hacienda, where a single owner ensures control over his/her assets through the use of a limited number of foremen. These foremen do have intimate knowledge of all stages of the production process, and thus ensure the process works to protect and enhance the interests of the owner. But in this system the only information the workers need to know is about their specific task. In fact, knowledge of the larger processes by the workers is seen as a negative, a distraction to the “real” work of the field-hands.

However, when this leadership style is used in the structure of a cooperative, it is at best a gross underutilization of the wealth of talent, experience and potential of its multiple members, and not infrequently results in crises linked to corruption. This is because the sole-leader system is not effective in safeguarding the assets when the wealth belongs not to one leader, but to the group.

SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT:

Instead, a structure is needed that provides group control over group wealth, i.e. effective cooperative governance bodies: administrative council, oversight board, credit committee, education committee. In a context where the owners are many and they are also the workers, such a management structure also is capable of unleashing the potential of the many owners to improve their business. But to release that potential, they all need to be informed, not just about their specific task as a worker, but also the processes of their business as the owners that they are, so they can continually improve on those processes.

This is the type of ongoing reflection on the cooperative model that Rene Mendoza, as head of our cooperative initiative, has been facilitating with cooperatives since doing the study mentioned above.

WPF´s history is intimately linked to a transition to a 100% employee owned business. Most of WPF funding came when Harold and Louise Nielsen sold their factory (Foldcraft) to their workers under an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). At that point, it went from having one owner, to having 300+ worker/owners. The first CEO of that 100% ESOP company, Steve Sheppard, realized early on that the traditional single leader structure was not appropriate for a worker-owned business. So he began to seek out methodologies that would empower the Foldcraft worker/owners, and train all of them in the tools needed to enable their effective participation, so that they collectively could manage and continuously improve their business.

On retiring from his post at Foldcraft, Steve became the CEO of WPF.

So in the last several years in Nicaragua, while continuing to nourish ongoing reflection on the cooperative experience among its members, we have also attempted to introduce to the cooperative movement in Nicaragua some of these management tools Foldcraft found useful .

René Mendoza has been the director of the orchestra in this effort. He and his team at COSERPROSS accompany the cooperatives in their ongoing reflection on their situation and problems throughout the year. In addition once a year, in an alliance with the Center for Global Education and Experience at Augsburg University, and The Institute of Development Policy at Antwerp University, he leads a weeklong Certificate Program on Cooperativism for WPF. Some 50 or so cooperative leaders spend a week together reflecting on their reality, sharing experiences, and learning some tools that empower worker/owners, specifically Open Book Management and LEAN. Steve Sheppard has frequently led the training effort himself, and also brought in experienced specialists in the use of  these instruments.

 

Open Book Management (OBM) and LEAN help these governance bodies to be more effective. Instead of one person knowing “the business”, reflecting on the results and looking for improvements, all the members learn the business, reflect on its performance, and seek improvements.

STARTING THE SNOWBALL ROLLING…

But to get to that point in this context requires first breaking with a mentality reinforced over centuries: that only a few have a right to know, and the rest do not have “ideas”, much less ideas worth sharing. It is a quantum leap when the members of cooperatives awaken to the importance and value of their ideas, and then change begins to happen.

This past June 9-15 WPF held the 4th edition of the Certificate Program with a mix of people, some new to the ideas of OBM and LEAN, and others who had participated in previous programs who were able to share their experiences using these tools in their organizations. Others shared their experiences taking specific steps to assert their ownership over the process of their cooperative, the fruit of their ongoing reflections. These steps are difficult and frequently involve conflict, as they collide with how “things have always been done” up to now. But they are beginning to open up previously untapped potential.

Going from a field-hand mentality that relates to the cooperative as an NGO, to becoming an empowered member of a joint enterprise that values the wisdom and experience of each member, is not the kind of change that happens overnight. It is good for organizations who have chosen  this path to remind themselves that they are facing a strong counter current, and that without continual effort and reflection, they can easily be swept off the course they have set for themselves. Progress is only possible by taking daily steps toward change. But the reward is that each consciously taken step that builds on the previous one, makes the next step easier, and generates the kind of momentum needed to successfully fight the “current” and open up new horizons for their family, cooperative and community.