This pastoral letter, a theological reflection on the Easter mystery in the current context in Nicaragua, also has clear political consequences. It was issued by the Nicaraguan Catholic Bishop´s Conference on May 1, 2019
Message of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua to Priests, Religious, Lay Christian Faithful and all People of Good Will
“Easter joy: key for reading the current country history”
“In this you will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another”
These words of Jesus Christ, that show the path that all those who want to be his disciples should follow, St. John Paul II used to say, are far too accurate to try to minimize their scope. Many things will be necessary for the historical path of the church in our time, but, if charity is missing, everything will be useless (cf. 1 Cor 13:2; cf NMI 42).
Our faith in Jesus Christ dead and resurrected for our salvation does not allow us to remain outside the events of the world, and for us, the cultural, political, economic, family and social situation of the country. Closing oneself selfishly in ones own comfort and, even worse, stoking feelings of hate among brothers and sisters, is not evangelical.
The Second Vatican Council teaches that the Christian message should not separate us from the construction of the world, nor lead us to be unconcerned about the common good; rather it obliges us to undertake all this as an obligation (cf. GS 34).
For this reason we note with pain how the suffering of the Nicaraguan family continues. Political prisoners, lack of respect for constitutional rights, exiles, refugees, people seeking asylum, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, conflict over land and their corresponding consequences for the displacement of families from the west to the Caribbean Coast of the country, invading fertile lands that historically the indigenous peoples have possessed, and those natural reserves like Indio Maíz and Bosawas, show that without the Presence of the God who has placed his tent among us, we do not have a future.
The Easter that we celebrate offers us the key for living the joy of hope, and teaches us how to inspire it in others. Forming and being formed for joy and hope is, without a doubt, an aspiration of all Nicaraguans. This hope is seen darkened by the sin from which Christ has come to free us with his death and resurrection. It is an arduous task to discover the path of easter joy and leading people and communities to produce the fruit of the Spirit which is joy according to the Gospel. The task is very demanding, because it implies taking the focus off oneself and placing the interests of others and the nation over ones own.
Moved by this joy of the hope which is embodied in the Risen One, we exhort all Nicaraguans to build:
A Nicaragua where all of us are capable of achieving a vision of change that would lead to a qualitative transformation.
We are called to build a holistic concept of peace, and in this sense, construct a society where peace is lasting, just and coherent with the interests of all. The peace that flows from the Crucified-Resurrected One that remains in the face of the test of time and is not the object of short term arrangements. It is the peace that our country needs in order to not repeat a history of suffering, death, pain and agony. Only in this way will Nicaragua begin a new history without the burdens nor pacts of the past.
A Nicaragua where the centrality of the human person and their dignity as children of God is assumed.
“…you have not received a spirit of slavery to go back again to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as children” (Rm 8:15). This spirit creates the joy of freedom.
The exercise of freedom and the dignity of the human being is prior to the State. A modern and functional, ethical and moral State, has the obligation to protect, respect, promote and defend these rights, that are also prior to any social agreement. The State should be completely and holistically at the service of the human person, so that acts are never carried out that would affect this nucleus of values. It is then an imperative that in a society actions of repression and persecution should not exist, promoting rather a climate of unrestricted freedom and trust.
For this reason every person should be able to exercise their fundamental rights and public freedoms under the protection of the political constitution, laws and international treaties ratified in a sovereign way by Nicaragua. The freedom of people does not allow for timetables, nor conditions or bureaucratic excuses.
A Nicaragua where we respect and strengthen democracy and its institution structure.
The life of the human being has meaning within the framework of democratic values, principles and institutions. We should not forget that respect for democracy should be inspired by the idea of strengthening the institutions and principles that are the basis for the rule of law: the supremacy of the law, division of powers and respect for human rights. This implies that the government structures are not an arbitrary power, nor the opportunity for apportionment of titles, perks and privileges.
We Nicaraguans must work to achieve a politics with ethical principles and at the service of the common good. Easter joy urges us to work for the construction of this historic project in order to steer us to the encounter with God. In this sense, this challenge becomes morally urgent, inescapable, without the delays that over time will be the causes of new and repeated vices. The dynamic of the process requires avoiding impasses that would be fatal for the country.
The independence of the branches of government provide stability in the exercise of power and the defense of the citizens. For no reason can only one branch of the State prevail over the rest.
In the case of the electoral branch it is important that in accordance with established norms, it be revamped in such a way that it be trustworthy and independent, so that a neutral, impartial and nationally and internationally observed electoral process might take place. Otherwise, free elections will not happen. The people are the true sovereign.
In the case of the administration of justice, it must be absolutely independent, impartial, professional and ethically imparted, outside of political, partisan and ideological designs. Without independent justice there is no freedom.
A Nicaragua where the freedom of expression is exercised without restrictions.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14). Every principle of freedom of expression has its origins in the highest expression of God, who freely showed his love for humanity through the Word incarnate.
The freedom of the press and expression is a fundamental requirement for building a democratic order in Nicaragua, a modern and pluralistic state. Without freedom of expression all the other freedoms wither and end up perishing. It incarnates the power of the people to make pronouncements, denounce, access information and nourish themselves from the infinite exchange of ideas, opinions and positions. Freedom of expression, that sinks its roots in the Word made flesh, is a natural principle for the new order of freedoms and development to which the country aspires, shunning disinformation, slander, defamation and the love of scandals.
A Nicaragua where peace is the fruit of justice.
“Love and righteousness meet together; justice and peace kiss each other. Truth springs from the earth, justice looks down from heaven” (Psalm 85:11-12). For the Psalmist justice is like the rain that sprinkles the earth, and the fruit that emerges from it is truth. Truth will always be the path of justice.
In this moment of crisis we Nicaraguans are called to establish agreements on matters of justice that are lasting and respected, in such a way that we support every initiative of dialogue that is done with good will, and particularly the effort that the Holy See has been doing through the different messages that Pope Francis has sent us, and the presence of the Nuncio as International Witness and Accompanier. These agreements have to be laden with a profound ethical and moral sense, capable of revealing the story of the tragedy and pain of the victims. We must not forget that truth and justice kiss one another. This is the certainty that should guide our searches for new horizons in Nicaragua, which demand contemplating the truth about the facts, no impunity for the guilty, reparation and reinsertion of the victims and their families, as well as guarantees of no repetition. It is the only thing that can provide true security to the citizens. Only in this way can a country be morally constructed.
The exhortation of joy happens in the heart of a dramatic existence of Nicaragua which is experiencing a crucial moment in which it will have to define the bases of its future as a country, and its destiny as a nation. Rejoicing in the Lord or being joyful in the Lord entails a way of situating oneself in life, in the drama of existence. This has to be a constant of Christian character. Joy has to be the fruit of being rooted in Christ, in the dynamic of his humiliation and glorification. Because in spite of the contrary signs that we are experiencing, the Lord is at the door, close and active. It is not a matter of looking for routes of evasion in the face of the current situation, but addressing them from communion with Christ. In the same way that the resurrection is rooted in the night of the cross, so the energy and joy of the Christian will spring from communion with the sufferings of the Lord.
Let the Queen of Heaven, who rejoiced with the resurrection of her Son, while participating in his painful passion, intercede for us and make us participants in her joy.
Issued in the Offices of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, May 1, 2019 on the feast of St Joseph the Worker.
SEAL OF THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE
Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Managua, President
Mons. Pablo Schmitz, OFM Cap., Bishop of the Diocese of Bluefields, Vice President
Mons. Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, Bishop of the Diocese of Estelí, Secretary General
Mons. Roland José Álvarez Lagos, Bishop of the Diocese of Matagalpa, General Treasurer
Mons. Bosco Vivas Robelo, Bishop of the Diocese of León
Mons. David Zywiec Sidor OFM Cap., Bishop of the Diocese of Siuna
Mons. Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón, Bishop of the Diocese of Juigalpa
Mons. Jorge Solórzano Pérez, Bishop of the Diocese of Granada
Mons. Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez, Bishop of Jinotega
In the agreement reached between the Government and the Civic Alliance on March 29 as part of the second National Dialogue, the government agreed to “ensure the right to concentration, demonstration and public mobilization”. This article shows how difficult it still is to practice these basic rights, and also the creativity of the people in exercising them during the events of Holy Week. The Nicaraguan public were surprised to learn right before the start of Holy Week – on April 10th – that the most eloquent bishop in critiquing the government response to the demonstrations – Mons. Silvio Báez – was suddenly called to Rome.
Police Attack the Most Crowded Way of the Cross in Nicaragua in a Holy Week Turned into Protest
April 20, 2019 by Wilfredo Mirando Aburto and Carlos Herrera,
Holy Week has coincided with the first anniversary of the social and political crisis in Nicaragua. Citizens have taken advantage of the religious traditions to protest and circumvent the prohibition against political demonstrations. Nazarenes dressed in blue and white have been seen in the processions, crosses with the names of the victims of the repression, and children dressed as political prisoners. “A crucified people will always resurrect”, warned Bishop Silvio Báez.
Managua, Nicaragua.- The penitential way of the cross of Managua, one of the most popular in Semana Santa in Nicaragua, ended with a violent episode: the police attacked the faithful who attended the solemn procession not just to pray, but to protest against the government of Daniel Ortega and his repressive policies. The attack with pellets and flash bombs left at least two people wounded.
Holy Week has coincided with the first anniversary of the Nicaraguan social and political crisis that started April 18, 2018, when the citizenry took to the streets to protest against some failed reforms to social security. The traditions for the passion of Christ this year have been a syncretism of religious devotion and demands for justice and democracy.
The penitential way of the cross of Managua was one of the clearest scenarios of this convergence: thousands of people were carrying flags of Nicaragua and the Catholic Church, and alternated between shouts for libertarian slogans and the Lenten responsorials.
The Way of the Cross started at eight in the morning this Holy Friday. It went down the Carretera Masaya, the same avenue in Managua where many anti-governmental protests were held in 2018. During the entire trajectory mothers of political prisoners demanded freedom. Meanwhile the relatives of the youth murdered by the paramilitary and police repression carried on their backs wooden crosses, like Jesus in the procession, in representation of the impunity: of the 325 people murdered that human rights organizations documented, nearly 95% do not have judicial processes to investigate them.
The procession – that was presided by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes – took place normally until reaching the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua. After the Nazarene entered the Church, dozens of youth decided to continue protesting on the grounds of the church. A group went out to the platform of the Cathedral with wooden crosses and were immediately attacked by a police contingent.
Witnesses told UNIVISION news that the officers shot firearms in the air to chase them away, and immediately discharged metal and rubber pellets at them, as well as flash grenades. Two people were reported lightly wounded and some people fainted.
Hours after the incidents, the Police apportioned responsibilities for the aggression: “A group of hooded people, armed with stones, mortars and some firearms, tried to manipulate the way of the cross of the Cathedral”, they said in a press release disseminated by the spokesperson for the Sandinista government.
As of the publication of this article, more than a hundred of demonstrators and faithful continued trapped in the Cathedral of Managua. The police kept the area closed off. Members of the Civic Alliance (the opposition that is negotiating with the government) and people from the Catholic Church were trying to mediate to evacuate the people trapped in a safe way using buses. Another episode that recalls April 19, 2018, a year ago, when the police indiscriminately attacked young people entrenched in the Cathedral.
“Christ encountered Nicaragua with 500 people murdered”
Since Palm Sunday that starts Holy Week, Nicaraguans have taken advantage of the Catholic processions and traditions to protest against the government in the light of the lack of public spaces to do so. The Sandinista administration since September 2018 has maintained a zealous police state that violently dismantles any attempt at citizen protest. In the last month more than 150 people have been detained in street protests.
Citizens have taken advantage of the Holy Week processions to persevere in their demand for justice and democracy, because they feel protected with the Catholic Church. The demonstration this Holy Friday in Managua has been one of the largest in months.
Th Catholic Church, that has provided support “to the people in their demands” since April 2018, has opened the doors of their churches and allowed the traditions of the passion of Christ to be adorned with blue and white colors instead of the traditional Lenten purple.
Father Edwin Román, one of the emblematic figures of Catholicism during the protests while trying to mediate in the conflict, placed a flag of Nicaragua on the principal altar of the Church of San Miguel in Masaya. This parish commemorated Holy Week recalling the names of the 35 people killed from that city. Some of those demonstrators were killed in the parish itself and its surroundings. The bullet-ridden walls of the church are stony witnesses to the brutal repression suffered by Masaya for months in 2018.
“We are not experiencing a Holy Week the same as previous years,” pointed out Fr. Román to Univision news. “This Holy Week Christ encountered Nicaragua with 500 people murdered by this dictatorship, more than 800 political prisoners, hundreds of brothers and sisters in exile, families divided, more hunger and less jobs,” assured the pastor, who Sandinista sympathizers have physically attacked and accused of alcoholism to discredit him.
Mothers of those killed in Masaya joined the religious activities of San Miguel. Dozens of children were dressed in jail uniforms in the procession of the captives to demand the liberation of the political prisoners. And this Holy Friday in the penitential way of the cross, Fr. Román read every one of the names of the fatal victims of Masaya, while the faithful responded, “Present, present!”
“I pointed out this reality that we are experiencing and the struggle that we Nicaraguans have with this cross, but also the hope that afterwards Nicaragua is going to resurrect,” said the priest Román.
Nazarenes dressed in blue and white
In dozens of Nicaraguan cities the faithful and citizens also found other ways to express their protest. The most common was dressing Jesus of Nazareth in blue and white tunics, the color of the civic protest. It happened in parishes in Managua, colonial Granada, León and in the city of Tipitapa, where the adolescent Richard Pavón Bermúdez was murdered at the beginning of the protests in 2018.
In the diocese of Matagalpa, led by Bishop Rolando Álvarez, dozens of altar boys in their white and red tunics recalled young Sandor Dolmus, an altar boy of the diocese of León, who was killed by a paramilitary in June of 2018.
“In this historic moment we want to say with the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua: our greatest contribution as pastors of this church that is in pilgrimage in Nicaragua will continue being accompanying the people in their sufferings and grief, in their hopes and joys, and raising our prayers of intercession so that Nicaragua might find civilized and just paths toward a peaceful solution in light of the common good”, said Bishop Álvarez on Holy Thursday.
Another one of the expressions of protest in processions happened in the municipality of San Juan de la Concepción. The actors in the traditional Judea (representation of the Passion of Christ) dressed in blue and white. In the Judea of Masatepe, one of the participants painted on their dress the name of political prisoner Christian Porras. The night before, in the same city of Masatepe, during the silent procession they lit “600 candles for those who were killed” in the atrium of the church.
The masses in many churches this Holy Week have been impregnated with messages that have further heightened the courage of the faithful and citizens to continue demanding justice and democracy. The most emotional ceremonies have been those that the auxiliary bishop of Managua has officiated, Mons. Silvio Báez, who after the Easter celebrations will be transferred to Rome.
The transfer of Báez to Rome has been interpreted by believers and non believers as a “forced exile” due to his incisive critiques of the Sandinista regime over the massacre and lack of democracy. “He (Báez) is a stone in the shoe of the government”, assured the bishop of Estelí, Abelardo Mata. This Holy Week has been the send off for Monseñor Báez, one of the most popular and respected bishops. In one of his last masses, Báez left a phrase that was taken as prophetic by Nicaragua: “A crucified people will always resurrect.”
When the National Dialogue was renewed on Feb 27 of this year, a deadline of March 28th was set for agreements to be reached, in light of the criticism that the government would only use the negotiations to buy time to prevent the implementation of sanctions from the OAS, European Union and the US due to serious human rights violations. By mutual agreement the deadline got extended to April 3, when agreements were still not reached on key issues, e.g. the Guarantors of the implementation of the Accords, and on moving up the elections. This speech was given by Daniel Ortega on the last day of the extended negotiations. We have only translated the last part of the speech where he refers to the national situation.
Excerpt of Speech by Daniel Ortega on the last day of the National Dialogue April 3, 2019, on receiving the credentials of 13 Ambassadors
…Well, we are committed to Peace. In all fields we are committed to Peace. We want Peace with Security, with Stability and free from the threat of the use of force. Because, what Country can develop in Peace if it is under the threat of the use of force? It is true, the United Nations has a very clear Article which is a commitment of all of us Countries who are part of the United Nations, where we promise to not use force and to not threaten to use force either. We are all committed, but up to what point is this Principle followed?
All Nations, all Peoples need Peace to be able to confront the big challenges that we have. To be able to confront the damages from Climate Change, to be able to reforest, to be able to improve the conditions in our Countries, Peace is needed. If there is no Peace, it is simply not possible to build a Highway, to plant trees, or strengthen the Hydrographic Basins. It is not possible! In a situation of confrontation, of violence, of war, there are no conditions for that. There is more destruction.
If we go Country by Country we are going to find all over the need for Peace. Because even those countries that are not directly involved in acts of war, in acts of violence, in acts of aggression also suffer the impact of an environment that also threatens Stability: Terrorism. What is more terrible than Terrorism! And in our Region, Drug trafficking, Organized Crime, which is another form of Terrorism that threatens Security, the Stability of our Nations.
Then, the pressure that generates migrants, migrants even risk their Lives, not because they want to go to enjoy, but because they want to survive, and do not find in their space, in their places, in their Countries the conditions to be able to survive. And migration is nothing more than the search, with complete logic, with complete Justice, to improve their Life conditions of Families who find themselves closed up in zones where they are easily victims of Terrorism, of the different forms of Terrorism that exist in the World, and they have the Right, in desperation, to find these Paths.
Before there was the big immigration that arrived in America from Europe, but not to benefit the Original Peoples who were the owners of those Lands; it was a big immigration that arrived in search of Wealth. With so much more reason we should understand the behavior, the attitude of the Peoples who in Africa and here in Latin America and the Caribbean, and above all in the Region of Central America, Mexico, in this Mesoamerican Zone, seek the path to the North, with the Hope of improving their Life conditions.
A Solution to this problem exists, of course it exists! Just as also a solution exists to what is a Policy of Contention to stop the advance of Global Warming. They exist and are well marked, the decisions, commitments, investments that need to be done, because investments need to be made to save Life on the Planet.
Likewise, migration demands investments. Why? So that the Peoples that find themselves in conditions of greater exclusion, greater poverty, can insert themselves, can culturally strengthen themselves, can have the tools to fight Poverty, but this demands investment.
And this is not a matter of- take note here- aid, it is not aid! It is simply an investment, because if we do not want currents, rivers of People going to Europe, going to North America, then you have to invest so that current is stopped, taking into account that these Peoples come from Continents, Zones that have been historically excluded, that have been historically dispossessed, expropriated, their Wealth, their Resources confiscated, and it is nothing more than a small compensation, that in this case is not simply a matter of compensation or restitution, but also stopping the flow of immigration that they feel threatens them.
And you know, Dear Brother and Sister Ambassadors, that here in Central America, in Mesoamerica, from Colombia to the United States, there is a path of horror and terror that has to do with the fact that there is a large market of consumers of drugs in North America, and this encourages and feeds the production of drugs in South America, and makes we the Peoples victims who are on the path where this drug is transported from South to North.
It makes us victims of Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, Gangs, all of which is multiplying, simply to satisfy the demand of drug consumers in the First World, in the North; and moving also part of those drugs to other Regions of the Planet. But in particular we have the problem here, and we have to invest from our limited resources to fight Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime, keep the Gangs from being installed here.
We have the smallest Budget in the Region. We have the smallest Budget of all of Latin America and the Caribbean here in Nicaragua, but with a great effort we have been able to stop here what could be the presence, the control of Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime.
We have been able to defend the Safety Record of the Nicaraguan People. We have achieved Economic Growth that is the envy of all of Latin America and the Caribbean until the month of April last year, where, well, there was an explosion of Terror, Terrorism, which was manifested with complete clarity after an action aimed at overthrowing the Government, and this brought as a logical consequence a threat to Security, Stability, Peace and Well being, to the levels that Nicaragua had achieved in the fight against Poverty. A conspiracy!
And, always seeking the Path of Dialogue, seeking the Path of Dialogue, once more seeking the Path of Dialogue to achieve Security, Stability, Peace. We tried it once. It was frustrated. We are trying it again. Progress is being achieved, Agreements are being achieved, but there are always the forces that do not want Peace, that do not want Stability for Nicaragua.
Those forces are always there. It is normal, in all parts of the World these forces exist, extremist forces that burst in, threatening Well Being, Stability, and not just Countries like Nicaragua, but that also are threatening the Stability and Security of Developed Countries.
Extremist, radical attitudes are taking positions with terrorist, fascist discourse, and we are in that Fight, seeking Peace, seeking Stability, without ignoring that in our Region we are not the only ones who are in this Fight, Brother Peoples find themselves also confronting what this aggression is, what this destabilization is.
Cuba, an already blockaded Country, and a blockade that is intensified against Cuba in these Times, in spite of the fact that in the General Assembly of the United Nations there is now 1 vote left, 2 votes, in favor of the blockade. The immense majority of Nations, the States vote there that the blockage against Cuba be lifted.
Against Venezuela it is an aggression against a Country, a State that has not done any damage to any State, any Latin American People, much less the US People.
What was the sin of Venezuela, the sin of Commandante Chavez and now of Nicolas to provide continuity? Simply carrying out Programs to benefit Countries with greater difficulties, with more Economic-Social fragility in our Region, opening their hand to all.
Even taking free Energy to North American Families, so that they could provide themselves with a little heat in cold times, that they would not die from the cold. Because in the United States there are people who die from the cold because they are in Poverty. What Darío saw when he went through New York still exists, and which led him to write: “50 story homes…” seeing the enormous buildings of that time, and along with that he said: Under the bridges and in the streets there are people, my God, that are dying from the cold, and what is even sadder, my God, from pain, pain, pain…! That is what Darío saw when he traveled.
And to these Families, who the US Government itself did not provide coverage, Venezuela brought them programs; and let us not even mention the amount of Programs here in the Caribbean Region, in exchange for what? In exchange for nothing! Unconditionally!
There are situations that really cause also a lot of pain, when they are examples that should be taken, should be followed. And we recognize that on the part of the International Community that has this Sensibility, this Responsibility, there are Programs, and there continue to be Programs toward Countries that find themselves in very fragile conditions. Programs, for what purpose? To provide tools to these Countries to get out of Poverty.
Alongside them are those who think rather that all type of Aid has to be withdrawn, and this simply is what is going to make the problem even larger, the problems bigger.
Today that we have received you, Dear Ambassadors, we have given you a welcome in the name of our People, recognizing the Good Will of all of you. We had the opportunity, I would say the privilege of knowing many of your Leaders, your Governors, of visiting your Countries, Developed Countries in Europe as well as Developing Countries in Asia and other Regions of our Planet, and there we always found the Principle of Solidarity, which is a determining factor to be able to work for Peace.
And well, I now tell you, here we are making one more effort for Peace, Agreements have now been able to be made, always a Negotiation is complex; the terms of this Negotiation really are a true challenge because it is a short term which was established for this Negotiation to arrive at Agreements. We hope that the disposition, the Will might exist, as has been demonstrated in this Negotiation Table, that also that same Willingness might exist of the external factors who really need that Nicaragua completely re-establish Stability, Security, Peace, that Democracy be strengthened. And there are those who do not want this to happen.
But I am sure that, taking into account the Will of our People, of the immense majority of Nicaraguans, is Peace, beyond the Political, Ideological Positions and Religious Creeds. I am sure that we are achieving it and I am sure that you, with your Peoples, with your Governments, you are also accompanying this effort for Peace in Nicaragua.
This appeared on Enrique´s blog yesterday, and is a critical analysis of the negotiations set to begin today between Ortega and the Blue and White Alliance. The author is a founding member of the Movement for Sandinista Renovation (MRS).
We are on the brink of the negotiations between representatives of the Civic Alliance and Daniel Ortega. It is no longer called a dialogue. It is important that we analyze well the starting point, to help us to see where it can go.
As usual, let´s start at the beginning.
Why is Ortega starting these negotiations? Why now and not before?
For a very simple reason. All his life he has specialized in negotiating on the edge of a cliff. And he now felt that the water was up to his neck. On the one hand is the process of the application of the Democratic Charter, begun within the framework of the OAS. On the other hand is the threat of sanctions by the European Union. And also the unsheathed sword of the Nica Act with the threat of stronger sanctions on the part of the United States. Meanwhile, the economic and social crisis is getting worse, and Ortega does not have the means to contain it.
But above all is Venezuela. Ortega is looking at himself in the mirror and knows that a departure of Maduro, by whatever path, will leave him in the middle of the street, puny and with the spotlights of the international community lined up in front of him.
If these are the reasons, does it mean that Ortega is attending the negotiations in good faith and with the spirit of finding a solution that is beneficial to the country?
In no way!
We would be very gullible if we thought that. Rather, we would be reckless, irresponsible. Ortega would have to be born again to act in a different way than he has acted in the last forty years.
So what does he want?
The same as always. Stay in power. Absolute power. This is his primary objective. And if he could, re-establish the conditions that existed before April. But if the internal and external pressure keeps him from remaining as such, his objective would be to remain as a factor of power, in other words, retain levers of domination, like the judicial apparatus, the police, the army, to get back in the game, like in the 90s, to “govern from below.”
But there is more. Ortega has been accused of crimes against humanity by the highest international and interamerican organizations on issues of human rights. So what does he want? He wants impunity, for himself, his family and the perpetrators of the massacre. Even though he would not have the least scruples in sacrificing some.
Also Ortega is now an economic tycoon. He has accumulated wealth of at least 2.5 billion dollars. Of course, he is determined to retain that wealth,.
Remaining in power, retaining his apparatus of domination, ensuring himself impunity and retaining his wealth. These are the objectives of Ortega. There are no secrets.
To achieve them he has unleashed an entire strategy that includes international negotiations, propaganda, disinformation tactics, bribery, intimidation and above all repression. One of the principal pivots of his strategy is to paralyze and subjugate out of fear.
The negotiations are part of his strategy, and he will attempt to turn in his favor the current harassment of the international community.
What will Ortega look for in the negotiations?
Above all, confuse and distract the international community and Nicaraguans. He will push and pull with wheedling and dilatory tactics and will try to sell a discourse and agenda to the gringos; another agenda to the Europeans; another agenda to the Secretary General of the OAS; another agenda with the internal negotiators and another to Nicaraguans.
He will attempt to sell marginal concessions like a show of flexibility, and since it is a negotiation, he will demand concessions in exchange.
With these ploys he seeks to freeze the application of the Democratic Charter and the threats of sanctions, and he will use the argument that we Nicaraguans are reaching an understanding in a negotiation process.
What else is Ortega pursuing?
Wear down the Civic Alliance. Plant discord, divisions and antagonisms among the opposing forces. And he has already begun. It is enough to look at the social media to confirm it.
He also seeks to plant the distrust of the population in the opposing leaders and organizations, inject discouragement and demoralization: “You cannot trust anyone”. “There is no solution.” “We do not have any recourse.” Ortega wants to make us believe this. And that campaign has already begun.
He already said it clearly in the speech on February 21st. Let us remember: the negotiations, according to him, are to consolidate peace, stability and security.
What peace? The peace of the graveyard. The peace of the dungeons that the paramilitary groups have sown.
Stability and security for whom? Stability and security for his regime. Because the people are living in continual distress, continual insecurity, without rights, without freedom, without guarantees.
He did not mention at all the word democracy.
If this is the starting point, and knowing the insolence and lack of scruples of Ortega, does it make sense to participate in the negotiations?
Definitely yes. We need to use this stage.
Ortega has advantages, but he also presents great disadvantages and fragility. The wisdom and skill will be in exploiting these disadvantages of Ortega to the benefit of freedom, justice and democracy.
This commentary has become very long. I invite you to read tomorrow.
This article appeared in La Prensa on Oct 26th. It puts the denouncement of Rafael Valdez of the St Paul Christian Community within the context of an ongoing campaign by the government to discredit the bishops, and one of the most outspoken, Silvio Báez. Here is the other side to the previous post.
Ortega Dictatorship behind the threats against bishop Silvio Báez
Brother of bishop Silvio Báez declares the Ortega Murillo family the “intellectual authors” of the threats against the religious who denounced harassment in his home.
By Emiliano Chamorro Mendieta in La Prensa, Oct 26, 2018
While the US State Department this Thursday warned the regime of Daniel Ortega that “the Church should be protected, not the target of shots”, Mons. Silvio Báez denounced this Thursday that he was being harassed in his home by people on motorcycles in the framework of a campaign of repression, disparagement and harassment that the dictatorship is promoting against him.
Javier Báez, the brother of the Carmelite, blamed “the Ortega Murillo family and their circle of followers for all the death threats” against Silvio Báez.
“I publicly denounce that my brother Mons. Silvio Báez is being harassed by sympathizers of the Ortega dictatorship, motivated by the manipulation of the convictions of Mons. Báez. Now I declare them the intellectual authors of these threats”, denounced the brother of the religious.
For his part, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Báez, said in his Twitter account: “I denounce that I am the victim of a campaign of repression, disparagement and harassment that is made evident not just by manipulated audio recordings, but also by hundreds of messages to my Whatsapp with insults and threats, in addition to people on motorcycles surrounding my home. I will continue committed to my episcopal ministry.”
The presence of motorcycle drivers in the home of Báez is the same tactic of repression and harassment that the dictatorship has been employing to persecute any Nicaraguan who tries to raise their voice against his power and that demands democracy in Nicaragua.
Mons. Silvio Báez, with a doctorate in Sacred Scriptures, who so far has not offered declarations to the communications media, expressed in one of his tweets that he is not responsible for any crime nor conspiracy as the Ortega dictatorship wants to make him seem to be, and stated that very soon he will present the proof and will share it in his social networks and with the communications media.
The threats against the Carmelite religious emerged after the Ortega regime on Tuesday published through their state propaganda apparatus an audio recording for the purpose of framing him in a supposed coup attempt and pressuring him to go into exile or be tried. This action was rejected by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, that expressed their complete support for the religious leader, a critic of the abuses of the dictatorship.
Báez has responded that he will continue in Nicaragua, and will continue being faithful to the ministry that he has been entrusted. “My conscience does not reproach me for anything before God”, stated Báez.
In spite of the fact that the bishops are mediators and witnesses to the National Dialogue, they also have been victims of the Ortega repression. Last July 9th, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, bishop Báez along with the Apostolic Nuncio and several priests, were physically attacked by mobs and paramilitaries in the San Sebastian Basilica in Diriamba. In that violent scene, Báez ended up wounded in his left arm. In addition to the aggression, the Ortega hordes took his episcopal insignia from him.
In the face of the escalation of violence against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, the ambassador for Religious Freedom of the US State Department demanded from Ortega protection for the Church. “The Church should be protected, not the target of shots”, said the US official Samuel D Brownback. Brownback made these statements in a press conference where he took a position on the situation of religion in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. “This is not an acceptable situation for religious freedom or religious tolerance. It seems that there are people, a number of individuals, shooting at churches, persecuting the churches,” stated Borwnback. “We do not agree with this treatment, the church should be protected, not the target of shots,” added the official from the State Department.
Brownback said that the United States feels “deeply concerned” about the situation in Nicaragua and stated that his government has detected an “increase in persecution” in that country and in Venezuela against the Church.
Concerning the audio recording where the regime tried to incriminate Báez as “coup monger, murderer” as Laureano Ortega, the son of the dictator, called him, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said to Channel 100% Noticias that indeed an audio recording had been made of a private conversation, but that its authenticity has still not been verified.
The ruling party this Thursday once again manipulated the statements of Brenes, by just publicizing the part where the religious admitted that there was a meeting where Báez had participated, but did not put the part where Brenes clarified that they were verifying the authenticity of the recording disseminated by the regime.
In Spain a sound engineer stated to a digital daily that that recording had been manipulated. He pointed out that it was an audio file edited with “important technical errors” that showed the “union and editing of several different recordings” of the voice of the Catholic prelate.
The ex-president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, also spoke out in favor of Báez in her Twitter account. “Let us not allow a tragic action to be done against @silviojbaez, the voice that is most heard denouncing the abuses of the regime of #Nicaragua. Let´s call the attention of the international community”, she said in support.
According to a document that the Saint Paul base community released, where they accused Mons. Báez of promoting hate, the audio was recorded in an encounter that the religious man had with peasants from the Anti-canal Peasant Movement.
Lesner Fonseca, one of the peasant leaders in the area of El Tule, confirmed that indeed they met with Báez and that someone recorded the meeting, but he did not venture to identify the person responsible for the recording and leaking. “I am deeply sad, hurt and sorry for Mons. Báez, with this situation that has happened,” stated Fonseca to La Prensa.
The peasant explained that seven people accompanied him in the entourage, but that the author of the recording was still not investigated.
“For now we cannot reveal the name, it is assumed that we are trustworthy people who met with Mons. But yes, we are investigating, and when the person responsible is found, we are going to expel him from the movement, and we will make his name public,” clarified the peasant.
Mons. Silvio José Báez stated in one of his tweets this Thursday that very soon he will make public the truth of the audio recordings where the regime of Daniel Ortega and his communication media present him as a coup supporter. “Very soon I will present the proof of all this in my social networks and in the communications media,” clarified the Carmelite religious and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua since 2009, after his return to Nicaragua.
This week an audio was released by Rafael Valdez, a leader of the Base Christian Community of St Paul the Apostle, where the voice of Auxiliary Bishop Silvio Báez is heard, which Valdez claims prove that the bishops have been conspiring against the regime, and are therefore biased and thus can no longer serve as mediators. Since the first session of the national dialogue on May 16, when a student from the UCA called Ortega to step down because of the 55 students who had been killed since April 18th, the government has called the students and their supporters “coup mongers”. Since the bishops in the dialogue asked Ortega to hold early elections, it has been clear to everyone in Nicaragua that Ortega has wanted to replace the bishops as mediators. This incident falls within this context.
Catholics of Nicaragua ask Pope Francis to remove Silvio Báez from Nicaragua
Silvio Báez is an obstacle for Peace and Reconciliation
Wednesday, October 14, 2018 In El 19 Digital (official media of FSLN)
The bishop, Silvio Báez, a member of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, is an obstacle for Peace and reconciliation, stated Rafael Valdez, a member of the Saint Paul the Apostle Christian Community, who released an audio where the official of the Catholic Church spoke about the destabilization plan for the country, to remove the government of President Daniel Ortega Saavedra. In declarations to the EN VIVO magazine, Valdez insisted in that the request to Pope Francis is that he remove the bishop from Nicaragua who is corrupted by hate and a thirst for power.
“What we are asking is that he leave because he is doing damage to the Catholic Church, because the Catholic Church is not the Curia, nor the hierarchy, the Catholic Church is the believing people. That is the Catholic Church. And he is doing damage to this believing people, because with his actions he has been able to divide the flock,” explained Valdez.
“Now it ends up that there are some Catholic Christians who are on one side and other Christians who are another side, because he has divided them, or they (the bishops) have divided them, because they have taken biased positions, and they have not been really who they should be, pastors who love peace, reconciliation, who strive for people to understand one another, dialoguing and not killing one another; and they have been doing just the opposite. So, this is a detrimental man for the church itself and is doing it damage. He should leave this country for the good of everyone, the people, the church itself. The church would feel better with people like this outside, let them go and teach, be professors,” he added.
Valdez stated that Silvio Báez “is not someone who is going to contribute to peace and reconciliation.”
“On the contrary, this man promotes hate, because he is full of hate. His expressions that come out in the video are expressions of hate. Saying that it does not matter who he is going to ally with, whether with the devil, evildoers, criminals, drug traffickers, as long as the objective is achieved that he wants, which is to remove the current government, is an expression of hate. Or saying: we are not going to kill him, even though I would like to, he says…so that is an expression that shows the depth of his hate, because the Word of God itself says that out of the mouth comes what one has in their heart. And if he said that, it is because he has it deep within himself. So a person like this is not going to contribute ever to that there be peace and reconciliation, he is an obstacle for peace and reconciliation,” he said.
The member of the Christian community said that Báez is a politician in a cassock.
“He is promoting continuity, when he talks about new barricades as an ingenious invention that they have had in order to do damage, to destroy the country, to cause death. They are opting once again for violence, so that cannot be a path for peace, ever,” he pointed out.
With these attitudes, explained Valdez, what the hierarchy are going is burying the Catholic church.
“These bishops and priests who have been doing damage for many years, they are burying it, they are the ones who are burying the Catholic Church. And that is why there is a large desertion of people who used to call themselves Catholics and now opt for another type of religiosity, but it is because they are disillusioned because those people are not teaching the true Gospel, but what they have done is something else. There is an estimate that 40 million Catholics in Latin America have abandoned the Catholic church and have become evangelicals,” he emphasized.
He added to this the fact that the bishops lie in such a brazen way, and it seems that they are saying the truth. “It is evident to me that they are big liars, they lie without mercy and they are not ashamed of lying,” he stated.
Likewise, he said that the church can no longer be the mediator of any dialogue, because it is automatically left disqualified.
“No one can be a mediator who clearly has a bias toward one side. I cannot sit down at a table and be the mediator and be telling the other side, “continue with your struggle, do not stop”. This is not mediation,” he said.
He also described as unfortunate and conspiratorial the attitude of Cardinal Brenes on the matter that involves Báez in a conspiratorial coup.
“It is unfortunate because he (Brenes) with that attitude is backing what this man has done, and so he is making himself an accomplice and participant in these actions, and he cannot now claim ignorance, unless you tell me that what there is there is not true, but it is clear, it is obvious it is him, there is not the slightest doubt,” he assured.
“The [Bishops] Conference disqualified itself by supporting that attitude. It is impossible to be a mediator in this way, there cannot be more dialogue, nor anything of that,” he indicated.
The Christian community of Saint Paul the Apostle, who revealed the audios of Silvio Báez where he confirmed his role of organizer of the destabilization and destruction of Nicaragua, has more than 53 years of existing as a Base Ecclesial Community.
An important issue in the current crisis in Nicaragua is the question of what would Nicaragua look like should Ortega leave, as the opposition demands. In recent weeks some important proposals have been developed to begin to respond to this question. The following was developed by mostly student groups calling themselves “Construimos Nicaragua” and was posted shortly after the independence holidays in Nicaragua, Sept 14-15.
We are Building Nicaragua
“We are Building Nicaragua” Program
This document is the draft of the Program of the Social and Political Movement called “WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA” which we submit to the consideration of the readers to open a public discussion among all social sectors on the urgent tasks that we need to promote for a real democratization of Nicaragua.
PROGRAM FOR THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF NICARAGUA: GIVE BACK TO THE PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO DECIDE!
The days of struggle, started in April 2018, are forging and consolidating a strong sense of collective national identity in favor of democratization and justice, as had not occurred in our nearly two centuries of independent history around fundamental symbols and values: the blue and white flag, inextricably linked to republican democracy, public liberties, citizen participation in the State affairs, a strong sense of social equity and true solidarity.
The democratic struggle started by the youth opened the possibility of rebuilding and re-founding our nation on the bases of democracy, justice and social equity. The enjoyment and exercise of public liberties, as well as absolute respect for citizen rights, should not depend ever again on the will or discretion of any government. We all the sectors of the people (youth, students, women, workers, peasants, indigenous, etc) need to recover our popular sovereignty to re-found a new Nicaragua, creating a Social and Democratic Rule of Law on new bases, that imply eradicating forever the use of violence, repression or intimidation by those in power for the purpose of remaining in it, or limiting and blocking the exercise of these freedoms and rights.
The fundamental decisions of Nicaragua should not be made by small oligarchies, but by the broad majorities of men and women through democratic and deliberative processes with all the information on the table, where the broadest sectors can participate.
So that our society might move from discretion and the arbitrary and personalized use of power, to a social interaction more and more regulated by laws, norms and policies that are implemented in a more impartial, transparent and impersonal way possible, that is, with the absence of discrimination and punishment for some, and privileges and “awards” for others.
Currently State institutions have lost their public character by being completely subordinated to partisan control and the discretional management of the rulers. It is urgent to begin the transition toward the new Nicaragua, where national public institutions exist that fulfill their function of providing public goods and services, and that are capable of ensuring confidence, security and certainty to economic agents and all the citizenry.
Nicaragua needs a radical democratic revolution that would build national public institutions that can keep themselves relatively isolated from the pressures of economic groups and those in power, be focused on effective, professional performance and their objectives and responsibilities, establishing mechanisms that would ensure transparency and accountability, and that would make citizen control possible over the institutions that administer power.
Within the framework of this context, we a group of youth, men and women from all social strata, have agreed to launch a new political organization called “WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA”, an inclusive, horizontal, democratic and progressive political movement for the purpose of promoting structural changes for the sustainable development of Nicaragua.
WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA is a social and political movement where all us Nicaraguans find the opportunity to voice our opinions and participate to achieve our political, economic, social, cultural and environmental aspirations.
The mission of WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA is to provide each Nicaraguan the opportunity to promote and defend their rights to achieve a full, just and prosperous life.
We present, then, our proposal for a political program that we submit to the consideration of the citizens for their study, critique and improvement, because only united will we be able to accomplish the immense task of democratizing Nicaragua for the benefit of the great majorities.
16 BASIC POINTS FOR FOUNDING THE NEW NICARAGUA
Free and Sovereign Constituent National Assembly
We men and women of WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA, many of us had not even been born during the time of the revolution, we think that the first thing that we should do is dismantle the status quo of the political power that was established in the last period, and that has roots in the institutions created during the process of the death of the revolution of 1979.
It requires returning sovereignty and decision making capacity to the people, in other words, the citizens. This elemental principle of democracy has been systematically denied in the history of Nicaragua. It requires profoundly reorganizing the State institutions. And this can only be achieved by repealing the Constitution of 1987 and its reforms, discussing and approving a new democratic Constitution, that would minimally bring together the issues that we discuss in what follows and that would bring the Nicaraguan State into the modernity of the XXI Century.
Limits to re-election for popularly elected officials
Re-election is not a problem of principles in democracy, everything depends on the political culture and the electoral system, whether it is sufficiently democratic to respect the popular will.
Nevertheless, this is a key discussion in Nicaragua, because the emergence of the dictatorships of José Santos Zelaya (1896-1909), Anastasio Somoza and his successors (1937-1979), as well as the new dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo (2007-2018) have been related to presidential re-election.
For this reason, and taking into consideration that a good government is not improvised, presidential re-election should only be permitted for a second period, so the new election becomes a plebiscite on the first mandate. Starting with the second period, there should be an absolute prohibition of presidential re-election, establishing iron clad clauses in the new Constitution that would prevent a third presidential period.
Likewise the deputies should only be elected for two consecutive periods. This same norm should be applied to mayors and council-members and the members of regional governments.
A new electoral system
A complete reform of the electoral system is needed, approving a new Electoral Law that would do away with the bipartisan system inherited from Somocism, and that served as a cover for installing a new dynastic dictatorship. A new Party and Political Association Law should be approved, which also should have constitutional standing, that would allow for the creation of groups, associations and political parties at the municipal, provincial, regional and national levels.
The obstacles created by the constitutional reform of 2000 should be ended, that demand a minimum of 4% for a party to maintain their legal status, because it limits the right to representation of minorities. The myth of dictatorships should be done away with, that only the traditional parties should exist. Democracy rests on the principle of diversity and the respect and protection of minorities.
But, above all, the monopoly of the political parties should be ended, that they are the only ones who can propose candidates. A new emphasis should be placed on the fact that citizens can run as candidates regardless of whether they are party members, in any type of election, including presidential elections, prioritizing the fact that youth, who have traditionally been marginated from political activity, might have a dominant role in the destiny of the country.
The election of deputies should be by provinces or districts, doing away with the election of national deputies. The right to proportional representation of minorities should be ensured, especially of indigenous, in every type of election.
The functions exercised by the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC) should be decentralized in different institutions (identity cards, parties and associations, organization of electoral processes, etc), completely reorganized, not just with the participation of the political parties, but civil society organizations, who should play a role of oversight and control.
Tbe new electoral system should include the partial or total renovation of the deputies of the National Assembly halfway through each presidential period. The dates for legislative elections should coincide with municipal and regional elections which should be held every two years, so that the elected officials might know that their posts will always depend on the assessment of their performance and the will of the electors.
To be a candidate for popular election they should be qualified and honest. In addition the 50/50 Law should be kept and respected that ensures the presence of women on electoral ballots which opens the doors for their participation in political decision making posts.
System for direct election and renovation of magistrates and of other high officials, under citizen control.
The citizens should be given back the capacity to elect and remove magistrates, as well as other high officials from other branches and institutions of the State. That vicious cycle should be ended where the executive branch proposes candidates for magistrates who end up being approved through agreements and negotiations among the deputies, who generally obey the interests of party leaders, who include them on the electoral lists, annulling the capacity of the citizens who elected them.
On establishing a percentage of votes of deputies to choose the magistrates, the problem is resolved through transactions or political pacts, turning the deputies into the principal electors, annulling the popular will. This type of indirect election makes possible the creation of political rings and castes, which are the negation of democracy.
It should be established that the holders of the executive branch, deputies, mayors, councilpersons, members of the regional governments, all popularly elected officials, are subject to the evaluation of the people through a recall referendum. In this way any popularly elected official, having finished a third of their mandate, and in the face of a petition for their removal signed by a certain number of citizens, those signers should have the capacity to call for elections in that specific case, so that it be the electors who decide if the official continues or not in their post.
Restructuring of the judicial branch
Democracy is, in the last instance, the governance of judges. These officials are the ones who decide on the freedom of people, the future of their assets and settle political conflicts. The one who controls the judicial power, controls the State and political power. That is why a profound reform and restructuring of the judicial system should be done. The magistrates, judges should be directly elected by the people, and submitted every two years, when intermediate elections are held, to the control of the citizenry.
The judicial profession should be submitted to periodic controls. Only the people through their vote can decide whether a judge continues in their post for one more period. The re-election of judges and magistrates should have a limit, no more than three periods, to open the way for the formation of new judges and magistrates.
A commission composed of recognized jurists and national and foreign academics should examine and review the curriculums of the aspirants, and they will be the candidates who would be subject to popular balloting. Political parties cannot campaign in favor of the candidates under pain of disqualification.
The Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) should decentralize their functions, so that the administrative functions are not mixed with jurisdictional ones, and with those of control and sanctioning. Deputies cannot be candidates for judges or magistrates. It is a matter of building a new judicial branch that would supervise jointly with the citizenry the functioning of public administration and democracy.
Amparo [constitutional or administrative protection order] should not be an appeal but a judgement, as happens in Latin America. A Constitutional Tribunal should be created, whose magistrates will not obey political parties, but the mandate of the citizenry.
Ongoing fight against corruption
In Nicaragua corruption is an evil embedded in all the State institutions, and it has become part of the political culture: popularly elected posts and public service have been turned into ladders for illicit enrichment. That is why the fight against corruption should be ongoing and at every level. Corruption is one of the principal causes of the increase in poverty and social inequality. It is not possible to fight poverty without fighting corruption at the same time. Indeed corruption erodes and weakens democratic institutionality, annulling existing legality, promoting impunity and social chaos.
The existing laws for fighting corruption are not applied because the State institutions responsible for fighting it, like the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR), the Attorney General of the Republic and the different tribunals of justice have been victims of the concentration of power phenomenon, which centralizes the mechanisms for the election of magistrates and other high officials solely on the deputies of the National Assembly, who are elected through the lists of the political parties who exercise a monopoly on popular representation.
The anti-corruption legislation should be modernized, administrative processes should be greatly simplified, a new law of State Purchasing and one for Conflict of Interest of Public Officials should be approved, establishing online bidding, so that everyone can see what is happening with prices and technical specifications, taking into consideration citizen participation at all levels, developing to the maximum electronic governance.
Transparency should become a new fundamental right, a key factor for strengthening social confidence and a sense of participation and co-responsibility in the construction of a shared destiny. Public information should never be managed as if it were private. The people have the right to know all the affairs, no matter how complicated they may seem. The officials who violate this principle of access to public information will be submitted to severe penal sanctions.
Likewise, the obligation should be established of all officials to be accountable to the general assembly of workers of the public sector with the participation of the citizenry every three months for spending, investments or purchases made. The result of these reports should be placed on the web page of the respective institutions.
In all State institutions an assembly of public servants should be organized to create citizen control commissions responsible for overseeing the implementation of the budget, plans for purchasing and bidding, with the legal faculties to file the corresponding charges. Those who make any denouncements will not be able to be fired nor will there be any administrative reprisals against them, unless it is shown that they had no basis.
The new constitution should establish the new principle that there is no immunity for crimes related to corruption. All assets obtained through acts of corruption or money laundering are imprescriptible, it is the obligation of the State to pursue them until they are recovered, trying and punishing those who are guilty. The officials punished for acts of corruption through a final judgement will be disbarred for life from running for public posts or providing public service, as well as prohibited from being a supplier of the State or contracting with Public Administration.
Professionalization and dignity of public service
A radical democratization is required so that workers in public administration never again are hired or fired based on their party affiliation or loyalty, but rather on the basis of their capacities and competency, and so that the career of civil service be respected.
The Civil Service Law should be governed by the principle of the merits and capacities of the applicants, we should eradicate the culture of sharing posts by pacts and political arrangements or by electoral quotas. Likewise they should promote reforms so that the youth can make a career in public service in a decent way and with facilities for access.
A fair tax system
The taxes of all Nicaraguans should not be used or diverted to enrich small groups, but should form part of the sacred national patrimony. Tax collection should be based on transparency, social control and the principle that the payment of taxes should be proportional to income. In this way society will have the resources needed to cover social spending and ensure the minimum functioning of democracy and the construction of a medium and long term national development plan that is able to transcend changes in government.
Incorporating new rights in the Constitution
Respect for human rights in Nicaragua will never be limited by any government, placing arguments of “national sovereignty” above the relevancy of international treaties on this matter.
New fundamental rights should be incorporated and applied, like Gender Equity, and other specific rights of women, that should be implemented in all the State institutions and at all levels of social life.
Likewise, basic income should be established in a progressive manner for people who are living in levels of poverty. It is the only way of ending the political patronage that does so much damage to democracy, and so that the State might protect in this way those most in need.
Nicaragua should be proclaimed as a Social and Democratic Rule of Law State, governed by fundamental rights, by the principle of absolute respect and equality under the law, the control of the citizenry in the affairs of the State, and the defense of the environment.
The right to rebellion or insurrection against dictatorial or dynastic governments should be recovered, as a fundamental essential right of Nicaraguans.
Likewise, new procedural guarantees should be reformed or incorporated: the function of the Police should be to investigate crimes and send the accused to the judicial authorities in a term no longer than 24 hours. In their investigations the Police should be subordinated to the Prosecutor´s office, who should be responsible for directing the investigations and the gathering of proof. Detentions can only be done through a judicial order or when catching a crime in progress.
Jury trials should be re-established for all cases, and exceptional jurisdictions should be ended.
In addition, Nicaragua should bring itself into the XXI Century and promote the access of all children and adolescents to information technologies and the internet.
Reorganization of the Army and the Police
The role that the National Police have performed in the current civic insurrection, as a small, very centralized repressive army, forces us to re-examine the role of the police forces. The Police should play a very important role in ensuring citizen security, in a context of the advance of the drug trafficking cartels and organized crime in Central America.
To keep the National Police from being a small, mercenary army at the unconditional service of a dictatorial government, their operation should be decentralized, creating municipal police who will maintain a national coordination or command, but whose members will be recruited from within the community, who will be subject to the local authorities. The naming of the Chief of Police in each municipality, as well as their term in the post, will be done through direct election of the citizens. The monopoly of the control of the president of the republic over the National Police must end, it should be shared with the local authorities.
The National Police should have a Community Policing approach, composed of people from the community on a rotating manner, with a reduced administrative apparatus and permanent officials. More women should be incorporated into the chain of command of this Community Police.
Likewise, the role and conception of the National Army should be re-evaluated. The collective trauma that the implementation of military service had during the civil war (1982-1990) has made it possible, contradictorily, for the evolution of the National Army as an institution ever more separated from the people.
In times of peace, the Army should have a very reduced apparatus, it should be composed of citizens who provide their civil service regularly within the armed forces at certain times. Likewise, more women should be incorporated into the chain of command of the Army.
It should not only defend the national sovereignty against drug trafficking and organized crime, but also exercise a social function in the most vulnerable social sectors, protecting and defending the environment, enabling youth to join as their first job and acquire technical training. This is the only way to prevent having an Army of full time paid soldiers unconnected to the people. The Army should not have, nor its officers, businesses or companies to finance retirement systems different from those that most of the population have, or caste privileges that promote social inequality.
Due to the importance of this issue, a special plebiscite should be promoted on the reorganization of the National Army and the National Police, so that the people might democratically decide the path to follow.
Educational revolution, academic freedom, and university autonomy.
Nicaragua will never come out of poverty without being able to raise the educational level of its population.
Nicaragua is losing the only opportunity from the “demographic dividend” as dozens of thousands of youth do not have the opportunity to study and work. The dichotomy between primary education and higher education is false. Both are complementary. That is why academic freedom and university autonomy should be insisted on for training the technical staff and the professionals that the country requires.
Primary and secondary education should include a class on civic education, so that the students might learn from an early age how the State functions and what the principles of democracy are.
Within the framework of basic income, it should be ensured that all children finish their primary and secondary schooling. For that purpose 15% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be used for public education. State resources should be used to develop public education, and the businesses of private schools and universities should never be subsidized. The universities should never be submitted to political power and party control.
The teaching profession and scientific research should be encouraged and protected by the State.
Social innovation and entrepreneurship should be encouraged by the State to expand the labor prospects of the recently graduated youth from the Universities so that they can be inserted into the work world. Likewise, the Youth First Job Law should be approved where the universities and companies will coordinate to provide facilities of access to work to recently graduated youth, and so that the relationship between professional majors and market demand might be improved.
The role of the State in the economy
Given the backwardness of the productive forces in Nicaragua, the State should play the role of promoting economic development, the only way of doing away with migration and poverty. Within a scheme of the social market economy, the principal public services (water, health care, education, energy and communications) should be in the hands of the State. The acceptance of mixed enterprises in these areas, and the percentages of private, national or foreign participation, will depend on the needs of each concrete case.
A State bank should exist that would promote financing, at fair interest rates, to the benefit of the peasantry, artisans and small urban and rural producers. To prevent political patronage and corruption that can lead to their bankruptcy, the workers and clients of the state bank should be allowed to form a verification and control commission of the loans, focused on citizen participation.
The profits of the private banks should be regulated, through a policy of fair interest rates, that do not exploit the population.
Agrarian reform and the defense of the environment
The agrarian reform that was promoted under the revolution in the 1979-1990 period was reversed in later decades. A process of land concentration functioned and now we have the existence of new large landowners. This process was possible because the peasantry did not have financial and technical assistance that would allow it to develop agriculture or ranching. Not only should the right of the peasantry to land be ensured, but also the right of peasant women to be owners of land. Likewise, a state bank is needed whose principal function would be to develop the peasant economy. The State should ensure a policy of fair prices for peasant products.
The agricultural production of Nicaragua in large measure rests on small and medium producers. It is necessary that these sectors grow through increase in yields and productivity, more than by the expansion of the agricultural frontier, which has degraded hydrological basins, produced sedimentation and the disappearance of water sources, and destroyed biodiversity.
Protected areas should be expanded, like Bosawás and Indio Maíz, and other new ones created. Protecting the national capital of the country should be a priority – water, soils, forests and biodiversity – the State should ensure that they be used in a sustainable manner.
The agrarian reform should have an ecological approach, one of defense of the land, forests, water and the environment. Zones apt for agriculture should be defined, planting should not be done on hills or inclines, what lands are apt for ranching should be pinpointed. Extensive ranching should be eliminated, promoting the creation of modern farms with breeds of cattle that allow production to increase without the need to destroy forests. Peasant or indigenous communities should be the protectors of the forests. A process of reforestation should be promoted and the protection of natural reserves for the purpose of caring for the water of rivers and lakes.
For true autonomy in the Caribbean Coast
Raising the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast to constitutional status in 1995 implied great progress, but the real effects of the Autonomy Statute of the Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are more formal than real. The principal decisions on the economic resources of the Caribbean Coast, and investment in them, in reality are not up to the Regional Councils, nor the indigenous communities, but the central government, which continues limiting the right to autonomy of the native population.
Not only should the customs, language and culture be preserved, but also the communal forms of organization of the indigenous population, which should administer and protect the natural resources.
Even though it is true that as a result of the struggle of the indigenous communities progress has been made in the titling of communal lands, as long as there is no resettlement of non indigenous on their land, the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast will be a fiction.
Consolidation of municipal autonomy
Municipal autonomy has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1987, but in reality the municipalities are subordinated to the central government, in spite of the existence of the Municipal Law. The role of the State in society should be realized through the municipalities. The national budget should be invested in the municipalities. The role of the central government should be reduced, and the functions decentralized in the municipalities. The structure of the State should rest on the municipalities, who should control education, the supply of potable water, public services, services of police, sewage and the defense of the environment.
The democratization of Nicaragua passes through transferring more national power and resources to the municipal governments.
Reconstructing the Central American nation
In the XXI century the countries of Central America are intimately linked by their economic bases, but not on the level of state superstructure. What happens in some of the countries of Central America has repercussions on the rest. SICA [Spanish acronym for the Central American Integration System] has played a great role as a project for the reunification of the national economies, but it has not achieved the goal. The establishment of PARLACEN was a great step forward on the political plane, but it has very limited functions. We should make more progress. The deputies to PARLACEN should be the same deputies of the national legislative organs, so that there is no separation and ignorance about the regional reality.
We should proceed until achieving the call for a Central American Constituent Assembly that would allow for the creation of a Central American federation or confederacy.
This letter, although written on July 24, was published as a paid ad in La Prensa, on August 2, 2018. Early on in this crisis the Commander in Chief of the Army, General Avilés, issued a press release saying that the Army would not take part in this internal conflict. The position of the Army is seen as a very sensitive issue. On the one hand, it is the institution with the highest approval rating in Nicaraguan society, and was praised – even by the US – for its professionalism. On the other hand, after the US supported military coup in Honduras in June 2009, Ortega took steps to consolidate his effective control over this armed body. So many breathed a sign of relief with the initial statement of neutrality of the Army in this crisis. In fact various Nicaraguan national security analysts since then have attributed Ortega´s use of paramilitary or parapolice forces to the neutrality of the Army. Their analysis is that, given the massive nature of the protest, he was not able to adequately respond with just the police forces available, so has armed other groups favorable to the government. Since then a controversy has arisen as these pro-government parapolice or paramilitary forces have operated with weapons only permitted for the Army, and it has been revealed that many of them are retired military. Thus some are questioning the “neutrality” of the Army in the face of these parapolice forces
Managua, July 24, 2018
General of the Army
Julio César Avilés
Commander in Chief of the Army of Nicaragua
Dear General Avilés
We a group of Nicaraguan women sincerely write to you to ask that the National Army proceed to disarm the parapolice groups that are usurping the functions and equipment of the Institution that you lead, to carry out criminal acts against the civilian population.
The certainty that by constitutional principle the National Army is a “non deliberative and apolitical” institution has moved us to send this letter, in addition to knowing that:
The Political Constitution of Nicaragua establishes in its Article 95 that “there cannot exist other armed bodies in the national territory, nor military ranks than those established by the law.”
In Article 2, Law 855, Law of the Reform and Additions to Law 181, the Code for the Organization, Jurisdiction and Social Military Prevision it is written that the Army should “use its forces and means to fight threats to the national safety and defense, and any illicit activity that would put at risk the existence of the Nicaraguan State, its institutions and the fundamental principles of the nation….”
In addition, the General Assembly of the United Nationa approved on December 4, 1989 the International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries. This Convention establishes in its Articles 1b and 1d that mercenaries are those who without being members of the armed forces of a State, get involved in a conflict with the desire of obtaining personal advantage having been hired by one of the parties in conflict from which they receive material retribution considerably higher to what combatants of similar rank and function receive in the armed forces.
As mothers, workers and professionals, we are extremely upset by the pain of hundreds of mothers and sisters who have lost their children and/or have them disappeared or in prison. The conflict – which exploded in April of this year – is the consequence of a decade of suppresion of liberties. Unfortunately the Government has tried to resolve it with indiscriminate repression, which only has made the problem worse. Even more, to be able to increase the repression, the regime – violating our Constitution – has created irregular mercenary groups who usurping the functions of the National Army murder, kidnap and torture unarmed civilians, using rifles of war and heavy arms that should only be used by the Army.
The existence of these parapolice groups constitutes a threat to our nation and to the existence of our State. The Convention of the UN cited above, having present the experience of other conflicts in which third party parapolice forces have been used, points out that the activities of the mercenary groups when they have happened, “ have contributed to the destabilization of the affected States…”
For Nicaragua to be able to move ahead it is essential that the National Army look for mechanisms to preserve the constitutional order and peace, for which purpose it is key to dismantle and disarm these mercenary forces who are sowing terror among the population, carrying out an illegal war against the true sovereign of the nation, the Nicaraguan people.
Gioconda Belli Lea Guido Josefina Vanini Ximena Ramírez
Vanessa Castro Violeta Granera Mignone Vega Carmen Elizondo
Cristiana Chamorro María Hurtado Mónica Zalaquett Grace March
Ligia Elizondo Malena Montis Ana Eliza Martínez Rita Delia Casco