Student Interview: Víctor Cuadras: “It is unacceptable that Ortega try to stay in power”

The massive protests have been led by university students, who also are key players in the National Dialogue. This is an interview of one of those student leaders

Víctor Cuadras: “It is unacceptable that Ortega try to stay in power”

University leader states that moving up the elections is with Ortega out of power

Translation of article written by Lucia Navas in La Prensa, June 14, 2018

“We are united. None of us went to talk as a movement, we spoke as the University Coalition,” says Victor Cuadras.

Víctor Cuadras, one of the representatives of the University Coalition of Nicaragua, in this interview with La Prensa, states that Friday with the renewal of the national dialogue they will maintain the demand that elections be moved up, but with the president designated by the electoral branch, Daniel Ortega, out of power.

“It is unacceptable that Ortega try to stay in power. The elections should happen without him. Friday what has to be discussed in the dialogue is the agenda for the democratization that the Episcopal Conference presented, and what Ortega´s response is,” stated Cuadras.

The concern of the Coalition, Cuadras states, is that the dialogue will be renewed without the government ceasing the brutal repression of the paramilitary forces and the Police against the population.

“We have sent Daniel the message through different ways that his presence in the country is as damaging for the people as it is damaging for him. If he resists leaving for more time, he will lose the opportunity to leave,” stated Cuadras.

What does this mean? Is there still an opportunity in the dialogue that Daniel Ortega be pardoned for all the crimes of his government in this repression?

The people are still willing that Daniel and his family would take a plane and leave the country, but a time will come when the people are not going to want that. The moment will come where the people are going to want to take measures in their own hands. People will tire and a moment will come where they are going to want to jail him and his wife (Rosario Murillo) for life, and all the other (officials) who have formed part of all the repression and corruption. The possibility exists that he, Rosario and their children can leave the country, and leave Nicaragua peacefully. History has shown us that this is what this type of dictators are looking for when they face situations like this.

The result of the trip to the US

The representatives of the university students, Cuadras, Zayda Hernández, Fernando Sánchez, along with Migueliuth Sandoval Cruz, the widow of the journalist Ángel Gahona, last week held a series of meetings with nine Republican and Democratic Congresspeople and Senators, as well as officials of the US government, to whom they denounced the crimes and human rights violations that the Nicaraguan population in protest is suffering at the hands of the Ortega regime. The citizen protest this Wednesday marks 57 days, and the repression of Ortega has left more than 140 deaths.

The trip included a meeting with the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in addition to officials of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Amnesty International and other civil organizations.

What concretely did you achieve with these encounters?

The most important of all is that these people like (Republican Senators) Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio used their voices and were direct in their accusations (against the government of Ortega) and they gave their voice to the Nicaraguan people. That is very important (because) no one as Nicaraguans has had spaces to make denouncements within the Congress of the United States, but Ileana Ross lent her voice and time to focus on the issue of Nicaragua. Getting political actors of this size to be interested in Nicaragua and willing to back the demands of the people is highly important.

Secondly, we were able to gegt six more names (of Nicaraguan government officials) to be included in the (possible) sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Law (like) Francisco López (vicepresident of Albanisa), Francisco Díaz (General Commissioner and Assistant Director of the Police), Roberto López (president of INSS), Sonia Castro (Minister of Health), Gustavo Porras (president of the National Assembly), and the secretary general of the Municipal Government (of Managua), Fidel Moreno. All are human rights violators and political agents who have been involved in the entire circle of corrupt power and the hegemonization of this dictatorship.

Are they promising quick sanctions on these officials?

Yes. This takes a process of months because you cannot include sanctions under the Magnitsky Law if there is not enough proof to demonstrate their guilt, but in the case of Francisco López and Francisco Díaz there is an arsenal of proof and these are the next two names to come out in the sanctions. With the rest we are getting proof but more needs to be gathered.

With (the General Commissioner and Assistant Director of the Police) Francisco Díaz it is very easy. There is a lot of videos and photographs that connect the National Police to acts of state terrorism, to murders, kidnappings and torture. The National Police have a chain of command and if Aminta Granera is not longer (heading it), the one in charge is Francisco Diaz, therefore he becomes an intellectual actor of all that the Police does against the Nicaraguan people, and as the highest authority he is the person who must respond for the action of every police person. Inevitably that makes him guilty of the violation of human rights and corruption.

Who set the agenda of the University Coalition in Washington?

The invitation we received was personal, with our names on it.

Who invited you?

(The organization) Freedom House through Carlos Ponce who is the director for Latin America. It was a direct invitation to Zayda Hernández, Fernando Sánchez and Víctor Cuadras and we raised our voices as the University Coalition.

Who are in that Coalition?

The five movements: April 19 University Movement, April 19 Student Movement, the Coordinator for Justice and Democracy, the University Alliance of Nicaragua amd the National Agrarian University.

Before traveling did you communicate to the Coalition that you had this invitation? Was the agenda you addressed agreed upon with them or did you define it with someone else?

The agenda was defined with Freedom House. We got the confirmation of the trip on Friday (June 1) afternoon. (…) We in the Coalition throughout these weeks have been defining the strategies, what are the changes in the Constitution to obtain democracy and later the rule of law. That is what we were going to talk about and defend in Washington. We determined that we would do a process of denouncement and present strategic plans.

Did the trip cause fractures in the Coalition? I ask you because there were declarations from another member questioning what you three did in Washington.

We are united. None of us went to talk as a movement, we spoke as the University Coalition. Yes at one moment there was discomfort on the part of some, but it has to do with the fact that there are certain actors and interests that at a certain moment wanted to cause division. I am not going to mention names because that would bring more problems, but they were actors external to the Coalition. But at no time has this caused damage to the University Coalition because we have spoken the truth and we have been transparent. We did a lot of recording of audio and video of those encounters and we have shared them.

Harley Morales, a colleague of yours, in a recent interview stated that he was not in agreement with the encounters that you three had with the hard right wing of the Republicans of the US.

There is no division in the Coalition, but Victo Cuadras does not think the same as Harley Morales, nor does Lesther Alemán, nor Zayda Hernández, nor Fernando Sánchez. We are 46 young people within the Coalition who are in a safe house, in addition to the rest outside, and we cannot think the same. I come from a political education from the left, my political principles go along the center left, but that does not mean that I am going to refuse to meet with someone from the right wing who is willing to help me. That is politics. And if that person with whom I do not share political ideas is willing in these circumstances to give me the political support of denouncement, which is the only thing that we need, I am in agreement with receiving their support, which does not turn me into the ultraright. And nor is there anything bad in being on the right. At this moment, in the circumstances that we are facing in the country in facing the repressiom of the Government, it is a matter of uniting conservatives, leftists, liberals, republicans, democrats, rightists…at this moment there are no political regions. Everything is overcome.

On returning from the trip to Washington have you reported to the students entrenched in the Universities, like the UNAN?

Groups of representatives of the Coalition have come to be informed, because not all, nor every day can we move about in the streets. We have to have control because of the daily threats we receive from the government, I receive more than a hundred threats every day.

What specifically did you achieve with Luis Almagro of the OAS?

Unfortunately Luis Almagro has been made to seem as an enemy of Nicaragua, and he is not. When I returned I was emphatic in saying that we had obtained an ally in the people of the United States and another ally in the OAS. Sectors of the de facto opposition and of the government had visited Luis Almagro, but never representatives of the students and civil society. In the encounter in the beginning Luis was bothered because he felt attacked by the press and sectors of Nicaraguan society. We told him that this was in reaction to the coldness with which he was acting and the OAS in general in the face of the grave crisis. He promised to be in ongoing communication and that is happening. He received from my hands the proposals for constitutional reforms and I was clear with him about what the Nicaraguan people want and need and what the OAS should do for Nicaragua.

His commitment is to review with a group of experts what was viable, look for a critical route to set dates and possible agenda so that they would happen step by step.

The path proposed by the OAS a week ago would let Ortega finish his period im 2021. Did you address that?

Yes, he (Almagro) said that, but we were hard as stone in our rejection. There was a plan presented by Ortega which is to finish his period and that meanwhile, the electoral reforms would be happening that the OAS had recommended. We told him that the people do not accept that, that it is not necessary for Ortega to be in power for those reforms to happen. I left it very clear to him that since the moment in which the government murdered the first fellow Nicaraguan on April 19th, the relationship between government-people had been broken, and that as a people we did not recognize this government. And in addition there are a series of repressive attitudes on the part of the State that turn it into a bad thing and not a good thing for the country. We left him clear that it is the majority of Nicaraguans who are struggling to build the country that they want, and that is not a coup.

How much time will the OAS take to respond about the path for democratization that includes Ortega´s departure?

Next week on the part of the heart of the OAS there should be a pronouncement about this. In addition with the renewal of the dialogue on Friday, the OAS soon will send their group of experts to join it. We asked the OAS, the UN, the IACHR, the Carter Center, the European Union to send their groups of experts because we need that there be impartiality around the electoral issue and the search for democracy, they need to have impartial auditors.

What is the agenda of the University Coalition at almost two months of struggle against the Government?

It continues to be the same, even improved. Since the beginning we defined that the number one point is democratization and this implies a series of partial reforms to the Constitution. We have done a task where each article of the Constitution was taken, and what should be eliminated and what should be added were marked. When you have a strong constitution that represents the popular will, you go on to the transformation of the organic laws of each branch of the State, and all that leads you to having a true rule of law. With democracy and the rule of law we can have free, transparent and fair early elections. Later we are going after the issue of justice, when we have a new Attorney General and a Supreme Court. There is a step by step process to ensure that this can happen. We have some people who are anonymous who are excellent jurists and constitutional experts who have given us insights.

Are politicians advising you?

We have resisted the approach of any political party. Because we are not a coalition that is the daughter of any political party, we are an organic university movement and that is how we want to remain. This does not prevent us from being able to have conversations with opposition parties, but they have to be equal to equal, I am refering to the fact that I am not going to sit down with so and so from party X to discuss a political issue where he thinks that the Coalition has to subordinate itself to their position. Both of us are equals at the table.

Would you accept parties within the Civic Alliance?

No, because the Nicaraguan people are tired of dirty politics and traditional politics. We are committed as the Civic Alliance and the University Coalition to a profound change in the way of doing politics.


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