This is an opinion piece done by Guillermo Rothschuh, writer, essayist and Director of Observatorio de Medios of CINCO, published on July 20 in their digital publication, Confidencial. It addresses one of the principal problems for the future of Nicaragua, no matter how the crisis unfolds – the ongoing polarization of the country.
Will We be Able to Live Together Some Day?
By Guillermo Rothschuh, published in Confidencial July 20, 2018
A fraticidal struggle. The critical moment that Nicaragua is experiencing – with hundreds of dead, wounded, jailed and disappeared – invites reflection. Finding a way out is urgent. The physical and emotional wear and tear is increasing. The division within the Nicaraguan family continues to mount. All of us are obliged to find a response to the crisis that the country is experiencing. Mourning is generating deep resentment. The cry of the mothers shakes the conscience and disrupts reason. None of these deaths are acceptable. The explosion of disagreements on the networks demonstrates again that political differences divide us. They cause fissures difficult to heal. The pooled hate is gushing out. We are drowning!
The stigmatization, campaigns to discredit, report people, accusations and counter accusations, defamation, slander, maliciousness, political and ideological intolerance, intransigence and lack of compassion form part of the daily rations served up in the networks. The discord and slander deepens the gap that separates families. Maybe the worst consequence –in addition to the mourning and crying – for Nicaraguans is that they have lost several of their loved ones. The historic moment that Nicaragua is experiencing made the ethical crisis rise to the surface. The process for healing the wounds is going to be long and painful. The verbal and symbolic lack of restraint and aggressiveness have destroyed the honor and reputation of people. There are no scruples with anyone nor for anyone.
Those most committed to peace should be the rulers, it is not a matter of making false calls for understanding. Attitude and not words are what in the last instance ratify the true feeling of people. It is up to no one more than President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo to take a radical turn in the search for an authentic peace. The country cannot continue bleeding out. Good sense should prevail in the face of all adversity. The asymmetry between the forces in dispute is disproportional. The right of might has never been advisable. Even less among people who form the same human cluster. Each death breaks us up. Cracks the social fabric. Makes it difficul to re-establish national harmony. Leaves uncurable scars.
The amount of deaths and the occupation of property reinstalled the cycle of violence that has shaken Nicaragua since our independence (1821). Will it be possible for us to live together at some time? The reiteration of violence takes us back to the national war (1856-1857). Why have we not been able to dialogue in a natural and more appropriate way to resolve our political differences? Why is the negotation table only returned to when the victor – over a pool of blood – tries to impose his supremacy on the others? The peace of the conquered! An artificial peace. Ficticious. Born from the mouth of a rifle. Nicaraguan rules have been friends to the guerillas and the physical elimination of their opponents.
The systematic use of violence. The US citizen Ephraim George Squier, journalist, diplomat and archaeologist, among the several books that he drafted on the Central America region, one is enough to know the stuff that we are made of. Nicaragua: Its People and Landscapes (1970): a valuable text for identifying our immediate past. Jaime Incer Barquero states that Squier had the honor of leaving us the legacy of “a great wealth of national knowledge through his abundant writings, illustrations and maps, like no other foreigner or occasional traveler through Nicaragua had done before, nor will be able to later.” I speak highly of the assessment of a researcher like Incer Barquero in order that the talent and disposition of Squier be understood. The very primary importance of this text for the knowledge of our political idiosyncracy.
Beween surprised and concerned, Squier confirmed how the winners capitalized on their victories in the ballot boxes. He proved that whoever wins, wins everything! Those who were in disagreement could expect jailing, confiscation, exile or death. I wonder whether evil was left encrusted in the deepest part of being Nicaraguan? Some even think that our propensity to violence comes from farther away. They talk about the Pedrarias Sydrome, referring to Rodrigo Contreras, son in law of Pedrarias and the butcher of Bishop Valdivieso. He did not forgive him for interceding before the Spanish Crown, so that he would not continue enriching himself and killing the indigenous population. With the intention of teaching the citizenry a lesson, he went to a lot of trouble to give him a terrible death.
The closest relationship between the text of Emilio Álvarez Montalván, Cultura política nicaragüense (Fouth edition, Hispamer, 2008) and La Lucha por el Poder (Ardis, 2017) of Enrique Bolaños Geyer is that both coincide in highlighting the systematic use of violence and authoritarianism to resolve our political discords. Álvarez Montalván maintains that “The depth of the drama of our political culture is that we do not like to enter into civic competition with the adversary, rather we have the compulsion to remove him or discredit him using “legal” methods or tricks, like exclusion.” Civic competition causes allergies and rejection. Rulers prefer electoral fraud. They have always sought to control the institution that counts the votes.
Does the disease have no cure? Bolaños Geyer from the beginning opts for highlighting in five chapter titles (out of ten in his book) the words anarchy, war, instability and dynasty. “In 160 years of sovereign life, since May 2, 1838 (when Nicaragua separated itself from the Central American Federation and became completely independent) until 2007 there have been – at the very least – 111 changes of government in which 61 people have participated, many times as the result of a struggle of political caudillos to be installed and tighten their hold for life on the seat of executive power.” He points to these principal people as responsible for the suffering of the Nicaraguan people. The evil continues as a tumor and it would seem that there is no antidote for this disease.
How can one look on the other when dealing with a being of flesh and blood? How can you look on your fellow countryperson, inhabitant of the same territory, with whom at some moment you shared a desk in school, visited the same places, are from the same town, live in the same neighborhood, walked through the same streets, are connected by family ties, played on the same baseball or soccer team, went out on the town with, countless times rode the bus together, are great friends of your brothers, go to the same church, believe in democracy as system of govern,ent, were active members of the same political party and share the same traditions? Are we so blind that we pass over or are not affected by all these affinities? Everthing indicates that yes that is how it is!
As long as there are no substantial changes in our political culture, we will not be able to overcome these inequities. The other continues to be foreign. The closeness that we might have does not matter. The crucial thing in politics continues being how do we conceive of the other? As long as we consider them as our enemy and not as our adversary, we will continue anchored to a past that is ending up nearly impossible to overcome. In Nicaraguan society, the enormous social, economic, racial, educational and cultural inequalities constitute a norm. Perspective has to be changed. What other way is there to leap over hell? The original sin of Sandinism was to try to install uniformity of thought,. An impossible aspiration.
The other is our neighbor! The response is the question, how are we going to resolve the inequalities that we have with others? It will be positive if we understand that all of us live in the same planet and we live under the same sky. “All of us inhabitants of our planet are Others to other Others: I to them, they to me” notes Ryszard Kapuscinski. I have the impression that we – Nicaraguans – have not been able to find ourselves with our-other-selves. The ways in which political controversies historically have been settled constitute a warning. A tragic sign. We are entering the XXI Century with very high levels of intolerance. Disagreeing continues to be a crime. This has been proven during these months of civic insurrection.
The number of resources used to destroy the other – catalogue of greviences presented by Emilio Álvarez Montalván – present in the Nicaraguan political culture of this century, are similar to the exclusions pointed out by Squier. Censure, confiscation, exile, jail –“trials to justify legalized imprisonment” – up to physical elimination. An unending spiral. Our history would seem to move on a stationary bicycle (the metaphor we owe to the philosopher Alejandro Serrano Caldera). As long as we do not break this iron circle, we will continue stuck in the same place! We have not been able to retrace history. The caudillos have known how to sweet talk their followers. They continue to keep them captivated.
To be able to live together – in other words, to be able to live in peace – we have to quit considering the other as the enemy. No one should be criminalized nor persecuted nor jailed for dissenting. Much less killed! How much it is costing us to break with the values of the past! We need to put a stop to this! Go back to the dialogue table. On one occasion the poet José Coronel Urtecho said to me: Rhymester, we Nicaraguans are genetically sons of bitches. Accept it, poet! It is not a matter of a cultural problem.” I refuse to accept it. Like the Chinese, let us see the crisis as an opportunity. If we do not get on the train of history today, we will lose a new occasion to re-encounter ourselves. Then it will be concluded that we are hopelessly lost.