This is a translation of an interview of Fr. José Alberto Idiáquez, S.J. the President of the Central American University in Managua published in El País, a Spanish newspaper based in Madrid, written by Carlos Salinas on June 15, 2018. Fr. Idiáquez is a participant in the National Dialogue, and has received death threats from pro government supporters.
“Ortega is going to end as a murderer”
The Jesuit priest, threatened with death, does not rule out a new civil war after the violence unleashed by the Nicaraguan president, but is committed to a solution through dialogue.
May 30, 2018 will be remembered as one of the darkest days in the history of Nicaragua. On that day President Daniel Ortega ordered the attack on an enormous demonstration that brought into Managua hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans in support of the mothers of the victims of the violent events of April, when protests began against a reform to social security imposed by Ortega without consensus. The attack on the March of the Mothers left dozens dead and wounded, and plunged the capital of Nicaragua into terror. That afternoon the Jesuit priest José Alberto Idiáquez had to make a key decision: open the gates of the Central American University to provide refuge to some 5,000 terrified people who were fleeing bullets. This gesture surely saved lives, but has cost Idiáquez the hate of the regime. The priest has denounced death threats and directly holds the Government of Daniel Ortega responsible for what may happen. These threats have alerted the Jesuit community – that keeps in their DNA the massacre of the priests in the UCA in San Salvador in 1989 –who have requested protection for the priest. Idiáquez (Managua, 1958) assures in this interview that he is not afraid of denouncing the abuses committed by Ortega against human rights in Nicaragua. He is part of the Civic Alliance that is trying to negotiate, with the mediation of the Church, a peaceful way out of the profound crisis that wounds this small country. The dialogue, he tells El País in a living room of the villa that the Jesuits have on the UCA campus, “is the only thing that can lead us to no more bloodshed”, even though he admits that it is difficult to negotiate with Ortega, a man, he assures, that “can do anything, even order anyone killed.” Idiáquez is afraid that a new civil war will erupt in Nicaragua and states that the president will go down in history “as a murderer.”
The Church, the bishops, the priests have played a key role in this crisis, even at the risk of their lives. How do you see the involvement of the Church in this process?
It seems to me that it is what we have to do. Pope Francis has been clear in saying that we have to be priests but in sheep´s clothing. As the president of a Jesuit university it is my responsibility to be at the front with all the students. After all that has happened in Nicaragua, I think that Ortega can do anything, even order anyone killed. The massacre of the mothers on May 30 was an atrocity and shows his desperation and what he is capable of. What happened that day served to confirm that we have an irrational government, that it does not matter to him to kill the best that the country has, which is the youth.
Do you think the bishops have enough force to make a change in Nicaragua?
At this moment there is great confidence in the Episcopal Conference for the role that it has played in the dialogue. It has been the priests who have done a great job of mediating, so that neither police nor the population are killed. There is great courage. The declarations of the bishops are clear positions to try to stop the repression.
Do you think that too much responsibility has been left in the hands of the bishops?
It is a very big responsibility, even more so because you are talking with a person who does not seem to be reasonable, but what I am interested in is someone who able to stop the dynamic of these people (Ortega and his wife, the Vice president Rosario Murillo), who are not assuming the responsibility for daily murdering people, from April 18 to now. Everyday we get up looking at how many died, or how many were disappeared, how many have been tortured. That fact that at this point they have not stopped killing is a bad sign, a very negative sign, it would seem that his option is to impose fear and terror. Who can govern killing people? It is impossible! This makes the population continue to be angry, beaten.
You have denounced death threats. Rolando Alvarado, the leader of the Jesuits of Central America, holds the Nicaraguan Government responsible if anything happens to you. Are the threats coming from the Executive Branch?
Yes. I am clear that if they kill me it is the Government that will have given the order, or people close to them. What I have done is defend my students, and I have to put myself on the side of a people who are being crucified and murdered every day. And as a Jesuit and President of this university I have the responsibility to speak at this moment, because our mission is not just being in academics, it is also protecting life.
In the DNA of the Central American Jesuits are the murders of the priests in the UCA in San Salvador. Do you feel unsafe in Nicaragua?
This is a country where there is misgovernment, there is no control over anything, and at any moment they kill you, or threaten you for having said something that the Government does not like. This is a country where we all are experiencing great insecurity. It gives the impression that the message that the Government sends is that life is not worth anything, that they can kill us for disagreeing, for thinking, for seeking freedom of expression, for protesting. But the fact of receiving threats does not mean that they are going to shut me up, I am going to continue denouncing that youth are being killed in Nicaragua.
You are part of the National Dialogue roundtable that is trying to find a way out of the crisis. Does this dialogue make sense after neary 150 deaths, hundreds of wounded, disappeared and a wave of terror unleashed in Nicaragua?
I think that we cannot allow this space to die. Dialogue is the only thing that can lead us to no more bloodshed, prevent this country from turning into a river of blood. The dialogue is what would allow us to come up with humane alternatives. The impression is given, nevertheless, that Mr. Ortega is playing more on intimidating the country, to continue killing so that people would be afraid. If we continue in this situation the expectations of the dialogue will be reduced. The dialogue roundtable is not disconnected from the street, and we represent those people who are being tortured, massacred, which is why it is going to get harder and harder to be able to sit down with a people who are beaten, inflamed.
Are there possibilities that a way out of the crisis be found in this dialogue? And what would that be?
Yes, as long as the President responds. I think that the way out should be peaceful. The only way to get out of this without a blood bath is dialoguing and being able to reach rational agreements, even though we know that you cannot dialogue at a table while they are killing the population in the streets. It gives the impression that Mr. Ortega is only accustomed to dialoguing with people who are armed at the other side of the table. He does not want to see that the more people he kills, the more angry the population is, and the more willing to take to the streets.
Do you think there is the risk of another civil war in Nicaragua?
Unfortunately I do not rule it out. What the people say is, “We are fed up with them killing us every day.” There is going to come a time when the people are no longer able to just brave the situation.
What do you think of President Daniel Ortega?
For me it has been a sadness, disappointing, to see that a man who in one moment used to talk so much about freedom, revolution, would end this way. We used to think that we would never have a Somoza again, but Ortega and Murillo are making Somoza look little. It seems to me that a person who offered the people heaven and that now has us in hell, under fire, is going to end up as a murderer, is going to pass into history in a very sad way.
What ending do you see? Will there be more bloodshed? Will Ortega be able to cede power with a peaceful departure?
For what I am seeing at this moment he is not willing to leave power peacefully. What we have talked about with the Bishops is that we have to fight with every means possible so that there is no more bloodshed, no civil war, that this country is not going to be able to resist. It gives the impression that Mr. Daniel Ortega and Ms. Rosario Murillo want to leave the country destroyed.
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.
Nicaragua: the end of Ortega Murillo / Oscar-René Vargas / June 12, 2018
Uniformed police, sharpshooters, para-police forces close to the Ortega-Murillo government shoot at close range at disarmed people. The para-police forces are applying state terrorism mechanisms against unarmed and peaceful civilians. Under these conditions a dialogue cannot be held with the government, say the Bishops of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN).
In this political-social struggle no one is neutral. There are different levels of awareness, different levels of commitment, different capacities for sacrifice, but 90% of the population wants a definitive change, because Ortegism in crisis has revealed an unacceptable criminal face.
Up to June 11, 2018 at least 150 deaths had been counted, more than 1,500 wounded, hundreds of disappeared and political prisoners. Without exaggeration it can be said that the repression of the Ortega dictatorship against the peaceful demand for justice and democracy is a massacre.
Very few citizens prefer to continue living under a regime that murders unarmed students, and ends up being unviable for the future stability of the country. The essence of the current matter lies in the circumstances and methods that will produce the change, the fall of Ortega-Murillo.
The ethical, moral and institutional foundations of Nicaragua up to April 17, 2018 were already undermined, the Ortega-Murillo government and big business had sold a false image, a fiction of: individual and legal security, economic growth and peace. Ignoring the innumerable deficiencies of the population, the unemployment, poverty, inequality and lack of social justice.
Since the start of the crisis, in practice Ortega-Murillo and their family are prisoners in their residence in El Carmen (residence and offices of the dictatorial power), because they cannot move about peacefully in the capital and much less in the rest of the country. Which demonstrates the social isolation they are under.
Less than two months since the beginning of the social-political crisis, the S&P Global Ratings agency changed the prospects of the credit rating from stable to negative. This raises the cost of commercial financing that Nicaragua obtains outside the country and makes the country less attractive for foreign investment.
June 12, the 24 hour strike called by civil society and the different productive sectors of the city of León is nearly 100% effective, the streets appear deserted, the transportation sector that includes taxis and buses are very scarce. Most of the population of León joined the strike, an example of struggle that can be imitated by other cities of the nation.
The strike in the city of León, the second most important city in Nicaragua, is a total success. The markets of the Estación and Central are closed and protected by the merchants. The surroundings are closed, neither the Municipal Government nor the Police have been able to remove the barricades in the center of the city. The principal stores of the city are closed: Gallo más Gallo, La Curacao, El Verdugo, El Tropigas, Sinsa, Pali, Proquinsa, etc. The streets are deserted and the few that are traveled, people are moving about in motorcycles, vehicles and on foot. They are out looking, taking photos so that no one can tell them or deceive them with “face new”. This can be repeated on the national level. In León the strike was able to be done.
Since Ortega came to power, January 2007, he stablished an alliance with big business. Until April 2018 that sector had maintained support for the Ortega-Murillo government. After the civic insurrection of April-May-June it has distanced itself from the government. Nevertheless, it aims at a soft exit that means: early elections, that everything would change so that nothing changes.
Not only is the Ortega-Murillo government to blame for all this, but all the oligarchy and political elite of this country, by complicity or by incapacity. The agreement between the Ortega-Murillo government, big business and unions has allowed Ortega-Murillo to govern without counterweights, preverting state institutions and eliminating the opposition, with the blessing and complicity of big business that, in exchange, dictated the economic measures and benefitted from the State.
The country does not have true opposition parties. They were bought out, neutralized or declared illegal. The role of a true opposition is being played by the students, the people in the barricades, the peasants, civil society and the self convened people in general.
13 The current political-social crisis blocked all the institutions, none can act independently. The legislative branch, police, Supreme Court, Attorney General, Comptroller, Supreme Electoral Council and the principal municipal governments are subordinated to and controled by Ortega-Murillo.
The dictatorial state has become, in it entirety, a terrorist State. We see mayors directing paramilitary and gang members to repress defenseless people. We see the Minister of Health ordering doctos in the public hospitals to not treat wounded citizens.
The police and para-police forces are acting hand in hand with the central power and/or municipal power. All are applying a policy of fear against the population to demobilize the social protests in effect. Nevertheless, the disproportionate repression on the part of the police forces and the shock forces close to the government has resulted in the population joining the civic insurrection.
A decade of unlimited authoritarianism, an accumulation of indignation in the face of the abuses, arbitrary actions, corruption, inequalities, unemployment, unpunished crimes lit the fuse of the protest. In other words, the ever more absolute and suffocating arrogance of power helped the protest to become generalized.
The decision of Ortega-Murillo to organize and arm criminals, provide them complete impunity and license to kill, steal, loot and burn public and private establishments. These forces are acting in the barrios, in the cities, in attacks on barricades with complete impunity and accompanied or protected by the police. These criminal forces are the ones responsible for the crimes with the unarmed civilian population and for attacks on businesses.
For this reason the population places the police on the same level as mobs, criminal forces, para-police forces and the armed groups acting outside the law.
The Ortega-Murillo objective is to lead/push the civic and unarmed protest to the path of armed confrontation. At the same time, the strategy of the Ortega-Murillo government has been and continues to be to gain time, wear down the ranks of the rebellion and use indiscriminate repression against the population to plant fear and terror.
Another objective of the Ortega-Murillo government is to endure as long as possible, thinking that people will get tired and desperation will set in. At the same time, through the Organization of American States (OAS), provide oxigen to the puppet opposition that they control. The Secretary General of the OAS has been questioned for his closeness to Ortega-Murillo.
The strategy of Ortega-Murillo is to indiscriminately repress in order to try to change the correlation of forces, combined with the removal of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua as mediators of the national dialogue. Their objective is to put in the OAS as mediator and include in the dialogue the puppet parties, evangelical sectors close to the government, for the purpose of changing the direction of the ongoing negotiations.
22. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations (UN) on the situation of defenders of Human Rights refers to the situation that Nicaragua is experiencing and that is seriously affecting the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful association and political participation, as well as the right to life and personal integrity.
The social-political crisis that Nicaragua is experiencing is having an impact on the other Central American countries in three ways: trade activity, since much of the merchandise that moves about on land has to go through Nicaragua; the negative effects on the economy of each country; and the social and political repercussions that can be presented through the existing communication vessels between the countries of the Central American region.
On the days of June 10-11, government repression increased in several principal cities of the country (Jinotega, Matagalpa, Jinotepe, Diriamba, Las Maderas, Masaya, Sébaco, Estelí, Ocotal, Somoto, Mulukukú, etc.), and also in the eastern neighborhoods of the capital, Managua, where once again the population pointed out police, para militaries as those responsible for the aggression against the citizenry that are demonstrating against the Ortega regime.
Land takeovers are reported throught the Pacific side by members of the paramilitary forces. It is the form of payment of the Ortega-Murillo government to the paramilitary, in exchange for attacking the barricades and using them as para-police forces against the civic demonstrators. That is why they are so aggressive. The regime trafficks with poverty and need to turn them into hitmen. The last four murders in Chinandega have been caused by these forces installed as land takeovers. In Managua they are in the area of Ciudad Belén and are heading toward Sábana Grande (close to the international airport).
In each city or community (León, Chinandega, Managua, Carazo, Matagalpa, Estelí, etc.) it is known who are those who are illegally invading land: marginal and criminal groups. The land is invaded under police protection and the protection of the political secretaries of the party in power. These groups are establishing territorial bases from which they can operate flagrantly to commit crimes and terrorize the population. The strategy of Ortega-Murillo is to unleash chaos so that the population will ask for State intervention.
Ortega has regrouped the lumpen forces that they can, in some places more and in other places less, to make them act as paramilitaries, attacking people from their own town, neighborhood or city, or in neighboring towns, neighborhoods and cities. They are calling this a “Cleanup Operation” and the mayors, political secretaries and their principal leaders in each place are actively involved.
The Army cannot live in a bubble during this civic revolution, on the margins of the fate of the country. The Army will have to openly choose between the democratic republic or the dictatorship. The current prudence of the Army indicates that it has larger interests than those that the corrupt legal framework of Ortega offers. The Army, for their survival, has to separate itself from the irreparable errors of the Ortega-Murillo government.
The Army as an institution has become an important economic power principally in real estate. At the same time, it has large investments in the NY stock market. For these reasons it cannot openly support Ortega-Murillo. Any open involvement would have disastrous consequences for the institution on the national as well as international levels.
According to another opinion survey, more than 70% of the Nicaraguan population over 16 years of age agree with the demands of the student movement and other sectors, that Daniel Ortega resign and abandon power along with his wife Rosario Murillo, the Vice President of the Republic, because they think that they are the principal people responsible for the massacre of more than 150 people, from April 18 to today.
Information that circulates in the social networks, coming from workers at the international airport of Managua, indicate that two private jets have landed from Venezuela, coming from the airport in Maiquetía/Caracas, one of the planes is a military plane and it was denounced that it brought in weapons and munitions.
Ortega-Murillo are cornered. They have lost important sectors of their social base, according to the same opinion survey only between 14-18% of the population surveyed supports them. Many of their officials secretly have ceased supporting them, they do not say so publicly, but they manifest it on a personal and private level, some have secretly left the country.
Each day the peaceful insurrection continues Ortega-Murillo lose the ability to continue governing. Ortega-Murillo are being left with only repression to be able to remain in power. This distances them from a negotiation process with a “soft exit”, the people are not going to allow them to remain in the country in any departure that is established. We are at a true crossroads where Ortega-Murillo accept leaving power, or the crisis is going to be extended, without a favorable prognosis.
On June 9 a messenger arrived, sent by the President of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate. He has had meetings with the Bishops, Ortega-Murillo, bankers and sectors of big business. The message is; support the Episcopal Conference as the mediators of the dialogue; move up elections with national and international electoral observation; stop the repression; and the departure from power of Ortega-Murillo.
The US pressure is strong, with the threat that the US Senate could approve a law, in case the indiscriminate repression continues, that would directly affect the Ortega-Murillo family, ministers and governmental allies.
There are three possible scenarios for a way out: first scenario: that Ortega with fire and blood is able to overcome the crisis and remain in power indefinitely. Not very probable scenario.
Second scenario: that an agreement be reached for a soft exit with elections moved up for 2019. a) that Ortega is able to negotiate that he would remain in power to organize the elections. b) that Ortega would have to resign and a transition government would assume control. This scenario is seen as the most probable, leveraged by the US, big business, sector of Ortega´s followers, the Army and some members of the Episcopal Conference.
Third scenario: as a product of the increase in social insurrection, barricades and the strike in the principal cities, Ortega abandons power and a Transition Junta is called, a Constituent National Assembly is called to refound the State. The magistrates of the Supreme Court, Supreme Electoral Council, mayors involved in the repression, Comptrollers, Attorney General, pincipal leaders of the Police, etc are all removed.
Managua, June 12, 2018.
 Oscar René Vargas joined the FSLN in 1967, and went into exile that same year. In the 1980s he was an advisor to the National Directorate, and in June 2007 was named Ambassador to France.. That nomination was revoked after he gave an interview to La Prensa. He is an economist and sociologist, and the author of 55 books.
 written before the national strike was called for June 14
We have received your message to the Nicaraguan people with a lot of recognition and respect, expressing your decision to accompany the Dialogue Process that we are installing in our country, to take up the paths of Reconciliation and Work, those paths that Nicaraguan familias demand of all of us.
We profoundly thank Your Most Reverend Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and all the Bishops for continuing to contribute to the Encounter, to Tolerance and peaceful coexistence in our country.
We fully share your proposal of sectors who would be able to participate in the National Dialogue Sessions. And we would add others that we consider important.
Once again our gratitude, in the name of Nicaraguan families and the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, for your disposition to participate as Mediators and Witnesses in these important events of the current history of Nicaragua.
We give thanks to God because in this Christian Nicaragua, with your presence, all of us will make the difference.
Daniel Ortega Saavadra
President of the Republic of Nicaragua
Managua, May 11, 2018
Your Most Reverend Eminence
Cardinal Leopoldo Josñé Brenes Solórzano
Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Managua
and President of the Bishops Conference of Nicaragua
Bishops of the Bishops Conference of Nicaragua
With respect and recognition we want to thank each one of you, and especially your most reverend Cardinal Leopoldo José, for the communication that we just received about the National Dialogue, so important and necessary to create the best possible conditions for Peace and Work in our Nicaragua.
We have read with a lot of attention, responsibility and care each one of your recommendations, and we recognize in them the constructive intention and evangelical spirit characteristic of your noble pastoral work.
We are in agreement with working on each one of the points proposed there, taking into account that in all of them your good will is shown as Mediators and Witnesses, expressed also in the third paragraph of your recent communication of April 24th:
“To facilitate the climate of dialogue we consider essential and imperative that the Government as well as each member of civil society: avoid all acts of violence, disrespect for public and private property, and that a serene climate prevail of absolute respect for the human lives of each and every Nicaraguan.”
We receive in that Spirit expressed by Your Eminence and Your Excellencies the proposals contained in points 1 through 4 of your letter today. We agree with your high religious authority on the need for the end to violence, intimidation and aggression against citizens, and we add our great concern on environments of terror created in the communities, where beyond the peaceful protests, that we respect absolutely, acts of violence are multiplying, that are destroying and affecting the quality of life of Nicaraguans of all ages, that cry out to God for the return to normality.
We can assure you that we are continuing and will continue working so that the Truth and responsibilities be established around the painful and tragic acts of recent weeks, and we commit to strengthen all Freedoms, as is incumbent on a responsible, serious government, respectful of all expressions of life, culture and humanity.
We reiterate before your High Authority, Your Most Reverend Leopoldo José, and Bishops of the Bishops Conference of our country, our commitment to dialogue, justice, safety and peace, and we remain open to hearing and incorporating all the contributions that represent the unity of purposes so that Nicaragua might be, in every sense, always better.
We assure Your Eminence and Your Excellencies that with humility and consideration we received your message and we write this response, understanding that we are all ready to go to your call for Dialogue at the soonest date possible for the tranquility of all Nicaraguans.
May Peace come!
May the Heart of Jesus be manifested and reign!
May Mary, Queen and Mother of Nicaragua protect us!
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2)
“The love of Christ urges us” (II Cor 5,14)
The Bishops Conference of Nicaragua, after praying, listening and asking for the light of the Holy Spirit:
Accepts being “mediator and witness” to the dialogue convoked by the President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega Saavadra, on Sunday April 22 of this year, in the face of the very serious situations that the Nicaraguan nation have experienced and that have worsened in the last week.
In order to facilitate the climate for dialogue we think it is essential and imperative that the Government as well as each member of civil society: avoid all acts of violence, of disrespect for public and private property and that a serene climate prevail and one of absolute respect for the human lives of each and every Nicaraguan.
We hope that, with a sincere spirit and willingness to help the country and find the paths for the peace that rests on justice, equity and law, different brother and sister Nicaraguans painfully in conflict and civil society would accept us as mediators and witnesses. We leave ourselves awaiting your respective acceptances.
Putting our nation and hearts at the feet of the Lord and the maternal intercession and protection of the Most Holy Virgin May, and trusting ourselves to the prayers of the people of Nicaragua, we want to make our closeness and prayers as servants of the Lord reach each one of you, in the name of our priests, religious brothers and sisters, especially to the families of the dead, wounded and those affected by this conflict.
BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA ON THE NATIONAL DIALOGUE: MAY 3, 2018
…The Episcopal Conference last Tuesday April 24 in the afternoon issued a statement where it accepted to be the Mediator and Witness to the dialogue, proposing to the government the need to create an environment and basic and ideal conditions to establish said dialogue, among which would be the liberation of the youth; withdrawing the paramilitary forces, police and anti-riot police from the demonstrators; the freedom of expression and the press; the publication of a new presidential decree that would revoke the previous decree that had done reforms on the INSS and that hurt the Nicaraguan people; the search for the disappeared, for which the Government asked us for a list of names, and Human Rights groups have provided us with preliminary lists; an open agenda for sectors directly involved in the dialogue and an initial proposal from those sectors with some actors.
We the Bishops of Nicaragua have believed it helpful that after one month of having started the National Dialogue we will call a halt to assess the willingness, the implementation and the serious and real fulfillment that the parties have shown. If we the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua evaluate that these steps are not being taken, we would inform the people of God who we are accompanying and would tell them that this cannot continue in this way, and that it was not able to be done. We also believe that the objective of this National Dialogue must be “reviewing the political system of Nicaragua from it roots, to achieve an authentic democracy.” We also believe that the topic of the painful deaths suffered during the university demonstrations must be thoroughly clarified. We make a call to the university students to finish organizing themselves as soon as possible and set their agenda and their representatives. Likewise to be attentive to groups outside the student movement who are acting aggressively, sowing confusion. The place of the National Dialogue, which we think should be installed as soon as possible, will be Our Lady of Fatima Interdiocesan Seminary . We ask all the sectors that are involved in this National Dialogue to make a public pronouncement providing their respective support to the people proposed to participate directly in the dialogue, choose their agenda to be proposed in the plenary session and open our hearts to good will so that “the questions opened might be peacefully resolved and with a sense of responsibility,” as Pope Francisco encouraged in the Angelus on Sunday Aprill 22, 2018.
PRESS RELEASE May 31, 2018
To the People of God and men and women of good will:
We the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua have experienced with profound pain the violent events carried out last night by armed groups allied with the government against the civilian population. We energetically condemn all these violent acts against the exercise of peaceful free demonstrations and we absolutely reject this organized and systemic aggression against the people, which has left dozens of wounded and some people dead.
We cannot continue allowing this inhumane violence “that destroys the lives of the innocent, that teaches to kill and equally disrupts the lives of those who kill, that leaves behind a trail of resentment and hate, and makes more difficult the just solution of the very problems that caused it” (Centesimus Annus, 52).
We the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference condemn these acts of repression on the part of groups close to the government, and we want to leave clear that the National Dialogue cannot be renewed as long as the people of Nicaragua continue being denied the right to freely demonstrate and continue being repressed and murdered.
At this moment in which the history of our country continues being stained with blood, we cry out to Jesus Crucified, who on resurrecting from the dead conquered evil and death with the strength of his infinite love. “Oh, Cross of Christ, we teach that the dawn of the sun is stronger than the darkness of night. Oh Cross of Christ, we teach that the apparent victory of evil fades in the face of the empty tomb and in the face of the certainty of the Resurrection and the love of God, which nothing can defeat or darken or weaken” (Pope Francis, Holy Friday 2016). That Mary, the grieving Virgin, whose heart was pierced by a sword in the face of the pain of her Son on the Cross (Lk 2:35), consoles so many Nicaraguan mothers who suffer over the murder of their sons and watch over all our people with maternal love.
Issued in the city of Managua on the thirty first day of the month of May of the the two thousand eighteenth year of the Lord.
PRESS RELEASE OF THE BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA: June 6, 2018
We the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, as mediators and witnesses to the National Dialogue, inform the Nicaraguan people that after listening to several sectors of national and international society, we are asking the President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega Savaadrea, for a meeting to deal with the issues so indispensable and essential for our country, concerning justice and democracy, on which peace always depends, with the purpose of assessing in the plenary session of the Dialogue the helpfulness of carrying it forward.
This meeting has been accepted by the President, it will be tomorrow Thursday June 7 at 3:00pm in la Casa de los Pueblos.
After that meeting, we will be reporting to the national and international community about the dialogue. For that reason we are inviting the press to a conference at 7:00pm on that same day in the Our Lady of Fatima seminary.
We ask our faithful to intensify their prayers for the success of that conversation.
In our office, Wednesday June 6, 2018, Year of the Lord.
PRESS RELEASE OF THE BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA: June 7, 2018
We the Bishops of the Bishop´s Conference of Nicaragua communicate to the Nicaraguan people, that we have finished our conversation with the President of the Republic.
We have done it as pastors of the people of God who have entrusted this to us seeking new horizons for our Country.
The dialogue with the President happened in an environment of serenity, frankness and sincerity, where we set out to the President the pain and anguish of the people in the face of the violence suffered in recent weeks, and the agenda agreed upon in the Plenary of the National Dialogue on the democratization of the country.
We have handed him the proposal that brings together the sentiments of many sectors of Nicaraguan society, and expresses the longing of the immense majority of the population. We are awaiting his response in writing as soon as possible.
Once the President of the Republic has responded to us formally, we will call for a meeting of the Plenary of the National Dialogue to assess that response and therefore the feasibility of continuing the National Dialogue.
In the Seminary of Our Lady of Fatima, on the 7th day of June of 2018, Year of the Lord.
[Bishops signatures follow]
PRESS RELEASE OF THE BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA: June 13, 2018
We the Bishops of the Bishops Conference of Nicaragua wish all Nicaraguans grace and peace from God Our Father.
At the same time we want to inform you that yesterday on Tuesday we received the response of the President of the Republic to the proposals, that, bringing together the feeling of diverse sectors of society and the immense majority of the Nicaraguan people, we had presented to him in the encounter we had last Thursday June 7th.
Therefore we are convoking the Plenary Session of the National Dialogue for next Friday June 15th at 10am in the Our Lady of Fatima seminary. At that roundtable we will be revealing to the national and international community the proposal that we presented to the President, and the letter that he has sent us with his proposal, which we will submit to debate to seek a consensus that would respond to the desires for justice, democratization and peace for the people.
We thank the Nicaraguans who trust in the mediation that we are doing and the international community that has supported us in this work, that we do as pastors of the people of God, entrusted to us, and who we accompany in their sorrows, sufferings, hopes and desires to build a country im peace, justice and freedom.
We ask the faithful people to continue praying for us and for all of our country.
In our offices, on the thirteenth day of the month of June in 2018, year of the Lord.
Release # 1 United to Dialogue Monday, May 14th, 2018
Together, representatives of students, the countrymen movement, the civil society and the Nicaraguan private sector, we reiterate our willingness to attend to the National Dialogue, although we agree with the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua that the circumstances for such dialogue are not ideal.
We demand the immediate cessation of repression, attack and siege by the government through their paramilitary groups against the population and we categorically affirm that we do not accept their blackmail or the intentions that soften our positions.
We reiterate our solidarity with the population and with all the sectors that continue to peacefully express their rights and that are being violently repressed, accumulating the balance of the dead and wounded.
Rest assured that we are going to defend our rights and we exhort to continue in the peaceful fight, until we see the demands of the Nicaraguan people fulfilled.—-
Release # 2 The National Dialogue is the way for a just and democratic Nicaragua- Managua, May 25th, 2018
We, the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, reiterate our trustfulness in the National Dialogue and in the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua as mediators and witnesses. The National Dialogue is the path towards democratization and justice, with economic dignity, but with rights. It is also the way to achieve justice for the victims of repression.
With that said, we consider:
1. The National Dialogue is the path; a sign of this is the agreement between the government and the civic alliance to make the recommendations of the preliminary report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as their own. From this agreement on, the government committed to a follow-up mechanism with the IACHR to verify the implementation of the recommendations on a concrete calendar of new visits. We consider indispensable the formation of this follow-up commission.
2. The IACHR adopted a precautionary measure to protect the rights of members of the student’s movement and their families in Nicaragua, so we demand that the State of Nicaragua adopts the necessary measures for its immediate implementation.
3. We ask all the actors of the National Dialogue for their good faith so that in the mixed commission of six people, three for each party, it will be able to reach the agenda agreement to achieve the objective of a dialogue to review the political system of Nicaragua from its roots to achieve an authentic democracy
4. We support and will continue to participate in civic and peaceful protests, acknowledging them as a legitimate right of the Nicaraguan society. We reiterate in the importance of immediate cessation to repression of the protesters and the arbitrary detention of those who participate in the protests. This dialogue, result of a fight led by the people of Nicaragua and that unfortunately left the loss of several dozen lives, is the path to be able to reach the Nicaragua that we want and in which we must all live.
University and Civil Society Coalition
AmCham, Funides, Faganic, Caribbean Coast, National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty – Country Movement, COSEP, Upanic, Civil society— Managua, May 25th, 2018
Release # 3 Committed to the dialogue for the Democratization of Nicaragua– Managua, May 27th, 2018
The members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy we reiterate that dialogue is the path towards democratization and justice in Nicaragua and that it is important to contribute to a propitious climate to return to the dialogue. Until now, the government has not complied with two basic conditions for dialogue, such as the cessation of repression and the dismantling of the para-police forces.
The Government has tried to block the National Dialogue through a dilatory strategy, criminalizing the protests, and ignoring the deep causes that provoke them.
We reiterate our solidarity with the Nicaraguan people whom continue to express themselves peacefully in defense of their rights. We invite all sectors to join the different peaceful demonstrations of protest. On Wednesday, May 30th, we will join the tribute to the Mothers of April; we will participate in the march that will depart at 2:00 p.m. from the Jean Paul Genie roundabout. This march, like the rest of the departmental expressions, should be a strong demonstration of unity against repression and injustice.
The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, reiterates the trustfulness in the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua as mediator and witness, and repudiates the threats against its members and the Church in general.
We reaffirm our commitment to join efforts to make more flexible the road blockages, organized by Nicaraguan citizens, as an expression of civic protest, as long as the Government commits to resume the dialogue in a genuine manner about the country’s democratization agenda.
The National Dialogue is the path towards democratization and justice, with economic dignity, but with rights. It is also the way to achieve justice for the victims of state repression. We must look after and return to the dialogue, which is the result of a struggle led by the people of Nicaragua that has unfortunately has left and continues to leave the lost of several dozen lives. The Dialogue is the way to reach the Nicaragua we want and in which we must all live.
University and Civil Society Coalition: AmCham, Funides, Faganic, Caribbean Coast, National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty – Country Movement, COSEP, Upanic, Civil society –Managua, May 27th, 2018
Release # 4 They will not move us–Managua, May 31st, 2018
Throughout the last few days we have shown our determination to seek a peaceful solution to the serious crisis in which the intransigence of the Ortega Murillo regime has plunged the country in. At the time, we agreed to go to a National Dialogue despite the fact that there were no conditions or political will of the regime, which is expressed in time lost in sterile discussions without entering into the main themes of the dialogue: Justice and Democratization.
From the last April, Nicaragua and the Nicaraguans have changed irreversibly. Until then we were made to believe that we lived in a country of peace, security and progress. But in one single night of violence and rampant repression, arise the country that was hiding from us and that had been silenced by repression and the use of the National Police and para-police forces
These protests arose and its sole objective is to build a real country, with peace, democracy, justice. No lies, no cheating, no manipulation and no repression. As has been evidenced in multitudinous manifestations, this is a genuine desire of the immense majority of the Nicaraguan people.
The regime’s attempt to delegitimize and criminalize this protest is a clear violation of the rights of freedom of expression, free mobilization and we hold the government responsible for any act of repression that has its origin in these threats. They have threatened not only members of this alliance, but also members of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua.
This desire for change and to build a democratic country by peaceful means and through dialogue, have had as response from the regime, the worst massacre in times of peace, massacre that has left more than 100 dead, more than a thousand injured, thousands of detainees, hundreds of tortured and disappeared, censorship of the media and other acts of intimidation and harassment that resulted in numerous violations of human rights, confirm in strong reports issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and by Amnesty International (AI).
We continue to believe that the National Dialogue it still is a way to find a peaceful way out to the current crisis. However, after the last events, it will only be possible to continue dialoguing if the conditions set by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua are fulfilled and if there are independent international guarantors.
The mass mobilizations in Managua and other cities of the country on Mother’s Day are a reflection of the feelings of thousands of Nicaraguans who cry for the restoration of justice and democracy and a sign of the spirit that we must keep alive to redouble efforts in all the fronts. First, to unmask the true nature of this regime, and second, to reaffirm that it is we, the people of Nicaragua, who have in our hands the construction of the Nicaragua that we all desire without exclusion and with dignity.
From this Alliance, which unites students, farmers, workers, civil society, the private sector and the Caribbean Coast, we call on intensifying the different forms of peaceful protest:
• Intensify and organize the fight for university autonomy.
• Reinforce and organize the road blocks and plantings, as well as denounce the road blocks organized by the regime.
• Strengthen centers for the collection of medicines, donations of blood and food.
• Reinforce the different expressions of solidarity and support that never cease to amaze us.
We acknowledge as a very positive step the pronouncement of the main representatives of the private sector that join the demand for a quick, just and democratic exit from the Ortega Murillo regime.
We raise our demands to the international instances so that all the legal mechanisms are activated to protect and save Nicaragua from the repressive government that we have. We welcome the joint resolution of the European Parliament condemning the acts of repression, as well as the communication from the Congress of Deputies of Costa Rica, among other expressions of solidarity.
We demand that the regime permit the presence in Nicaragua of the United Nations High Commissioner for the Office of the Rapporteur for Human Rights and compliance with recommendation 15 of the Preliminary Observations of the Working Visit of the IACHR to Nicaragua, which states: “Commit to a follow-up mechanism with the IACHR to verify the implementation of the recommendations issued in the framework of this visit, and the report thereof. Schedule a concrete calendar with the IACHR for new visits ”
We demand from President Ortega the immediate cessation of the actions of the para-police forces, organized by the regime, to stop the violence that every day stains Nicaragua with blood. We are not for speeches, nor for beautiful words, we do demand concrete actions that shown that they want a peaceful solution to the crisis, as well as respect for life and the end to repression.
University and Civil Society Coalition: AmCham, Funides, Faganic, Caribbean Coast, National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty – Countrymen Movement, COSEP, Upanic, Civil society –Managua, May 31st, 2018
Release # 5 No to the criminalization of civic protest–Managua, June 6th, 2018
Tie together a civic protest with criminal and terrorist networks is condemnable and regrettable. This criminalization comes from the State of Nicaragua, which, according to the preliminary observations of the work visit of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) “According with hundreds of testimonies, the repression was carried out by the National Police, its anti-riot forces and para-police groups, which would have acted with the support of state agents” The same report has repeatedly urged to the cease of the repression against the civic protest that began in Nicaragua last April.
These serious violations of Human Rights, reflected in the preliminary observations of the work visit of the IACHR, have been “characterized by the excessive use of force by state security forces and armed third parties.”
This fight, led by the students, to which the people of Nicaragua have joined and has left a balance – to date – of more than 127 dead, 1000 wounded and an undetermined number of disappeared and tortured.
Given this, we condemn the criminalization of civic protest among them the cases of Felix Maradiaga, Aníbal Toruño of Radio Darío, Brandon Cristhofer Lovo Taylor and Glen Slate, unjustly prosecuted for the murder of the journalist Ángel Gahona. We urge the State of Nicaragua not to make the criminalization of protest a state policy that threatens hundreds of young Nicaraguan citizens, students and countrymen, among others.
Today more than ever it is important that the State of Nicaragua full fills the recommendations of the IACHR, and in this specific case with recommendation number four: “Guarantee the life, integrity and security of all the people who are demonstrating and exercising their rights and public freedoms and suffering the consequences of the atmosphere of repression, especially the students, girls, boys and adolescents “.
This Alliance will continue to give voice to the demands of Nicaraguans who demand justice and democracy for the nation. The Democratization will happen by guaranteeing as quickly as possible the installation of a transparent, inclusive and independent electoral system, independence of the State Powers and recovery of the country’s institutions. Democratization is not only built through free elections.
University and Civil Society Coalition: AmCham, Funides, Faganic, Caribbean Coast, National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty – Countrymen Movement, COSEP, Upanic, Civil society
Release # 6 Pronouncement on the National Dialogue–Managua, June 8th, 2018
The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy reaffirms that the National Dialogue is part of the integral fight of the Nicaraguan people and we will continue to peacefully self- convocate in defense of our rights.
It reiterates its full confidence in the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua as mediator and witness of the National Dialogue. We will continue participating in the National Dialogue for being the civic road towards democratization and justice and achieving the Nicaragua we want and in which we must all live together.
It considers that the Democratization agenda, elaborated with the contributions sent to the Mediation Commission by the parts of this Alliance present in the National Dialogue, points the way to the recovery of democratic institutionality, the Rule of Law and the respect for Humans Rights that we, all sectors of the Nicaraguan people, claim.
It expresses its willingness to return to the plenary session of the dialogue table as long as the brutal repression against the people by the Ortega Murillo regime ceases .immediately and definitively. The protests and civic demonstrations are the exercise of rights guaranteed by our own Political Constitution.
The Alliance expresses its full support to the measures of self-defense adopted by those of us whom participate in civic protests to protect ourselves from the aggressions to which we are subjected off by police, para-police and mobs agreeing with the government, keeping us within the framework of respect to Human Rights and private property.
University and Civil Society Coalition : AmCham, Funides, Faganic, Caribbean Coast Civil society, National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty – Countrymen Movement, COSEP, Upanic
Release #7 A National Strike for our future- Managua, June 12, 2018
First of all we want to express our condolences to the Nicaraguan family. We embrace each citizen, each mother, each father, son daughter. Each sister and each brother. Each member of the families of the heroes of this national civic protest. We recognize the effort of each person in this civic struggle. The women who have stopped the riot police with pots, flags and their courage.
56 days have gone by since this civic struggle began and in which more than 147 lives have been lost, hundreds of people wounded, arrested, and disappeared. We, as members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, given the extreme conditions that Nicaragua is experiencing, in solidarity with the victims and recognizing the right to legitimate forms of defense, we have decided:
To call a 24 hour National Strike starting at zero hour Thursday June 14 and ending at 11:59pm at night that same day. We urge all owners of businesses, small and medium business people, independent professionals and self owned businesses to close their establishments and cease activities.
This is a civic, national and peaceful strike that includes the entire country and all economic activities, except those related to the preservation of life and the coverage of basic services for the population.
We urge employers to respect the decision of the workers to join this national and peaceful civic strike.
We urge public employees, whose dignity has been trampled by a repressive government that massively do not show up for their work placements. If all of you do it together, they will not be able to take reprisals against you.
We demand of the President of the Republic an immediate response to the Bishop´s Conference of Nicaragua about the renewal of the National Dialogue. As we have said repeatedly, the dialogue is the path to review the political system of Nicaragua from its roots in order to achieve authentic democracy and justice. Dialogue within the framework of respect for life and the rights of Nicaraguans to express themselves civically. Once again, we reiterate support to the Nicaraguan Bishops Conference in their role as mediators and witnesses.
Likewise, we reiterate the importance of remaining in the streets civically and peacefully.
We are against any type of repression and abuse of life. We reiterate the importance of life, preservation of Human Rights, and respect for personal integrity and human dignity.
Only the concerted civic action of everyone will ensure the success of this legitimate action aimed at pointing out and stopping the violence and repression. The objective of this national strike is to support the National Dialogue mediated by the Bishop´s Conference of Nicaragua and demanding the immediate end to the violence and repression.
University and Civil Society Coalition : AmCham, Funides, Faganic, Caribbean Coast, National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty – Countrymen Movement, COSEP, Upanic
A number of people have asked me about the sequence and timing of events since April that have led Nicaragua to this moment in time. With that question in mind, please click on this link for a pretty good timeline synopsis of events to the present. It may not transport you into the thick of the confrontations, but close enough to smell gunpowder. It also presents some good resources for reading more about any of the daily events. The timeline leaves us asking, “Where does it end? How? And when?”
Harley Morales lives today in a type of cloister. This 26 year old young student of sociology at the Central American University (UCA) in Nicaragua sleeps in a safe house, along with 40 other university student representatives of the student groups that emerged in the current political crisis.
Harley Morales is a member of the political strategy committee of the University Alliance, one of the five student movements that make up the University and Civil Society Coalition, a group that is leading the political struggle that is demanding the departure of the current rulers. NGOs and business groups have joined this coalition.
The crisis started less than two months ago, on April 18th, due to the cut in the social security pensions. The protests turned massive due to the attacks of the National Police and the progovernment forces. When the dead began to be counted, the protests ceased being for the pensions, and were directed against state repression. The university students entrenched themselves in the universities and churches, and a significant sector of the population accompanied them, demanding the resignation of the rulers. This was the beginning of the current political and social crisis in Nicaragua. Barely seven weeks ago. Since then, more tham 130 people have died as a direct consequence of the conflict, and every day that lists gets longer.
More pushed by circumstances that by a deliberate decision to lead a popular revolt, the students had to move in the midst of a full street protest to a new stage: that of organization. “Since April 19th itself committees began to be organized and movements built; we were worried that the protest would dissipate,” said Harley Morales. His University Alliance arose out of what he called “the hijacking of the cathedral”: on April 19 in full retreat, fleeing bullets, hundreds of students and civilian took refuge in the Managua cathedral and had to stay there several days, under siege. Within the church they organized, and the first leaders emerged. In a similar fashion another four groups were formed in several universities.
These students leaders mutated in a few weeks from social agitators to political actors. If before (barely a month ago) you could find them on a street with a megaphone in hand, or organizing logistics on campus, now they are living together, as if they were in confinement, isolated, surrounded by advisers and with tremendous pressure from different sectors to take postures in a very complicated process.
They are, then, a true spontaneous generation, trying to adapt to their prominence in one of those moments that close and open chapters in history. They continue being, along with the church, those who legitimize each step of the process and have won national and international recognition since the moment in which, during the installation of the national dialogue last May 16th, a 20 year old student called Lesther Alemán said to President Ortega that the only thing they were going to negotiate at that table was his departure. That video was seen around the world.
The Ortega government consider them to be part of a “right wing coup conspiracy”, and more than a few suspicions have been caused by the sudden economic capacity of the students to hold press conferences in luxury hotel meeting rooms, or maintaining a new lives without having income.
Harley Morales does not shy away from responding to these questions and clarified the origin of the funds for his support. But they know, he says, that these funds come with a trapdoor from sectors that are trying to move their agenda through the students, who have won legitimacy in the streets. They are young people without experience, at times naïve, who are trying to walk through a forest with a lot of threats, more than a few of them walking right alongside them.
Last week a delegation of these students visited Washington to attend the General Assembly of the OAS, and just afterward they met and were photographed with three of the most extremist US republicans: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ileana Ross-Lehtinen. The photos surprised everyone in Nicaragua and were seen with reservations not just by sympathizers of Ortega, but also by opponents of the regime, liberals and ex Sandinistas. “It was terrible”, he says. “They are the extreme Republican right. We are very unhappy with that trip, that was paid for from the United States, and an agenda was imposed on them. It has given us a terrible image. We are going to have to correct mistakes.”
El Faro has confirmed that the trip to Washington was paid for by the organization Freedom House, based in Washington, who in addition set the agenda for the students, including the polemical visits to Rubio, Cruz and Ross-Lehtinen. Carlos Ponce, director of Latin America for Freedom House, argued that they asked for meetings with other congresspeople and senators, but only those three accepted. “It seems that they are the ones most interested,” he said.
The photos with the Republicans were ill-timed, given the situation in Nicaragua: the government of Ortega accused the students of being instruments of an international right wing conspiracy. The mistake has not discredited them, but it has left them some of their first lessons in politics, as Harley Morales admits. The principal one, probably, is that there are a lot of people around you wanting to impose an agenda that is not theirs.
It is helpful here to put things in context. These young people were children when Daniel Ortega won the presidency in 2006. They are university students without any political experience, who have been under the spotlights for two months and under the weight of leading an important transition in their country. It is not strange, then, that their naivete was revealed in their visit to Washington. But above all it is not strange that there would be so many sectors interested in isolating them, in influencing them, in advancing their own agendas through them. “We know that only we can legitimize this process,” says Harley Morales. Those who prowl around them today also know it.
This conversation took place on Friday June 8 in Managua.
How have you organized in seven weeks?
Since April 19 committees began to be organized and movements built. We were concerned that the protest would dissipate. Five movements were formed and later the University and Civil Society Coalition. When the Bishops Conference called for the dialogue, we held meetings with COSEP (Superior Council of Private Enterprise), with civil society organizations and others who were in favor of articulating this. COSEP is part of the Coalition, also AMCHAM (American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua); there are peasant organizations amd also the representation of the peoples of the Caribbean.
Why did you decide to unite with groups so different from your own?
We know that the way to defeat the regime is making a common agenda. The student movement already transmuted into politics. We are not fighting for scholarships nor for sector agendas.
And who is paying for your new life? Your upkeep, lodging, transportation, security, your trips…
We demanded a minimum of security to go to the dialogue and obviously the government would not give us that. We have to ally ourselves with other sectors, like the private sector and civil society. It is not just the private sector. Oxfam is there, the María Elena Cuadra Movement, agricultural producers and ranchers, etc…
How did the trip to Washington come up?
That trip was something very strange. We are very unhappy with that trip. Even with our representative. When we planned it there were already many actors wanting to intervene in the agenda. That happened from the beginning. I am refering to organizations, opposition politicians, some more from the right… That trip was financed from the US (Freedom House) and an agenda was imposed on them, and that was terrible. They were the ones who decided which students would go.
Why did you accept it then?
We did not accept it. We were going with a clear issue that they would attend the General Assembly of the OAS. It is terrible. We did not know about the meetings with Ted Cruz, Ileana Ross nor with Marco Rubio. We are very unhappy about that. When the young people come back, we are going to talk with them. We cannot cede on what is fundamental.
What are you refering to?
That they did not tell us that they were going to those meetings. It was very strange. All the movements now have advisors. People that get around. Offspring of politicians, businesspeople…They have a very clear political line. Of the three students that went to Washington, two are from the April 19th Movememt and one, Fernando Sanchez, yes is from our alliance.
And he did not tell you where he was going?
In the Coalition they no longer see us as groups. Someone called him and told him: we are going to take you. They did not communicate anything with the rest of us.
What is it that you do not like about the meetings with Rubio, Cruz and Ross?
We do not sell ourselves out! Not even in our own Alliance. We propose our points above the table. We have legitimacy and this alliance exists because of us, not because of the private sector, and we can discredit the alliance and leave. We are not the children of COSEP. I am from the left, I would not have gone.
How have those meetings been received within the University Alliance?
We are going to have to do a plan for correcting mistakes. We have created a terrible image for ourselves. If they were already saying we were children of COSEP; what are they going to say now, that we are the children of the US Republican Party? We have to talk about this when they return.
In your opinion are there actors interested in manipulating you?
Many. I was in the UPOLI (Polytechnical University, one of the first taken over by the students to entrench themselves) on April 22nd, and I remember then how many actors that I recognized were there already looking to talk to someone. There were many groups fighting over student leadership. And many trying “to advise”. That is the key word. The “advisors” that I think are making decisions and there are movements that are letting themselves be advised by certain people.
What is your relationship with COSEP in this situation?
We are very clear. We know that when COSEP does not need us, they are going to throw us away. But we have other plans.
Are you going to reveal them to me now?
Of course. History tells us that we should not submit ourselves to the political and economic agenda of the business sector, and we know that they will leave us in the streets. We know the risk that we run by receiving their support. They believe that they can ask us for something in exchange. We are insisting on justice and democracy, and there are some things that we say that they have not liked.
Is there no contradiction in that you, opponents of the system implanted by Ortega and the large business sector, are being supported by those same business people?
Yes there is. There were two pacts that allowed Ortega to come to power: the one he made with Arnaldo Aleman, and the one he made with big business. When we started to dialogue with the business leaders, we did not do it with (José Adán) Aguerri (Executive Director of COSEP), but with Michael Healy (president of the Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua, UPANIC) and with Álvaro Vargas from FAGANIC (Federation of Associations of Ranchers). We believe that COSEP now is in dispute. Healy´s chamber is the most belligerent. We have the business leaders as allies for the dialogue, but we do not trust them. Once we were very clear with them: we told them that we were afraid that the dialogue would be a show for the media and that the real dialogue would be happening under the table. That is still a fear. We are demanding justice and democracy.
And justice means having all the corrupt people in court? In other words, even the business people who end up being accomplices of the corruption?
Yes, of course! But first those responsible for all these murders have be tried.
If Ortega resigned tomorrow, as you are asking, and there was a call for elections, what would you do?
We are not longer committed to being a student movement, but a change for the corrupt political elite that has always watched out for its own interests. Maybe we might not be the ones who are going to lead the country in the short term, but we are going to be a belligerent force. If there were elections tomorrow, we would have to sit down with a lot of people. “Prepare the field”, as the OAS says. We are not only demanding transparent elections, but profound electoral reforms. We do not want just a change of elites. We do not want traditional parties. The Sandinista Front is not just to blame here, but the entire oligarchy and the political elite of this country, for complicity or for incapacity. We have made it clear to the business people that we did not want elections, but the resignation of the current rulers and the formation of a transitory ruling junta. Our struggle is also against all the traditional political parties.
So, how do you want to do it?
The FSLN right now is in crisis. Our fear is that if we give them more time to call elections, COSEP and the big business sector will make another tripartite pact [that is what they call in Nicaragua the agreement between Ortega, big business, and the unions, that has allowed Ortega to govern without counterweights, pervert state institutions and eliminate the opposition, with the blessing and complicity of big business which, in exchange, dictates the economic measures and benefits from the State]. We need guarantees that neither the political parties nor the business people are those who are going to take this. No one can impose their own interests.
But what would be, for you, the ideal calendar?
Private enterprise has asked for 14 months. That would allow them to pact with the regime or install themselves. We are asking for popular circumscription to participate in elections in alliance with other sectors.
But how, with whom, if you presume to not have leaders?
Every agreement of civil society needs today to be legitimized by us. We have to be pretty wise to know who are those called to exercise public posts. We are not approaching it with the logic of revenge.
Recently representatives of the OAS came and met with you. What did you talk about?
We talked. They did not say much. We clarified for them our positions and the scenario we are in. Ortega would like a pact with less belligerent actors. We know the love relationship between Almagro and this government. They say that the field will be ready for January, but they will have killed us by January. We presented our agenda to them. They told us that they are not accepting anything outside of the constitutional avenues.
And what was your counterproposal?
That in August there could be a call for elections. But first there has to be reforms. We did not accept any early elections.
All of this requires Ortega´s departure?
At the moment in which the dictator accepts our agenda, he would be surrendering. That we know. We would be twisting his arm. That depends on our capacity to get people into the street. Unfortunately we just played a bad role before the international community.
Let us talk a bit about your current conditions, closed in, with security…This has not made you lose your connection with the streets, that was precisely what you were able to win in April?
A lot. It has is cons but also its pros. It has allowed us to organize ourselves better, design strategies, lines of action. We have lost the contact with the barricades and our weakness is the UNAN (Autonomous University of Nicaragua), because it is very big. We are trying to integrate ourselves more into the Coalition. There was a moment when we were in the barricades. Now we are in another phase. It is no longer just entrenching ourselves. We are going to have to be very creative and learn from history.
You mention the word history a lot. Do you see yourselves as actors in a historic moment?
Yes, we know that. The circumstances demand making careful decisions and being disciplined. Calling this a revolution is beautiful, but that means changing structures. The priority now is that they do no kill us. Later, justice and democracy.
The dialogue rountable called by the Bishops Conference has been suspended. What happens if it is ended?
We are planning strategies so that the way of shutting down the country be more coordinated. A network of supplies. The possibility always exists for a shut down or installation of a ruling junta in liberated territory, like Masaya. They are ways of applying pressure.