In the last week the Government has submitted three bills for their approval in the National Assembly, which they have the numbers to easily pass: a bill that would allow for life imprisonment- currently the longest sentence is 30 years; a bill that would require any Nicaraguan receiving any foreign money – other than family remittances and some formal business contracts – to register as a foreign agent; and a cybercrime bill that would penalize with jail any publication “of false or distorted news”. Critics of the government see them all aimed at threatening the opposition and curtailing their rights before the elections of 2021. What follows is the analysis by a former high level Sandinista and political and economic analyst.
The desperation of the Ortega Murillo regime
By Oscar René Vargas, Sept 29, 2020 in Artículo 66
They are only willing to leave power dead, not through elections. It is the logic of power or death.
The intolerance continues as always and the attack of the Ortega Murillo regime against the opposition is intensifying. The impunity that protects the Police and paramilitaries is the guarantee that the repression will continue. In other words, Nicaragua will continue experiencing a nightmare of political repression and state violence.
The repressive campaign of Ortega Murillo for their continuance in power is carried out within a context of aggression and death, in addition to the police violence. At the same time, the regime counts on the fractioning of the formal opposition, helped by the façade opposition parties, both factors help them in their purpose of staying in power indefinitely.
The social, political and economic crisis will continue in the case that Ortega Murillo continue in power. The consequences are more than predictable. A future will not be seen for the impoverished population nor for economic recovery in the next five years.
The regime is facing the confluence of five crises (economic, social, political, health and international) which is not favorable for their continuance in power, a situation which leads them to implement more repressive laws out of their desperation to control the social movement in order to avoid a second wave of social protests and/or a social and political tsunami.
I think that in the best electoral scenario, Ortega will hold manipulated elections in order to be able to win them and is willing to deal with international sanctions and popular uproar, like Maduro has done since 2018. Meanwhile, he is going to approve laws that further limit the freedom of expression, because for him thinking is dangerous.
This is exactly what he is preparing with the laws that he wants to approve: life sentences as a threat against opponents, cybercrime which censures social networks and foreign agents and other laws that might appear. The regime is digging in for a possible negotiation with the North Americans.
In other words, they want elections, but only with the façade opposition parties and a minimum of electoral reforms, regardless of what might come later. They are willing to leave power only dead, not through elections. It is the logic of power or death.
This does not mean that there is no need to fight for clean and transparent elections in 2021. The regime wants to get to an electoral scenario where the formal opposition is up a creek without a paddle. Nevertheless, the electoral process can be taken advantage of as a stage in the struggle against the dictatorship that we have to exhaust, taking advantage of its international isolation, and the fact that the 2021 elections that will be monitored by the international press. In other words, the electoral process has to be taken advantage of in order to mobilize the population against an electoral fraud that would have a high political cost, internally as well as internationally.
The Ortega Murillo regime is making a poor bet: Nicaragua is not Venezuela, not in terms of resources, military power, and international support on the part of the Russians and Chinese. Also, the regime is mistaken that the real opposition is the National Coalition and that its fracture, they think, allows it to do anything. The real opposition are the people in the streets, in the traffic circles, and in any place in the country that protests against the dictatorship.
The biggest news of last week was the introduction of this bill in the National Assembly by the Government. Some commentators have called it “Putin´s bill” claiming it is modeled on a similar law Putin had passed, which obligates all entities and people receiving any type of foreign funds – except for family remittances, retired pensions, and foreign business investment- to register with the Ministry of the Interior as “foreign agents.” They need to report those funds prior to receiving them on a monthly basis. Failure to report can result in legal sanctions, including confiscation of assets. Furthermore it prohibits such persons from being candidates or holding public offices or public employment in any way. Analysts say this would effectively prohibit most of the current leaders of the opposition from running as candidates in the next elections.
What follows are the articles to the bill, which is slated to be taken up by the Economic Commission of the National Assembly on Sept 29, 2020
PROPOSED LAW FOR THE REGULATION OF FOREIGN AGENTS
(submitted to the National Assembly Sept 22, 2020)
Article 1 Purpose and sphere of application
The current law has the purpose of establishing the legal framework for the regulation of natural or legal persons who respond to foreign interests and financing, and use that financing to carry out activities that stray into the meddling of foreign governments or organizations in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, putting at risk State security.
It has as its sphere of application obligated subjects, as well as foreign monetary funds, assets, goods and objects of value, established in this law, excepting all foreign retired people who reside in Nicaragua and receive money under the concept of their pension; natural persons who receive family remittances; foreign productive and commercial enterprises with branches in Nicaragua, factories and supermarket chains from foreign investment, their workers and service providers, as well as people who establish commercial relationships under the conditions of operative commercial Agreements, Treaties, and Accords, particularly with respect to investment, service provision and the temporary entrance of business people, in accordance with current legislation on those matters.
In that sense, the current law will not affect operative commercial agreements or treaties, nor those who might sign them in the future. Nor foreign investments, nor connected physical or legal persons, or those who perform strictly economic or commercial activities, or those related to foreign investments.
Article 2. Registry of Foreign Agents
Organizations, associations or natural or legal persons, Nicaraguans or from other nationalities, who within Nicaragua receive funds, assets or any object of value coming, directly or indirectly, from foreign governments, agencies, foundations, societies, no matter what type or nature they may be, are obligated to register in the Registry of Foreign Agents established in the current law.
All organizations, agencies or individuals who work, receive funds or respond to organizations that belong to or are controlled, directly or indirectly, by foreign governments or entities, must register as foreign agents.
Article 3. Obligated Subjects
Any physical or legal person must register as a foreign agent who, within Nicaragua, performs or works as an agent, representative, employee or attendant, or any person who works or performs any activity under the order, requirements, instruction or under the direction, supervision or control of a foreign organization or of a physical or legal person whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized completely or partially by foreign governments, capital, businesses or funds, be that directly or through third parties, be they physical or legal persons.
People should also register, who within Nicaragua, act as advisors, public relationists, publicity agents, information service employees or political consultants for or in the interest of foreign governments, foundations, businesses or associations; that request, charge, employ in any way or disburse funds, contributions, loans, money or any other things of value for or in the interest of foreign governments, foundations, businesses or organizations; or represent directly or indirectly the interests of foreign governments, foundations or organizations before any ministry, public entity, business or official organizations of the State of the Republic of Nicaragua.
Natural or legal persons exempted from this law do not form part of the obligated subjects.
Article 4. Definitions
For the effects of the current Law, the following definitions are established:
Foreign Agent: Natural or legal person, Nicaraguan or of another nationality, who within Nicaragua receives funds, assets or any object of value coming, directly or indirectly, from foreign governments, agencies, foundations, societies or associations, no matter what type or nature they may be, who work, receive funds or respond to organizations that belong to or are controlled, directly or indirectly, by foreign governments of entities.
Competent authority: Ministry of the Interior responsible for the regulation, supervision and sanction on matters of Foreign Agents
Registration format: Document prepared by the Ministry of the Interior to implement the Foreign Agent registration
Foreign Agent registration: Entirety of orderly and systematic information that the Ministry of the Interior has for the exercise of the regulation, supervision and sanctions on matters of Foreign Agents.
Obligated Subject: Any physical or legal person must register as a foreign agent who within Nicaragua, performs or works as an agent, representative, employee or attendant, or any person who works or performs any activity under the order, requirements, instruction or under the direction, supervision or control of a foreign organization or of a physical or legal person whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized completely or partially by governments, capital, businesses or foreign funds, be that directly or through third parties, be they physical or legal persons.
People should also register, who within Nicaragua, act as advisors, public relationists, publicity agents, information service employees or political consultants for or in the interest of foreign governments, foundations, businesses or associations; that request, charge, employ in any way or disburse funds, contributions, loans, money or any other things of value for or in the interest of foreign governments, foundations, businesses or organizations; or represent directly or indirectly the interests of foreign governments, foundations or organizations before any ministry, public entity, business or official organizations of the State of the Republic of Nicaragua.
Article 5 Competent Authority
The Ministry of the Interior is the competent authority for the application of the current law, exercise regulation, supervision and sanction in these matters. The Ministry will reorganize itself administratively to establish the Department of the Registry of Foreign Agents.
The Ministry of the Interior will request the collaboration of all public, mixed and private entities to ensure compliance with this Law.
Article 6 Prior Request of the Ministry of the Interior
Foreign agents must present previously to the Ministry of the Interior a report of any offer that is made from their foreign principal concerning funds, assets or any other assets and objects of value being received directly or indirectly to carry out their activities as foreign agents, and explain in what activities those funds or assets will be used.
Article 7 Presentation of Information
The physical or legal persons who perform as foreign agents must present, monthly, to the competent authority, a documented, detailed and verifiable report of expenses, payments, disbursements, contracts and other activities connected to their performance as foreign agents. The total expenses or income should respond to the amount of income and assets received.
Article 8 Donations
Donations that physical or legal persons registered in the Foreign Agents Registry receive cannot be used to finance activities not previously declared; to carry them out without registering them in the web portal that the Ministry of the Interior sets up for that purpose; to change the previously declared purpose for which the funds were received, without notice to the Ministry of the Interior.
Article 9 Prohibition of anonymous Donations
Physical or legal persons registered in the Foreign Agent Registry will not be able to receive donations or funds or material assets of any type from anonymous sources or persons.
Article 10 Monetary funds and material assets.
Monetary funds must be received through any supervised financial institution that is legally registered in Nicaragua. Material assets coming from outside the country must comply with the customs legislation.
Article 11 Information
Physical or legal persons registered in the Foreign Agent Registry must provide the competent authority the name of the foreign government or governments, foreign political parties, businesses and other physical or legal persons who finance, provide funds, or in any way facilitate economic and material means or of any other type to perform their work as foreign agents. This information will be public.
Article 12 Foreign Agents
Natural or legal persons, Nicaraguans or of other nationalities, who act as foreign agents must abstain, under the pain of legal sanctions, of intervening in matters, activities or issues of internal politics. They also are prohibited from financing or promoting financing to any type of organization, movement, political party, coalitions or political alliances, or associations that carry out internal political activities in Nicaragua. Nor will they be able to officers, public employees or candidates to public offices of any type or nature.
The prohibition in this article will end one year after the foreign agent requests being removed from the Foreign Agent Registry, which will be done once accredited before the competent authority that, in effect and in a documented way, he has ceased to be a foreign agent. The presentation of false documents or proof can incur administrative and penal responsibilities, depending on the case, previously determined by the competent authority.
Article 13 Faculties of the Ministry of the Interior
When the Ministry of the Interior has knowledge of the existence of physical or legal persons who are acting as foreign agents and have not complied with the obligation of registering, it will proceed to notify them of the duty to comply with said obligation.
In the case that the physical or legal person, once notified, within the term of 5 work days, does not register, the Ministry will be able to establish fines on natural persons, as well as fines and request to cancel the legal status of the competent authorities, without affecting the penal responsibility determined by the competent authority for the commission of crimes against State security.
In any case, the refusal to register will authorize the Department of Foreign Agent Registry to intervene funds and real estate and other assets of the physical or legal person who refuses to comply with the law, as well as prohibit their activities.
Article 14 Regulations
The Ministry of the Interior will establish the necessary regulations to carry out the regulation, supervision and sanctions on matters of Foreign Agents.
Article 15 Complementary application
The Ministry of the Interior will apply in a complementary form the dispositions that have to do with Law 977, Law Against Laundering Assets, Financing for Terrorism and Financing for the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, whose entire text was published in la Gaceta, Official Daily no 165 of August 29, 2019, to ensure the effective application of the current law.
Public officials who know about the reception of funds on the part foreign agents and supervised financial institutions that receive the monetary funds for foreign agents must report to the Financial Analysis Unit, in accordance with the existing legislation.
Article 16 Transitory
The subjects obligated to register in the Foreign Agent Registry will have a term of 60 days to do so, from the date this law takes effect. Starting with the date this law takes effect, the subjects obligated will not be able to carry out the movement of monetary funds nor material assets, until they comply with the obligation of registering.
Article 17 Registry Format
The Format of the Registry will be prepared by the Ministry of the Interior for the application of this law.
Article 18 Publication and applicability
This law will take effect with its publication in La Gaceta, the Official Daily. (NOTE: date is left blank awaiting approval of the law).
This interview of Dora María Tellez, former Minister of Health during the 80s, also founder and past president of the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement), is significant for a number of reasons. The questions asked by one of the editors of La Prensa, Fabian Medina, reflect the perspective that sees the FSLN of the 80s composed entirely of human rights abusers, without any redeeming policy initiatives. This echoes a current problem in the ongoing attempts to forge unity among the anti-Ortega opposition. Some, reflective of the questions asked by Medina, are claiming they will not be part of any coalition that includes any group with the name “Sandinista”.
However, since their founding the FSLN has seen the MRS as their principal electoral threat, given that the other parties have not been associated with pro-poor policies, but rather have been seen as exclusively pro-business. This is a significant factor in elections in the second poorest country in Latin America. The animosity of the FSLN reached the point where they revoked the legal status of the MRS just prior to municipal elections of 2008, where some observers thought the MRS could win the race for mayor of Managua (at that time Dora María Tellez was on a hunger strike precisely to protest that measure). This forced the MRS´s participation in electoral processes to be limited to allying with right wing parties, which clouded their reputation, and gave the FSLN a “public monopoly” on commitment to the plight of the poor.
Further complicating the scenario, is the reputation the FSLN has for infiltrating opposition organizations, preventing them from forming a united electoral front. So, while some right-wing groups use this very reason to refuse to ally with the MRS, more frequently in recent political history the FSLN has successfully manipulated “right wing groups” to prevent a united front. This leads others to believe that right-wing attacks against the MRS are actually incited by the FSLN.
All of these dynamics are reflected in Dora María´s responses in this interview.
Dora María Téllez: “The word Sandinista now is repugnant to me”
The former guerrilla recognizes that in these times when someone hears the word Sandinista “what is heard are the crimes committed by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega” and in that sense her party debates whether it is worthwhile to continue using that word in their name.
41 years ago, Dora María Téllez was entering Managua at the head of a large group of guerrillas from the Western Front of the Sandinista Front. She was the leader. She was 23 years old. She was coming to celebrate the fall of the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza and the beginning of the Sandinista revolution. Since then she was always on the stage celebrating that date, year after year, until 1993 when the differences with Daniel Ortega began that led her and other militants of the Sandinista Front to leave, and found in 1995 the Sandinista Renovation Movement party (MRS). Téllez, a guerrilla commander, was Minister of Health in the cabinet of Daniel Ortega in the 80s. If any word has defined her in her life it is “Sandinista”. Nevertheless, she feels that the regime of Daniel Ortega has given that word a different meaning, and she herself questions it now. She addresses in this interview on the 41st anniversary of the defeat of Somoza and the beginning of the Sandinista revolution the controversial MRS and the figure of its old fellow party member, Daniel Ortega.
When was the last time that you were on stage for July 19th?
It must have been like 1993…
Do you feel nostalgia?
Actually no. I am not a person that feels nostalgia for past times. I think about my dead father and mother and I do not have nostalgia. I have good memories, experiences, learnings, but nostalgia is not a feeling of mine.
Is there something to celebrate on July 19th?
Celebration as celebration I do not see in these circumstances. There are commemorations. We, in the MRS, commemorate instead July 17th. The departure of the dictatorship is celebrated, from which we should have learned, but we did not. And in these conditions, the country is not for celebrations.
I was not asking about the moment, but rather about what July 19th means for history.
In historic terms it is like the liberal revolution. They are historical facts. And the celebration depends on each person. It should not be a national holiday. Maybe July 17th, when the dictatorship fell.
Many people do not see just the end of the Somoza dictatorship, but also the beginning of the other dictatorship, that of the 80s.
They are the two events. The fall of the dictatorship of Somoza and the establishment of the regime of the Sandinista revolution that, in effect, was an authoritarian regime, that had the characteristic that it opened the path, in elections, to a peaceful transition, which is exactly the point which we want to reach now.
How would you evaluate Daniel Ortega who appears at this 41st anniversary of the Sandinista revolution?
For me, this is a regime which is dead, in the process of getting its death certificate and burial. It no longer governs. There are no public policies, there is nothing. The only thing that exists is a series of defensive maneuvers for the capital of Ortega Murillo, for the political power of the Ortegas. It is not even a bad government. The pandemic has made this mismanagement more transparent. The country is in the wind. People defend themselves in their homes as best they can, with their medications. Ortega is a ghost, who is there, and is the source of power for an oligarchical machine that wields economic and political power in different spheres.
As a historical figure, where would you place Ortega?
Daniel Ortega has the worst outcome of all. Ortega is going to pass into the same level as Somoza. With the additional characteristic that Ortega is a destructor of the institutional framework. The Somozas built certain institutions that have been long lasting, like social security. Ortega has destroyed it all: Army, Police, even the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, unthinkable things.
The behavior of Ortega now has made a lot of people look backward, and see the revolution as that dark period that he produced. What is your evaluation?
From the political perspective point of view, that was an authoritarian regime. With political intolerance. It oscillated between a single party regime and political pluralism. A very contradictory game, but that finally culminated in elections.
Was it a dictatorship?
From a political point of view, that is what it is. If you are talking about an authoritarian regime, you are talking about a dictatorship. He wields dictatorial power. And from a social point of view, the Sandinista government had a lot of success in establishing some important public policies, creating some institutions and opening space for popular organization, unions, grassroots organizations, etc. Even the 1987 constitution set the pace with some exceptions. The question that I ask myself is, what is it that we did, and what did we not do in 30 years to end up at the same point?
But the eighties are not remembered for those changes that you mention, but rather for its crimes: Red Christmas, Operation Bertha, Military Service, State Security, confiscations… And from there, it is logical that many ask themselves, how can this be celebrated?
That is how it is. It is reasonable. That is why I say that July 19th should quit being a national holiday. Because all that is part of it and is real. Crimes denounced…
What responsibility does Dora María Téllez assume for those crimes?
I assume the responsibility for having been there, but I cannot assume responsibility for crimes that I did not commit. One of the big problems of blaming everyone is that you end up protecting those who are truly guilty. Can I assume blame for Red Christmas? No. if the first information that I had about Red Christmas was through La Prensa.
Complicity could be alleged. You were the leaders, and no one complained about it.
That can be alleged if we would have known.
Operation Bertha which was a huge operation of confiscation, the entire State participated in it.
Yes, it was an operation of change in currency that ended up being harmful. The economic area was not my responsibility. I administered Health in 1988. I can assume responsibility for that, but I cannot for crimes that I did not commit.
And what would be the crimes for which you would assume responsibility?
I did not commit crimes. To begin with, I did not have the power for that. I was in Managua in the organization of the Frente, of unions, from 1980 to 1985, and then in the Ministry of Health. And I am going to tell you, the Ministry of Health never, never was sectarian.
The piñata. When the Sandinista Front lost power an assault on the State took place. The leaders doled out assets. Did you keep some public asset?
No, none. In addition, you can see in the memoirs of Fernanda Cardenal what my position was on that issue. It is not even me saying it. Fernando describes an assembly in El Crucero, a very important one, and you will see clearly what my position was on that.
What was it?
I was completely opposed, and in addition we demanded that that it be rectified. It was compromising the moral capital of Sandinism. And that there had been an illegal appropriation on the part of people who had access to resources. So, they took a peremptory measure on us there. That proof needed to be presented, to be seen. And what proof was going to be presented?
What property do you currently have?
Basically my home. I have set about building a home to rent. I have my home in Matagalpa that I inherited.
Would you submit to scrutiny if it was required?
Absolutely. You say to me, how was this house built? And there are the bank loans. I have my receipts, my bills, my papers.
When the MRS was started in 1995, did it propose to be a new version of the Sandinista Front?
No. The MRS was founded from a profoundly critical position. All this that we are talking about was put forth. The term “Sandinista” was taken from the point of view of identification with the issue of national sovereignty, with Sandino, national independence and social justice.
But it reclaimed the revolution. In the first years there was an ongoing allusion to the revolutionary years.
In the first years, yes, but the critique continued to deepen. The MRS has the characteristic of keeping a strong grounding. Later new generations have come whose reference point is not the Sandinista revolution.
There are members of the MRS, even leaders, who think that the party should no longer bear the word “Sandinista”.
Yes, there is a debate about that. There is a debate about the distinction that would have to be made under these conditions. That includes the name change, change in symbols, etc.
Could the MRS remove the name Sandinista?
It is possible. If the convention decides it, it will be removed.
And what is your position?
It seems to me that in this moment the only thing that the Sandinista name evokes it what is happening with this dictatorship. No matter how much we might say that this has to do with Sandino, with social justice, independence and sovereignty, when someone hears it what they are hearing are the crimes committed by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega. It is not worth it, for a political party like the MRS, that is looking toward the future of the country, that is committed to a profound democratization process of Nicaraguan society, to keep that name. For me this is a personal opinion, it could be that there are other opinions in the MRS. There is a debate now for several months about this topic. And this has to do with the youth who are currently leading the party.
There is also a debate among political groupings about “Orteguism” and “Sandinism”. There are those who see the word “Orteguism” as a disguise for Sandinism itself.
Orteguism was a larvae that infected Sandinism. Like Somocism was a larvae that infected liberalism. And nearly finished it off. Then there were groups that left Somocism that formed parties, the PLI was one of them, CxL another, let us say, that see themselves as liberals. But if you look in the year 1979 Somocism had completely infected liberalism. I think that Orteguism completely infected the Sandinista Front. Let us not say Sandinism, but the Sandinista Front. In such a way that the institutionality of the Sandinista Front disappeared, and a segment was left there completely and absolutely committed to the Ortega Murillo family, and a segment was left that has an interest in saving the party, for whom the Frente is their party, and they are going to see how to save it. There is a difference there, and that difference is important because it has to do with the effort itself of the deconstruction of the dictatorship.
The party in power comes down hard on the MRS, but the opposition does as well. It is seen as a party that is in everything, always conspiring.
Certainly Orteguism is the mortal enemy of the MRS. That is very true. Because it was not able to break us, because it was not able to make the MRS disappear, because every time that it beat it, it resurged. That is the reality. The MRS is 24 years old and it has been 24 years the object of punches and blows. It has not been easy. The Sandinista Front took on the task of selling to a sector of the business class, a sector, not all, because they did not buy it, that we were the great confiscators of the 80s, and not Daniel Ortega. Imagine, who am I going to confiscate from the Ministry of Health, or who is Victor Hugo Tinoco going to confiscate from the Vice Chancellor´s office.
The thing is that if you were part of the team, you have personal responsibilities. So, you pay for that.
Yes, that is clear, but it is not exactly like that. What one section of La Prensa does, no matter the fact that you might be an editor, if it is not your section, you cannot assume responsibility for that. You can even not be aware of it. You can assume responsibility for everything, but you cannot take on the guilt of others. Ortega unleashed a campaign against us by every path, in every possible way, and there are people who bought it. For what reason? I am not clear, but I imagine that they are the embers of old animosities, without realizing that organizations are evolving.
And there is an apparent contradiction: the MRS is a very famous party, your name appears everywhere, but it does not show up in the surveys.
Maybe it does not show up because people are afraid to say.
There is a stigma on the MRS?
That is how it is. Maybe people say that if they are in favor of the MRS they are going to be repressed. Or they will be fired from their job. That already happened to me with one person. This has to do with a price that you pay, and it can be that for that reason it does not show up in the surveys, because there is a repression completely directed and aimed at the MRS.
In the discussion about the unity in the opposition, the MRS reappears as a figure that creates antibodies.
What antibodies? That depends.
Groups that say that they are not going to be part of a union where the MRS are present.
CxL (Citizen for Liberty Party). But remember that the CxL were our allies. We had an alliance with them for seven years. In addition, an alliance that worked very well in the National Assembly. It began to stop functioning when Ortega told the CxL that in order to ensure their legal status they had to abandon us. And under those circumstances also Violeta Granera and the Liberal United Front left, for considering that to be onerous. But the alliance with the current CxL, and Kitty Monterrey [current president of CxL] was there then, was an alliance for at least seven years.
But the fact that you have been allies does not mean that you can be now, just like you in the MRS were allies with Ortega and now cannot be.
With Ortega we never shared more than a program in some specific circumstances, where there was Antonio Lacayo, Miriam Argúello, Agustín Jarquín, Alexis Argúello, some stayed and the rest of us left, because the course that we already know was followed. But with the CxL we jointly promoted laws, we put to work agreements we had, and we jointly ran electoral campaigns. Kitty Monterrey cannot say to me, “I am not joining with you because you are the same.” Hey, why did you join before? The proposal should be more sincere. She should say the truth. What is the truth about why she does not want to join the National Coalition?
What would be that truth?
You would have to ask them, but it stands out to me the fact that the CxL did not even try to talk about what their terms where to join the Coalition. Everyone has made an effort, the National Unity has made an effort, the people of Saturnino [party linked to evangelical churches] have made an effort, the PLC has made an effort, but the CxL do not want to make any effort. The question that they need to be asked is what is the reason they do not want to join forces in a coalition?
If the MRS would end up being an obstacle for unity, could it rethink its participation?
But what is that measure? Who is going to decide that measure? Is the measure going to be decided by CxL? Who decides what an obstacle is? Up to now the obstacle for unity is the CxL. The MRS instead has tried to aggregate forces.
And whether you see elections in 2021?
I think that we have to fight so there is an electoral outcome. If not, this is going to go from bad to worse. The economic condition of Nicaraguans is getting worse. The regime itself is completely unviable from an economic point of view. We have to do everything at hand to achieve clean, transparent and competitive elections.
And what would you do so that Daniel Ortega would allow that?
He has a large stone on top of him. He does not have one cent, tax income no longer exists, the economy is plummeting again worse than in 2018, and external aid is zero.
But if Ortega faces the dilemma of continuing to govern in that way, under those misfortunes, or losing the elections and going to sit in court to be judged, obviously he will opt for the former.
Daniel Ortega you can be sure is going to do everything possible to stay in power. We cannot count on him saying, “Well, this is as far as I go.” You have to keep pushing. We have pushed it to here, you have to keep pushing until he falls.
Does it cause any sentiments in you the fact that Sandinism, to which you dedicated your life, is ending with this stigma so similar to Somocism?
What makes me sad is the fact that the country is once again at this point. It makes me sad for the youth. Nicaraguan youth should be doing something else, acting in different environments, finishing their majors, contributing in different areas to national development, and politics should be under other conditions. It makes me sad to see that there are generations of young people who are in exile, who said good-by to their majors because they are in exile under some horrible conditions. Those who are in hiding and are harassed every day by the Police, young people who are in prison. It is an awful thing that we are once again facing a dictator.
Does Dora María Téllez continue being Sandinista?
I identify with Sandino. I can no longer tell you that I identify as a Sandinista in the terms that it is understood today. That word now has another connotation. Words have their contexts. I identify with Sandino´s quest, with social justice, national independence, the fight for sovereignty, but it is difficult for me to identify with the word Sandinista, because it now is repugnant to me, because of what we have all experienced.
On June 25 seven opposition organizations united to form the National Coalition in an attempt to unify all the sectors opposing the Ortega government, currently including: Civic Alliance, White and Blue National Unity, the Peasant Movement, the Democratic Restoration Party, Liberal Constitutional Party, Nicaraguan Democratic Force and the Yatama Party. Different youth and university organizations have not joined the group, due to disputes over the number of their representatives in relation to other sectors.
This document addresses a key issue for the opposition: electoral reform. Here they commit to insisting on a unified approach to electoral reform, significant because Ortega has said that electoral reforms will only be negotiated with political parties.
Electoral reforms with a broad consensus and without bilateral negotiations
The National Coalition has established as one of its most important missions ensuring the transition from the dictatorship to democracy through the celebration of free, transparent and observed elections, that would allow the change to be achieved that the Nicaraguan population is demanding in order to build a just, democratic and inclusive nation.
For this purpose we, the organizations belonging to the National Coalition along with the PRO-REFORMAS group, have arrived at a consensus about a proposal of profound reforms on electoral matters, that would allow for the recovery of citizen trust in the electoral system, the transparency of the process, and give Nicaraguans back the right to choose.
Electoral reforms are not an end in themselves, they are needed to achieve the big objective of the departure of the Ortega Murillos by peaceful means, as an immediate and urgent step to advance in the democratization of the entire State, including the electoral and political party system itself.
We, the social and political party organizations who are uniting to work for a better country, with the signing on June 25th have committed ourselves to promote and propel jointly on national and international levels the common position on electoral matters on which we are agreeing.
The electoral reforms must be done with the broad consensus of the different actors of society hence we ratify the decision of all the organizations of the National Coalition to not accept bilateral, secret negotiations, or negotiations just with political parties. Our commitment is unbreakable and is accepted as speaking with one voice with the majority of the people of Nicaragua in favor of democratic rules, with elections under international standards.
True electoral reform requires, as a prelude, the full enjoyment of a prior environment of freedom and safety for all of the Nicaraguan citizenry, that includes the end to the ongoing harassment and dismantling of the forces of repression and the parapolice.
Some days ago, the Director of Ethics and Transparency (EyT), Roberto Courtney, caused a commotion in Nicaragua by offering to meet with the government on possible electoral reforms. Their organization is highly regarded both nationally and internationally for their expertise on electoral transparency, but given the extremely polarized political situation in Nicaragua, some suspected that EyT had sold out in some way to the government. This interview takes place within that context.
Roberto Courtney: “There will be early elections only if they are helpful to Ortega”
In La Prensa, Sunday, February 9, 2020 by Eduardo Cruz
Ortega is thinking about whether to allow the OAS to participate in the electoral reform process in Nicaragua, because for something less serious than what has occurred in Nicaragua, that international organization energetically intervened in Bolivia, states the expert in electoral issues.
Roberto Andrés Courtney Cerda, 55 years of age, leads one of the most important non-governmental electoral observation organizations in Nicaragua, but he does not have an office. “This is my office,” he says, pointing to his cell phone. That is why he received us in a hotel lounge in the capital.
Courtney, a lawyer by profession, brags about the fact that his organization, Etica y Transparencia, is not only “is very battle tested” on the topic of elections in Nicaragua, but that It is also “unscathed, with a lot of experience.”
In this interview, Courtney shares his vision of the current situation in Nicaragua, especially about how Daniel Ortega is maneuvering to stay in power and get to the elections in November 2021, in spite of the fact that with the crisis of April 2018 he is being demanded to move up the elections.
Passionate about the issue, Courtney explains what the process for electoral reforms should be, so needed to be able to be hold elections in Nicaragua.
What is Ethics and Transparency doing right now?
We are very involved in the situation of Nicaragua, looking at how to take to a safe port the issue of the electoral reforms and a peaceful solution to the crisis in the country.
Was the Conservative Party going to ask for the counsel of Ethics and Transparency?
Yes. I suppose that there should have been a flattering side to the fact that someone proposes that to you, but we, in general terms, like more the idea of thinking about electoral reforms particularly in the terrain of the consultation in the National Assembly, we have a preference to not be the particular advisor to anyone, and better to be a facilitator for all. It is not a disparagement. It is that we believe that there would be a better opportunity for a correct result in the National Assembly if, instead of coordinating in the name of a party, we coordinate in the name of everyone.
What was happening prior to April 2018 and what has changed?
To begin with, the lack of electoral democracy in Nicaragua exploded in a very ugly way. If you would have had correct electoral processes, instead of fraudulent ones, April 18th would never have existed; because, what you want to be considered the culprit, the social security issues, instead of being treated by an Assembly that had lost its legitimacy because of being the captive of just one party, achieved in fraudulent elections, at the moment that this type of distrusted body would issues laws which are also questionable, now that is a lot of questioning for things to properly move ahead.
What changed with April 18th?
There has been a lot of evidence that the electoral system was obsolete, and that this country cannot have an electoral process similar to that of 2011 or 2016. That the epoch in which the official data are false, the electoral rolls slanted, the parties closed down by the electoral apparatus and by the other government bodies, the elimination of deputies, all that are excesses of fraud that in some way were happening, and that, if we add to that, for example, the case of Bolivia, it becomes clear that in Nicaragua things in electoral matters happened a thousand times worse than the improper use of a server, which is what derailed the elections in Bolivia. The standard of what constitutes an acceptable election has gone up, while the Nicaraguan electoral system increasingly delivered poorer and more corrupt results.
The OAS has not acted the same in Nicaragua as in Bolivia…
Very true. That might explain a bit the reluctance of the government to get it [the OAS] involved again. The OAS issued some reports very similar to those of Ethics and Transparency during the elections, in the sense that they addressed all the shortcomings, mistakes, fraudulent elements, but they arrived at the conclusion that the government was legitimate anyway, and that what had to be done was to sit down with this government to fix the problems; which is why they did the memorandum of understanding, to fix it gradually, because a lot had to be fixed, but accepting that a legitimate government had come out of that fraud. The report, concerning the problems and the weaknesses, the irregularities because of the fraudulent elements, was the same as that of Ethics and Transparency, but it arrived at a different conclusion, the conclusion that the government was legitimate in any event, and that it was going to work with that government to fix the electoral system. Ethics and Transparency, with those same elements, declared a fraud, the need to do the elections over, and take the issue of the electoral reforms seriously instead of slowly …Ortega recognized that the OAS that jumped up over the improper use of a server, probably is no longer the same OAS as the one that signed a memorandum of understanding, in spite of the fact that the processes had been so fraudulent [in Nicaragua] as to make Bolivia seem like child´s play.
Here in Nicaragua the principal opposition party was eliminated, deputies were eliminated, there was no publication of the electoral results, oversight was not permitted, copies of official ballot counts were not provided, there were more votes than voters, the party in power provided voter IDs to whoever they wanted, and we can continue adding to this list. This was allowed to happen, and suddenly the government sees that for a lot less today the OAS is acting a lot more firmly, and this makes it realize that it is not the same organization with which the government signed the agreement that remains in force for another 20 days.
And if those 20 days pass by without anything happening?
It is not so much that in these 20 days there has to be a change in the electoral law. In these 20 days what should happen is that the government would renew the agreement with the OAS, get seriously involved in the issue of electoral reforms within a proper time frame, which is normally having the reform process concluded at least one entire year before the election day. Preferably before that, but definitely not any later. The best electoral reform, done very late, could be counterproductive. If the elections are in November 2021, by November of this year the reforms should be already completed.
What is the problem with the current law? Is it the law or a matter of attitude?
There are two defects. The principal problem is the arbitrator. The law does not make it neither easy nor hard to form a new political party. It is the Supreme Electoral Council, that depending on who is applying, either gives it away or makes it impossible. It is the Supreme Electoral Council that, depending on the order from the party who named the ten magistrates from their own lists of candidates, and with the votes of only their deputies in the National Assembly, in other words, it is a purely Sandinista electoral apparatus, without them even trying to hide it, and who, on having been named by the Sandinista Party, then treat the requests for legal status in accordance with what the Sandinista party recommends. The Supreme Electoral Council is full of political operatives from just one party, and that is not the way to construct arbitration. This event is indicative of another bunch of problems, in other words, a good part of the problem is this, that the arbitrators are unfaithful to what the law demands, they interpret it to the convenience of a political party, they jump over the crossbar when there is no way to interpret them in favor of that political party, and so on successively. To make a sports analogy, many times the opposition in Nicaragua, when it notes that the referee declares a penalty where there was none, begins to think that the key is changing the rule of the penalty, but in reality the key is fixing the arbitrator.
How willing do you see Ortega to change those authorities?
This is part of what we want to see in the process of discussing a reform, because yes there are some reasons why one could imagine that, like in 2011 and 2016, the last presidential elections, the government intentionally sent a message to the electorate that the process was going to be fraudulent. And that had the effect of promoting abstentionism, which benefitted the government, at the same time that it complemented that message with a ton of actions that affected the competitiveness of the opposition, and that artificially created advantages for the party in power. If that strategy was used in less troubled moments, less relevant times, like 2011 and 2016, now in 2021 one imagines naturally that the party in power would find it even more necessary to implement the strategy that was working for it when it had a little more space. Nevertheless, there is a new factor, there is a correlation of forces where a process of that nature, which used to generate at least international recognition and a certain dose of legitimacy, a process exactly the same to that one today would make the government, in the case of winning in a fraudulent process like the previous ones, would make the government move to the strange condition where it was more legitimate the day prior to the elections than the day after the elections. In a fraudulent process like that, you are more president the day before the elections than with that disgrace, and you have the example of Maduro there, who participated in some previously discredited elections, and not re-legitimized by the quality of the process itself, and so moves to being an illegitimate government, and half the world, three quarters of his neighbors in Latin America, declare him a usurper, and look for a figure to name president, who in this case was the president of the Assembly, but who in the case of Ortega could be a government in exile or anything.
Is it difficult for there to be early elections?
No. What is clear is that there would only be early elections if Ortega determines that they would be helpful for him. For example, if he turns to look at the money he has available, and notices that at some point he is going to have to have massive layoffs and things like that. Basic politics makes you think that at the moment of making those economic decisions that are very difficult to sell to an electorate, and that the electorate will make you pay for, it is better for you to have early elections, and that it be the new government that has to make all the difficult decisions. In that context we are clear that any early elections will only be if they are helpful to Ortega. If you were to say to me, what do you think is going to happen? I would tell you that I am 99% sure that the elections will be in November 2021, above all if an agreement on electoral matters is reached during this year.
What are the minimal changes that should be made in the electoral system?
The Electoral Law at this time still has disqualified and in limbo all the people who have not voted in the last two elections. These people right now are not automatic voters, they moved to a list of a passive electoral roll, who in theory do not have the right to vote, if they do not go through the process of re-qualifying themselves, when it is not even known where nor with whom that can be done. Principally all the people in the opposition who have abstained because of the fraudulent elections in recent years, today have ceased being Nicaraguans who can vote, automatically. Their status has to be restored. On top of this, after so many years of the government manipulating the electoral roll and citizen IDs, it is important to audit the roll, because it is probable, in fact it has been confirmed, that there are many cases of double voting and double registration, in the case of the party in power and its faithful. Nevertheless, there are a lot of complaints from the side of its opponents that they do not appear on the rolls, that the government does not want them to get their citizen ID, that the ID center never opened. You also have the elements of transparency. Publishing the results is normal, it is what is in your interest, it is what is always done, but the Electoral Council, let us remember that it had a very ugly trauma, precisely induced by this organization Ethics and Transparency in the year 2008. The trauma was when the Council did not allow us access to the Voting Reception Boards to be witnesses in 2008. It was discovered, according to the official data itself, that in many Voting Reception Boards, principally those that were opposition bastions, a phenomenon occurred, and it is that there were more votes than voters. The official electoral roll of the Electoral Council was saying that there were 150 voters in that board, and on the following day the party in power had won 400 to 0. You cannot win 400 to 0 where you have 150 voters, and you were sent only 150 ballots. We are not talking about a mathematical difficulty, we are talking about a mathematical impossibility, in other words, an absolute fraud. What attitude did the Supreme Electoral Council take after this? It quit publishing the data. It no longer told you how much each roll had, it did not tell you what results each voting reception board had. They made oversight difficult for you, they blocked access to contrastable results for you, and the process begins to deteriorate even more. It is as if, so that you are not caught with your hands in the cookie jar, you start to take out everyone´s eyes. Imagine for example the lottery. The lottery, instead of doing the lottery drawing in view of everyone, with the little balls tumbling and everyone asking to be witness to the fact that the process is fair, you had a little fat man who comes out two or three days later saying that the winning number is the one that he had in his pocket. The electoral system had degraded more or less to this level. So, the mechanisms of transparency have to be strengthened and basically adopt best practices. In fact, the OAS, in this sense, is very clear, and in the previous electoral episodes their diagnosis of the problems was very on target, the therapy was what was incorrect. The therapy should have been pointing out the fraud, and that the things would have had the consequences that they had to have. The therapy that the OAS recommended was let us let this pass and let us work so that the next elections be better.
The ideal would have been that the last two presidential elections would be done over?
Something that obviously cannot be done, because that is dead and buried, but in fact the recommendation at that time would have been to do them over. Note, it is not a matter of burning the country down for it to sprout again. And partly that is why simply and candidly time goes by and you get to the next election. The OAS understands that, after having given Ortega the opportunity, of letting the fraud pass with the commitment of fixing things for the next election, and that this has not happened, that instead things have gotten worse, the time has come to try to attempt another technique, which is calling things by their name, and that is what Ortega is afraid of. It is very advisable that for the electoral reform process to reach a good end, that the OAS be here, but I have my doubts about whether Ortega does not have now a very big concern about the fact that the OAS could lead him to provide an electoral opening far beyond what he is willing to do, and maybe more than what would be strictly necessary for the different actors to decide to participate.
How do you see Rosario Murillo as a candidate?
The parties will have their process for naming their candidates. We always recommend democratic, open, participatory processes, primary elections, elements much better than designating the candidate. But beyond that, we recognize that the Electoral Law of Nicaragua allows the political parties to be a type of private association that end up having an owner, and it should not be that way, but that legally they have the right of ending up with the photo on the ballot of the person who wins the cleanest primary in the world, as well as the person who the party might designate.
Should the political prisoners be freed before there are elections?
There are two lines of thought. First, everyone is in favor of the fact that there be no political prisoners, that would be fundamental. In terms of how to get them out, and that they quit being part of an extortionist game, where I put them in prison again so that we have to talk about this again, instead of talking about other things, the recommendation there is very simple. If we resolve the political problem, the issue of the political prisoners is solved as well. If we resolve only the issue of the political prisoners, and we cannot resolve anything until we resolve that issue, we are going to continue having the causes of new political prisoners. Probably the definitive way of getting the current political prisoners out, and those who might come in the future, is resolving the political problem. To subordinate addressing the political problem until the prisoners are released has that little great logical defect, and that is that you cannot make progress on the real solution until you resolve the issue of the political parties, and you set up for yourself a vicious circle where you cannot address the substance because you cannot address a prerequisite, when addressing the substance resolves the prerequisite.
Roberto Courtney was born September 11, 1964, the son of Roberto Courtney, a North American, and Rafaela Cerda, Nicaraguan. Courtney left Nicaragua in 1983 for academic purposes. In the United States he got a Bachelor´s degree in Economics at Loyola University and studied Law at Georgetown University.
He worked first in the legal department of the Psychiatric Hospital of Manhattan and later in a law office on Wall Street. Afterwards he opened his own law office in Los Angeles in 1993, and when he returned to Nicaragua in 1996 he had as a goal for his life to write movie scripts, possibly from there comes his interest in always being close to theatre events or concerts in the country.
He talks little about his family, but when he is asked about his interests, he points out that he has multiple interests and that he likes science, like his great-great grandfather Miguel Ramírez Goyena, a botanist by profession, the youngest principal of a secondary school in the country at the age of 22, and one of the greatest scientists in the history of Nicaragua. He is the brother of the former magistrate Rafael Solís.
He likes a phrase from one of his grandmothers: “Kindness is more lovely than beauty.”
He is married. He likes jazz and classical music. “The saxophone sounds very nice in classical music, almost like a flute, I should acknowledge that I play it with more enthusiasm than skill, but it makes me happy,” he says.
 On February 28, 2017 the Nicaraguan government signed a memorandum of understanding with the OAS to advise the government on electoral reforms for the next election (2021). That memorandum expires on February 28, 2020.
This rather long speech is important for several reasons. First of all, it takes place within the context of the European Union´s recent approval of a framework for applying sanctions against Nicaragua over the continued violation of human rights, and it is delivered in the very presence of the new ambassador of the European Union to Nicaragua. But more importantly, it lays out in some detail Ortega´s view of the April 2018 uprising and its implications today.
He places the events of April 2018 in the context of historical US interventions in Nicaragua, and then buttresses his position by referencing news stories about small armed groups that appeared in the press in Miami and local papers as far back as 2007. He vehemently criticizes the new Foreign Minister for the European Union for his position on Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. He then makes the case for how the Government under his leadership has fought poverty, promoted growth, fought organized crime and drug trafficking, and how all this was set back by the events from April to July 2018. He therefore asks for aid from the international community to support Nicaragua´s current efforts to resume the attack on poverty and increasing economic growth.
He does not address any of the past and ongoing reports by the UN and OAS Human Rights organizations on the systematic and ongoing abuse of human rights by the Government, which are the immediate causes of the sanctions he condemns. Nor does he mention any interest in negotiating about these rights. By ignoring this “elephant in the room”, and keeping heavily armed police and paramilitaries in the streets to prevent any expressions of dissent, the conclusion can be drawn that any international support will be given in a context of the ongoing repression.
(The use of caps reflects their use in the original Spanish).
President Daniel and vice president Rosario in the presentation of credentials, October 16, 2019
Dear Brother and Sister Nicaraguans, Dear Families, Nicaragua is a People, a Nation that always has its doors open to develop, deepen relationships with all the Nations of the Earth. We are a small Nation in Territory, but with a lot of Dignity.
Nicaragua, you know the why of the presence, starting with independence from Spain, in other words, we became independent from Spain in the year 1821, a small People, but at that time the Spanish Conquistadores had already discovered, more than the Gold that they could find in Nicaragua, more than the labor force with other forms of slavery that was installed in our Countries with the Encomienda.
There began the dispute between England and Spain over Nicaragua. England dominated half of the Territory, and Spain the other half. And why did the dispute over Nicaragua exist? They had discovered that River that some of you will now get to know, the Rio San Juan, and the Lake that leads to that small strait in Rivas and that therefore was the passage that the Conquistadores were looking for.
In other words, apart from the thirst for Gold that they brought, the subjection and extermination of entire Peoples, Indigenous Peoples, our Ancestors, they began to fight over the passage, and the British as well as the Spanish said: The one who dominates that passage that allows traveling to the two Oceans is going to dominate all of America. This they were saying in the years of the Conquest, after the Conquest, when the British and Spanish were constantly fighting one another. And now independent Nicaragua, well, continued begin the victim of the Powers who wanted to take over Nicaragua, to take over that passage.
This is where the anti-imperialist sentiments come from in Nicaragua, a People who have never been the enemy of any People of the World, neither the Spanish People, nor the British People, nor the US People, but that, yes is a People that has resisted and fought against aggressions, the interventions of these Powers.
It is always good to recall History and the yankee expansionism from the South of the United States, when they were opposed to the North. They had a presence in Nicaragua, after a Transit Route that had been opened, through which thousands of North Americans moved from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast of the United States.
They were the years of the Gold Fever in the United States, and, well, US Businessmen found that there was a much safer Route than crossing the entire Territory of the United States; and it was to sail the passage in New York, going to a small port on the Rio San Juan. Then they sailed on the River, navigating the River, navigating the Lake, then crossing the isthmus of Rivas in Stagecoaches that the US Company had, and then sailed once again to take the course to the West Coast of the United States.
Gold! Always Gold! Gold brought the Conquistadores. Gold brought the yankee expansionists. Gold imposed on us here a yankee President, William Walker, a slaveholder, who came accompanied by those who were a force of the Armies of the Southern United States, who were fighting the North at that time, the most conservative Forces, the most reactionary forces. And he made himself President of Nicaragua, William Walker, and was recognized by the yankee Government, and there in his inauguration was the yankee Delegate, present when William Walker took possession here in Nicaragua.
This reminds us of an event that the US Superpower should be ashamed of, but unfortunately there is no shame, and we see how they invent Presidents. Now they have invented a President there in Venezuela, a President who has not been elected, who was elected for the Parliament. Ah, but the empire already decided, along with the European Powers, a good part of the European Powers decided to recognize as President someone who is not the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The President was elected and is named Nicolás Maduro.
A bloody fight had to be waged here against Walker to expel him; but then the United States imposed a Treaty on Nicaragua, so that Nicaragua would not be able to use its Territory to build canal constructions on the Rio San Juan, or Canals through Nicaragua. And then left Nicaragua while also it relocated to Panama, to what was Great Colombia, uprooting Panama from Great Colombia to then have two alternatives.
Here studies for the Canal were carried out, the US Troops did them, the Body of Engineers of the US Army did the Studies, because there was a Mandate from the US Congress, deciding since Nicaragua was a Colony of theirs, that they had to do the Studies to build the Canal through Nicaragua, while they did the same in Panama.
In other words, Nicaragua has been under the gaze of the Powers there, and above all, the US Power, that deposed Governments, and behind the deposition of a Government that had promoted a Liberal Revolution there in the years of 1893, as President Zelaya was promoting a Policy of more connections with Europe, so it was, as they used to say, “America for the Americans, this meant America for the United States, and it meant that the Europeans could not approach this Region. These were the rules that the expansionist Policy of the United States dictated.
Well, and after overthrowing Zelaya, the Resistance of Nicaraguans, of Nicaraguan Patriots, resenting, confronting who? The yankee Troops who shipped out then. Year 1912, the yankee troops disembarking in Corinto and advancing then to Masaya, to fight the Patriots who were defending the Sovereignty and Dignity of the Country.
And Sandino then rising up against the yankee Troops. And Sandino,, now with the yankee Troops withdrawn, well, dialoguing and arriving at Peace Accords, and the President invites them to a dinner in the Presidential Home, while the chief of the Army, who the yankees had organized, who was under yankee tutelage, who had been under the orders of the High yankee Officials, was waiting for Sandino to leave the dinner, right here in the Center of Managua, to capture him and then shoot him with those who accompanied him.
Peace agreements had been signed; the Chief of the Army imposed by the yankees, Somoza, had taken photos with Sandino after the Peace Accords, embracing one another as Brothers, and then Somoza complied with the last task that the yankees had entrusted him: Killing Sandino!
They gave the mission of killing Sandino to Somoza. And he killed Sandino on February 21, 1934. From there a long tyranny that was recognized by the International Community, it was never described as a Dictatorship, in so far as it was a tyranny imposed, armed and financed by US Governments.
Unfortunately History continues repeating itself, the US Power feels it has the right to attack those who do not subject themselves to it. And the Latin American Region is shaken, but I would say even more, the World is shaken, by all the ways in which the order that Global Capitalism had designed has been violated, and that continues advancing, with profound imperfections, but was advancing under the rules, under the norms of Globalization.
There was a type of Consensus to which the United States adhered, and that provided a little bit of stability, in the midst of enormous challenges that Humanity had to face, it gave it a little bit of stability, it provided a direction to the Developed Countries and to the Developing Countries.
It now is completely affected, it is destabilized, but we have Confidence, we have Faith that there will be maturity and sensibleness in the Countries that have the greatest power, the greatest capacities to enrich, strengthen, within the framework of the Principles of the United Nations, to get all us Countries on track who are a reality.
Beyond the cultural nuances, beyond ideologies, beyond specific formats of each Nation, the truth is that it is indispensable, it is a matter of life and death to achieve a Consensus that does not just continue alienating Developing Countries, but alienating and conflicting and clashing among the Developed Countries themselves, who are more united under a path that they set, and where in one way or another we all were walking along, this Process of Globalization, seeking Sustainable Development, convinced that you had to and have to fight against Global Warming, that you have to fight for the Environment, signing Agreements.
All this is put into question, the big goals that we had committed to in the Fight against Poverty, Extreme Poverty, all this is affected, because to the extent that the Powers do not help, above all the US Power does not help to consolidate Multilateralism, that it understands that Planet Earth does not belong to them and does not belong to just one Power, that it belongs to all of us, and that the Powers have to unite their efforts, for what? So that Equilibrium Points are achieved, Points of Stability, and not continue sowing instability, as is being sown at this time, as continues being sown in these moments.
The challenges that the Developed Countries have are enormous, and logically the steps that the Developed Countries can take are going to contribute to the fact that the we Countries might progress, we countries that have to face enormous challenges in terms of Extreme Poverty, Poverty, in search of better living conditions for our Peoples. And we will be able to advance if there is Reasonableness, if there is Understanding, if there is a new Contract, starting with the Principles of the United Nations, among the Powers that today see themselves confronting one another as a result of the hegemonic attitude of the greater Power that the Planet has.
We welcome You, Dear Brother and Sister Ambassadors, because beyond our differences we are one Family on this Planet. [He goes on to welcome personally the ambassadors of Germany, Mexico, European Union].
Since we would like to have good relationships of respect with the United States, and since we would like to have good relations also with the European Community, but since understanding, since understanding that just as the United States has marked the transition announcing the annihilation, the destruction of the Sandinista Revolution, the Bolivarian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, they had said it very clearly, the European Union is aligned with US Policy.
It is incredible, the European Union recognizing a phantom President in Venezuela…Incredible! Incredible! Someone who was elected as a Deputy. We would like to know when, what day, at what moment the election of that man took place, that 50 Countries, of course, promoted all this by the yankee Government. The European Union dragged along by the yankee Government in its madness, to do the ridiculous thing of recognizing someone who appeared there simply by the will of the yankees…Incredible!
Incredible that the European Union has as Chief of Foreign Policy, he has already been named, already presented, Mr. Borrell. I met Mr. Borrell at the time when Mr. Borrell was from the most radical wing of the Spanish Socialist Worker Party. I met him, then he was married to a very revolutionary French woman. And now, it is incredible to hear it, but as it is said: Incredible! But true!
To top it off, that His Majesty the King is going to visit Cuba, and there in the conversation of Borrell with the Cuban Foreign Minister, he tells him, that he hopes that when the King visits Cuba, that neither the President of Venezuela nor the President of Nicaragua be there. I did not know that a Meeting of this type was being scheduled. It never occurred to us that because Mr. Borrell was going to be in Cuba, that we were going to run over to Cuba for Mr. Borrell to receive us.
It is a disgrace for the European Community to have leading the Foreign Policy of the European Community a person like Borrell; in other words, how seriously could one speak with Borrell? He does not have the same tact, he is someone who rather appears to have gone mad by the way in which he speaks, the way in which he rants. But incredible, the European Union named him.
I don´t know how Dialogue will be promoted with the European Union in these conditions, where threats of aggressions, of Sanctions come from the European Union itself; they call them Sanctions, but really they are aggressions. It is like the yankees, every time they impose what they call a Sanction, that is an aggression! The sanction is established under a Legal Order, and if you have to sanction, well, that passes through a procedure, if a State thinks that it has to sanction, but simply it occurs to them and now they strike, they attack.
But “there is no evil that lasts 100 years, nor body that resists it”, and I do not believe that this situation is going to last for a long time, we hope that changes can happen in what the established Norms are for carrying out Dialogues, for carrying out Respectful Communications between all States, no matter how large and powerful some may be, and no matter how very small others may be.
I believe there will be sensible people in the european Peoples and in the European Parliament. I had the opportunity to receive here last year a Delegation of the European Parliament and they seemed to be sensible people. But it is like there is a competition here of who shouts the loudest against our Countries, because coming out of the Meetings and returning to Europe, since they had to look at how to win Elections in a Region that has moved to the right, hence the messages to who was more harsh, who was more violent, and asking for blood. They are asking for blood. That is what they are asking for, blood from these Countries who have not done any harm to anyone.
[He then welcomes the ambassadors of Mauritania, Syria, Suriname, and after welcoming the Ambassador of Finland, adds the following]:
Many of these Nations we visited in the 80s, likewise Finland. They were years of the war, and we always found in those Peoples a lot of Affection, a lot of Solidarity. Seeking Peace! We wanted to put an end to the war, the war imposed by the United States. And we not only resisted here that aggression that led the United States, its Rulers, to ally themselves with drug traffickers to circumvent the stoppages that on occasions they had in the Congress to not continue financing the war, and that caused [legal] Processes.
We went to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, well to continue the Path that they demanded, and that established the International Laws to which we are all committed in the United Nations. We went to the Court, and the Court ruled condemning the United States and ordering them to stop the acts of terrorism and aggression against Nicaragua. Yes, the United States condemned by the Court for terrorist practices against Nicaragua, and then ordering it to compensate Nicaragua. That Sentence is alive there still, it has not expired, the Sentence has not expired.
[He then welcomes the ambassadors of Austria and Namibia]
As I was saying, Nicaragua is a People, a Nation that wants to establish relations, develop relationships with the Countries with whom we have relations, but that these relations might develop in a respectful way. We do not want to be a Colony! Being a Colony is not in our veins, that desire to be a Colony does not run in our blood, and I think that there is no Human Being nor any people who want to be colonized, and what we ask is that you let us work.
How much sacrifice it has cost Nicaragua to have achieved, after the periods of war like those that I mentioned to you, to spend 17 years in the Opposition, a Party with enormous strength, that never proposed toppling Governments, deposing Governments, regardless of the contradictions that we had, and we always said to them, there is no other Path than resolving the problems among ourselves, and talking, negotiating there with the Social Sectors, Economic Sectors, Peasants, with those with whom there could be contradictions, because of the Government Programs of the three Governments who were installed in those years.
Then we returned to Government in 2007 and we were able to install an Alliance here, Workers, Peasants, Business people, and the Country was able to progress, was able to grow, but a growth that was reflected also in the decrease in Extreme Poverty and Poverty, they were being reduced, and in the expansion and free Health and Education services for Nicaraguan Families.
And in the fight against Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, Terrorism, with the smallest Budget of the entire Region, we have been able to make Nicaragua a Contention Point to what is the scourge of that epidemic that affects our entire Region and that has a starting point.
If there is a lot of production of drugs in the South, it is because there is a large market and a great demand for the drugs in the North. But they want to demand that we control that, and of course, with our scarce resources, resources that we could dedicate to Health Care, Education, we have to invest them in the fight against Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime that demands a lot of resources. And with the smallest Budget in the Region, Nicaragua has more and better results in the Fight against Drug Trafficking, likewise in terms of Citizen Security.
We have been growing, economic growth, but the US Power did not have a good opinion about it, they did not want a Nicaragua developing itself in a Policy of Alliances that gave it Security, Stability and Growth in the Economy of the Country. Even in the worst moments of the crisis of 2018, Nicaragua had rates of growth, Nicaragua had the best rates of growth in the Region in that period of crisis.
Meanwhile aggression against Nicaragua was planned again. Armed groups were organized, since 2007 when we returned to Government armed groups were organized, and these armed groups financed from the United States of America, and presented in the communications media in Florida, from the United States and from Nicaragua, as Patriots who were fighting against the Dictatorship.
Since then this aggression began that caused more than 450 deaths and more than 1,000 wounded, since 2007, 2008 up until April of last year. When simply because a Reform to Social Security was applied, where Business people were taxed to contribute, and on the other hand the Workers also contributed; simply put, the explosion came from there. In other words, the Business people could not resist the pressure of those who accused them of being complicit with the “Dictatorship”, for being in Alliance with the Government, and received threats that they were going to apply that famous Magnitsky [law] on them. And of course, the Business people who have a lot of interests in the United States, if they applied the Magnitsky law, that would liquidate them.
And the radical groups of anti-Sandinistas always bent on going to the United States to seek out the Congress, to look up the State Department, what for? So that they would sanction also those Business people who were accomplices of the “Dictatorship”. And there they bet on a Reform to Social Security…They took out weapons! It was no peaceful protest, and that is easily demonstrated by the amount of dead; the destruction, the destruction of Schools, destruction of Hospitals, destruction of homes; burnings; setting people on fire, simply for being Sandinistas, the Police murders.
In other words, they went far beyond, why? Because they had weapons, and had weapons that they were accumulating, they were collecting, they were using already since 2007, 2008, when armed groups appeared in the Communications Media of the United States and also here in Nicaragua. They were not Terrorists, they were “Patriots”, fighting for democracy.
A Country that really was recognized for the way in which it has been achieving progress in the fight against Poverty, in Health, in Education, in the Field of Production, in the Field of Commerce, well, was seen subjected to a hard blow. And there the claim of the Coup supporters was not about the pretext of the Decree that had to do with the Reform to Social Security, that was the pretext, but the demand was not that the Decree be removed, that the Decree be withdrawn, that was not the demand, the demand was “that the Government leave”, that was the complaint, “that the Government leave”.
And then the fact that attempts had been made that Reform to Social Security be done by consensus, that we would discuss it, they refused to discuss it, because the order was already given and the threat was made from the North. It was a terrible situation, harsh, tragic for the Nicaraguan People, for all Nicaraguans; beyond ideologies, beyond Political Positions, the truth is that the suffering was for all of Nicaragua,; but we have been able to make progress, first being able to recover the Stability of the Country, which is basic for being able to later progress, to take up again the Path that we brought of Economic Growth with Justice, with Equity, and in Peace.
And this is what we ask of the International Community that shows itself interested in the situation of Nicaragua…Well, that they support us in this direction, that they support us so that we can continue strengthening a Process that would allow putting an end to Extreme Poverty, to Poverty, because we still have a challenge, we have made a lot of progress, but we still have to reach the goal.
There we hope for the Collaboration, the Cooperation of the International Community in an unconditional manner, more than those that establish regulations when Agreements with Organizations are signed, etc. and that we Nicaraguans might continue passing through the Route that we brought also within the framework of defining [our] Authorities.
In other words, we have a Constitution that establishes National Elections along with Elections for President and National Deputies and for Deputies to the Central American Parliament, in accordance with the times of the Law; well, those Elections will be in the Month of November 2021.
A Constitution that also establishes Municipal Elections that are held after the National Elections, and that also establishes Regional Elections in the Autonomous Regions of the North Caribbean and the South Caribbean, given that in those Regions of the Northern Caribbean and the Southern Caribbean we were able to achieve [it], in a Historic Struggle of Communities, of Original Peoples that had been marginalized.
There they have their Parliament in the North, their Parliament in the South, and they are the owners, by Law, of their Territory. In other words, in these years we were finally able to provide titles of more than 35,000 square kilometers that in Deeds, by Law, by the Constitution, belong, are in the hands of the Communities of the Original Peoples. And the Norms that exist for carrying out Projects, Programs, Investments in the Zone, already in the Business Plan, that it first has to pass through the Communities where that Project will be carried out, and then the Regional Council has to approve it, and only then can the National Government move it forward.
So we have these Elections that have been able to be held, in a timely manner these Elections have been carried out, they are three moments: The National Elections, the Municipal Elections and the Regional Elections. And that is the Path that we have,
For what purpose? To take the Government. The Political Forces that want to take the Government, this is the Path, this is the Route that we have; it is a Route that is within the Norms that the Constitution of our Country establishes.
Meanwhile, to continue uniting efforts yet in these difficult conditions in the Economic Order. We cannot say that we already achieved resuming the Route of Economic Growth that we had; yes, but the conditions are there, and the Morale of the People is there, working every day to be able to progress. That Blow that the Economy suffered! In other words, if we had an average of 4.5% up to 5% growth, with these acts of terrorism that were produced in our Country, since April of last year up to July of last year, it caused an enormous blow to the Economy and we dropped to 0, and to less. In other words, we lost 4.5%, 5% that was the average that we were advancing, promoting and that we had as a goal, and we add that loss to this, 3.5% and lower still. In other words, a nearly 9% drop.
It was a terrible blow for the Economy, and if the Economic Activity remains standing, it is thanks to the Strength of the People, the Workers, Small and Medium Business owners, and Investments also, that did not allow themselves to be dragged toward the Policy of destruction that was aimed at, and tried to overthrow the Government.
The challenges that we have continue to be very big, the Economic Field continues being a Field that we have out front, we have it out front. The Budget we had to reduce it, in other words, there was no way to grow with the Budget.
We are working now on the Budget for the year 2020, and what we are looking for is how to consolidate what we have been able to make progress on, but we cannot talk about the fact that we are going to msake a Budget larger than what we executed in the year 2018. But yes ensuring…In other words, here not one School has been closed because of budget cuts, the budget cuts have been in other directions; not one Health Center has been closed, nor one Health Post, not one Hospital; rather just the opposite, Schools are being inaugurated, Health Posts are being inaugurated, Hospitals are being inaugurated, continue being built.
Projects of Roads, Highways continue advancing. The very year 2018, last year, they continued working in the midst of the attempts to paralyze the Country, because then it was, they wanted to paralyze the Country. As if they did not understand that now with the Blow that the Country had suffered, betting on paralyzing the Country would have wiped out the installed capacities that the Country has in the Economic Field, in the Productive Field, in the Social Field.
But in that same year we continued inaugurating numerous works, right here in Managua the Overpasses were inaugurated; Roads, Highways; the Highway that unites for the first time in the History of the Zone of the Pacific Region of Nicaragua with the Southern Region of the Nicaraguan Caribbean, in other words, with Bluefields, we inaugurated it this year, because the works never stopped.
And a Highway was built in spite of our limitations, but well, there was no other option than consider [doing it] with our own resources and with the support of International Organizations, a Highway that cannot be made of asphalt because of the amount of water that falls there, it quickly destroys the asphalt; so, concrete. And the entire Zone of the Caribbean now we are working on it with concrete Highways, because that now provides us a great certainty that the Highways will last over time.
That Highway we inaugurated this year, the Highway to Bluefields, and opening the Highway to Bluefields opens the door for Nicaragua to have at the same time its first Deep Water Port there in the Caribbean, because we do not have a Deep Water Port in the Caribbean, they are small ports that we have in the Caribbean Ocean.
And with the Highway now there is the road to be able to transport merchandise and bring in merchandise. Before the Route was, either by air, very expensive, or by land with a much longer route, and then put it on boats in El Rama, and from there in small boats to go to Bluefields. That was the only way to get to Bluefields.
Really works have been done that help to integrate the Country, that help to strengthen the conditions so that Nicaragua can, and I am sure that our People are going to achieve it, can resume the path that we already were resuming. Well, our goal this coming year in the Budget is going to be, from that collapse that we had to minus zero, minus 3.5, now look to raise and get close to .1 or 1.5% of growth. We cannot aspire to more in these conditions, because rather the budget situation does not provide for larger investment. But getting now to this point we will be resuming a starting point to be able once again to move forward with sustainable growth in the medium and long term.
We welcome all of you Dear Brothers and Sisters. Beyond our Political and Ideological differences, we are not going to arouse fanaticism, because we might have Political and Ideological differences, we are not going to arouse fanaticism, let us not become fanatics, but yes we do ask of you comprehension, comprehension with a People that historically has been subjected to aggression, to intervention, and what we ask for are good relationships, exchange.
With the European Union we had a Process that was very well worked on with all of Central America in the Agreement for Association with the European Union. I followed it very closely with the Compañeros who were working on the Agreement, and there a maturity, a Respect was shown on the part of the European Union to the Central American Countries. We did not feel an arrogant attitude, that because we are Powers now you have to do this and in this way; rather there was rationality and the understanding that Europe is a Market for the Central American Region, and Central America in turn is a Market for European investments, and that from there new spaces are opening up in all Fields.
We trust that we are going to be able to resume, beyond the outbursts that I have mentioned on the part of some Leaders of the European Union, well, I think that we have to have trust that Europe will know how to have the tact, the sensitivity to treat our Latin American and Caribbean Region, and in this particular case with the Central American Region that we have made one in the relationship with Europe; very small markets where the most helpful thing is that we negotiate united with Europe as we have done, and always open to exchanging on those points that we are not able to agree on, but logically exchanging with respect, and you are always going to find that disposition in us.
So it is that we say welcome to Nicaragua and that this Land is also your Land, this House that is called Nicaragua, also is your House, and you have the doors open for you and for your Peoples. Thank you.
A significant announcement was made yesterday of a coalition of some 43 civil society organizations that includes university students, peasants, human rights activists, business sector, feminists, politicians and other movements, including the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which is organization that represented civil society in the National Dialogue. This manifesto represents another step in addressing the question of what the opposition to the current government is proposing as an alternative.
Blue and White National Unity Manifesto
National Unity for Justice and Democracy
The Ortega Murillo dictatorship, which has led Nicaragua into a grave human rights crisis violating the Constitution and the law, maintains itself only by violence and repression through police, paramilitary and shock forces, who have subjected the people to a massacre that up to now has produced more than 400 people murdered, more than three thousand wounded, an undetermined number of people disappeared, kidnapped, captured, tortured and criminalized, and more than 347,000 jobs lost.
The diverse and plural movements, organizations, social, political and economic forces that throughout the country have led the civic and pacific resistance to this authoritarian, corrupt, nepotistic and criminal government, we make public the establishment of the Blue and White National Unity, with which we begin a new stage of organization and mobilization for the conquest of freedom, justice and democracy.
The unity of all the forces is an imperative to continue and intensify the struggle that would lead to the departure of the dictatorship and the construction of the democracy that we aspire to. This unity marks a progression in the peaceful resistance of the citizenry, enhancing our capacities for planning, coordination, organization and implementation of protest actions, denouncement, as well as clear and resounding expressions about the fact that the majority of the Nicaraguan people reject the dictatorial and repressive regime that has committed crimes against humanity, for which those responsible will be judged.
An economic disaster is being experienced as the result of the repression of the regime, the most affected sectors are commerce, hotel and services (tourism), manufacturing and construction, affecting the weakest base of the pyramid. We take on as our own the commitment to its improvement, its reactivation and to return to grow again in numbers and quality of life. Not one job less, nor the loss of another life.
The principle objective of this Blue and White Unity is building a Nicaragua with democracy, freedom, justice, institutionality and respect for human rights. To achieve it, the quick departure from power of the Ortega Murillos through democratic means is indispensable.
Principles and Values
The country´s symbols unite us, particularly the blue and white flag.
Our struggle is civil and peaceful.
The peaceful resistance is led by the citizenry.
We maintain the commitment to freedom, justice, democracy, unhindered respect for human rights and the Rule of Law.
Transparency and honesty are the basis for the construction of trust.
Dialogue and negotiation are basic principles for the achievement of the objectives.
We accept respect for diversity and plurality of identities and non-discrimination.
Our relations are horizontal, without caudillos, nor vanguards.
We make use of democratic exercise and consensus in decision making in all areas of our work and at all levels.
Our desire is that Nicaragua might grow economically with equity and freedom.
A national dialogue to agree on terms and conditions for a democratic transition. We support the bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua as mediators and witnesses: and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy as representative of Nicaraguan society in that negotiation. We request the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations (UN) and th European Union (EU) to act as guarantors.
The immediate end to repression: threats, harassment, attacks, forced disappearances and displacements, abductions, captures, sexual violations, torture and murder of the citizenry that defends its rights.
Immediate freedom for the political prisoners, the end of the criminalization and trial of the right to protest, and the annulment of these trials, as well as redress for the victims of the people imprisoned.
Early municipal, regional and national elections in the short term, with a restructured Electoral Branch, and national and international observation that would ensure inclusive, plural, transparent and competitive elections. The legal and institutional changes will have to be done that would ensure this purpose and allow for the broad participation of political parties and electoral alliances with their own identity.
Respect for the freedom of association, mobilization and expression of the citizenry, as well as respect for the free exercise of independent journalism.
End to firings, intimidation and reprisals against the staff of state institutions, and they not be forced to carry out any partisan political activities.
End to government reprisals against police who refuse to carry out orders of repressing the citizenry in peaceful resistance to the dictatorship.
Actions of the Army in accordance with the functions established in the Constitution and respect for human rights.
Promotion of human and sustainable development.
End to aggression against the private sector and civil society organizations that are accused of practicing terrorism.
The Blue and White National Unity commits to promote and defend:
That there be no impunity for the crimes committed by the Ortega-Murillo regime, and that transitional justice be applied based on truth, justice, reparation and guaranty of no repetition. To contribute to this purpose the mandate of the International Group of Independent Experts of the IACHR should be expanded.
The implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, as well as other reports that different organizations of the Interamerican and universal system might release.
Investigation, search for and identification of the forced disappearances, and redress for the victims.
Disarming and dissolution of the paramilitary bodies created by the Ortega-.Murillo regime and the destruction of the confiscated weapons.
Restructuring of the National Police and the purification of its leadership. Sanctions in accordance with the law of those officers and personnel that ordered and executed murders and all types of repressive actions against the citizenry. That the police who refused to repress the population be recognized.
Reinstatement of health and education professionals, and those from other State institutions who were fired for political reasons.
7,. Re-establishment of university autonomy; respect for the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast and indigenous and Afro descendent communities, and the municipalities.
Repeal of all the norms that violate national sovereignty and fundamental rights, like Law 840 for the construction of an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua.
A model of social and economic development that would promote free markets and social well being.
In coordination with diverse sectors, programs for inclusive economic reactivation for all the economic sectors of the country, and not just those allied with the regime.
Respect for private property.
Repatriation of those exiled for political and economic reasons.
Respect for fundamental freedoms and rights.
The history of Nicaragua has demonstrated the courage and the capacity of this people to defend their freedom. We unite under our blue and white flag to achieve the departure of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, and set the bases for a democratic, free and just Nicaragua for present and future generations.
This national unity will take shape in each territory of our geography, in the countryside and the cities, and is open to the diversity of actors that are taking on the principles of this Unity, are willing to contribute to the change that Nicaragua needs.
We recognize the support of the international community for the people of Nicaragua in the search for solutions to the grave social and political crisis. In particular we recognize the efforts made by the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and the European Union, and we call them to redouble their efforts for the defense of the human rights of the Nicaraguan people and the establishment of democracy,
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.