A strategy to displace the regime through peaceful means and begin a process of democratic change.
At the beginning of the year, the task asserts itself of seeing the prospects that are presented to our country for 2020 in the political, economic and social planes. Logically, the starting point is an assessment of what happened in the year that just ended, since the social and political processes continue their course and dynamics.
I want to clarify that I will not do a detailed recounting of events, but a panoramic review, focusing on what I think is central.
Let us start with the political field. Throughout the first semester, and more specifically between February and July, the dynamic was marked by the negotiations between the leaders of the regime and the representatives of the Civic Alliance. An unexpected encounter between Ortega and prominent businessmen served as the scenario to open the cycle. A notable fact of that stage was the withdrawal of the Catholic hierarchy from the role of mediator that they had played in 2018. They saw it coming and took their hands out of the fire. After the first month some general agreements were signed, that Ortega did not implement. The negotiations stagnated until the bigshot buried the process in the month of July.
What lessons can we draw from the negotiations with Ortega?
The big lesson is that for Ortega the dialogues are simply delaying or diversionary tactics which are part of his war strategy, and not a resource to find agreed upon solutions to the crisis that the country is undergoing. Ortega intends to subject or crush, through deceit, bribery or force. In 2018 he resorted to the first dialogue because of the internal pressure. He took on commitments. He pushed and pulled. And aborted the process when he felt that he had controlled the situation with fire and blood.
In 2019 he ran to call for negotiations when Juan Guaidó erupted in Venezuela, within a strategy combined with threats from the US administration, and actions of the international community, principally the Lima Group. The moment appeared to portend the imminent fall of Madura and Ortega, who tried to take precautions in the face of the risk of being left in the middle of the street, naked and feeble. When the threat dissipated, and he felt the danger exorcised, he started kicking the table again.
It is important to highlight this lesson, because Ortega will use the same ploy again when he feels the water up to his neck again. Let us remember that Maduro has called for eleven dialogues. The corollary is: the only language that Ortega understands is that of the correlation of forces, and therefore the prescription is to not give him breathing room and “squeeze and squeeze” as much as possible.
The positive aspect of this stage was the release from jail of a significant proportion of political prisoners. The way in which the release happened – an absolutist wave of the hand – showed that in reality it was a matter of hostages, which the regime used as a bargaining chip in the give and take, principally in light of the international community.
The second semester was marked predominantly by the expectations and actions of the international community: the opening of the procedure for the application of the Democratic Charter on the part of the OAS; the declarations of condemnation of different bodies of the European Union; the sanctions imposed by Canada and the United States, as well as the suspension of bilateral aid on the part of some European countries; they deepened the international isolation of the regime. To that is added the fall of Evo Morales, which broke a link in the chain with Cuba and Venezuela.
Nevertheless, the most decisive blows were the sanctions imposed on BANCORP, the financial arm of the business conglomerate of the ruling clique, and financial platform for the trafficking and laundering of capital. More than $2.7 billion of Ortega´s capital was under the custody of that bank in the form of trust funds. With its closing, it is a mystery where that capital has taken refuge.
The other blow were the sanctions against DNP, the head of one of the most lucrative, fraudulent businesses of the regime, that is, the company for the import and commercialization of hydrocarbons at onerous prices.
In both cases, BANCORP and DNP, the shameful confusion was made evident between public patrimony and the business interests of the ruling family. With BANCORP the operation was scuttled that intended to transform it into a state bank through a law that Ortega´s deputies approved, but was left non nata. The sanctions arrived before that, and did not leave any option but to proceed with its liquidation. With DNP they nationalized the inventory to ensure its liquidity at prices that would be borne by the backs of the people. But the lucrative business was deflated.
Based on these dynamics two constants occurred: fierce repression and the cancelation of citizen rights and freedoms, as the sole mechanisms for holding onto power. And the progressive economic and social deterioration, that affects families and businesses of every size. Unemployment, business closings, contraction of bank credit, loss of income, migration, impoverishment, indebtedness of families and businesses, economic recession.
In terms of the opposition, there are bright and somber elements. The ruling clique maintains power, but has not been able to re-establish “normality”. At the point of repression it keeps massive expressions of protest contained, but the rejection of most of the population is growing, likewise recurrent demonstrations of resistance leak out, particularly from families of victims and political prisoners.
It is appropriate, likewise, to record the progress in the unification of forces and efforts. We can cite: the publication of proposals for serious changes, on the part of COSEP, the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White Unity, which offer the bases for a substantial strategic agreement; the structuring of a proposal for electoral reforms, in spite of the fact that an electoral scenario is not visible; and the efforts to build a national democratic coalition. Slow and insufficient progress, certainly, but progress in the end.
With this background, the immediate challenge is, beyond the declarations of intentions, to agree upon a strategy that:
Unite different political and social sectors committed to democracy;
Connect the short and medium term
Articulate the international plane, citizen mobilization, political communication, organization and reaching out to the daily problems and anxieties of the population, through the accompaniment of their demand with proposals and actions;
Have the explicit purpose of displacing the regime through peaceful means and beginning a process of democratic change
The crisis of April 2018 was led by students, but the frequency of their appearance in the media do not reflect their importance. This interview provides an analysis of the process since 2018 from the perspective of one of those leaders., a perspective generally not easily available.
Zayda Hernández: “If they do not hold a national strike the easy way, it will be done the hard way”
By Abixael Mogollón in La Prensa, December 21, 2019
In this interview she talks about the differences within the opposition, accusations of being anti-feminist, a national strike, sanctions against the regime, and the possibility of a large national coalition against Daniel Ortega.
Before the protests exploded, she was living a life completely removed from politics. She passed through university movements, the Civic Alliance and now at times we see her embarking on a protest alone in the streets, like a “kamikaze”.
In this interview she talks about the differences within the opposition, the accusations against her of being anti-feminist, and how she went from being in the streets protesting with other youth, to being part of the start of the national dialogue on May 16, 2018.
How did you get involved in this activism?
I don´t even believe it myself. Prior to this I had a super calm life. I think that the large majority of the youth population of Nicaragua was apathetic, and very comfortable with everything that was going on. I thought that political issues didn´t suit me. Nevertheless, I was disturbed about the Indio Maíz issue, but had not been able to protest because I was outside of Managua. I returned precisely on April 19th. My entire life I have detested the Sandinista Youth (SY), I have always been clear about that. Because of what they represent, they are not anything positive neither for the country nor for the youth. I saw the SY in pickup trucks and masked in the UNI, and I went at noon to take a look, and the police showed up shooting. It was the only day that they shot at us with blanks.
Later you were in the national dialogue. How did you end up being part of that?
That has a lot to do with my personality. The first days of the protests I was a super active person and I took on responsibility. At that moment I did not know what I was getting myself into. Public denouncements began to be made, I did not want to appear before the media, but I was always calling people from the media. We spent the days throwing stones, going to leave food in the UPOLI, to seeing myself on the famous third floor establishing a university movement. The April 19th Movement started, and it was to give shape to the demands. Then a group of youth sent by the Episcopal Conference came to organize us, and the University Coalition was formed. They told us that there would be a dialogue, and that “the private sector was ready”, obviously the government was ready and civil society was, and we were missing. In that way I became part of the first dialogue.
They criticized you a lot for some gestures that you made during that first encounter.
That is super fun (she laughs), because I do not know how they created that story that I am a leader of the MRS, when I do not even know their founders. I am always used to the fact that if something happens, I am going to look for a way to tackle it. That day we all agreed that the order that Daniel Ortega brings to meetings had to be broken up. We said that someone had to take the floor from him, and we decided that, because of his stature and his voice, that it had to be Lesther Alemán, but at that moment they could not handle the pressure of the emotions that were there, not even Daniel, Rosario and company. It was a high, and they turned off our microphones. Now the moderator was going to sing the national anthem and we were going to be left censored. I was behind the priests and I was the only student who was standing, and I was signaling Medardo Mairena to get him to speak. So I started to say that if they did not turn on our microphones, we would shout, but that was the reason, because I did not believe that a sector as important as the peasantry should be left without speaking.
Later a lot of people left the Alliance. What happened in your case?
It was not something that I myself wanted. But one suffers mistreatment and there are things that have not been said because of the circumstances and prudence. The biggest problem for the business sector of the Alliance was the trip that I made in June 2018 with two other students to lobby in the United States in favor of the Nica Act and the Magnitsky sanctions. At the same time there was a commission of business people, and another one from civil society that were there. That trip was our own proposal with a US NGO that helped us with everything that had to do with the trip and the schedule. The business sector was upset because they were not part of the schedule, and the congress people and senators did not want to receive them. They told us that “they only want to deal with direct victims, like students and peasants.” In those meetings we were able to get them to revoke the visas of many of the Sandinista Youth, Police, children of elites, and afterwards the Nica-Act was approved, because we talked with Republicans and Democrats, and later the Magnitsky sanctions were approved.
What happened when you returned to Nicaragua?
The president of COSEP (José Adán Aguerri) and the president of AMCHAM (María Nelly Rivas), while presenting the results of the work that we had done, told us that we were crazy and “that it was insanity to be asking for sanctions”. In the trip that was in June 2018 I could see people from big capital who were there the same time we were. While we were lobbying in favor of the Nica-Act, they were lobbying against the Nica-Act.
And who sent those people?
The bankers, and with that I am telling you all you need to know. They were the same ones who later promoted dialogue 2.0. Then they published some articles about that fact that we had met with the ultra-right in the United States, and that was when I pulled out of the Alliance. In addition, we always asked for a national strike, but we were never listened to, and they told us that we were banned for talking in the name of the Alliance. But here I am and I am going to continue being the uncomfortable voice for many, and I believe that I have always spoken the truth.
So different messages are being sent from the opposition?
As long as some speak one message in Washington, and others take a different one, we are going to be screwed. We blamed Luís Almagro, but we did not understand that 10 different commissions showed up to talk about 10 different versions of gibberish. Then they said that the international community was not doing anything, but If we ourselves are not doing anything, much less will they. We went and said that the repressive arm had to be sanctioned by name, and then the private sector showed up and said, “no, no sanctions now because they affect all Nicaraguans”. Then another commission arrived and said that the democratic charter had to be applied, and then another arrived who said the opposite. This is what is happening.
You are saying that the regime is allied with big capital?
Of course. Even Daniel himself says that they bit the hand that helped them rise up, and that he has evidence of the business that they did with the Venezuelan money. Those who have been able to sustain this dictatorship in these years have been the businesspeople. Not all of them.
But Ortega attacks the business sector and has publicly threatened them, for example he sent people to take over some properties.
It cannot be generalized to the private sector, nor to big capital. Although most of the private sector wants a democratic change, there are some who do not want to, and refuse to modify the system of privileges. Sandinism does not forgive betrayal, and that is what happened with many of those who have taken advantage of and enriched themselves with Sandinism. In general, the fiscal reforms and the crisis obviously affects everyone equally, but many are still betting on a Sandinism without Daniel.
Before you left the Alliance, who was pressuring for a national strike?
At that time the youth sector and the peasant sector. We were saying to them that if the country was already deadlocked, if the boys were in trenches, what was the reason for the lack of motivation for the business sector to hold a strike? It was absurd. In June 2018 the country was partially paralyzed. But they have always been interested in maintaining their macroeconomy, their businesses and their interests.
What were they saying to you?
They came to us saying “What the heck, they are not letting my trucks through” and that was a typical discussion. If they were already fighting for a truck to get through, now imagine how they are going to evaluate a proposal for a strike. It was absurd.
Do you think there will ever be an indefinite strike?
If they do not do it the easy way, at some moment they are going to have to do it the hard way. I am talking about an economy that is going under more every day. It is ironic and uncomfortable that for more the dictator says explicitly that he is afraid of a strike, and the business sector continues saying that it is an activity that they are going to evaluate and that is on the table. As long as this dictator is here, Nicaragua is going to continue suffering extreme poverty, chaos, destruction, there will be no national investment and much less foreign investment, either they close the easy way, or they close the hard way. In the face of a strike the regime says that it has legal tools, but that is a lie, what it has are weapons.
Let us suppose that this “strike the hard way” is done. What other actions need to be taken?
We have been talking about this with several people. If there is an indefinite strike, for the first days we would have to be off the streets, but the second option is to retake the streets again until they leave.
Ortega would order them to shoot again?
I am completely certain. He is a murderer. We can never forget that Daniel Ortega and all his leadership are an organized band of criminals, willing to kill to stay in power.
Would a second bloodbath be worth it?
I insist that the point is that the bloodbath is always there. Every day there is a death, every day there is a person tortured. Yesterday it was a boy, tomorrow it could be me, and we are going to die in an absurd manner, hiding ourselves when we could be confronting this murderer who is afraid. We ourselves are scared in large measure, of course, but he is more afraid because we are the majority.
Where do these accusations come from that you are anti-feminist?
It comes from 2018 when they invited me to a feminist forum. For me it was a pretty uncomfortable situation to begin to hear that “the revolution will be feminist or it will not happen”. Another person said that we women were taught to protect our lives and I said “but the lives of men also count and also have value”. They were talking about statistics and percentages, and I asked why don´t we study and evaluate the percentage of deaths and prisoners to see what gender they were. To conclude, I said that the revolution was going to be of everyone or it was not going to happen. That is why they say I am anti-feminist, because I believe that right now is not the moment to be sectorizing ourselves more than we already are. We are super polarized. I think that they are important issues of course, but now it not the moment. Right now we are in something macro which is the departure of that man, the liberation of the political prisoners who are men and women. This belongs to everyone. It is not peasants, students, feminists, it is not LGTB, nor business. This belongs to Nicaraguans and this is how we have to continue seeing it.
What do you think about those accusations?
I do not think that you have to abolish the system as many radical feminists think. I am not anti-feminist, I have read a lot about feminism and I am very thankful to the suffragists because I can vote because of them. Nevertheless, I am against radicalism. I do believe in liberal feminism in the current that started in the 60s, and I am a promoter of equity. What I believe in is equality before the law. I am not interested in whether you believe you are a plant, and I am Queen Elizabeth, if both of us are equal before the law, I have nothing to discuss.
I have seen you in the street nearly alone protesting in front of the police. Are you a Kamikazi?
There is a mixture of things behind all that (laughs). What motivates me is sending a message, and the message is that they cannot control everything. We are all over. We are millions of Nicaraguans against them. One day we can be inside El Carmen and they are not going to realize it. That is the true message. It is not that I want to be provocative, but that they realize, and it works as a slap in the face, that in five minutes you can throw out that damn Chávez.
Are you already taking action to create a large national coalition?
That is not a message that they have wanted to transmit. It is a compelled message.
By the United States. They clearly said that if we did not find a way to form this large coalition there was not going to be more access to financing for the civic struggle. Nevertheless, I do not see it as bad, I think that all the efforts for unity that are not repetitive and exhausting for the population are necessary. All of us sectors should pass through a process of union.
On what basis do you say this about the United States?
With the pressure from the United States, it is only managed by sources, because they are topics that are talked about solely in meetings where nothing is written down.
Will this large coalition be achieved?
Currently, and in this scenario, I see it as complicated. I see it as difficult because later another unity emerges, then a multisectoral group, and tomorrow another one, and the day after tomorrow another yet. I think that until we get close to an electoral process where there is no other way out, we are going to be forced to form that large coalition. As long as one person wants to take power for being in the media and another for having money, and others because they believe that they deserve it, we are not going to be able to converge. Until all of us leave behind our personal interests and put together a country agenda and not a sector agenda, until then we are not going to see the sun shine.
 Refers to forest fires in the Indio Maíz reserve area in early April 2018 where students protested for lack of government response.
While the April 2018 uprising was largely student led, this fact can be easily missed in the media coverage. This article provides some student leader perspectives of the current situation where the opposition is trying to unify in light of a future electoral process.
There is a power struggle in a conflict that oversimplifies the political space between the Ortega Murillo regime and the Blue and White Coalition
On social networks the activities of the most representative alliances of the national political scene are criticized: The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) and the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB). They argue that the former has been kidnapped by the interests of the business sector, and the latter has been taken over by the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) under a type of political opportunism. Not carrying out more forceful actions-a phrase with an imprecise meaning – is attributed to both.
We provide a description and analysis of the way in which the opposition to the Ortega and Murillo regime is composed. The purpose is not to shed light so as to provide weapons to the adversary, but to give ourselves an understanding of the positions occupied, the political posturing and the strategies implemented by the different agents in the internal conflicts. This is fundamental at this time in which Unity is spoken so much about as a panacea to the departure of Ortega and Murillo.
Prior to April 18, 2018 the Ortega and Murillo regime was supported by a series of national and international actors, that included the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the organized private sector and the international community, more concretely the Organization of American States (OAS), and it was sustained by the consent of a significant percentage of citizens who perceived and positively valued the model of the public-private alliance, or the COSEP model, that made the economy grow, but sacrificed democratic institutionality.
The massacre of April began to change everything. Indignation mobilized a large number of citizens into the streets. Quickly i) an evisceration of the State, its institutions and institutional procedures was carried out; ii) a change took place in the political correlation among the social forces; iii) an interclass and heterogeneous social block was formed that claimed for itself the representation of the popular will for many voices and attempted, from outside institutional structures, to challenge the political power of the regime; iv) lastly, the coalition of actors connected to the dictatorial regime began to disintegrate.
In this way, given the rupture of institutional frameworks, two privileged spaces emerged as extraordinary frameworks where, in an open and unveiled way, a struggle for power took place in a conflict that simplified the political space between the regime of Ortega and Murillo and the Blue and White people: the streets and the National Dialogue.
The Civic Alliance
So the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN) called together a series of highly relevant actors to serve as the counterpart to an official delegation in the Dialogue process. Among them were included students, peasants, business-people, actors of civil society and the university sector, among others.
As the expert in social movements, Sidney Tarrow, states, when a disintegration occurs in the heart of the elites, it not only motivates the citizenry to venture into collective action, but also motivates segments of the elite themselves who are not in power – the business sector organized in COSEP after the rupture of the Alliance, Dialogue and Consensus model, and other political elites opposed to the regime – to accord to themselves the role of “tribunal of the People”. This is what they did, they spoke in the name of the large multitudes who were fighting against the regime in the streets. The case of the students and peasants was an exception.
But what were those sectors that formed the Civic Alliance? Was there a convergence between those who were dialoguing in the conference rooms and those who were fighting behind barricades in the streets? Did they have the capacity on their own to pressure Ortega and maintain a favorable position in the political correlations of forces internally and internationally?
Probably the most questioned sectors were two: the business sector and the student sector. First of all, the business sector organized in COSEP, which in its moment was a strategic ally of Ortega, found itself in a dilemma; on the one hand, it perceived that the autocrat was a short and long term factor of instability, because through its repressive actions against the unarmed People, it had broken the trust of economic agents, and with that the investment climate, and on the other hand, Ortega continued being the “strong man”, capable of containing the more radical positions and exploits of the opposition behind the fear that “they will take heaven by assault”.
Far from this, the business sector, and more specifically big capital personified in the Counselors of COSEP, now out of alignment with the harshest positions of the autocracy, constituted, following the postulates of Guillermo Odonnel and Phillipe Schmitter, a type of reformist faction with the desire to change from the old Ortega regime, with the capacity to have an impact on and pressure within the regime, given their communication with followers of the dictatorship, and their alliance with key countries in international politics like the USA. What is more, it could be said that this sector was the most organized on the national level because of the level of institutionalization of its associations.
Secondly, the student movement was a complex element to analyze if the five student organizations who confronted the Ortega and Murillo regime in the National Dialogue were taken as the basis. It is valid to recap, in fairness, that the insurrection, although it was started by university students, transcended the university and became purely popular. The People flooded out and became the April Popular Insurrection.
The slogan “they were students, they were not criminals”, even though well-intentioned, was deployed from a purely classist perspective – “criminals” could be mowed down. This annulled any rights of the “shirtless” to demand their place in any decision-making spaces, and interrelate “taking the streets” with “pounding the table” in the Dialogue. Even more, certain student organizations who wielded the right granted by the pulpit to speak for the People in general, did not have a connection with grassroots students who were entrenched in Universities like the UPOLI or the UNAN-Managua, much less with the those in the barricades. This blocked a relationship between progress in the streets and progress in the Dialogue. The internal conflicts in the student movement that were forming beginning in April weakened their capacity for political impact on both sides.
Without going into more depth on the other representatives of sectors who on their own did not have the capacity for mobilization, except for the organized peasant movement, we can make two reflections: 1) it is understandable why the organized private sector has positioned itself as a relevant actor in this alliance, its fundamental position in the management and decision making of the convergence is based on its capacity for organization, acting in block for their interests, and its capacity for direct pressure on the Ortega and Murillo regime. 2) The reasons are clear for the hope placed on students organized in the Civic Alliance, which at one time was exaggerated, and why it has been dissolving given their incapacity to lead the resistance and truly provoke a sufficiently large enough uprising to topple the existing political regime.
In these days the Civic Alliance has communicated that it will have meetings with certain key sectors to exchange ideas about the formation of an opposition coalition, while the Citizens for Freedom Party has presented a body of advisers with a view to being the ballot position in future national elections. If by chance hopes continue to be placed on relevant figures of the April insurrection, it will be important to focus attention on, or build or renovate the political subject that subverted the bases of the Ortega and Murillo regime. After all, as the political scientist Chantall Mouffe states, there are no political subjects who fight, politics in itself is the struggle to constitute that political subject. It has to be invented and reinvented.
Harley Morales Pon is a student of sociology, member of the Con Vos political movement, and a member of the National Dialogue. Juan Carlos Márquez is a social communicator, member of the Con Vos political movement.
As a member of the first National Dialogue, representing the Peasant Movement Against the Canal, this peasant leader was abducted and eventually sentenced to 216 years in jail, and was released eventually as part of the second negotiations. This interview is important because it shows the perspective of the peasant movement on the government repression and killing, their solution to the crisis, and the Civic Alliance
Medardo Mairena: “They Cut Peasants Piece by Piece Until They Brought Them Down”
The peasant leader talks about the persecution of their movement, but also about the relationship they have with representatives of big business leaders in Nicaragua in the Civic Alliance.
In a matter of months, Medardo Mairena went from being under an isolation regime in jail cell 300, maximum security in the Penitentiary System of Nicaragua, to meeting in the United States with members of the Security Council of Donald Trump. In one photo he is seen in a Big League baseball stadium, and in another, pretty serious, alongside the secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro.
As head of the Peasant Movement, a week ago Mairena got a hearing with the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to present a detailed report on executions of peasants by the regime of Daniel Ortega during 12 years in power. According to the document there are 55 executed leaders, and that is from April 2018 to September 25, 2019.
“They are not looking for us peasants in order to put us in jail, but to kill us”, says Mairena, who was in jail nearly a year, most of the time in maximum security cells. “During the 80s the Sandinista regime killed the peasants because some of them were commanders of the Contras; now their family members are being persecuted and murdered”, he added by phone from Boston in the United States.
Mairena used the example of his father, who was jailed for refusing to join Patriotic Military Service in the decade of the 80s. “And now (last year) it was my turn (to go to jail)”, he says. That is why he is clear that Nicaragua needs “true democratization,” and believes that it will be achieved through a negotiation in which Ortega first must show political will, freeing political prisoners, providing democratic freedoms and stopping selective assassinations of peasants.
Since when have you been opposed to the regime of Daniel Ortega?
Ideologically I have never been in agreement with him, because in the decade of the 80s my Dad was kidnapped by the same Orteguistas for thinking differently, because they wanted to force him to do Patriotic Military Service. What the peasantry and the Miskitos in those years experienced was brutal repression, in addition to the fact that they tried to impose an ideology to follow Ortega with a completely erroneous government. My Dad had his land and was dispossessed. He lost everything on being evacuated because of the war. Since then we thought that the way Ortega governed has been a failure. In the 80s he destroyed the economy and once again in power he is destroying the economy again.
Why do you think that the Sandinista regime has always gone against the peasantry?
Most of the people who took up arms in the Contras were peasants. At that time, because they confiscated land, they did not respect private property. They did the “piñata”. They wanted power and money. That showed during that mandate as well: the ambition for political and economic power. Wanting to exploit natural resources: the mafias in the Indio Maíz and Bosawas reserves. The Miskitos have defended the natural resources, and he has killed them as well. The ambition to stay in power had led him to commit crimes against humanity. Since then it has been hate against the peasants. I think that if there were greater connectivity to the internet in the countryside, there would be much more evidence about how the hate against the peasants is shown. Like how the Army, that says that it has not participated in the massacre, has murdered peasants. There have been cases where they have tortured peasants and have cut them up piece by piece until bringing them down. And it is a way of showing their hate for them, just for raising their voices and thinking differently.
You have said that Daniel Ortega used the two dialogues to buy time. What makes you think that he would do it in good faith a third time?
First of all, if he wants to negotiate, he has to free the political prisoners, allow us to demonstrate in the streets, stop the killing and persecution of peasants. These are the signs to enter into negotiations. Because we cannot go to the [negotiating] table when we know there are brothers who are being slowly killed off. We cannot sit down at a table if they are out persecuting us. It is not possible what happened to me, being in the dialogue, they took me to jail.
Do you think the dialogue is the only solution, or can there be another?
We believe that it is the best solution, because it is the way that we can avoid bloodshed, because we know that the persecution could end in a wave of violence, which would be difficult. We know that Ortega has the weapons, and already killed disarmed people. That is why it is important that there be national and international pressure so that we can find a solution through a negotiation where the people are taken into account.
The perception that exists is that while you were in jail you earned the sympathy of the opposition in the country. Do you feel a special responsibility?
Of course I do. Because I am at the head of a humble people with whom I identify. Now, other movements have supported us, because we are honest people, and do not have skeletons in our closets. Because we have always been there in the bad times, but at the front of the victims to support them. That is why we have asked the international community for the freedom of the prisoners, and advocated for the Nicaraguans who are in the detention centers, even in the United States.
How were you involved in the rebellion of last year?
We began marches and protests, and we told the people of Nicaragua that we supported the students who started the struggle. Later came the dialogue, and we know what happened: he jailed us and invented crimes. We saw the irresponsibility of the judges and prosecutors that allowed themselves to be led by their drive for their political ideology.
It is said that you still belong to the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). How true is this?
I was a regional council person elected by the peasants in the PLC. I was not a designated candidate, rather I participated in primary elections to be the representative to the regional government. I had the support of the peasants. At that time emerged the fight for our lands over the Interoceanic Canal. That is why they tried to minimize me, and did not allow me to pass development projects in the community. I was elected for the PLC, but at this time I am not actively engaged in any party, and I am not interested in any party banner. I know that this crisis is going to end in an electoral issue, and for me that will be the decision of the people. I understand that some people, out of envy and political jealousy, are trying to discredit us, because they know that the Peasant Movement is pure.
Have you had offers for public offices?
I never got organized to obtain an office and make money. It is known that before 2018 they made me an offer on the part of the regime and other opposition parties. They offered me candidacies to be a deputy and for the municipal government. I am clear that I have had the leadership to win it, but I did not join an organization for that purpose. I did it for the peasants, and that is why I continue to be their soldier, and for those who feel represented by me. I did not accept the candidacies because they have never interested me, but that does not mean that I ignore them, because I am clear that this crisis will end in elections. That is why the people of Nicaragua have to be alert: they cannot allow people to be elected who are guilty of the grief.
Would you like to take on some public office?
I think that one does not look for public office, rather they look for you. Within the responsibility that I have, and my desire is, that it be the people who make the decision. I am not interested in obtaining those spaces; but I am interested in the fact that those spaces stay in the hands of honest people and that they respond to the people.
Have you ever been a fan of the Sandinista Front?
Never. And even less now that it has become a terrorist organization.
There are many criticisms of the Civic Alliance, which you are part of, because it is coopted by Nicaraguan big capital. Why are you supporting it?
I am with it since its founding. And for us it has been the vehicle for representation in the negotiations. The Peasant Movement has its autonomy like the other movements. So we see it as a space in light of a dialogue where the Peasant Movement will take its demands in the context of negotiations, as well as the other movements will take their own. What we are trying to do is unite our efforts, in spite of the differences that we might have. Because the love we have for Nicaragua, and the need to find solutions, have to be greater. Now it is important to point out that we have to be responsible with the unity, because we cannot allow the [practice of] divvying up of offices to come back. What we need is for the people to be the overseers, witnesses, that they propose and elect their next authorities. But at this moment, our priority is the freedom of the political prisoners and providing for those children who have their parents abducted or who were left orphaned. This struggle is not the struggle of a group, but of all Nicaraguans.
Have you not seen signs that the business sector has wanted to make arrangements behind the scenes with the regime?
In what I have been involved, I have never seen that there was an internal arrangement. Last week we were together in Washington and agreed that it is the moment that there must be more pressure. That is why we agreed that we need to seek the application of the Democratic Charter, because it is not funny that we are in the OAS, when the regime did not even permit the entry of the Commission [IACHR], and this regime cannot be democratic when it continues killing.
What accomplishment in the negotiation would satisfy you?
The democratization of Nicaragua. That I can return to my home, with my family: that I can live as we have lived; on my farm, as any peasant. That there be no persecution. There have to be changes in all the branches of the State, so that they be completely independent and that they be ruled by the Constitution. That the peasants can return peacefully to their lands.
That children t receive a good education, and that the taxes that we pay be invested in development projects in the community. That would be the most important. We know that we are not going to achieve everything, because those who lost their loved ones we are not going to get them back, unfortunately. For us they are going to live forever because they offered their lives to bring peace back to the country.
In the first months of the rebellion it was thought that the regime was in checkmate. What failed at that moment?
I think that we accepted to participate in the dialogue believing that Ortega was going to quit killing the students. Also it was necessary that all the expressions unite together to apply pressure. I think that the private sector left much to be desired at that time. We know that the people of Nicaragua asked for an indefinite strike. Unfortunately that did not happen. But we do not want to stay in the past, and in what could have been done, but in what we are going to do from now on.
But do you think there is the will on the part of the business sector now?
In these times, even though we do need to apply pressure, it is not the same as the opportunity we had at that time. But we do need there to be pressure. Now, I understand that the private sector is concerned that the economy is falling, but we are concerned because they are killing our fellow demonstrators. But today a strike would not have the same impact, but we believe that it is necessary.
Up to April 2018 the business sector maintained a type of economic pact with the Ortega government. How has it been to be seated now with these representatives that ignored your complaints?
It has been difficult for us, because at that time, not only were they not saying anything, but part of them were the authorities of the Interoceanic Canal project. In other words, they were against us. We, the peasants, if we are in that place, it is to find a solution as quickly as possible. We are making great efforts to control our emotions. And we believe that the only solution is bringing all the expressions [of the opposition] together. In such a way that we hope that all those who have placed themselves on this side of the table, that their conscience does not punish them from this day forward.
Medardo Mairena, Peasant leader.
Medardo Mairena was born on November 30, 1978 in the community of Nueva Guinea in the Southern Caribbean region of Nicaragua. In the last 19 years he has lived in Punta Gorda, in a community that is called Polo de Desarrollo Daniel Guido Sánchez with his wife Yaritza Báez, 40 years of age, and three children that they have together. The youngest, a three-year old girl, is named Kathia. According to a report from Domingo in June of this year, he has a 255 acre farm where he is raising 40 head of cattle. He also uses the land to plant. During the national dialogue of 2018 Mairena said to Ortega: “The people demand that you go. We do not want more deaths, and you are the ones responsible.” Mairena got as far as the first year of secondary school, because to go to school he had to travel 30 kilometers. He started his studies at the age of 16 on his own. He participated in five certificate programs on management and leadership.
Yaser Morazán has an important presence in social media in Nicaragua, and had been critical of the business sector´s reluctance to get involved in acts of civil disobedience to show resistance to the government. The business sector´s gradual dominance of the Civic Alliance has also been a complaint of several sectors, and was highlighted in a tumultuous meeting of exiles in Costa Rica recently. The Civic Alliance recently restructured itself to make itself more inclusive of other sectors of society. In this interview Yaser goes into more depth about these issues.
Without Pressure there are no Negotiations
Interview of Yaser Morazán in Domingo, La Prensa, August 18, 2019
He is loved and hated in social networks. Yaser Morazán knows this. From exile he is working on a document to resist the dictatorship, and in this interview explains how small actions that go from releasing pieces of paper to more radical actions like building a barricade on the border with Costa Rica are going to end up forcing Ortega to return to the negotiating table. He has met with members of the international community, and members of the Civic Alliance, and he states that this is a key moment for the Alliance, since it is important to renovate it or it will be destined to disappear.
What forced to you to into exile?
In order to continue sharing the ideas about civil disobedience, focused boycotts and other campaigns, it was better to put myself in the safety of exile. I have more than 100 screenshots of death threats, or that reveal my address, so I thought that the only way to continue doing my work was by going into exile.
What are those other campaigns?
The national and international plan of civil disobedience I started to suggest while in Nicaragua in a meeting with the Civic Alliance. It is not an initiative that started from my exile. It is a proposal that intends to create a mechanism of economic, institutional, cultural and social pressure; to be able to weaken the pillars that sustain the dictatorship. They are civil resistance strategies without using the body as a human foxhole, and that ensure freedom and life for the people who participate.
What type of actions does this document have?
First, I start from recognizing the violent nature of this regime. To the extent that we understand that we are in a state of exception, our capacity to struggle has to adapt to that reality. Basing myself on this, we have to create a series of actions to stop participating in the social, cultural, political and economic dynamics of the country; like national, school stoppages, fiscal and tax strikes, paralyzing state institutional processes, not participating in events sponsored by the regime, like fairs, festivals, congresses. It is creating a social blockade where we demonstrate to the regime that it does not have a country to govern.
How would these measures be applied?
We have to prepare a document that would be presented to Nicaraguan public opinion, where activities, roles, resources and times would be established, in this plan goals or demands will be defined that we are going to ask the dictatorship to meet. For example, the return of the legal status of the NGOs that were confiscated, the return of the equipment stolen from journalists and communications media. For this to happen, we have to tell the regime that we have this work plan where we establish actions of low, medium and high impact. They will be implemented over time to the extent that the regime responds to our needs, otherwise we will increase the intensity.
We would begin with a simultaneous press conference in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the United States where Nicaraguans, exiles and the diaspora would present this plan, even have this document read in the pulpits of churches. Then we would hold a virtual march. Then we would organize masses and religious ceremonies for peace throughout the entire national territory. Then we would continue with actions that have been effective and that people like, such as releasing blue and white balloons, small pieces of paper of those same colors, papers with messages, blue and white paint or writing on public buses, bathrooms, and currency with the slogan #SOSNICARAGUA. All in secret and anonymously, because we cannot continue doing it facing weapons and violence.
We are talking about fighting a dictatorship with pieces of paper and paint.
If they do not listen to our demands we would move to medium impact actions. That can be that the diaspora call for temporary stoppages of sending family remittances, the stoppage of sending packages to Nicaragua, stop buying airline tickets to and from Nicaragua, preparation of lists on the national level of businesses and companies connected to the Sandinista Front. That can begin with businesses of the Army, the National Police and the Ortega Murillo family.
It is important to promote media and political pressure against the embassies of Taiwan throughout the world for continuing to finance the dictatorship. We have to be confrontational with the Central American Bank for financing the dictatorship, this has to be an action plan among all the actors, those in exile, the diaspora, the Alliance and the National Unity. Finally, if after a year these actions do not work, I think that we have to be considering once again revisiting the idea of an indefinite national strike.
Do you think a national strike is viable? Taking into account the small and medium businesses which would mean closing and hoping that Ortega would leave power?
Personally I have not called for an indefinite national strike on social networks, first of all because I am not in Nicaragua, and secondly because I recognize the real fear of the business owners, and thirdly because I do not promote activities where I cannot participate. Nicaraguans have to understand that it is not viable either to live in a dictatorship, in fear and under repression. The situation is already radical for us, and we have to take radical actions to be able to survive. The other option that we have is not do anything and resign ourselves to live in a dictatorship like the people of Cuba did, or hope for what is eventually going to happen as in Venezuela.
You do not believe in the national dialogue to remove Daniel Ortega?
Negotiation is an end and not a means,. The dialogue will happen when the regime, pressured by our actions, now sits down to negotiate. In April it was the blockades, then it was the marches, but now we do not have anything to offer, and those who have nothing to offer have nothing to demand. I am convinced that without pressure there is no negotiation, and without destabilization there is no liberation of Nicaragua.
It has been said on social networks that among the strongest actions is doing a blockade on the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Done by the exiles themselves. In this way we paralyze regional commerce and we create a crisis in the region that will force the presidents of the isthmus to take clearer and more forceful positions.
Do you think that this really is possible in a foreign country?
We activists do not ask permission. If people had asked permission in Nicaragua, no blockades would have been built. I think that we are experiencing a crisis and drastic measures are required, at least in Costa Rica the most that they can do is put you in jail, but they are not going to kill you, as can happen in Nicaragua if you want to build a blockade.
A little while ago on social networks there was a call to boycott a business for having red and black chairs in their place, don´t you feel that this is diverting attention to superficial things?
I am happy with this new version of a country that we have, because I think that Nicaraguans have stepped it up to identify any manifestation of violence. In this case the regime has used symbols to repress. Violence is not just blows, it is also when they rub in your face that they have power over public spaces. In Nicaragua red and black means mourning, grief, blood, death, and we all know that. In terms of the issue that you are mentioning, that business is the property of a Sandinista deputy from Rivas, and what she did was mark off her territory and she has the right to do it, but the people also have the right to decide where they are going to consume, and where they are not going to consume. When we quit consuming in a Sandinista business, what we are doing is giving our income to a blue and white business, and that is a very effective way of protesting, because we are touching on what most hurts the Sandinista Front, which is money.
Before the crisis you openly defined yourself as a Sandinista. Then you made the distinction between being a Sandinista and an Orteguista. What has happened to that idea since you went into exile?
I come from a Sandinista home, where I was taught the ideals of Sandino and I believed that the FSLN represented those values. I refused to see the corruption and the lack of values that public institutions and people directly connected to the party exercised. Always looking for a leftist orientation, I started to participate in the Sandinista Renovation Movement, because I thought that that was where it was at. In fact, in the first marches of April I wore my t-shirts with Sandino, diverse Sandino, or Sandino with a cell phone logo, because it was my way of reclaiming my idea of Sandinism. Starting in April and May I was seeing that the same methods that they were using to repress the population, like the torture and killings, were exactly the same methods that I imagine they used in the decade of the 80s to justify their revolution. For me April was a wake up call. I insisted in the fact that I was a non Orteguista Sandinista, but I have come to the conclusion that it is the same thing. Some killed in the 80s and others do now.
At this moment is seems everything is stagnant, it seems that people are not united at least on social networks.
I think that it is part of the democratic processes that people have the capacity to say the things that they are thinking. Some just resort to insults, aggression, vulgarities. Nevertheless I prefer that people are expressing their opinion in excess, and not that they express their opinion as we did prior to April. Although at times they might go over the mark for nearly everyone, including me. It does not matter, it is better than a complicit silence.
There is a sector that hates you and another that adores you in social networks, and some criticize you over the fact that being in exile you call for actions like the boycott.
I defend freedom of expression. People have the right to say what they are thinking about me or whoever. Likewise I have the capacity to ignore or block what does not interest me. We are all part of this process, it is normal, healthy, it is necessary. I have been generating material for social networks for four years, which meant that I was somewhat media friendly and I have received a lot of threats. I only suggest, propose, challenge, criticize, but I never impose, and those who want will join, and those who do not… The beautiful thing is that we all do what we can with the resources that we have.
You have met with members of the international community who are following the crisis in Nicaragua. What assessment does their role deserve?
Their role has been mediocre and ineffective. In fact one of the ambassadors to the OAS told us that the sense of timing for politics is very different from the urgent sense of timing that the Nicaraguan people needed; and an authority from the US government told us that Daniel Ortega was not going to negotiate because negotiating his departure meant that he would end up in jail, and that that was not going to happen. The international community is not going to liberate us. Over above the interests of human rights, the international community has political and economic interests. It is not a coincidence that over all the condemnations, the United States continues being the principal trade partner of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Now is not the moment to continue complaining, it is the moment to look more within.
And what do you have to say about the Civic Alliance?
They have played a good role in what it has been theirs to do. My criticism always has been around what they have not done, for example, from the beginning the people of the Alliance were telling me that their mandate was not to direct a popular insurrection, but that their mandate was the national dialogue. I think that they have stayed in that role, and that role has been dictated by the business and bureaucratic approach that that structure has, that is the reason for my criticism that the Alliance cannot be abducted by big capital, the private sector has the right to have a voice and we to ensure that it have one, but not that it be the only voice. That the businesspeople have the power to vote but not to veto. This moment is important because the Alliance is destined to strengthen itself or disappear, but it depends on them and how they channel the popular unrest.
At what moment did big capital take that control?
The business version that we have of the current Alliance is different from the one that was called by the Bishop´s Conference. With the first version of the Alliance we all came out to support them. But as time passed, people were replaced, which is why in the last negotiating table 50% of those there were from the private sector. AmCham, FUNIDES and COSEP, and that made me reflect at what point these people were representing the people who were in the barricades in the neighborhoods, the mothers of April, the mothers of the political prisoners, and currently those ex political prisoners. I think that the Alliance should be restructured for the good of Nicaragua.
Until there is a dialogue, what should the Alliance do?
I think that they should go into a process of assessment about their strategies, effectiveness and efficiency about what they have been doing so far, and they should be sincere and say to the people of Nicaragua: “this is as far as we go or this is our new work proposal”. The departure of Ortega will depend on our measures. If we are not forceful, the regime is not going to ever want to leave power, and we will be destined to be Venezuela or Cuba. Ortega prefers to govern a country in extreme poverty than end up in jail. This type of dictator does not leave because they wake up one day being good people.
Has the scenario been considered where these measures are applied to the letter and Ortega remains in power?
No. Right now I do not have a plan B, because first I have to try plan A. Evaluate, to change, strengthen and remove. Rather I am sticking to these ideas, because I do not want to lead people to use methods from the past that no one wants anymore.
How are the exiles doing?
Where I am here in Costa Rica people are depressed, feel powerless, frustration, sadness. While in Nicaragua the people that belong to organized structures are afraid, suffer persecution, death threats; while the Nicaraguans who are not involved in anything are living the most normal lives in the world. Because the regime what it is doing is creating an enclosure, teaching society a lesson through punishments or rewards, so that you are clear, that if you demonstrate you are going to suffer, but if you do nothing you are going to live comfortably. It is the same Cuban model. We cannot have the luxury of going back to the same“ normality” that existed prior to April, but if we do not increase this pressure that is what is going to end up happening.
Yaser Morazán is 33 year old and is from the province of Matagalpa. He is the son of a retired soldier Alfonso José Morazán Castillo, who was abducted in October 2018 by the Ortega regime and was released in May 2019.
He did Chemical Analysis Laboratory studies in the National Technological Institute in Granada, and then studied Social Work at the Central American University (UCA). His first relationships with human rights organizations was in 2007 working with the Organization of American States (OAS). He also did post-graduate studies in Family Psychology.
He has been working since he was 19 years old. He loves Nicaraguan food, especially beans and tortillas. He has been an activist for 13 years, and before going into exile used to produce multimedia pieces for social networks. He says that ignorant and violent people make him nervous.
On July 28, 2019 Hagamos Democracia, an Nicaraguan NGO whose legal status was revoked by the Nicaraguan government in December, invited Nicaraguans in exile to a meeting. Nicaraguan exiles who did not receive an invitation broke into the place and demanded to be included. A fight broke out in the end where some people were injured. This article provides Doña Francisca Ramírez´s interpretation of that event and the situation of the exiles.
“The Alliance should listen to the people” says Doña Francisca, peasant leader
by Loanny Picado, July 29, 2019 in LaLupa, online magazine
One day after members of the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB) were challenged by a group of exiles in Costa Rica, who expounded on a series of demands, Francisca Ramírez, a leader of the Peasant Anti-Canal Movement who also is in Costa Rica, said that in the face of the discontent the Alliance should listen to the people.
“The Alliance should reorganize, it should listen to the people above all, I think that the entire problem is rooted there. They have not been able to unite the sectors for this very reason. When the dialogue happened, they told me that a peasant woman could not be at the negotiating table, because there were other much more intellectual people who should be there. That should not be how it is”, said Doña Francisca.
During the event organized by Hagamos Democracia, representatives of the Civic Alliance and the UNAB were present, among them Violeta Granera, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Mónica López, Ana Quirós, Max Jerez, José Pallais, Mario Arana and Luciano García, and the ex political prisoners Edwin Carcache and Medardo Mairena.
The exiles demand decisive actions
A group of people barged into the place who identified themselves as exiles in the face of the harassment, persecution and the massacre that the Ortega-Murillo regime unleashed in 2018 as responses to the civic protests of the citizenry that left a toll of more than 300 murdered.
The group of exiles, who ended up staying in the activity organized by Hagamos Democracia, demanded timely actions to confront the dictatorship, like a national strike, as well as other actions that would ensure their return to Nicaragua, but especially more unity and representation of the different national sectors.
“I believe that the Alliance needs to get down to the reality. This struggle is all of ours, the Alliance should correct itself, it must listen to the people, the exiles suffer a lot, and no one understands that suffering better than the one who is experiencing it. Within the Alliance there are people who should not be there, decisions are made in another way, when they should be a consensus of all the sectors, “ expressed Ramírez who did not participate in the activity.
Among the exiles who questioned the Civic Alliance and UNAB were citizens who participated in the barricades in Carazo and Matagalpa. The lawyer in exile Álvaro Cerros ended up injured at the end of the event.
Ortega is the only enemy
In spite of the differences shown during the event, Ramírez thinks that perspective has not been lost, and that the only enemy is the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
“Here the only enemy is Daniel Ortega, we should be clear about that. It is difficult from the suffering of the peasant in exile to see how we are doing. All the sectors should be listened to, we should not be closed, “ said the peasant leader.
Doña Francisca, in spite of her years leading the Peasant Anti-Canal Movement, has been distanced from it, but said that she is willing to meet with Medardo Mairena to carry out action strategies to help the peasants.
This interview of the Director of Human Rights Watch was done on the release of their report on repression and torture in Nicaragua. It is significant because it came out right before the Nica Act demanded sanctions against Nicaragua if there was no progress by the Nicaraguan government on prosecuting human rights abusers and corruption. It also came out days before the General Assembly of the OAS would look at applying the Democratic Charter to Nicaragua for similar reasons.
“Sanctions are the only language that Ortega and Murillo understand”
by Carlos F. Chamorro in Confidencial, June 20, 2019
Hours after Human Rights Watch presented in Washington a report on the repression and torture against the freedom of expression in Nicaragua this Wednesday, in Managua and Masaya the Police repressed and detained citizens for protesting.
This police State merciless with civil protest and the attempts of the Ortega-Murillo regime to mislead national and international opinion about the fulfillment of the agreements in the dialogue table, are some of the reasons that moved José Miguel Vivanco, Director for the Americas of HRW, to vigorously demand the United States, Canada and Latin American democracies to “redouble sanctions” against Managua.
The HRW report proposes applying individual sanctions against the members of the chain of command of the National Police: its Supreme Commander, President Daniel Ortega; the ex Director, Aminta Granera; the current Director, Francisco Díaz, and generals Ramón Avellán, Assistant Director; Jaime Vanegas, Inspector General; Luis Pérez Olivas, Director of the Judicial Support Office (DAJ also known as El Chipote); and Justo Pastor Urbina, Director of the Special Operations Office (DOEP).
Vivanco stated that these sanctions “that freeze pocketbooks” worry authoritarian regimes, but he also highlighted that “It is the only language that they understand.”
“If the international community stops, or lets itself be confused by the recent release of prisoners who should never have been in prison, there are no possibilities that an improvement would result in human rights and public liberties, much less a transition to democracy”, warned Vivanco.
In this wide ranging interview offered to the program Esta Noche, he analyzes the principal findings of the report titled “Crackdown in Nicaragua: Torture, ill treatment and Prosecutions of protestors and opponents.”
This report analyzes the pattern of the repressive methods and is based on more than 70 interviews, and an exhaustive study of 13 political prisoners who were tortured, and some of the doctors who treated them. What is its principal conclusion on the situation of Nicaragua?
This is a study done in Nicaragua. We have been able to enter Nicaragua, to go around the country and gather direct testimony from the victims, their relatives, doctors and civil society experts. On the basis of that information and testimonies, we have arrived at the conclusion that the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo are directly responsible for the commission of serious and massive violations of fundamental rights. These violations have been committed by police agents and highly armed criminals who have a license to shoot and kill.
The people who have survived the murders, or those who have been left seriously wounded, have been arbitrarily detained by the regime. They have not had the possibility of defending themselves before an independent tribunal, exercise their basic rights. Many of them have been the subject of brutal and abhorrent torture.
The torture that we have been able to document are extremely cruel. They include sexual rape, removing fingernails from those detained, electric shock, brutal beatings, asphyxiation to the point of killing the detainees…really they are the very practices of the dictatorships of the sixties that governed the southern cone of Latin America. Those of Pinochet.
Is there proof of these tortures that you have pointed out?
Yes, there is. We gathered the proof in the report. We are fortunate to have the testimony of doctors, and not just the victims and witnesses who have supported us in the preparation of this report. Doctors who in some cases we have had to protect their identity, and who in other cases have had to leave the country. Several doctors told us, and it was information consistent with several localities, that there was an order issued by the regime at the highest level prohibiting especially the doctors in public hospitals, but also in private ones, to assist and treat victims of the repression. Something really unheard of that shows the level of cruelty that this regime is willing to reach.
The allegation of the regime is that they reacted to an attempted coup, and that on the other hand abuses were also committed by the protestors against the police and the partisans of the Government. What criteria does the report have about these allegations?
There is no evidence that we have been able to gather, credible evidence, that would pass a minimal level of reasonability and seriousness, that would show that an initiative of a coup was in play here. Under no circumstance can one justify the type of atrocities that Murillo and Ortega are responsible for, as well as the hierarchs of the party in power, and particularly the highest authorities of the police of Nicaragua. There is no possibility of justifying before any type of serious, impartial international body that a State would end up committing these type of atrocities to protect itself from an imminent coup. But there is no evidence that that has occurred in Nicaragua.
The arguments of the regime are for propaganda purposes. Typical of a tyranny. That abuses were also committed against the police, there is no doubt about that. We have serious information that reveals the death of police offers during some confrontations.
They Urge International Sanctions
You propose that the international community be called to apply sanctiopns, principally individual ones against those responsible for the repression. Why? Is there evidence that sanctions in individual cases like Nicaragua might produce the results that are sought, establishing justice, truth and ending the repression?
A totalitarian regime like what Nicaraguan is suffering today is, usually, very sensitive to sanctions that are directed at freezing pocketbooks. Because what it deals with is punishing the corrupt people who have stolen from the national coffers. And since those who are governing Nicaragua have done it for many years, without being accountable to anyone, in a system of government with complete concentration, where there is no independent oversight over the use of public funds, the fact that the United States, Canada, the European Union and some of the most important democracies of the region would freeze the assets of the hierarchs of the regime and their relatives and their front men, and at the same time cancel their visas, we know that that worries them.
We believe it is time to redouble and duplicate the sanctions. That is why we are offering a list headed by Daniel Ortega as the Supreme Commander of the Police, an entity that has shown no mercy with grotesque cruelty toward disarmed civilians; vulnerable people in different places in Nicaragua. It is a Police force that Daniel Ortega directs. And therefore he, along with other police authorities, should be the object of these sanctions. That they be replicated by the European Union and democracies of Latin America.
The government of the United States in previous sanctions already applied them to Daniel Ortega´s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to one of her sons, Laureano Ortega, and also to the current chief of police, the treasurer of the party and the administrator of the Albanisa funds, Francisco López, now HRW proposes sanctioning President Ortega. What consequences does it have that a State with which Nicaragua has diplomatic relations would sanction Ortega?
Legally it is possible that a democratic and sovereign State, for reasons linked to corruption and the violation of fundamental rights, might do so. It is acceptable that someone like Daniel Ortega would be included in that list. In our opinion this is the only language that Ortega and Murillo understand. It is time to redouble the pressure. If the international community quits, or is distracted, or lets itself be confused by the recent liberation of prisoners who should never have been in prison, and allows itself to be manipulated by the propaganda of the regime, there are no chances that an improvement would be produced in terms of human rights and public freedoms, nor much less a transition to democracy.
This transition should be accompanied in any negotiation by strong and unequivocal sanctions from the world community.
How do you evaluate what happened yesterday in Managua, when the time frame ended that Ortega himself had accepted for definitively freeing all the political prisoners? The government says that it already complied because it freed some prisoners from an agreed upon list with the OAS, the Vatican and the Civic Alliance. But the Civic Alliance says that they have not complied because there are 86 prisoners left, and the police state prevails. What can be expected from the international community?
Much more can be expected from the international community. Here there are full judicial responsibilities that should be exercised by the international community. On a multilateral level as well as bilaterally. In this sense the OAS has a role to play, and in fact there is a General Assembly in Medellín where we expect that the issue of Nicaragua will be on the agenda, and not just that, but the application of the Democratic Charter with direct sanctions against the regime.
You ask me what can be expected from the government in these negotiations. I would say very little. It is a duplicitous regime that manipulates national and international opinion. In addition it is a regime that represses those who bravely challenge it in the streets and churches. Many of those who have been freed continue connected procedurally to a fraudulent process. Many are freed but detained in their own homes.
The proposal to quit financing the Police
There are another two proposals in the Human Rights Watch Report. One is about the proposal that the European Union and the Central American Integration Bank end the financial relationship that they have with the Police. And the other is the invocation of the convention against torture of which Nicaragua is a signatory. With these two cases, can processes and investigations and penal processes be opened in light of these crimes?
In international law there are solid principles and precedents that allow for the exercise of universal jurisdiction if some of those responsible for the repression in Nicaragua are found under the jurisdiction of a State that is respectful of and has signed international commitments on matters of human rights. That path exists and we call on the member states of the European Union, the OAS, the United States and Canada to take advantage of any opportunity to begin a penal type process for the atrocities committed. Some of these cited authorities of the regime have direct responsibilities. This is an important path.
In terms of the financing for the police, we have discovered with this investigation that the police budget is maintained to a large extent on international aid. The European Union provided the Police last year $1.2 million dollars as part of a donation. We have tried unsuccessfully to find out whether the European Union is going to continue contributing resources to the Police. We have spoken with the authorities at the highest level, and we have not been able to figure out the response. We do not understand what their position is. The responses of the European Union are ambiguous. We hope that the political debate that this report generates would force the bureaucrats of the European Union to make a clear and firm decision about suspending any type of financing for an entity that has stood out for its repressive conduct.
The Nicaraguan State makes known to our People and the International Community:
That in the Session held on March 27 of this year 2019, through the Delegations present in the Negotiating Table, the Freedom was agreed of People involved in the violent events since April 20189, in accordance with agreed upon Lists.
That these agreed upon Lists were turned in and reviewed with the Representatives in Nicaragua of the International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR).
That the Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Waldemar Stanilaw Sommertag, Representative of His Holiness Pope Francis in Nicaragua, and Luis Angel Rosadilla, Special Adviser to the General Secretary of the OAS, were Witnesses of the Consensus around those Lists that were turned over to the CICR.
That on Saturday, June 8, the National Assembly discussed and approved a Amnesty Law that made possible the liberation of all these People, on Monday and Tuesday June 10 and 11 this month of June, with the Commitment of No Repetition.
That the Witnesses Luis Angel Rosadilla and Mons. Andrea Piccioni, in Representation of the Nuncio, as well as the Delegates of the CICR, participated, accompanying and verifying, as Observers of the liberation, in accordance with the agreed upon Lists. The CICR on Monday June 10, and all on Tuesday, June 11.
That on reaching the date committed to by the Nicaraguan State and the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation, all these People enjoy Freedom, with the Commitment of Non Repetition, according to what is stipulated in the Amnesty Law No. 996.
We the Nicaraguan State and the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation have complied with our People and the International Community, in accordance with the Commitments contracted that are explained in this Press Release.