This letter, although written on July 24, was published as a paid ad in La Prensa, on August 2, 2018. Early on in this crisis the Commander in Chief of the Army, General Avilés, issued a press release saying that the Army would not take part in this internal conflict. The position of the Army is seen as a very sensitive issue. On the one hand, it is the institution with the highest approval rating in Nicaraguan society, and was praised – even by the US – for its professionalism. On the other hand, after the US supported military coup in Honduras in June 2009, Ortega took steps to consolidate his effective control over this armed body. So many breathed a sign of relief with the initial statement of neutrality of the Army in this crisis. In fact various Nicaraguan national security analysts since then have attributed Ortega´s use of paramilitary or parapolice forces to the neutrality of the Army. Their analysis is that, given the massive nature of the protest, he was not able to adequately respond with just the police forces available, so has armed other groups favorable to the government. Since then a controversy has arisen as these pro-government parapolice or paramilitary forces have operated with weapons only permitted for the Army, and it has been revealed that many of them are retired military. Thus some are questioning the “neutrality” of the Army in the face of these parapolice forces
Managua, July 24, 2018
General of the Army
Julio César Avilés
Commander in Chief of the Army of Nicaragua
Dear General Avilés
We a group of Nicaraguan women sincerely write to you to ask that the National Army proceed to disarm the parapolice groups that are usurping the functions and equipment of the Institution that you lead, to carry out criminal acts against the civilian population.
The certainty that by constitutional principle the National Army is a “non deliberative and apolitical” institution has moved us to send this letter, in addition to knowing that:
The Political Constitution of Nicaragua establishes in its Article 95 that “there cannot exist other armed bodies in the national territory, nor military ranks than those established by the law.”
In Article 2, Law 855, Law of the Reform and Additions to Law 181, the Code for the Organization, Jurisdiction and Social Military Prevision it is written that the Army should “use its forces and means to fight threats to the national safety and defense, and any illicit activity that would put at risk the existence of the Nicaraguan State, its institutions and the fundamental principles of the nation….”
In addition, the General Assembly of the United Nationa approved on December 4, 1989 the International Convention against the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenaries. This Convention establishes in its Articles 1b and 1d that mercenaries are those who without being members of the armed forces of a State, get involved in a conflict with the desire of obtaining personal advantage having been hired by one of the parties in conflict from which they receive material retribution considerably higher to what combatants of similar rank and function receive in the armed forces.
As mothers, workers and professionals, we are extremely upset by the pain of hundreds of mothers and sisters who have lost their children and/or have them disappeared or in prison. The conflict – which exploded in April of this year – is the consequence of a decade of suppresion of liberties. Unfortunately the Government has tried to resolve it with indiscriminate repression, which only has made the problem worse. Even more, to be able to increase the repression, the regime – violating our Constitution – has created irregular mercenary groups who usurping the functions of the National Army murder, kidnap and torture unarmed civilians, using rifles of war and heavy arms that should only be used by the Army.
The existence of these parapolice groups constitutes a threat to our nation and to the existence of our State. The Convention of the UN cited above, having present the experience of other conflicts in which third party parapolice forces have been used, points out that the activities of the mercenary groups when they have happened, “ have contributed to the destabilization of the affected States…”
For Nicaragua to be able to move ahead it is essential that the National Army look for mechanisms to preserve the constitutional order and peace, for which purpose it is key to dismantle and disarm these mercenary forces who are sowing terror among the population, carrying out an illegal war against the true sovereign of the nation, the Nicaraguan people.
Gioconda Belli Lea Guido Josefina Vanini Ximena Ramírez
Vanessa Castro Violeta Granera Mignone Vega Carmen Elizondo
Cristiana Chamorro María Hurtado Mónica Zalaquett Grace March
Ligia Elizondo Malena Montis Ana Eliza Martínez Rita Delia Casco
The Central American University in Managua released this press statement yesterday July 31, 2018 announcing the suspension of most of their activities for the month of August. Nearly half of its budget in recent years, much of it used for scholarships for low income students, has come from state funding . By constitutional mandate dating back to the 1950s the government is obliged to dedicate 6% of its total budget to higher education. The CNU (National University Council) is responsible for its distribution. From the beginning of the crisis in April the UCA has protected students and the population from attacks by pro-government supporters and paramilitaries. Nearly 5,000 people took refuge in the UCA after the massive demonstration on Mother´s Day was fired on by snipers (see earlier posting of interview of President of the UCA Fr. Idiáquez)
CENTRAL AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
SUSPENSION OF WORK FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST
Dear Collaborators of the UCA:
Given the serious situation that we are experiencing in the country, our University is going through a very difficult moment. The UCA has seen itself forced to suspend all its academic programs and most of the services that it offers to the public, which constitute sources for the generation of income for the funds of the University. In addition, there have been delays in the transfers of state funds assigned to the UCA. The CNU (National University Council) has informed us that this is due to problems of liquidity of the Ministry of the Treasury and Public Credit. In spite of all the difficulties, the University has made the maximum efforts to ensure the salary of all the staff.
The conditions described prevent the University from being able to continue dealing adequately with all its operational costs. In light of this, it is urgent to take some additional measures of austerity and cost reduction, until the current situation is overcome. In this sense, a temporary cancelation is needed to be done of the activities that are still underway, which implies the suspension for the month of August of labor contracts of an important part of our collaborators.
The figure of Suspension is the temporary interruption of the execution of the labor contract and does not terminate the established legal relationship (Art. 35 Labor Code). The Collective Suspension of Work due to Force Majeure [forces beyond our control], contemplated in the Labor Code (Art. 38) is the option that allows the labor relationship to not be cancelled and is a form of ensuring the work position of each one of our collaborators. The people affected by this measure will be notified individually be the Human Resource Office.
The University is grateful for the understanding of everyone given the complex situation that we are experiencing.
This is an opinion piece done by Guillermo Rothschuh, writer, essayist and Director of Observatorio de Medios of CINCO, published on July 20 in their digital publication, Confidencial. It addresses one of the principal problems for the future of Nicaragua, no matter how the crisis unfolds – the ongoing polarization of the country.
Will We be Able to Live Together Some Day?
By Guillermo Rothschuh, published in Confidencial July 20, 2018
A fraticidal struggle. The critical moment that Nicaragua is experiencing – with hundreds of dead, wounded, jailed and disappeared – invites reflection. Finding a way out is urgent. The physical and emotional wear and tear is increasing. The division within the Nicaraguan family continues to mount. All of us are obliged to find a response to the crisis that the country is experiencing. Mourning is generating deep resentment. The cry of the mothers shakes the conscience and disrupts reason. None of these deaths are acceptable. The explosion of disagreements on the networks demonstrates again that political differences divide us. They cause fissures difficult to heal. The pooled hate is gushing out. We are drowning!
The stigmatization, campaigns to discredit, report people, accusations and counter accusations, defamation, slander, maliciousness, political and ideological intolerance, intransigence and lack of compassion form part of the daily rations served up in the networks. The discord and slander deepens the gap that separates families. Maybe the worst consequence –in addition to the mourning and crying – for Nicaraguans is that they have lost several of their loved ones. The historic moment that Nicaragua is experiencing made the ethical crisis rise to the surface. The process for healing the wounds is going to be long and painful. The verbal and symbolic lack of restraint and aggressiveness have destroyed the honor and reputation of people. There are no scruples with anyone nor for anyone.
Those most committed to peace should be the rulers, it is not a matter of making false calls for understanding. Attitude and not words are what in the last instance ratify the true feeling of people. It is up to no one more than President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo to take a radical turn in the search for an authentic peace. The country cannot continue bleeding out. Good sense should prevail in the face of all adversity. The asymmetry between the forces in dispute is disproportional. The right of might has never been advisable. Even less among people who form the same human cluster. Each death breaks us up. Cracks the social fabric. Makes it difficul to re-establish national harmony. Leaves uncurable scars.
The amount of deaths and the occupation of property reinstalled the cycle of violence that has shaken Nicaragua since our independence (1821). Will it be possible for us to live together at some time? The reiteration of violence takes us back to the national war (1856-1857). Why have we not been able to dialogue in a natural and more appropriate way to resolve our political differences? Why is the negotation table only returned to when the victor – over a pool of blood – tries to impose his supremacy on the others? The peace of the conquered! An artificial peace. Ficticious. Born from the mouth of a rifle. Nicaraguan rules have been friends to the guerillas and the physical elimination of their opponents.
The systematic use of violence. The US citizen Ephraim George Squier, journalist, diplomat and archaeologist, among the several books that he drafted on the Central America region, one is enough to know the stuff that we are made of. Nicaragua: Its People and Landscapes (1970): a valuable text for identifying our immediate past. Jaime Incer Barquero states that Squier had the honor of leaving us the legacy of “a great wealth of national knowledge through his abundant writings, illustrations and maps, like no other foreigner or occasional traveler through Nicaragua had done before, nor will be able to later.” I speak highly of the assessment of a researcher like Incer Barquero in order that the talent and disposition of Squier be understood. The very primary importance of this text for the knowledge of our political idiosyncracy.
Beween surprised and concerned, Squier confirmed how the winners capitalized on their victories in the ballot boxes. He proved that whoever wins, wins everything! Those who were in disagreement could expect jailing, confiscation, exile or death. I wonder whether evil was left encrusted in the deepest part of being Nicaraguan? Some even think that our propensity to violence comes from farther away. They talk about the Pedrarias Sydrome, referring to Rodrigo Contreras, son in law of Pedrarias and the butcher of Bishop Valdivieso. He did not forgive him for interceding before the Spanish Crown, so that he would not continue enriching himself and killing the indigenous population. With the intention of teaching the citizenry a lesson, he went to a lot of trouble to give him a terrible death.
The closest relationship between the text of Emilio Álvarez Montalván, Cultura política nicaragüense (Fouth edition, Hispamer, 2008) and La Lucha por el Poder (Ardis, 2017) of Enrique Bolaños Geyer is that both coincide in highlighting the systematic use of violence and authoritarianism to resolve our political discords. Álvarez Montalván maintains that “The depth of the drama of our political culture is that we do not like to enter into civic competition with the adversary, rather we have the compulsion to remove him or discredit him using “legal” methods or tricks, like exclusion.” Civic competition causes allergies and rejection. Rulers prefer electoral fraud. They have always sought to control the institution that counts the votes.
Does the disease have no cure? Bolaños Geyer from the beginning opts for highlighting in five chapter titles (out of ten in his book) the words anarchy, war, instability and dynasty. “In 160 years of sovereign life, since May 2, 1838 (when Nicaragua separated itself from the Central American Federation and became completely independent) until 2007 there have been – at the very least – 111 changes of government in which 61 people have participated, many times as the result of a struggle of political caudillos to be installed and tighten their hold for life on the seat of executive power.” He points to these principal people as responsible for the suffering of the Nicaraguan people. The evil continues as a tumor and it would seem that there is no antidote for this disease.
How can one look on the other when dealing with a being of flesh and blood? How can you look on your fellow countryperson, inhabitant of the same territory, with whom at some moment you shared a desk in school, visited the same places, are from the same town, live in the same neighborhood, walked through the same streets, are connected by family ties, played on the same baseball or soccer team, went out on the town with, countless times rode the bus together, are great friends of your brothers, go to the same church, believe in democracy as system of govern,ent, were active members of the same political party and share the same traditions? Are we so blind that we pass over or are not affected by all these affinities? Everthing indicates that yes that is how it is!
As long as there are no substantial changes in our political culture, we will not be able to overcome these inequities. The other continues to be foreign. The closeness that we might have does not matter. The crucial thing in politics continues being how do we conceive of the other? As long as we consider them as our enemy and not as our adversary, we will continue anchored to a past that is ending up nearly impossible to overcome. In Nicaraguan society, the enormous social, economic, racial, educational and cultural inequalities constitute a norm. Perspective has to be changed. What other way is there to leap over hell? The original sin of Sandinism was to try to install uniformity of thought,. An impossible aspiration.
The other is our neighbor! The response is the question, how are we going to resolve the inequalities that we have with others? It will be positive if we understand that all of us live in the same planet and we live under the same sky. “All of us inhabitants of our planet are Others to other Others: I to them, they to me” notes Ryszard Kapuscinski. I have the impression that we – Nicaraguans – have not been able to find ourselves with our-other-selves. The ways in which political controversies historically have been settled constitute a warning. A tragic sign. We are entering the XXI Century with very high levels of intolerance. Disagreeing continues to be a crime. This has been proven during these months of civic insurrection.
The number of resources used to destroy the other – catalogue of greviences presented by Emilio Álvarez Montalván – present in the Nicaraguan political culture of this century, are similar to the exclusions pointed out by Squier. Censure, confiscation, exile, jail –“trials to justify legalized imprisonment” – up to physical elimination. An unending spiral. Our history would seem to move on a stationary bicycle (the metaphor we owe to the philosopher Alejandro Serrano Caldera). As long as we do not break this iron circle, we will continue stuck in the same place! We have not been able to retrace history. The caudillos have known how to sweet talk their followers. They continue to keep them captivated.
To be able to live together – in other words, to be able to live in peace – we have to quit considering the other as the enemy. No one should be criminalized nor persecuted nor jailed for dissenting. Much less killed! How much it is costing us to break with the values of the past! We need to put a stop to this! Go back to the dialogue table. On one occasion the poet José Coronel Urtecho said to me: Rhymester, we Nicaraguans are genetically sons of bitches. Accept it, poet! It is not a matter of a cultural problem.” I refuse to accept it. Like the Chinese, let us see the crisis as an opportunity. If we do not get on the train of history today, we will lose a new occasion to re-encounter ourselves. Then it will be concluded that we are hopelessly lost.
Now in the fourth month of discord in Nicaragua, there is no end in sight. Statements and actions of the president indicate no capitulation to the demands of the protesters. The demonstrators show no weakening of will or purpose in their stand against the government. Other voices from outside the country weigh in on both sides. But there are other voices, unheard, who are paying a steep price indeed for the impasse that is Nicaragua today.
There’s an entire population, urban and rural alike, which survives hand-to-mouth in the Nica economy, and the upheavals that have occurred over the past several months have all but quieted those hands. Tourism, an important component of the economy everywhere in the country, has ceased. Rural producers, who have labored hard and diligently sought to learn improvements for their yields and their markets, have watched their momentum slip away once again, not due to rainfall or drought or crop infestation, but from politics. The improved road infrastructure throughout Nicaragua was rendered inaccessible for long periods of time during the protests, as barricades achieved what they sought to achieve: the halt of commerce. Markets demand goods, and goods must make their way from the farms. As a result, credit obligations have sometimes not been met. Materials for a new harvest cycle cannot be bought. Collateral has been called. Sources of credit have evaporated.
In the words of Sergio Ramírez, former Vice President for Daniel Ortega:
“The universities have been closed for three months and the high schools as well. 10% of the public schools are functioning, no parent thinks about sending their child to school. Life ends at 5pm, everyone looks to get home. There is no night life in Managua, being out on the street after 6pm is putting your life at risk. Social life has changed a lot, so it is a situation of seclusion.”
This is not a life of vibrant progress, but of loss.
To be sure, some of these voices have joined the chorus either in support or defiance of the government. But the “silent majority” of Nicaragua, as usual, has little opportunity to speak its reality. As always, those in the countryside are paying an enormous price for that reality. The disappointment must be immense; hard work perhaps does not always pay off. Still, they persevere. What else is there?
The litany of matters which have oppressed and stalled Nicaraguans for portions of two centuries are long and diverse. Some were natural disasters. Others were the result of outside forces seeking to own the beauty and the richness of the country. And often the sources of the inequities and the impoverishment were the legacies of leaders who could not envision leadership without autocracy. As the saying goes, “There’s always something.”
There is likely a limit to human resilience for most of us. These is a saturation point beyond which even our tenacity and determination will not permit us to go. I worry about Nicaragua a lot these days. I anxious for the lives of those who are on the front lines for a cause in which they believe, for whatever reason. My heart aches for the places I have come to love in Nicaragua, some now relegated to battlegrounds once again. But my greatest fear is for the steadfast endurance of those in the countryside, for whom every day is both a blessing to be celebrated and a threat to be confronted.
The number of physical victims in the Nicaraguan turmoil of the past three months continues to grow. Some estimates have the number of dead at more than 300, the number of “disappeared” at more than 750 and many thousands of others injured from the attacks from paramilitary forces. No matter what the actual count, the costs have been extensive thus far, with no end in sight. These are the dramatic affronts that deserve our tears and our prayers. But the price being extracted is strangling all Nicaraguans….
To have a full picture of the polarization in Nicaragua today it is important to compare this speech with the previous post, the interview of Daniel Ortega´s Vice President in the 1980s, Sergio Ramírez. Ortega accuses the opposition of exactly what he is being accused of. What is particularly noteworthy is his conflict with the Bishops, who he originally went to and asked to host the National Dialogue. Documents from the dialogue can be found in earlier posts. Here is his speech [capitals are from the original text published by the FSLN webpage]
Brother and Sister Nicaraguans, Families of this Country of Diriangén, Darío and Sandino, today, the 39th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution, is a very Special Date because, from April to May, May to June, from June to July 19th, it has been up to us to defend once again Peace for all Nicaraguans.
And it has been a painful Battle, painful because we have faced an armed conspiracy financed by internal Forces that we all know, and by external Forces that we identify completely, because they themselves have taken charge of revealing the financing that they give to these groups that become an instrument of the Policies against the People, against the Poor, against the Peasants, against the Youth.
And a coup is being organized, we were seeing it, it would seem difficult having so much Stability in Nicaragua, 11 years of Stability, 11 years of Security, 11 years of Economic Growth, 11 years of Health Care, Education, Streets for the People, Homes for the People, Agrofood Programs, Programs for the Countryside, Programs for the City; with approval levels for this Government of the People without precendent in the History of Nicaragua, the highest Approval levels.
Of course, they could not allow the Revolution to continue consolidating itself, and the Strength of the Revolution undoubtedly that resided in Peace, Security, Stability and that at the same time allowed the Economy to grow, to the benefit of the Small Producers, to the Benefit of Walking Salespeople, to the Benefit of the Peasants, to the Benefit of the Large Producers, to the Benefit of the Medium Enterprises, to the Benefit of Large Enterprises, to the benefit of Large Capital. All were benefitting, and it was good that they benefitted, it was a correct Policy: Benefits for Everyone!
But for that Economic Growth and that Benefit for Everyone to be possible, there had to be Peace and Security; so the conspiracy said: We have to kill Peace, do away with Peace, so that the Economy would be destroyed and the Revolution be destroyed, and that Sandinista Government be destroyed. That was the Plan, and they began to invent once again what they have been working on for some years, with financing from Organizations, US Agencies, they began to work through the Networks, they began to work now with more force to provoke this shock and destroy Peace.
When the fire happened in the Indo Maiz Reserve, there they began to blame the Government for the fire in the Indio Maiz Reserve, and they said: This is the moment; because the Specialists that come to support us in the face of this fire in a Forest Reserve, including Specialists, US Experts were telliing us that it would be difficult for us to be able to control that fire in 2 or 3 months, and they provided as examples the fires that they experience in the United States that last months.
Logically we were concerned, and they working on their conspiracy under this principle, this fire is going to last, this is the moment. And they began the war through the Networks, nationally as well as internationally, and they continued arming themselves, because they have been arming themselves, they were already arming themselves.
And under what coverage were the protests? They are “civic protests” they say… civic protests, civic protests, but, how did they kill the son of Amada? With what did they kill him? With weapons of fire, even weapons of war, they came to stockpile weapons of war. With what did theuy kill the Sandinista brothers and sisters who they went to find in their homes, simply for being Sandinistas, and they shot them? With what did they kill them?
The civic protest was just the pretext, and they held some Marches where they were not armed, but on the other hand they had armed people, and they installed the armed people at points where they converged into points of terror, where they installed torture centers, they used the Universities to install torture centers, to kill. And we were saying: How far are they thinking of going? How far are they thinking of going? Because the fire, thanks to the intensity of the rains in the Indio Maiz zone quickly disappeared. And they were left without fires!
So the Decree was issued to respond to Social Security, which is essential, which is necessary to save Social Security. And when the Decree was issued, again in the streets with the social protest, with the civic protest they started immediately, now at midnight, in the early morning and the following days with armed attacks against State institutions, with armed attacks against the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, the institutions of the Sandinista Front, with armed attacks and burning of buildings of institutions, and then with the looting also of Enterprises of Supermarkets. It was a matter of sowing chaos.
And in an Act of Patience, of Patience, avoiding falling into provocations, we ordered that the Decree be withdrawn; it did not mean anything to them that we withdrew the Decree, they continued with their campaign, they, who started the aggression, they who caused the deaths and who sent the young people to death, and above all, Youth from the Neighborhood who they paid so they would participate as Shock Troops.
But we not only withdrew the Law, but we said: Well, we are going to a Dialogue to talk about the Law and get the law produced in a Dialogue, and they said that it no longer dealt with the Law. And where did they want to go, we said. And we were saying to them, what is it that you want? What is it that you are proposing to us? We wanted to hear them, we wanted to know what was the Strategy that they had. And they took out their claws, they took off their masks and they ended up saying: You have to leave now! You have to leave now!
They said it, logically, our adversaries… full of hate they said it! It was understandable that they would say it, but it surprised me more, or maybe it did not even surprise me, when the Mediators, meeting there in the Casa de los Pueblos with all the Bishops led by the Cardinal, read me the Riot Act, took out their Strategy, and they said there: “This has to change now, starting on day 11”, they gave us a term of two days, “the Judicial Branch has to change now, the Electoral Branch, the Comptrollers office, all the Branches of Government, the National Assembly, and the President has to be removed and the Elections pushed up”. They said that there with complete clarity.
When I received the Document, I said: Well, this is what they really want. I thought that they were Mediators, but no, they were committed to the coup plotters, they were part of the Plan with the coup supporters. And it hurts me a lot to say this, because I have respect for the Bishops, I respect them, I am Catholic, but they have positions there, some, of more confrontation, others I would say, more moderate, but unfortunately always the line of confrontation is imposed and not the line of Mediation. They failed to understand that Mediation is to have the two parties sit down and listen to the two parties, and not that the Mediator takes sides and says: You have to do this in so many days, in a week. A Coup they wanted to cause in Nicaragua, said by they themselves!
When they proposed this to me…well, I always ask God to fill me with the Patience of Job, and I said to them: Well, if you want to propose all this in the Dialogue, propose it, you can propose it, but there has to be a Consensus, and for there to be a Consensus there has to be agreement between the two parties, but they did not wait for Consensus, they simply appeared with an ultimatum.
I did not want to speak to them with this clarity, I simply took the Note, I paged through it, I was surprised, it hurt me that my Bishops had that coup supporting attitude…It hurt me! And right there they discredited themselves as Mediators, they disqualified themselves as Witnesses, because their clear Message was the Coup! The Coup! And from one day to the next.
When they presented that List to me, immediately I remembered what happened with that Mr. Carmona Estanga there in Venezuela, when the Coup against Chavez happened, that they came and met joyfully Leaders of the Churches, the Capitalists, the enemies of the People met in the Presidential House and the then began to say: The National Assembly disappears, the Electoral Branch disappears, the Attorney General disappears, the Justice Branch disappearsl And all of them joyfully applauding; then the People arrived, and the People got rid of them, got rid of them, and Chavez returned to exercise the legitimate Presidency that he had.
This is what has hurt me more, because I got to think that with the Bishops we could find Agreements that would give us Peace, that would help us to consolidate Peace. And the truth is that, every day that the Dialogue went, and when they talked about the barricades, and that they had to remove the barricades that they had imprisoned our People by all sides, they did not like that, they did not like that, the furthest it got was an Agreement for a 3 day Truce; that was the most that was gotten, a three day Truce.
And the Truth has to be said, you have to tell the Truth, I do not know if all the Bishops, I want to believe that not all the Bishops, I want to believe that the Cardinal did not know anything about this, but many Churches were occupied as bases to store weapons, to store bombs, and to leave from to attack and kill.
Look at this closely, they say that their struggle was civic, that their protest was civic; then who killed Senior Commissioner Luis Mayor Emilio López Bustos of the National Police? Who killed Captain Hilton Rafael Manzanares Alvarado of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant José Abraham Martinez, of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Douglas José Mendiola Viales of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Marcos Antonio Gonzalez Briceño of the National Police? Who killed Jean Kerry Luna Gutierrez of the National Police?
Who killed Lieutenant Dixon Bismark Soza Enríquez of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Carlos José Zamora Martínez of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Zaira Julissa Flores of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Martín Ezequiel Sánchez of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Hilarios Jesús Ortiz Zavala of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Marlon José Requene López of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Lenin Ernesto Olivas Alaniz of the National Police? Who killed Lieutenant Gabriel de Jesús Vado of the National Police?
Who killed Inspector Juana Francisca Aguilar Cano of the National Police? Who killed Inspector Abelina Obando of the National Police? Who killed Inspector Ilish Aarón Urrutia of the National Police? Who killed Inspector Faber Antonio Vivas of the National Police? Who killed Inspector Faustino Téllez Vargas of the National Police? Who killed Inspector Kelvin Javier Rivera Lainez of the National Police? Who killed Inspector Luis David López Hurtado of the National Police? Who killed Senior Officer Allan Alexander Rodríguez Hernández of the National Police? Who wounded by bullets 342 men and 58 women of the National Police? And these are pacifists! They are the pacifists! These are the pacifists!
And then, who killed dozens of Sandinistas, hundreds of Sandinistas? Dramatic cases, dramatic! In Jinotepe, the coup supporters show up, defended by the Civic Alliance, defended by the Civic Alliance that is the false face of the coup supporters, is the mask of the coup supporters, the coup supporters show up to look for a person in their home; the person is not at home and the person´s younger brother opens the door and when he told them he was not there, then they killed the young boy, and left. Then the father of the murdered boy shows up, after the funerals, the grieving father, and he did not talk of hate, he did not talk of hating them, but that logically he grieved the death of his son, and he condemned it. And what did they do the next day? They also killed the father of the boy.
They injected the poison of hate! They turned them into a diabolical force, satanic, like those that practice satanic rites. When we see the way in which they acted, torturing the people in the barricades, killing them in the barricades, all that like a satanic rite, and what is more terrible, that shows that these people are completely satanized, and it is these that should be sought out to be exorcised, Mr. Bishops, these devils, these demons.
Look closely at how they are satanized, that all the atrocities, the crimes that they commit, the torture that they do, remember what they did with the son of Amada, what did they do? They danced, they jumped around the cadaver while they set it on fire, celebrating it, and filming themselves and later they themselves put it on the Networks, they themselves accusing themselves as the criminals, as the murderers of this People, that want to steal Peace from the Nicaraguans.
So much pain! So much pain! So much tragedy! But they are confused, one of the Bishops came to us to tell us that the Sandinista Front was now finished, that it no longer had people, that it was liquidated, and that it was better that we leave, that is what he said! That is how he said it! No, we are not going to disrespect the Bishops either, we are not going to fight with the Bishops, but, Christ died for the
Truth, and as Christians we are obliged to tell the Truth, and to ask the Bishops to correct themselves, for the Love of God, that they correct themselves and not be encouraging these satanic sects, coup supporters, murderers.
They thought that we were already defeated, simply because we had Patience, Patience, Patience…And it is that their Plan was incredible, incredible, they were so coordinated that I even remember that they placed as a condition on us, for the Dialogue Meeting, for the installation of the Dialogue, that the Police had to be restricted to their bases, in other words, secuester the Police. We said, look, how interesting, confine the Police to their barracks! Of course. Why? So that the armed people of the coup supporters could peacefully kill, murder, destroy and attack the very Police confined to their barracks.
And our Patience, our flexibility got to the extreme that we accepted confining the Police to their barracks; but a moment came where we said: We are patient, but we are also responsible for the Security of all these people. Even the US Ambassador told us this, that the Police should act; because now the “little angels” that were in the UNAN, armed, had already assaulted an Official of the American Embassy, they had taken his pistol, they had stolen his pickup. And I said: Of course, since their conspiracy is there, then they looked for a way in which the truck would be returned to them, but the pistol already appeared among the arms captured from those who were in the UNAN, imagine that.
So, not because the Ambassador of the United States said it, but because we know this is an obligation of the Nicaraguan State to watch over its Citizens. We said: This is over and we have to reestablish Order in our Country!
And that is what has them irritated, furious, and they are calling to exorcize us tomorrow, starting tomorrow they are going to start, they have ordered to say that there has to be an exorcism, that they have to exorcise us. Let them exorcise the demons that they have there next to them! Let them tell them that the Path is not war, but it is Peace, Dialogue. Let them tell them that we have to reestablish Peace in a definitive, total, permanent way, Stability so that the Country can continue growing, continue developing, because there will have to be an enormous effort to raise up the Economy. Thanks to God, the bases for Productive Actiivty are there, but they have logically fallen with this situation, and we hope that they can be quickly energized.
But for that it is indispensible that here all us Nicaraguans, regardless of Ideology, regardless of Political Thought, regardless of Religion, join forces to ensure Peace, which is what gives us Security and a Better Future for all Nicaraguan Families.
I want to thank you for the Message that Compañero Foreign Minister Bruno brought us on behalf of the President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Commandante Raul; and your Message, Bruno, is a Message with that Strength, with that Conviction that you have had and that the Cuban Revolution is always going to have, the Heir of Martí, Heir of Fidel, Heir of Che.
Likewise, grateful for the Message that the Foreign Minister of the Sister Republic of Venezuela have brought us, a young, very young Foreign Minister, and who has spoken to us from the Heart, and when he talks about the willingness of the Venezuelans to accompany our Battles, he reminds us of the time of Sandino when Brother Venezuelans were in the Sandino´s Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty.
Thanks, dear Compañero Jose Arreaza, Chancellor of Venezuela. And our Affection, our Esteem, our Gratitude for our Brother Nicolas Maduro, for Diosdado, for all the Members of the Leadership and for that brave and heroic Boliviarian People.
We greet the Brothers of the Sao Paulo Forum who accompany us in this 39th anniversary.
And from this Plaza de la Fe we greet the brothers and sisters of each and every one of the Provinces of our Country who on this occasion were not able to come. And they were not able to come, why? Because the Slogan was, to celebrate the 19th each one in their Province, in their Municipality. And Managua? Here is Managua with the Municipalities of Managua.
It has been, therefore, a massive Celebration where people have participated from all of our Country, from the Caribbean Coast, from the Autonomous Region of the Northern Caribbean to the Southern Caribbean, from the Provinces of Nueva Segovia and Madriz, from Matagalpa and Jinotega, from Boaco and Chontales, from San Carlos, Rio San Juan, from Chinandega, from León, from Carazo, from Granada, from Rivas from all of the Country, all participating, all the Provinces, this day on this great date, and all defending Peace!
Well, we have to learn from the experience of this that has happened, you have to fight for Peace with Firmness, you have to fight for Peace with Intelligence, you have to fight for Peace without hate, you have to fight for Peace strengthening the Mechanisms for Self Defense, so that never more Sandinista Families are murdered, nor never more are the homes of the Sandinista burned.
And that those sinister messages be erradicated from the Networks, where they are offering death to entire Families only for being Sandinista Families. And they say it there with complete clarity that they are going to kill the father, the mother, the children, even the small children they are going to kill, they say… What kind of thing is this? This is something from satanic sects. Please, dear Bishops, exorcise these demons, exorcise these demons.
And without dropping our guard, without dropping our guard, continue defending our Rights, continue defending our Decisions…!Our Decisions are not in Washington, they are in Managua! Our decisions are not in Washington, they are in Nicaragua! And we are those who have to defend our own Decisions to continue defending this Model, that continue promoting Peace, Reconciliation. Because we are never going to be sowers of hate, not even against those who have done so much damage to the People. We do not hate them! We say to them, correct yourselves, change, and help them to change and they can then be a proactive part in the construction of Peace in our Country. We want Sowers of Peace, not Sowers of Death!
I want to tell you, dear brothers and sisters, dear Nicaraguan Families, on this day, that you are, Brothers and Sisters, the Defenders of Peace with the Heroes who gave their Lives defending Peace. Here are the Defenders of Peace in this Plaza, and they are in all of Nicaragua, and we are full of Faith in the fact that we will win an ever more solid Peace, because Peace has to be defended every day, you have to be winning it every day, to keep situations like these from repeating.
Long live the 39th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution!
This is an interview of Sergio Ramírez by the Costa Rican newspaper “La Nación”. He is a well known writer throughout the Spanish speaking world, and was Daniel Ortega´s vice President in the 1980s. In 1995 he was one of the founders of the MRS (Movement for Sandinista Renovation).
Sergio Ramírez: “Maybe what Daniel Ortega wants is to provoke a civil war”
By Ximena Alfaro M. in La Nación, July 17, 2018
The conflict in Nicaragua now has been going on for three months and there are nearly 300 deaths. President Ortega continues in power, but the writer and politician Sergio Ramírez thinks that even though he defends himself with police and paramilitaries, he is more and more isolated.
When Sergio Ramírez received the Cervantes award in Madrid on April 23rd, he dedicated it to the first 30 youth killed in the protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega.
Just five days had passed since the beginning of the social struggle that still afflicts Nicaragua. The civil rebellion that opened up a new chapter in the history of the country this Wednesday July 18 marks its third month and is maintained with barricades and uprisings in the streets to challenge the regime that has opted for hardening the repression and freezing the dialogue, while the figures for those who have died varies from between 280 and 300 people.
Sergio Ramírez was close to Daniel Ortega. With him he led the rebellion of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) that overthrew the Dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, and later was his Vice President between 1985 and 1990. Nevertheless, he distanced himself when Ortega separated himself from the principles of Sandinism. Since then he has become a critical voice against the government and is considered one of the most outstanding intellectuals of Latin America.
“To think that Daniel Ortega is going to leave tomorrow on his own will, that he is going to take a plane with his family, is really a fantasy.”
In this interview done by phone on Tuesday July 17th, the writer referred to the political strategy that the Nicaraguan president could be sketching out with the use of paramilitary forces. In addition, he stated that the pressure from the international community is needed, but is not enough to leave the crisis behind. He also evaluated the role of the Army, whose neutrality in the conflict he believes could end up being very costly for it given the increase in the repression. Ramírez talked with hope about the civil struggle that is marking an unprecedented change in Nicaragua, and he thinks that the battle is not lost because the spirit of the citizens “continues very high.”
Three months of conflict and the dialogue is stalled in Nicaragua. Does it continue to be the most effective mechanism for addressing the crisis, or is that path exhausted?
As the only tool possible to achieve a political understanding, the dialogue continues being valid, what happens is that it is stalled for two reasons: first, the intransigence of the government of never having wanted to discuss the issues of democratization. This is an issue that in the agenda designed by the bishops began with the shortening of the presidential period and celebrating elections by March of the coming year at the latest. The government dragged their feet on this, it was never accepted and then the government now says that it did not accept it. So, there we have a first barrier. Secondly, another commitment of the government was to end the repression, that they did not do either. These two fundamental points completely annulled the possibility for a negotiated solution.
“Immediately the government began to attack the mediators, to see the mediators of the Catholic Church as enemies, the attack on the Divina Misericordia Church connected to the assault on the National University in Managua, before that the personal aggression against the Bishops and the Apostolic Nuncio in the San Sebastián Church in Diriamba, the attack on the parish church of the Apostle James in Jinotepe. The mediators and witnesses of the dialogue have become, suddenly, the target of attacks of the government. Lastly, the imprisonment of Medardo Mairena, who is a member of the dialogue roundtable for the Civic Alliance of civil society; he is a peasant leader who was arrested and now is being accused of murder and a whole bunch of other crimes.”
“This led me to conclude necessarily that there is no will on the part of the government to continue the dialogue. At this point, it seems to me that the government of Ortega only used the dialogue as a means to gain time while it recomposed their paramilitary forces.”
At that moment, that was one of the principal fears: that Ortega would seek to gain time. Even though there was also a hopeful air.
“He realized that he could not confront that civic insurrection with the simple forces of the Police and the anti-riot police, and that is why he organized the paramilitary forces, which are very well armed forces with rifles of war and heavy machine guns, that are only sowing terror in the country, like right now in Monimbó which has been under fire since 6am (of Tuesday July 17th).”
“It is as if it were an army of occupation; so now that he feels that he has been able to advance on the barricades and free up the highways for traffic, he thinks that he is strong militarily and that he does not need any dialogue, which to me seems an illusion. Even though it is true, with a force of 1,000 or 1,500 men he can militarily dominate the situation, because the people are disarmed and are defending themselves with morters and homemade bombs, but the people cannot resist those attacks with high calibre weapons and weapons of war. In the face of a disarmed population, military superiority well obviously gives him an advantage in the field, but it seems to me that the advantage that I would call strategic he lost some time ago; in other words, he might be waging a war of terror, but the political war he has lost.”
Nevertheless the possibility of a quick departure of Ortega from power seems unimaginable.
“What happens is that thinking that Daniel Ortega is going to leave tomorrow on his own will, that he is going to get on a plane with his family, that really is a fantasy. Principally, as long as he feels that he has that fanatic base, because they are fanatics that are around him, all those masked people and they are there defending that he stay, and not that he stay until 2021, but that he stay forever. That is the guarantee that they have, that the only defense that they have for the crimes that they are committing is that Ortega be there forever, protecting them.”
“The day that key nail comes out, everything will fall apart; so, that is why he is going to continue. This is a worm gear: he has to insist that he stay and thus the others back him because he is going to perdure, but that is also a fantasy, because this situation cannot continue from here until the year 2021.”
What level is the violence reaching in Nicaragua?
“The first indicator are the numbers. Now we are heading for nearly 300 deaths, soon there will be 500; in other words, imagine 500 deaths by repression in a country like Costa Rica, that is completely unimaginable. This is the first shock of death. What death means in the heart of the family, in the neighborhoods, in the communities, in the circle of friends, in the university classmates of the dead. Each death has an enormous social and family impact, because we are talking about a country of nearly six million people.”
“Secondly, citizen security is zero, because one day the hooded people enter a home, take out a young man by his hair, who does not appear again or appears in a jail and no one provides a reason. There are dozens of mothers at the doors of the famous El Chipote, which is the military detention center, asking about their sons, their relatives or their husbands. There are no judicial nor legal guarantees for anyone, we are going as on a suspension of the rule of law and everything is being done in front of the international humanitarian organizations that are here, like the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, the European Union, it seems like this does not matter to them. When these commissions request entry to the detention centers, at times they let them in, and other times they prohibit them from entering. There is no sense of shame in this situation, so there is no juridical security. That in addition to the number of dead, in addition to the mercilessness of the repression, can give you an idea of the trauma that the country is experiencing.”
What is left of the Daniel Ortega who you knew and who you accompanied in the Vice Presidency during the first government?
“We are talking about something that happened 35 years ago and I have not had any opportunity to go back to see him, so I do not know what to say in response in that sense, they are two situations very distant in time and completely different. What we are seeing here is a repressive government like very few that we have faced in the country, and he is at the head of this government.”
How has daily life changed in Nicaragua since the repression began?
“The universities have been closed for three months and the high schools as well. 10% of the public schools are functioning, no parent thinks about sending their child to school. Life ends at 5pm, everyone looks to get home. There is no night life in Managua, being out on the street after 6pm is putting your life at risk. Social life has changed a lot, so it is a situation of seclusion. This does not mean that people act with cowardice, people are acting with precaution, because here massive marches continue happening. People go out to protest leaving fear behind, and every time that there is a massacre or attack, the people go out in the street to demonstrate, and they come out by the thousands. In that sense, I think that this is far from being a lost battle to the extent that the spirit of the people continues to be high.”
“An isolated government, while the economy is falling to pieces, does not have the capacity to maintain itself.”
The new part also is that the fear maintained for so long has been lost.
“Yes, there was an explosion, I would not say of courage, but of audacity on the part of the people, of leaving fear behind and going out to express themselves. Before, here no one gave their opinion with their face and their name, now people come out on television and in spite of the fact that they are exposing themselves to the repression, they talk with their name, show their face, and express what they feel. This seems to me is a profound change for Nicaragua. I think that the country is in the midst of a irreversible decision to get to have a regime of justice, freedom and democracy, and since we are going to achieve it through civic means and not through arms, it seems to me that the possibilities that this democracy can get to be lasting are much more certain than if this depended on an armed victory once again against a dictatorship, and then we expose ourselves to the risk that the one who triumphs with the weapons has the temptation toward absolute power. This we are not going to have because this is a civic struggle.”
Do you see a government disconnected from reality, for example, when Rosario Murillo calls the opposition protestors “a minority of hate” or asks to “clean” the cities of barricades?
“I think that this discourse of Doña Rosario Murillo is a discourse deceitfully intentional, she says exactly the opposite of what is happening, but that is a strategy. The events that they themselves generate they call terrorist, but blaming the civilian population. It is a discourse very well calculated to keep their party members together. No one now is fooling civil society, here the big weapon are the social networks. Here everyone is informed up to the minute about what is happening, each citizen has become a journalist. Each citizen not only is a camera person, but narrates the events, is a journalist in the field and in the networks circulate thousands of images and messages every day, and this no one can defeat unless they would block the sources of internet and leave us in limbo.”
Could the role that the international community is playing end up being decisive?
“The international support is growing, the pressure is greater and greater and the declarations are stronger and stronger, like that of the Secretary General of the United Nations from Costa Rica, the unanimous position of the ex presidents of Costa Rica, the declaration of the president of Chile, of Argentina, the resolution that is going to be voted on (today) in the Organization of American States (OAS), that I hope is a forceful resolution, the position of the United States Government itself, that of the European Union, but that is not enough.”
“ A problem like this cannot be solved with declarations from outside. I am very grateful for these declarations, and I think that they are now sufficiently strong. There is international attention on Nicaragua, that is very good, but that is not going to resolve the problem. It is a piece to the solution of the problem. This problem has to be solved here in some way. I hope that never through a civil war, because maybe what Daniel Ortega would like is provoke a civil war and then the armed people at a disadvantage could be more easily masscred, and that would give him the opportunity to call the Army into the streets, something that he has not been able to do so far. The country has never experienced a civic struggle before, a citizen resistance like this is a new experience for Nicaragua , but I think that it is the only weapon that we have. If we resist in a civic manner, it could be that it is complex, that it could not have results in the long term, but I insist on the fact that this political battle Ortega has lost. How he is going to organize his departure, that is another matter, but he has to return to the dialogue table, because here he is alone, surrounded by paramilitaries and a more and more discredited police force. The rest of society is against him: the Catholic Church, private enterprise, students, youth, the people in the neighborhoods, the peasants. An isolated government, while the economy is falling to pieces, does not have the ability to maintain itself.”
Is there a need for more solidarity with Nicaragua on the part of the governments of Central America?
“There has been different stages in this. First, it seems to me that when SICA met (Central America Integration System), Ortega was able to get them to produce a resolution that we call in Nicaragua “rooster-hen”, one of those weak resolutions that called all parties to cease the violence, no matter where it came from. If here there is no violence from all parties, hiding this already seems to me that you are an accomplice; in other words, violence no matter where it comes from, but that is hypocresy, because here it is know where the violence is coming from. That stage has now been surpassed and the other Central American countries have been coming closer to the firm position that Costa Rica took from the beginning: demanding that the governmental repression cease, you have to call things by their name. Now the declarations that I have read from the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, are aligned with the declaration of Costa Rica. It seems to me that in this sense we have been progressing in this declaration of 13 countries that even Guatemala signed, because the tone is different. It seems to me that tomorrow (in the OAS meeting) there will be a considerable block of countries along the same lines when the Permanent Council of the OAS opens their meeting.”
How discredited is the OAS in Nicaragua, after Luis Almagro negotiated “under the table” an electoral calendar with Ortega?
“I do not think that it is at this moment. What happens is that Almagro was acting under the belief that Ortega was serious when he committed to move up the elections to March, and Almagro himself declared it in the session of the OAS, that Ortega had promised to move up the elections, and then he has stepped back from that. So it seems to me that the position of Almagro is very firm and clear in harmony with the immense majority of the countries of the OAS who have made pronouncements. I think that the OAS is an important, mulitlateral political instrument to help in the solution to this conflict. It seems to me that the resolution that is circulating would be a great support and I hope it happens.”
What do you think about sectors of the Latin American left like the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (El Salvador) and the ex-Uruguayan president José Mujica that have kept silent in the face of the slaughter?
“It seems to me that in this sense things are also changing. What happens is that here there is an orthodox and obsolete left that feels committed to defend those governments that are called leftist, like Venezuela or Nicaragua, when they do not behave as governments of the left, as I have understood the left since my youth, as an ethical force, that defends ideals for change in society, not as a force that kills and commits the same abuses that the right wing dictatorships in the past of the southern cone. It is difficult in these ideological frameworks, closeminded in this left, to understand that what is happening in Nicaragua is not a manuever of Yankee imperialism, as Ortega says and these international loudspeakers repeat.”
“This is an authentically popular movement, it is the people of Nicaragua who are in the streets wanting to achieve democracy, this is not a manuever of anyone, it is not a conspiracy of anyone, so those are obsolete ideological clichés, that this antiquated sector of the left uses.”
Have you received any type of threat recently?
“Personally no, but I know what I am involved in. I am in a frontal struggle, civic, accompanying the people. I know that I have a voice as an intellectual, as a writer and I am obliged to use that voice in favor of democracy in Nicaragua and to accompany the suffering of the people. So, I do not know what cost I will have to pay for raising my voice, but I am going to continue to do so because I feel it is my duty.”
The Army has made some calls to end the repression; nevertheless, they have been restrained. How do you evaluate their role?
“In this institutional debate, where all the institutions are cadavers, well the Army is maintained as an intact institution, and so far the Army organically has not participated in the repression. What many people are beginning to resent is that the Army allows armed paramilitary groups, armed to the teeth with weapons of war, to go out into the street with impunity, and the Army is not fulfilling its constitutional duty of disarming them, because the Army has the monopoly of the use of weapons of war, and should not allow that other masked people, no matter how much they are accompanied by the Police in combined operations, to use weapons that are reserved only for the use of the Army. It seems that in that sense the margin of the Army is being reduced a lot; in other words, the discourse of neutrality is losing opportunity to the extent that the repression increases, this is a serious responsibility that the Army has in the face of its own future and in the face of Nicaraguan society. I have defended the institutional role of the Army, I have thought that their role has to be preserved as an institution that is going to help in a transition to ensure stability, because in a political-civil-civic transition we are going to need elements of stability, but the silence of the Army in terms of the existence of these paramilitary groups I have to recognize that it is damaging its image. They have to make some type of decision.”
Can the business people be trusted now, after they were in an alliance with the Government for so many years?
“The business sector had an alliance here with the Government and I prefer to see them in the past, this is a moment in which all of us are together, there is a common front in the search for democracy and the business sector are playing a very important role in being part of this alliance. What they did in the past does not matter much to me, what matters to me is what they are doing now. There are people who made mistakes, others that did not, but let us see that in the past. At this moment there is a strong alliance here, between business people of all sizes, to find a democratic solution to this situation that has become irreversible since they killed the first young people on April 18th and from then on. It is no longer possible for a situation to return to that like before April where there was this understanding between the business people and the Government, that stage has run out, what is going to emerge from here is something new necessarily with the participation of the the business people.”
“This is a market economy; therefore, the business people have a role. What is not going to be able to be separated in the future is what Ortega tried to do with them, that I will take care of the politics and you be concerned with your business. No, politics is part of everything and above all when it deals with replacing a dictatorship with democracy.”
Do you think that this civic struggle will not end until a democratic solution is found?
“I believe so, I think that the energies of people are intact, and that no matter how many reverses they receive, no many how many reverses that the Government is able to inflict in terms of deaths, retaking bastions of the resistance, the struggle is going to take other civic paths. I insist a lot on this word, we cannot abandon this experience of changing this situation through absolutely civic means.”
Could this situation wear down the Nicaraguan president until it ends up removing him from power?
I think that the political isolation in which he finds himself, the animosity of society against the regime and the acelerated deterioration of the economy, in addition to the international pressure, are factors that are going to accumulate to offer some type of new outcome. All resistance is difficult, this is not going to happen overnight. Perseverance is needed, resistance is needed and what the Nicaraguan people have which is the spirit of civic struggle. That is the great motor.
Editor´s note: José Mujica, the ex president of Uruguay this Wednesday July 18th refered to the situation in Nicaragua and criticized the government of Daniel Ortega for the repression.
In the game of chess that is being lived out within Nicaragua right now, the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church has been visible and active as a mediator between the demonstrators and President Daniel Ortega. That role has persisted this week, even as the violence continues and, with time, both sides seem to have become even more intractable.
The country at large has become less navigable as increasing numbers of roadblocks have cut off nearly all travel, even through the most roundabout means. (You can see the map of blockades as of June 7 here.) Aside from the inconvenience created within a country where travel between points A and B is already a challenge, the roadblocks hinder the delivery of harvests to markets. That’s a significant economic threat to rural producers and to commerce in general. Of course, if the harvests cannot be sold at market, borrowers will face defaults on loans they may have taken to plant and grow the crop. Default with an organization like WPF may result in a renovation of terms; default with a commercial lender may result in the loss of property or other pledged assets, the country-in-crisis notwithstanding. So any thoughts about the demonstrations and disruptions being limited in impact to Managua or the universities are simply incorrect: this is a dangerous national matter.
The Bishops have sought to be intermediaries, to neutralize the rhetoric and to seek common ground as a starting point for discussion and resolution. But that has proven to be far more difficult than simply occupying a referee’s chair. The initial national dialogue which has sought traction under their guidance featured an angry interruption of Daniel Ortega’s opening comments by student leaders. Mr. Ortega himself has been absent from subsequent efforts at dialogue. The violence around the country has continued and grieving is once again a national pastime.
Most recently, the Bishops have sought to meet with President Ortega to formally make request on the most pressing matters fueling the demonstrations, as follows:
We the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, as mediators and witnesses to the National Dialogue, inform the Nicaraguan people that after listening to several sectors of national and international society, we are asking the President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega Savaadrea, for a meeting to deal with the issues so indispensable and essential for our country, concerning justice and democracy, on which peace always depends, with the purpose of assessing in the plenary session of the Dialogue the helpfulness of carrying it forward.
This meeting has been accepted by the President, it will be tomorrow Thursday June 7 at 3:00pm in la Casa de los Pueblos.
After that meeting, we will be reporting to the national and international community about the dialogue. For that reason we are inviting the press to a conference at 7:00pm on that same day in the Our Lady of Fatima seminary.
We ask our faithful to intensify their prayers for the success of that conversation.
In our office, Wednesday June 6, 2018, Year of the Lord.
THE BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA
The meeting was held, and a second communique from the Bishops was issued yesterday:
We the Bishops of the Bishop´s Conference of Nicaragua communicate to the Nicaraguan people, that we have finished our conversation with the President of the Republic.
We have done it as pastors of the people of God who have entrusted this to us seeking new horizons for our Country.
The dialogue with the President happened in an environment of serenity, frankness and sincerity, where we set out to the President the pain and anguish of the people in the face of the violence suffered in recent weeks, and the agenda agreed upon in the Plenary of the National Dialogue on the democratization of the country.
We have handed him the proposal that brings together the sentiments of many sectors of Nicaraguan society, and expresses the longing of the immense majority of the population. We are awaiting his response in writing as soon as possible.
Once the President of the Republic has responded to us formally, we will call for a meeting of the Plenary of the National Dialogue to assess that response and therefore the feasibility of continuing the National Dialogue.
In the Seminary of Our Lady of Fatima, on the 7th day of June of 2018, Year of the Lord.
[Bishops signatures follow]
What the Bishops have succeeded in doing is to have tried again to formally focus the issues requiring address. Amidst the chaos and the shouting and the allegations and realties of the past weeks, at some point the process of address must begin. The Bishops have presented the President with the issues and an opportunity. The chessboard presents a lot of moves by both sides. The Bishops hope not to be used as mere pawns….
Hav you ever had a moment when you were reading about something historical and wondered to yourself, “I wonder what it was like to have been there?” In the years that I have worked for Winds of Peace, I have often asked myself that question about the period of the revolution. When we visit partners to the north, Mark will occasionally comment about the intensity of the war in that location, as a footnote to Nicaragua history. Invariably, I’ll look around at the lush beauty of the countryside and wonder how this rain-forested land could ever have served as a battleground.
That same phenomenon is happening with the protest movement taking place in Nica over the past month. It is an historic moment of importance, when a significant representation of the population stood up to its authoritarian leaders and said, “Enough!” And they have done so with complete directness- not just through media quotes or a coward’s tweets- but in the faces of the president, the vice president and all the authority that they command within the country. And though I’m not in the country at present, I feel as though I’m in the moment, as I receive updates and articles from my colleague Mark, who is in the middle of history there once more.
Today, I have received a link to the opening of the national dialogue between the protesters and the government. The video is in Spanish, but it doesn’t matter; Mark has provided some translation and context. But more importantly, even without understanding the language, we hear the passion, the outrage and a soulful outpouring of emotion from one of the protest leaders, Lesther Aleman, who actually interrupted the president’s opening comments of the dialogue. What follows is a link to the video and translation of what was said, including the words of a fellow protester.
WORDS OF LESTHER ALEMAN,REPRESENTATIVE OF THE 19TH OF APRIL UNIVERSITY MOVEMENT, UCA STUDENT, INTERRUPTING DANIEL ORTEGA´S FIRST WORDS AT DIALOGUE
The speech can be seen here: https://youtu.be/g_wixJb2Elg It is worth watching to see the emotion and the context. The Bishops have just given permission to President Ortega to give some opening remarks – the first one to speak – and he is shouted down by the students as Lesther takes the floor. Here is what Lesther says in English, so you can understand the video:
“We are not here to listen to a speech that we have heard for 12 years, President, we know the history, we don´t want to repeat it, you know what the people are, where power is based? In the people.
We are here and we have accepted being at this table, with all due respect for you, to demand that you right now order the immediate end to the attacks that are being committed in our country. Now if there were a Ministry of the Interior, we would denounce this to that minister. But you are the Supreme Chief of the National Police and the Army of Nicaragua. That is why we ask you right now to order the end of these attacks, repression and murder of the paramilitary forces, of your troops, of the mobs of government followers.
You know very well the pain that we have experienced for 28 days, can you all sleep peacefully? We have not slept peacefully, we are being persecuted, we are students.
And why am I talking now and why did I take the floor away from you? Because the deaths have been on our side, the disappeared, those who have been kidnapped are from our side; we are the ones affected.
Today we are asking you. This is not a table for dialogue, it is a table to negotiate your departure, and you know this very well, because it is the people who have requested it.
All this sector is here demanding that you as the supreme leader of the police order an immediate cease fire, immediate.
Bishop Alvarez experienced it and many priests continue experiencing it.
Who can we ask? Is there another person I can ask to order this to end? Because if it were in my hands, I tell you that since the 18th I would not have permitted it.
A month! You have ruined the country, it took Somoza many years, and you know this very well, we know history, but you in less than a month have done things that we never imagined and that many people have been disillusioned by this, by these ideals that have not been followed, those four words that you swore to this country to be free and today we continue with the problem, today we continue subjugated, today we continue marginalized, today we are being mistreated. How many mothers are crying over their children, sir?
Vice President, you are a mother and you know grief very well. Because talking at us at noon every day, you are not going to extinguish that grief.
The people are in the streets, we are at this table demanding the end to the repression.
Know this; Surrender to all these people! You can laugh [refering to Edwin Castro, who had what looked like a smirk on his face], you can make whatever face you want, but we ask you that you order the ceasefire right now, the liberation of our political prisoners.
We are not going to negotiate with a murderer, because what you have committed in this country is a genocide and that is how it has been described”.
The speech ended with students yelling, “they were students, they were not criminals”, in reference to what the Vice President and First Lady called the students in one of her noon broadcasts.
Later on, when called on, another student leader, Victor Cuadras, spoke these words:
“Even though Mr. President denies the suffering of the people, in Nicaragua there are more than 68 mothers who are crying for the suffering of their children. There was a mother who in 1972 wrote a poem that is called, “Christmas Song”, that mother had lost one of her children and this is the same feeling of all the mothers who today are suffering on seeing their children murdered.”
The poem was written by Rosario Murillo when she lost her firstborn in the earthquake.
Victor used their time then to read the poem:
CANCIÓN DE NAVIDAD Yo camino hoy con el dolor del parto en cada paso con el vientre rompiéndose y los pedazos de madre volando sobre espacios vacíos yo camino gimiendo apretando en mis manos los barrotes apretando los dientes mordiéndome la lengua Voy vestida de barro voy cubierta de piedras y de tiempo tengo cara de asombros y cabellos de fuego llevo el dolor del parto en cada paso siento al hijo que brota de la sangre siento la piel colgando tengo las venas en un solo nudo hay un hijo derramado en la noche.
In the end, Lesther took the floor again and said these words:
“President Ortega, with respect, we go back to the same, do not leave here, nor anyone move from this table, until you, as a man with the level of comandante, order again a cease fire, what you said was not convincing to us and is not going to convince the police. Do you know how long it is going to take us to respect someone in a uniform again? It is going to take us a long time, because they are murderers, because they have killed us and they continue killing us, that is why we ask that you be presentable as a full comandante, that you get up and give with your voice the military order for a cease fire, for the nights when the mobs attack, the civilian police we now know about, the future is uncertain, the Sandinista Youth has weapons, we are not inventing the dead, you do not leave here until you do this, this table was for this”
They also read out loud a list of all the people killed in the protests, with the students yelling “Presente” after each one. This was in response to part of Ortega´s intervention where he asked for a list of those students alleged to have been killed or arrested by the government.
It’s an important time in this small country where WPF has worked for more than 30 years. It’s one of those moments in history that may well be played back over and over, as a significant moment of change in that country’s journey. It’s worth noting, even if it doesn’t appear in the evening news.
Hear it. Experience it. The dialogue resumes tomorrow. This is what it was like to have been there….