Oscar René Vargas is a well known political analyst, now in exile in Costa Rica after the government ordered his arrest in July. He joined the FSLN in 1967 and was forced into exile during the Somoza regime that same year, after rescuing Ortega from a safe-house surrounded by Somoza´s military. He was named Nicaraguan Ambassador to France shortly after Ortega came back to power in 2007.
In this piece he analyzes the impact of a number of very recent events, including the arrival of the new US ambassador and his visit to the Nicaraguan Army; the impact of Trump´s executive decrees, especially on the plans of big capital vis a vis the crisis; the surprising announcement of the retirement of some 24 military officers; the visit of Richard Feinberg; and the heightened attacks this past week on independent media.
The social movement is ebbing (stagnation phase), a result of the brutal repression and lack of adequate political leadership. Paramilitary repression in the streets, neighborhoods, highways and rural zones, and the violation of human rights, have increased.
Due to the ebbing of the social movement, the political clock favors Ortega-Murillo in their objective of continuing in power until 2021.
On Nov 14 the [new US] Ambassador Kevin Sullivan arrived in Nicaragua and began to move many political chess pieces of the country.
The US sanctions on the Ortega-Murillo government have created in the population the hope for a quick departure of the regime, and lot of nervousness in the de facto powers.
With Trump´s Executive Decree, the great majority of the members of big capital, weak and dependent, have been left very frightened and willing to literally do whatever would please the US. The question is knowing what is the next tactical step in their strategy against the Ortega-Murillo regime.
The reaction of Daniel Ortega (DOS) against the Catholic Church and Humberto Ortega (HOS) shows me that DOS is afraid that in the conversations of Ambassador Sullivan with the different sectors (Army, Church, Media, NGOs, Youth, AMCHAM, etc) a solution to the crisis was contemplated that is not favorable to Ortega-Murillo.
Is the attack of DOS against his brother the result of the fact that HOS has done work within the Army to promote an aggressive and independent action to the Ortega-Murillo regime?
Is there some relationship between the move to retire the four colonels, 26 lieutenant colonels and the five mayors to the political work that HOS is doing in the ranks of the Army? That quantity of soldiers being retired is not normal, it is a cleaning, “purging.”
There is the hypothesis about the resignation of Ortega-Murillo, and that Omar Halleslevens would assume the interim presidency, with the support of the Army, HOS, big capital and the US. This would explain the reaction of DOS on December 3. It is clear that this would be the perfect solution for the de facto internal and external powers, leaving the self convened on the sidelines.
In my view, it is not likely that Ortega-Murillo will resign. All their actions indicate their desire to stay in power at any cost until 2021. It is important to not forget that this past November 17 they retired colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors who commanded troops and had historical connections with Halleslevens, or who had manifested a certain amount of disagreement with the attitude of the Army during the height of the social and political crisis.
A full fledged purge happened on November 17th in the military institution; nevertheless we cannot completely accept the hypothesis about the arrangement of the succession of Ortega-Murillo, above all because of the desire of the US to want to separate them from power.
Also, it is important to be clear that the Army cannot put up with more economic deterioration of the country, nor can they expose themselves to be affected in their US investments. The Ortega-Murillo government does not have the capacity to maintain the Army as Maduro does in Venezuela.
The attack of Ortega on the Episcopal Conference has the purpose of eliminating their participation in any future negotiation. Ortega´s objective is that in a new negotiation only people who are in agreement with Ortega-Murillo remaining in power until 2021, or a date close to that, would participate.
On Tuesday December 4th in the conference organized by the financial newspaper, the “Wall Street Journal”, John Bolton, National Security Advisor to the White House, stated, “We have to confront these regimes (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba) and free their people. I believe that throughout the continent it is not just a US project, but more and more it is a project of all democratic countries in the region.”
The different movements of the self convened have demanded more forcefulness with the Ortega-Murillo regime. Many of them are demanding a national strike, others a three day strike. The strike that decimated Somoza and precipitated his fall in 1979 is in the collective consciousness.
Nevertheless, some sectors of big capital are thinking coldly about a negotiated solution with the Ortega-Murillo government, because they are afraid of a radicalization of the popular movement.
These sectors of big capital and their allies think that some reforms and an amnesty can rebuild the governance pact with the government, with some variations.
In this negotiated solution they want to involve the parasitical parties allied and/or subordinated to the Ortega-Murillo regime. They think that with the passage of time the “radical” sectors will lose their political weight in the current crisis, allowing for a negotiated solution.
In the interview with Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the unofficial envoy of the US establishment sectors, Richard Feinberg, argued for an outcome similar to what some members of big capital and their allies are promoting.
The rejection of the majority of the population to the Ortega-Murillo government continues. Nevertheless, the lack of a unified political leadership does not allow for the weaknesses of the government to be taken advantage of, nor to present an alternative government.
The murders, amount of prisoners, people disappeared and exiled are what makes the rejection [of the government] on the part of the population continue, and complicates the solution that some members of big capital and traditional politicians are seeking.
In recent weeks the repression has focused on the communications media (100% Noticias, Radio Darío, etc.), for the purpose of eliminating the possibilities that the population be informed about events in real time in an objective manner.
All of the above indicates to us that the social and political crisis continues without being resolved, that the economic recession is going to worsen, that the de facto powers want a mild exit, and that the self convened continue demanding justice and democracy.
San José, Costa Rica
 Previous Commander in Chief of Nicaraguan Military and Vice President in previous period.
This article, and a similar one by Cajina published in ENVÍO this month, respond to an important question about the role of the Nicaraguan Army vis a vis the current crisis. This is especially important in light of the government´s position that what was really behind the crisis was an attempted coup. Ortega and Murillo blame the Bishop´s conference, the self convened, the UCA and other Nicaraguan NGOs of colluding with right wing sectors connected to the US to bring about a coup. This article examines the response of the military to the crisis, and specifically addresses the government accusation of a coup.
NICARAGUAN ARMY, SPECTATOR OR ACCOMPLICE?
By Roberto Cajina, Civil Consultant in Security, Defense and Democratic Governance
After the defeat of the FSLN in the general elections of Feb 1990, the Nicaraguan Army began an unprecedented and hopeful process of restructuring of Defense. The objective: set the bases for its professionalization and institutionalization to survive in an adverse and very complicated scenario. Unprecedented, because from being the army of a party – the FSLN – it would be turned into the military institution of the nation, of all Nicaraguans. Unprecedented also because it would be the first time that Nicaragua would have an army that was not subjugated to the interests of groups in power or any political party. Hopeful, because on recognizing and accepting the supremacy of the legally constituted civil authority, it supported the difficult process of the construction of the democratic institutional structure in the country.
Even before the defeat of the FSLN in the elections of February 1990, the first step was the reform of the Law for the Creation of Ranks of Honor, Military Responsibilities and Ranks in July 1986, where the old ranks of the guerrilla were abandoned, and a hierarchical scale was established consistent with what exists in all the professional militaries around the world; the second step was the formal rupture of its connections with the FSLN through the resignation of its principal chiefs and officers in 1990 from the responsibilities that they exercised in the party bureaucracy, as stipulated in the Transition Accords of March 1990.
Time would demonstrate that this was not more than a simple formality, because in real terms it was not possible that only by that “resignation” they would be stripped of their political loyalty to the party, that had been the womb where it was incubated and had developed for the space of a decade. Moreover, I have always said that the “red and black heart” that the founders – its commanders and high officers -carried within themselves never disappeared. The third step was the construction of the legal framework of the institution, whose fundamental pillar is Law 181, Code for the Organization, Jurisdiction and Social and Military Provision of September 1994, which changed the moniker of the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) to the Nicaraguan Army, and later the laws relating to military justice, among others.
Until the end of 2006 the Army of Nicaragua enjoyed national recognition and was, with good reason, a first line reference point on regional and hemispheric levels. Its role in the political transition from authoritarianism to democracy, in other words, from the regime of Daniel Ortega to the government of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and the two legitimately elected governments that followed her, was key in the haphazard process of the construction of democratic institutions in Nicaragua. It was the highly polarized scenario of the first years of the transition, when the government of Ms. Barrios de Chamorro was submitted to intense destabilizing pressures, from the radicals of the UNO and the most conservative sectors of the US Congress, as well as the FSLN extremists, whose leader, Daniel Ortega, decided to “govern from below”.
Twenty years later, nevertheless, now with Daniel Ortega once again in power, and his authoritarian involution underway, hope was frustrated. Starting in 2010 with the naming of Julio César Avilés as the new commander in chief, the Army began to squander everything that it had achieved up to then, and entered into a process of de-institutionalization. Two weeks after the partial reform of the Constitution in January 2014, Law 181 was reformed, the Code for the Organization, Jurisdiction and Social and Military Provision that gave the Army greater levels of functional autonomy and almost complete institutional autonomy. At that time the identification of General Avilés with the policy to maintain the status quo of Daniel Ortega was very clear, where the corporative interests of the Army, administered by the Institute of Social Military Insurance, and the individuals in the military leadership – the generals and colonels – merged with those of the Ortega-Murillo consortium. Daniel Ortega never missed an opportunity to remind the soldiers in their official events of their “Sandinista origins”, but not as one of the values of their original military identity, but rather personal to his dynastic political project.
Impassive in the face of the police and the paramilitary massacre
Throughout nearly eight months, from April 18 to today, the Army of Nicaragua has remained apparently impassive in the face of the political and humanitarian crisis that the country is experiencing. The repression unleashed by the Police and the paramilitary gangs of the Ortega-Murillo regime has left more than five hundred killed, more than 4,000 wounded, 1,609 disappeared, hundreds of people captured illegally, abducted, tortured, more than 500 political prisoners and close to 400 people judicially processed under unfounded charges, like terrorism and organized crime. Many have asked and ask themselves what is this supposed indifference of those in uniform due to, while sectors of the population and some political actors have demanded the intervention of the Army to disarm the gangs of paramilitaries who, along with the Police, murder, abduct, and capture those who demand freedom, justice and democracy. Indeed, the effrontery of the Army is not how it appears. Without directly intervening in the crisis, the very fact of keeping quiet in the face of the repression and the genocide turns them into silent accomplices of the regime.
The press release of April 21, the press release of May 12 and the press release of May 30 have been the only three times in which the military has fleetingly came out of is oyster shell of secrecy in which it has enclosed itself. In the first statement, immediately after the massacre began, titled “The Position of the Army before the situation of the country”, stated that in the last hours they have been “filled with grief and mourning” and that they join and support “the decision of the search for a solution through dialogue to find a consensus response to the issue that gave rise to these moments of grief”. Likewise they rejected “the manipulation of information that has been carried out on the work of the Army of Nicaragua,” without specifying what that “manipulation” was.
The press release of May 12, almost a month after the Police and the paramilitaries unleashed their orgy of criminal and bloody repression of innocent Nicaraguans, and four days before the National Dialogue was installed, expanded on the terms of the press release of April 21. They “show solidarity with the families who have lost their loved one, and those who in one form or another have been affected by all the acts of violence” assuring that they support “the efforts to clarify these acts and that the law be applied.” The Dialogue, they point out, “is the only path that will avoid irreversible impacts on our people, our economy, national development and our security.” Likewise they support “the work of mediation and witness to the dialogue that His Eminence is leading, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes.” And they warned that “the current situation is dragging us to the division of the Nicaraguan family from campaigns that are promoting hate”, without pointing out who is doing the fomenting.
The press release of May 30 – right after sharpshooters stationed in the installations of the National Stadium shot at the huge march on Mother´s day, and killed eight self-convened young people in front of the principal entrance to the Central American University (UCA), in addition to three killed in Chinandega, one in Masaya and four in Estelí, where similar marches to the one in Managua were being held, in addition to dozens of wounded – is exculpatory and only refers to a video that circulated in the social networks where double cabin pickup trucks appear with armed people entering and leaving the installations of the Military Hospital. The note says that the Army “reiterates its rejection of all types of manipulation of false information that through different media is disseminated to distort the actions of our institution”, assuring that they will never accept slanderous information. “The Army of Nicaragua has absolute control over its Forces and Resources,” they stated. After these three documents, absolute and profound silence until today. Except for a light reference to the dialogue, not one word from General Julio César Avilés, commander in chief of the Army, on the massacre, for example, on the celebration of the 39th anniversary of the Naval Forces this past July 30.
In addition, a small digital daily publication of Managua on July 18 published a note titled “Army of Nicaragua rejects a role of “coup mongers”, where the spokesperson for the armed institution appears more concerned about the image of the Army and insists on legal formalities related to the behavior of the Army during the crisis. Pure form and nothing of depth.
The three dimensions to the ostracism of the military
The silence of those in uniform in the face of the political crisis that Nicaragua is experiencing since last April 18, and to the people murdered, wounded, abducted and tortured by police and paramilitaries, has three dimensions: one legal, another political and the third is financial. The first involves constitutional precepts, and the second what is established in Law 855, the Military Code reformed in January of 2014. The first thing that should be underlined is the incoherency between the constitutional mandate and what the law prescribes in terms of the intervention of the Army in public security and domestic order missions. On the one hand, article 92 of the Constitution states that “Only in exceptional cases can the President of the Republic, in the Council of Ministers, in support of the National Police, order the intervention of the Army of Nicaragua when the stability of the Republic is threatened by large internal disorders, calamities or natural disasters.” Even though this constitutional article establishes a clear restriction on the military in so far as it allows them to act “only in exceptional cases” and “serious internal disorders” and by order of the President of the Republic, the fact is that what is happening in Nicaragua is an exceptional case and those who have provoked the serious internal disorders have been the poilice themselves and the paramilitaries. In any case, it would not be in support of the Police, but to disarm the police and paramilitaries alike. But who would think that Ortega would order the Army to intervene to neutralize the two pillars that are keeping him in power?
Against the grain of what the Constitution prescribes, article 2 of law 855 states that one of the 20 functions of the Army is “Make their forces and resources available to fight threats to national security and defense, and any illegal activity that would put at risk the existence of the Nicaraguan state, its institutions, and the fundamental principles of the nation.” As can be verified, while the Constitution conditions the intervention of the Army, Law 855 does not, and leaves their hands untied to intervene without need for an order from the President of the Republic. This is the incongruence and the Army takes advantage of it, considering, even though without saying it expressly out of clear expediency, that the Constitution is above any ordinary law. In spite of that, it is always essential to ask oneself. Why did the Army not follow what their own Law ordered?
Millions of Army resources at risk
The political dimension is very clear. It is more than obvious that the current commander in chief of the Army, General Julio César Avilés, does not have nor the political authority nor the personal disposition to pound on the table of the Ortega-Murillo, as the commanders in chief who preceded him did do to the presidents in their terms, each one for different reasons. Even though Avilés is another one of the founders of the Popular Sandinista Army (EPS), his level of political ascendency is absolutely inferior to that of Generals Humberto Ortega, Joaquín Cuadra, Javier Carrión and Omar Halleslevens who preceded him. Avilés took over the leadership of the Army in February 2010 for a five year period, until February 2015, but because of his submission to the Ortega-Murillo couple, Daniel Ortega “rewarded” him, extending his period of command of the army institution for five more years, until February 2020.
The third dimension is relatively little known by the citizenry, except by specialists and maybe some politically informed sectors. It deals with the millions of dollars of resources of the Army that are administered very efficiently by the Institute for Social Military Insurance (IPSM). An audit of the Deloitte & Touche firm ascertained that in 2002 the IPSM had capital worth $29.5 million, which by 2009 had increased to $79.3 million dollars.
By 2012 those funds could have increased to $100 million, 40% of which are invested in US bonds, and are administered by investment firms Russel Investments, Reverence Capital Partners, and TA Associates. Just imagine, without having to do a complicated operation of financial mathematics, how much those resources of the IPSM are worth today, six years later. Nicaraguans in the United States have begun a campaign to get these investment firms to quit administering the pension funds of the Nicaraguan Army because, they state, it is money stained with the blood of Nicaraguans murdered by the Ortega-Murillo regime. “We must make them understand, they state in a letter sent to the general managers of these investment firms, that they are sitting on money soaked in the blood of our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, so that they might break their relationship with the murderous regime of Daniel Ortega and his benefactors in the Army.”
The Army knows very well that getting openly involved in the bloody repression unleashed by the Ortega-Murillo regime, their funds invested in the United States would be automatically frozen and that its impact would be devastating. Practically they would not have the funds to cover their obligations with officers who have retired or will retire, nor to maintain the additional benefits that they offer their members. This explains, in part, not just the silence of the military, but also their lack of open, direct participation in the crisis and repression. In fact, in declarations to a US television network starting in September of this year, the Republican Senator Marcos Rubio warned the Nicaraguan military that if they did so, there would be “consequences. For example, their retirement funds, the retirement of the Nicaraguan military, are invested in the US Stock market. They is going to be frozen.” Enough of a threat to maintain at least appearances, no?
Moreover, through the IPSM the Nicaraguan Army is one of the principal shareholders of the Banco de Finanzas (BDF), one of the four banks of the country negatively rated by Fitch Group, the global leader in financial information services and credit ratings, which has already put at risk the financial interests of those in uniform, because in the case of bankruptcy the shareholders are the first ones affected. To the extent that the economic crisis caused by the political crisis triggered by the couple in El Carmen deepens, the risk will be ever greater, and this situation should have already set off alarms and put the military authorities into red alert, but it is not known what provisions they will be taking or have taken. This would be enough reason for the military to have warned Ortega that he is taking them over the cliff. But even so, they have closed ranks with the Ortega-Murillo regime. Is it that they will be willing to “die with their boots on”, squander their millions of dollars of resources, and leave the officers who pay into the IPSM forsaken and in ruin?
An army tailor made for Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo
Article 93 of the Constitution defines the Army as “a national institution of a professional, nonpartisan, apolitical nature, obedient and non deliberative.” In 1994 it prescribed that “the members of the Army of Nicaragua and the National Police will not be able to carry out political partisan activities.” On paper this could be music to the ears of Nicaraguans, unfortunately in reality they are only empty words. There are facts, apparently irrelevant ones, but in reality they are not, that show it. For example, up to before 2007 the celebrations of the anniversaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy were held, as appropriate, in their military units, usually in the morning, and under the procedures of Military Protocol. This changed in 2007 with the return of Daniel Ortega. First the Secretary of Communication and Citizenry, and then the Vice President of the Republic, monopolized the celebrations of the military. They began to be held outside of the military units and at the end of the afternoon. Militar Protocol, usually restrained, was replaced by the gloating of Rosario Murillo. The Blue and White flag of Nicaragua began to be steamrolled by the red and black FSLN flag to such an extent that these celebrations of a national nature were turned into party meetings with the consent of the military authorities, and in open violation of what is established in article 94 of the Constitution. In spite of this, those in uniform never have seemed to feel uncomfortable. It seems like they enjoy it. This nevertheless is not a simple formality nor a way of having the people participate in these celebrations, even though those held this year 2018 have been in closed places. It has to do with the open aim of sending an intentional message: “The Army is with the government, the Army supports the government.” With a deeply rooted militarist tradition in the collective imagination of Nicaraguans, this message could have easily permeated into the population, giving the regime a privileged position of power, the power of rifles, power on which the Ortega-Murillo regime sustains itself.
What did the military receive in exchange for their loyalty? Just unkept promises
Nevertheless, is it important to ask: what did the Army receive in exchange for their support for the bicephalous regime? Apparently nothing, just promises for the modernization of their air and naval resources, because what they have are very old, have already gone beyond their useful life, and their status is more than precarious. Ortega first tried to find those resources in Vladimir Putin´s Russia, but the government of the ex KGB agent did not have the conditions to replicate the donations of the “generous” assistance that the disappeared Soviet Union provided the Sandinista revolution in the decade of the 1980s. Ortega had no other option than to negotiate with a Russian shipyard for the purchase of six surface resources – four patrol boats and two missile frigates, the latter of course unnecessary – even a clueless general spoke about acquiring MIG 29 fighter planes with the outlandish idea of fighting drug trafficking as if it were a conventional war. It was also said that a fleet of Russian Yak-130 airplanes would be acquired, training and combat aircraft, of little or no use in the interdiction of international drug trafficking planes.
In the end, the Army had to be content with the donation of T-72 B1 tanks, which were discarded from the Russian Armed Forces, and which for Nicaragua only means more spending because you have to provide them maintenance, so they only serve to show them off in the military parades every September 2 when the anniversary of the founding of the Army is celebrated. But out of nowhere an unexpected light appeared at the end of the tunnel. The government announced that it had contracted with the Dutch company B.V. Schepswerf Damen Gorinchem for the purchase of two Damen Stan Patrol 4207 patrol boats, worth $14 million dollars. But without more explanations, that light went out because up to now, and in spite of the fact that the National Assembly approved the respective loan, the two patrol boats have not yet arrived at the nation´s ports.
The Army tolerates the paramilitaries, it is not acting out of expediency
But if the Army only receives unfulfilled promises in exchange for their support for the Ortega-Murillo regime, why does it keep silent in the face of the criminal repression unleashed by the governing couple? The only thing that one can think is that maybe they are defending part of their financial corporative interests and the individuals of the military high command, who might be colluding with Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their closest circle. Apparently there is no other explanation, because if anything is true, it is that their relationship is not grounded on ideological nor political convergence as in the decade of the 1980s. Now they are essentially utilitarian, for mutual financial benefit.
It could be true that the Army has “absolute control over its Forces and Resources”, as was stated in the press release this past May 30, but the reality is that the military have allowed, willingly or not, the Police and the paramilitaries to take from them the legitimate monopoly of the use of Force, and that has turned them into less than bit players in the crisis that the country is experiencing. The Constitution recognizes the existence of only two armed institutions in Nicaragua, one military – the Army – and the other of civil nature – the Police. Trying to contain and neutralize the unexpected and massive peaceful and civic rebellion of the self-convened, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo resorted to the Police and the paramilitary gangs.
They were organized from the Vice Presidency of the Republic in coordination with the 135 municipal governments and the Councils of Citizen Power (CPC) at the territorial level that Murillo controls. The paramilitary gangs are composed of ex police and ex military, rank and file police who dress as civilians at night, workers of these municipal governments, an undetermined amount of more than 800 prisoners who were serving their terms, even long terms, who were freed by order of Daniel Ortega, demobilized military service members, demobilized and/or active gang-members and social risk youth, in addition to small scale drug traffickers on the local level. Their commands are distributed between members of the Association of Retired Military (AMIR), former members of the Special Troops of the Ministry of the Interior (MINT), known as the Pablo Úbeda Troops (TPU), active members of the Special Operations Office (DOE) of the Police, and police officers with military experience.
Paramilitaries, an armed body outside the Constitution
In spite of the fact that it is practically impossible to establish the exact amount of their members, it is important to point out that these gangs of paramilitaries constitute an authentic irregular force with military capacity, established with a quasi-military format, but who do not respond to the official command of the security forces, in this case the Police. In photographs and videos that circulate in social networks it is possible to identify the weapons they are using, among them AK-47 assault rifles, FAL and AR15s, 12 caliber shotguns, M1 carbines, pistols and revolvers.
If the Constitution expressly establishes that “there cannot exist more armed forces in the national territory than those established in the Constitution,” and the paramilitary gangs are a third armed force, who then is supposed to enforce this constitutional precept? I have already indicated that the Constitution points out that it is the President of the Republic. But if he does not do so, who should do it then? The response to this question is found in the Supreme Norm itself and in Law 855, which we will call the Law of the Army. The former points out in its article 95 that “The Army of Nicaragua will be governed by strict adherence to the Constitution, for which it will preserve respect and obedience;” the latter prescribes in its article 2 that one of the functions of the Army is to “make its forces and resources available to fight threats to national security and defense, and any illicit activity that might put at risk the existence of the Nicaraguan state, its institutions, and the fundamental principles of the nation.”
It is more than obvious that the paramilitaries, in so far as an illegal armed force, constitute a serious threat to national security and defense, and their illicit activities put at risk the existence of the State, its institutions and the fundamental principles of the nation. This article, as can be confirmed, does not condition nor restrict the intervention of the Army for controlling and neutralizing this “third armed body” organized, armed and financed by the couple in El Carmen. Consequently, if the Army does not make their forces and resources available to fight them, it is simply because they are not willing to enforce what the law orders them to do, in this way shoring up the Ortega-Murillo regime against the will of the great majority of Nicaraguans who demand justice and democracy and demand that they leave. But in addition the military violates the Constitution because by not doing so, it is clear that they are not governed by the Constitution, and neither respect nor obey it. So even though the Army has legitimacy of origins, by their complicit silence they do not have legitimacy of performance. Evidence of this is the little or null confidence that the majority of Nicaraguans have in the Army, and the unfavorable opinion that Nicaraguans have of General Julio César Avilés, commander in chief of the military institution, according to the opinion survey of CID Gallup done in September of this year.
An “attempted coup” and the Army, where was it?
Since it repealed the controversial reform of the INSS, and accepted dialoguing to try to resolve the crisis, on April 22, five days after the unprecedented civil and peaceful rebellion began, but maintaining its repressive escalation, the Ortega-Murillo government knew that it was cornered. They had nothing to offer in the Dialogue to solve the crisis which they themselves provoked in their obstinacy to remain in power. They arrived at the installation of the Dialogue with a disproportionate and intimidating security deployment, including two Air Force helicopters, and their hands empty, but already bloodstained. The first days of the Dialogue developed between the intransigency of the government and the firmness of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. On May 23 , one week after having been installed, it was temporarily suspended.
One month earlier, April 23, the same day in which thousands of Nicaraguans participated in the largest peaceful self convened march in Managua, the first references appeared to a supposed “soft coup” or “soft landing”, that presumably was hatched against the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. One month later, May 23, the very day when the Dialogue was temporarily suspended, the official narrative changed from the “soft” to the “hard”. The Foreign Minister of Daniel Ortega, who led the governmental delegation in the National Dialogue, stated that the Agenda of the Dialogue presented by the bishops of the Episcopal Conference in their task of Mediation and Witness “is an Agenda that, on looking at its concentrated form, leads us to one point: The design of a path for a coup, the path to change the Government of Nicaragua.” But what the Agenda pointed out was the constitutional mechanisms for the celebration of a fair and transparent electoral process, indicating that to do so, a partial reform of the Constitution was necessary in order to move up presidential, municipal, legislative and autonomous region elections, as soon as possible, as well as other concurrent reforms.
Starting at that moment, the rhetoric of the “coup attempt” spread from the mouths of officials of the regime like wildfire, but was the Agenda presented by the bishops really a “attempted coup”? Obviously not, but in their desperation to discredit and criminalize the civic and peaceful protests of the self convened, the Ortega-Murillo regime resorted to the first issue that it found the easiest in order to turn themselves into victims; but it is the most unreasonable, because strictly speaking a coup is a violent action carried out by military forces or rebels who seek to seize the power of the State, and constitutes a lack of recognition of constitutional legitimacy. A serious political and conceptual slip up on the part of the Foreign Minister, because a “change of government” through a constitutional means is not synonymous with a “coup”, and the self convened are not soldiers nor rebels who attempt to seize the Government through violent means. The civic and peaceful nature of the civic and unarmed citizen rebellion is, without a doubt, the greatest denial to the official narrative of a coup.
Even Guillermo Fernández Maldonado, the Coordinator of the Mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nicaragua, declared in a press conference on August 29th, that since the beginning of the crisis the Ortega-Murillo government proposed to the Mission that the protests dealt with a coup attempt that sought to break the constitutional order. “What we said to them [the government] –stated Fernández Maldonado – is that if that is the vision (of a coup) that they should give us access to the information and the places that would ratify that vision, and if we found that indeed the facts sustain that vision, we would make it public. They have not responded to us, he added, to any of the requests for information and they have not allowed us to go to any of the places that we proposed”, adding that the official information that the Mission has had access to “does not support that vision (of a coup).” The following day, with the falseness of their narrative uncovered and without any more arguments than force and the abuse of power, the Ortega-Murillo regime ordered the expulsion of the Mission of the OHCHR from the country.
But let us leave behind the intricacies of that dispute between the Government of Ortega and the Mission of the OHCHR, and let us assume that indeed the bishops of the Episcopal Conference and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy really did attempt to carry out a coup of President Ortega, a coup that according to the latter has been plotted since he returned to power in January of 2007. Let us assume as well that those who were behind this conspiracy were, as Ortega has reiterated, “extremist forces in the United States who are settled in Florida”, and that it was carried out by the “clandestine armed forces that […] have become an instrument of death of the right wing coup.”
In such circumstances one must ask oneself: Why did Ortega wait 11 years to denounce it? Where were the Army and what were they doing meanwhile, along with the Office of Defense Information (DID), its body “specialized in strategic State information”, turned into an organ of political intelligence – political espionage – of the regime, in open violation of the constitutional precept that expressly “prohibits organizations of the Army and the Police, and any other State institution from carrying out activities of political espionage”? Nothing! Moreover, in none of the three documents (press releases mentioned above) issued by the Army is there even the most minimal reference to that “attempted coup”. In any country in the world a coup attempt is uncovered by its intelligence organs and immediately the security alarms go off to neutralize the conspiracy and capture the conspirers. But in Nicaragua that did not happen. The Army did not know, or was not able to discover in time the threat that was hanging over its Supreme Chief. It was Foreign Minister Moncado who did! And this has two explanations: or the DID is highly inefficient, or this information was maliciously saved away for unsuspected purposes.
“Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercy and all consolation, who consoles us in our sufferings so that we might be able to console all those who suffer with the consolation that we ourselves received from God” (2 Cor 1:3-4)
To our brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church who are on a pilgrimage in Nicaragua, to the brothers and sisters of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, the followers of other religions, men and women of good will committed to the service of the common good.
The tears of our people are the tears of God. He walks with us in the midst of grief and is in solidarity with our suffering (cf. Exodus 33:1-6; 34:8-10; Dt 4: 1-7). Indeed in death, in the disappearances of any human being, in detentions and in unjust jailings, in forced exile from the family, in the manipulation of consciences, above all through some communications media and social networks, many times promoters of false news and the division of the people, God himself has been negated. We ask ourselves if a new propect for a better Nicaragua is possible given the alarming increase in the rates of violence in the country, and the aggressive way how the desire for vengeance is hidden, even among brothers and sisters.
In the midst of this panorama the Church of Christ remains and hopes in the Lord. The optics of faith are what allows us to hope against all hope (Rm 4:18-21). God has the last word on life and the history of peoples, and therefore of our Homeland.
In this way, we Bishops see that:
A new outlook for Nicaraguans is emerging, through the expressions that spring from concern for the human person. Gestures of solidarity, love and pardon are key to facing the violence that seeks to create circles of death. Indeed assuming fundamental humanity is a form of civil struggle, above all when all of us take seriously freedom of expression, peaceful protest, etc. We Christians have to redouble our prayer life and witness in the face of the fear and pessimism that attempts to impose itself, first in the hearts and then in the strata of human life, including our Christian communities.
We can state that the current situation has exposed the reality of our nation.
Dialogue as the peaceful solution continues being necessary. That is why we must not forget that rebuilding the nation requires future expectations, remembering that the hope for “something completely new” can happen in Nicaragua.
In reality, all of us have been affected by this social crisis. This sad reality allows us to break the veil of indifference to assume the responsibility which we have as sons and daughters of this Homeland. No one can remain with their arms crossed in the face of the pain of those who, even being adversaries, do not cease being brothers and sisters.
In the midst of the injustice our gaze should remain firmly on Jesus Christ, because we are convinced that inhumanity can only come from the lack of conversion. The search for peaceful solutions for the Nicaraguan situation has to pass through an authentic conversion to Him. This is a decisive hour for those of us who profess the Christian faith. We are called to make a break with personal egotism to be like the Teacher.
Jesus, with his words and deeds, defends the rights of men and women, and above all, the rights of God for men and women. His life is beset by an unbounded passion for human beings. He came to free us from the slavery of sin and death. He encompasses all of us with his love, and invites us to recognize one another as brothers and sisters.
From our faith in Jesus Christ, king of the universe and Nicaragua, we affirm that God in this way makes men to be intelligent and free sources to complete the work of Creation, to perfect his harmony for their good and that of their neighbors. Men and women, at time unconscious cooperators of the divine will, can freely enter in the divine plan, not just by their actions and their prayers, but also by their suffering (cf. Col 1:24). So they come to be fully “collaborators […] of God” (1 Cor 3:9; 1 Thes 3:2) and his Reign (cf. Col 4:11; CEC 307).
Consequently, every Nicaraguan, believer or not, has to collaborate with their actions so that the will of God might be established in us. Even pain itself assumed meaningfully constitutes a means to face injustice and oppression.
Pope Pius XII reminded the world that “nothing is lost with peace; everything can be lost with war.” Peace is a gift of God that we must ask for with insistence and on our knees. But, at the same time, it is a task that we have to bravely assume. We Nicaraguans already suffered in our own flesh the ravages of fratricidal fighting. This did not make us more human, on the contrary, it opened up wounds that still have not healed and that still ooze hate and violence.
For this reason we exhort Nicaraguans to not allow themselves to be seduced by immediate solutions, but rather act civilly because the new Nicaragua needs non violent leaders who conquer, from the hand of God, goals of liberty and justice. Active non violence breaks with the warfare logic in which the current world has gotten deeply involved, where weapons are worth more than human beings.
The fundamental intention of the Church is the glory of God through the integral salvation of human beings. Always committed to human persons, for their development and for the common good. From here it is out duty to propose, in the light of the social doctrine, directives that have to guide us in the search for alternative paths. No Christian can be married to the ideologies of the day. This is incompatible with following Jesus, because you cannot serve two masters (Mt 6:24)
It is vitally important to recognize that the national situation, no matter how chaotic it may be, presents us with several opportunities that we need to take advantage of.
Today more than ever we need to go back to our Nicaraguan roots. Above all, Christian roots. Our people in a special way love the Blessed Sacrament, the Virgin Mary and the Holy Father. That is why, in the face of the smear and dishonorable campaigns against people of the Church, we must respond with more prayer, penitence and life testimony.
One of the saddest thing in the midst of this conflict is the loss of identity. We Nicaraguans have to recall that we are known for the spirit of solidarity and hospitality, and from there, that in these moments it is right that we be exercising works of mercy. This exercise has to be directed at all without exception.
We have to recall that the longing for a better Nicaragua should seek the common good, justice and peace. Therefore, all that we might do and think should be to the benefit of human people. Never based on economic and political interests of some few. These optics will turn the situation around and will allow efforts to come together to act as children of Nicaragua, where we all actively participate in common actions without any exclusion.
We remember that we are facing a crisis that has deep roots in structural or social sin. That is why we call for the conversion of everyone. Only assuming the way of being of Christ will we have a just perspective that seeks pardon and reconciliation among the sons and daughters of the same nation. This path has to be fertilized with the demands for justice and the road that leads to truth: justice and truth represent the concrete requirements for reconciliation. Justice is “the attitude determined by the will to recognize the other as a person” (Compendium of DSI, 201).
The current world also needs the testimony of unarmed prophets. This principle of evangelical charity must be our strength, and although it acts slowly and in a silent way, it points toward solid fundamentals.
Dialogue is inscribed within this sense, which must be directed to opening new perspectives where there are none. This requires courage, audacity, respect for others, and above all, a lot of love for the Homeland. Therefore, a good politician is the one who, having in mind the interest of all, takes the opportunity to dialogue with an open spirit. A good politician in this sense always opts for generating processes more than for occupying spaces (cf. EG 222-223).
We recognize, in addition, that in the dialogue with the State and society, the Church does not have solutions for all the particular issues. But along with different social forces, we Bishops are willing to accompany the proposals that best respond to the dignity of human beings and the common good. With the dialogue there is a future, without it, all efforts lead to failure. We affirm that we are convinced that dialogue is the peaceful solution to this social and political crisis.
The heart of Jesus “knows that one of the worst threats that strikes and will strike yours and all of humanity will be division and confrontation, the subjugation of some over others.” Today we want to enter with Him into that garden of sorrow, also with our sorrows, to ask the Father with Jesus: that we also might be one. The wealth of a land comes precisely from the fact that each party is encouraged to share their wisdom with others. It is not, nor will it be, a suffocating uniformity that normally originates in the dominance and strength of the strongest, nor a separation that does not recognize the goodness of others. Unity is not an art from desks nor documents, it is an art of listening and recognition. This introduces us to the path of solidarity as a way of weaving unity, as a way of constructing history. That is why we ask, Father, make us artisans of unity (cf. Pope Francis 1-17-2018).
The Government for National Reconciliation and Unity, faithful to its Historic Proposal of working for Peace, Security, Progress in the Fight against Poverty and the Full Rights of all Nicaraguans, ratifies to the Families of our Nicaragua and to the World:
We decisively reject the Declaration and Resolution that the Government of the United States issued today by way of a Executive Order.
We categorically reject the historical continuity of Interference and the Interventionist Policy of the North American Imperial Power against Nicaragua.
In name of the Patriotic Legacy, the Heroic Patrimony and the Victorious Nationalistic Struggles of the Soldier Andrés Castro, General Benjamín Zeledón, Sandino, General of Free Men and Women, Carlos Fonseca and the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, we demand with Nicaraguan Dignity and Pride, the inalienable Right to our Sovereignty and Independence.
In name of the indomitable Spirit of all the Heroes and Martyrs who at all Times have given their Lives for a Free, United, Prosperous Nicaragua, full of Faith and Hope, we proclaim that we are an unconquered Race, that we do not sell out nor surrender, and that we demand a Free Country, with Flags and Hearts on high.
Full of Love for Country, Brave and Fraternal Co-existence, we declare as inadmissible, inconsequential, disrespectful, false and illegitimate all the accusations that confirm the imperialistic perspectives and practices of the United States of North America, and the servile and despicable condition of the native traitors.
As our immortal Darío used to day, the United States can have everything, but they are missing one thing: God!
Who are traitors to the Homeland? Sandino said: “1. Every Nicaraguan who would traffic with the honor of the nation for political means…”
Homeland and Freedom, Sandino would say…Sovereign, Dignified, Independent Homeland. Proud and Great Spirited Homeland. Homeland to love, defend and so that its Lights might shine without thundering “the voice of the cannon”.
Homeland, in Faith and Hope!
Nicaragua will continue being Free, because it has children who love her…!
Long live Sandino!
Long live the Sandinista Front for National Liberation!
Roberto Samcam is one of the founding members of the Sandinista Army after the triumph on 1979. Now retired, he is a widely read blogger on events in Nicaragua, and was forced to flee the country with his family in August 2018 when he was accused of arming protestors, and paramilitaries assaulted and looted his home (see photo below). This blog written on Nov 16th foreshadows the US Treasury´s announcement on Nov 17th of sanctions against Ortega´s wife and his personal secretary, in that he saw the eventual sanctions as one of several elements that would make Ortega´s permanence in power unviable, and result in the type of planning described below.
Something is cooking in the Kitchen in “EL CARMEN”
Published on the Facebook page of Roberto Danilo Samcam Ruiz, Nov 16, 2018
“So then, if you want peace, prepare for war. If you want to obtain victory, train your soldiers diligently. If you aspire to success, then fight with strategy and do not leave it to chance. No one dares to provoke or offend someone they see as superior in combat.” From “De re militari”
Contrary to what many think, I am of the opinion that Daniel Ortega is feverishly preparing the conditions to carry forward his own negotiation. It is not a secret that this person throughout history has been characterized by negotiating at the edge of the cliff, never in a disadvantageous position, and in most cases, with the adversary as a hostage. I dare to state that only on one occasion did these circumstances not occur: I am referring to the negotiations of the Sapoá accords. A virtual stalemate between the fighting forces, the Popular Sandinista Army and the Contras, the decision of the former USSR and the United States to no longer continue supporting those forces, the economic prostration of the country, the weariness of the population over the war that was now beginning to crack popular support for the Revolution, and the depletion of the reservoir of recruits for Patriotic or Obligatory Military Service, however you want to call it, were the adverse conditions that forced Ortega to seek through the negotiating table what he was not able to obtain in the battlefield.
This time there are a series of adverse national and international circumstances that make the permanence of Ortega in power unviable, regardless of the boasting that he, as well as his minions, proffer every day. On another occasion I talked about the three pincers that Ortega cannot escape: economics, international pressure and national pressure. There is a situation of precariousness in the Nicaraguan economy that can be easily detected, and keeps the Ortega regime in a very vulnerable position in light of his immediate future, that precariousness is reflected in the following data: exodus of $1.373 billion dollars from the Financial System since the month of April; impairment of the stability and growth of International Reserves; loss of national and foreign investor confidence; unstoppable drop in formal employment, result of the closing of small and medium enterprises, which is having a greater impact on the already tenuous financial situation of INSS; big decrease in financing from the commercial banks for the planting seasons, motivated by political insecurity; delay in customs, as a form of punishment to the agro-commercial sector, for machinery, equipment, farm repair parts and inputs, and what is most dangerous, a highly volatile environment for the national financial sector, which is exacerbated to the extent that their interests are closer to those of the regime and more distant from popular interests.
On the international level, the commandante is more clear on this than we are, that Venezuela is not the USSR of the 1980s, that Cuba will be able to advise on intelligence issues and military aspects, but never on economic issues, given their proven “expertise” in ruining economies, and that the measures that eventually will be approved in the United State will strike a mortal blow to his aspirations of continuing at the head of the government. Even though it is true that the international community has been slow in the application of stronger measures, it is not any less true that he has not been able to break out of the isolation to which he has been submitted, and which will be strengthened if the results of the elections in El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama are contrary to his political and ideological interests.
On the internal level, the regime has had to strengthen militarization in all the municipalities of the country as the only way to contain the popular civic protest, passing in practice to a fascist state, but also incorporating paramilitary armies into the Ortega police, in a vain attempt to avoid prosecution for the crimes committed by them during the months of repression. Once again the Army is settling in the group of Ortega, facilitating installations and instructors to militarily prepare the murders of the people. The repression continues increasing in a selective manner, arrests and murders have not stopped, and even though the latter are sporadic, they indicate a pattern of behavior characteristic of the physical elimination of the grassroots who were in the barricades. The roundabouts of Managua continue to be taken by public employees, in a demonstration of “popular support” for the presidential couple, under the old model of Rosario that whoever does not show up is fired from their job.
The celebration of the “Purisima” is incorporated into the efforts for “normalcy” with the familiar altars on Bolivar Avenue. This time without dissembling nor false squeamishness, the presidential couple compites for prominence with the Virgin Mary herself, who they have already stripped her blue and white mantle, in itself criminalized.
In the face of this highly discouraging panorama, what is left for Ortega? Negotiate. But in his old style, on the edge of a knife. With advantage and treachery. With hostages or with his group of friends, He wants to carry forward a negotiating process under the shadow of SICA, the Central American Integration System, and led by his old friend the former [Guatemalan] President Vinicio Cerezo. Part of the business sector, lead by Financial Capital, is willing to join that effort, reviving the alternative of the famous “Soft Landing”, which they have explored with important figures of the Old Sandinista Guard. They want to separate this new version of the Dialogue from the emblematic figures of the Episcopal Conference who have been against the repression, Mons. Báez, Mata and Álvarez, and they are even willing to set up a conspiratorial trap in the best style of the 1980s to take them out of this game.
The Army would be in agreement, as long as the maintenance of the “status quo” is ensured, that is to say the economic interests and privileges of the military leadership. What is missing in this strategy is the external element that would trigger the process, and it is nothing more than an armed “invasion” from Costa Rica, provoked by they themselves, regardless of the actors who may participate, a False Positive, that would place Ortega in the condition of a victim of a conspiracy forged from the neighboring country by Nicaraguan exiles. For this he has displaced a good amount of political and intelligence operators, who have the task of militarily organizing the suckers who fall into the trap, under the protection and auspices of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Costa Rica.
This is what is being feverishly cooked up in the kitchen area of “El Carmen”, and we will have to be alert to the events of the month of December which is rapidly approaching. The Gritería could bring many surprises.
 El Carmen is the name of the neighborhood where Daniel Ortega lives
 The celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the night of December 7th, traditionally the most important religious feast of the year in Nicaragua, also called the Purísima.
Government of National Unity and Reconciliation The People, President
United in Victories! By the grace of God!
The Delegate from Region IV of the General Office for Migration and Foreign Nationals of the Republic of Nicaragua, Assistant Commander Enrique Itamar Bárcenas Cerda, at the Peñas Blancas Border Post in Nicaragua, at 18:35 on the day 11/26/2018, formally delivers the citizen of Costa Rican nationality:
ANA OTILIA QUIROS VIQUEZ, identity number 104780665, date of birth 12/1/1956, Consular travel permit No. 3163, issued by the General Consulate of Costa Rica in Nicaragua.
This citizen is being remitted to your authority for having had her deportation ordered. Attached is the Costa Rican Identity card 104780665 and Consular travel permit No. 3163, she is being handed over in perfect state of health.
Yesterday Ana Quirós, a feminist leader was stripped of her Nicaraguan citizenship and expelled from the country. This article appeared in La Prensa on Nov 26th providing some background.
Who is Ana Quirós and Why did the Regime of Daniel Ortega Expel her from Nicaragua
By Yubelka Mendoza González, La Prensa Nov 26, 2018
Streams of blood fell over the face and shirt of the woman. The blow in the head where the blood came from was caused by a iron pipe used by mobs allied with the regime of Daniel Ortega. In addition to her head, they had injured two fingers on one of her hands. The woman was Ana Quirós and she was one of the first victims of the police and paramilitary repression started on April 18 against those who tried to demonstrate against Daniel Ortega.
This Monday Quirós was present for an appointment in the General Migration and Foreign National´s Office (DGME), and then was isolated for hours and without knowing what her situation was, the Vice President of Costa Rica, Epsy Campbell, confirmed through Twitter that Quirós was expelled from Nicaragua. She was born in Costa Rica, but has Nicaraguan citizenship.
They did not allow Quirós´ lawyer to accompany her to the appointment, nor the Coordinator for the Follow Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) from the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (IACHR), Ana María Tello.
Who is Ana Quirós
Of Mexican parents, Ana Quirós was born in Costa Rica, but since the first time that she visited Nicaragua, when she was 15, she committed herself “profoundly” to the country, she states. Now she has been living in Nicaragua for approximately 40 years. “I chose to live, work, and struggle in Nicaragua. To make my family here,” she said in a press conference Monday morning.
She is a feminist defender, expert in Public Health, and leads the non governmental organization “Center for Health Information and Consultancy” (CISAS), which is responsible for promoting “social and cultural rights, with an emphasis on healthy recreation and human rights with adolescents and youth promoters, fathers and mothers,” according to the description on their web site.
According to what Quirós stated this Monday, in the summons to the appointment they did not explain the reason for the request, but she stated that she was expecting the worst, as what happened. As she herself denounced, this is not the first time that she faced a situation of this nature. In 2000 the Government of Arnoldo Alemán tried to take her Nicaraguan nationality away from her, but was unsuccessful.
One of the first victims of the repression
The image of Quirós was one of the first that made known the brutal repression that the Ortega regime unleashed against the Nicaraguans who protested against him.
That April 18th, Quirós went to the Camino de Oriente along with a group of people to protest against the botched reforms to the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS). The people were beginning to meet when gangs arrived from the regime to intimidate and later beat with pipes, stones and motorcycle helmets those who were trying to protest. That day dozens of people were left injured, among them journalists who were covering the events.
Since that day, the expert in Public Health attended the marches and has remained firm in her struggle against the dictatorship in the country.
Nationality is not a piece of paper
This Monday, Quirós left clear that it was not a piece of paper that gave her citizenship “and it is not a piece of paper that is going to take it away from me, if that be the case.”
“I chose to be a Nicaraguan and I feel I have every right to demand that my rights be protected, that they ensure my rights, and I have every right to demand that there be peace in Nicaragua, there be justice, there be freedom,” stated Quirós, in reference to the fact that she has been an active part in the protests against the dictatorship in Nicaragua, demanding the democratization of the country.
“I have the right to repudiate the atrocities and the arbitrary rule that they have been carrying out, the murders, prison or abduction of all these Nicaraguan brothers and sisters,” she pronounced.
This interview was broadcast this past Sunday on the weekly news program “Esta Semana” . It provides an inside view of the reaction of the government to the early days of the protests and massive uprisings, and confirms how damaging the government repression was to its reputation especially among its own State workers and supporters.
Ex-political secretary of the FSLN in the Central Bank speaks out
Interview by Carlos F. Chamorro on Nov 18, 2018 in Confidencial
This past September 27th four Nicaraguan citizens – Julio Martínez Ellsberg, George Henríquez, Manuel Orozco and Ligia Gómez – appeared before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, in a hearing in Washington led by Representative James P. McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
In her written testimony, published for the first time this Thursday, the economist Ligia Gómez, former manager for Economic Research for the Central Bank, revealed that for four years she acted as the Political Secretary of the Sandinista Leadership Council in that State institution, receiving orders from Rosario Murillo through Fidel Moreno and the president of the Central Bank, Ovidio Reyes.
An expert on issues of rural poverty and the environment, Gómez has a licentiate from the UNAN in Managua, a Masters from the UCA and has a doctorate in Economics from the University of Córdova in Spain.
In this interview done from the United States via Skype, the ex-secretary of the FSLN in the Central Bank expanded on her testimony with documents and first hand information, and explained how the State-Party-Family machinery reacted, under the control of Rosario Murillo, during the first days of the April rebellion.
In an emergency meeting held on April 19th in the auditorium of the Japanese Park, Fidel Moreno- secretary for organization of the FSLN, and notorious as the head of the paramilitary gangs –“sent down” the conclusive order from Murillo to all the political secretaries: “We are going all out”, he pronounced.
That day in Managua the first three people died as a result of violent police and paramilitary repression, and five days later, when Gómez resigned from her post as political secretary of the Central Bank, after failing to follow the orders of Fidel Moreno and Ovidio Reyes, the total of the dead surpassed twenty victims.
Gómez describes the ethical moral dilemma that she faced, as an official of the Government and the FSLN party during the massacre: ”To have a salary one cannot support something that went beyond humane limits, in other words, massacring young people as they were massacred, torturing and jailing people only for demonstrating, is something that one cannot support. So my daughters, what example was I going to give them? I preferred to experience difficulties than to be supporting what was happening.”
Ligia, why did you decide to offer this testimony before the United States Congress? What relevance does your word have as a former public official and former political secretary of the FSLN in the Central Bank?
Well, fundamentally three things: one, to be able to bring the reality of the country exposed by a person who, like me, was directly involved in the political management within the State institutions, and someone who can say how the apparatus functions, and how all this process that Nicaragua is suffering is happening. So my biggest interest is having a political impact on decision makers who might help us to unblock the situation that the country is experiencing. The other reason is that I felt indebted for having participated, supporting the Government, I felt in debt to the youth who have been murdered, and to the political prisoners who currently are jailed, and I felt obliged to do something to achieve what we all want, justice and democracy, and having a future for our children.
You were the political secretary of the FSLN in the Sandinista Leadership Committee of the Bank for four years. Who did you receive orders from, and what mandate did you have in the Central Bank as the political secretary?
As the political secretary we received orders directly from Fidel Moreno, but they are approved and authorized by the higher authority, who in this case is Ovidio Reyes. The work of the political secretary consists in mobilizing the employees around the party tasks, transmitting the directions we receive from Fidel Moreno and that were coming from Rosario Murillo, because practically they were read in the meetings, or they came to us as memos, and the other task was ensuring the logistics of those activities.
These activities of the partisan mobilization of public employees, are they voluntary in nature or do they have some economic compensation?
They are voluntary, but yes they do have an economic remuneration. 400 córdobas are given for each participation, but that is accumulated, and a report is done halfway through the year, and at the end of the year. So twice a year a bonus is provided for participation in social outreach activities of the Central Bank.
Is this a specific policy of the Bank, a general policy of the State, or does each public institution decide how to remunerate for partisan activity?
Each public institution decides how to remunerate, but the Central Bank has a special situation compared with other institutions due to the fact that it has seignorage and other sources for its own income, and has an amount authorized by the Board of Directors for bonuses for productive performance, which are used to provide incentives for political activity.
Do public employees also participate in partisan electoral activities?
Yes. All the scaffolding of the State is shifted to working on the elections, and before each election there are meetings with Gustavo Porras, as the President of the National Assembly , and with Lumberto Campbell [de facto president] of the Supreme Electoral Council, and they would explain to us political secretaries what we had to do to ensure the participation of all the State employees in the elections, and mobilize them with pickup trucks and ensuring all the logistics for the voting centers.
Can the government know whether a public employee has voted for the Sandinista Front?
In that meeting they showed us that they can. They got onto the page of the Council, asked for an ID number, and showed whether that political secretary who handed over their ID card had participated in the previous elections, and whether they had participated in the verifications; so that they told us that we had to transmit to all the workers that they had ways of being able to control whether they participated or not in the elections, and yes, there was great emphasis, to such an extent that after each election Ovidio Reyes would ask for a list of those who were not walking around with their thumb stained.
How were the technical decisions of the Central Bank affected by the existence of a partisan apparatus that functioned in a vertical way, subordinated to the president of the principal economic institution of the country?
In the case of the functions of the president of the Central Bank, an institution with a key importance in the economic life of the country, what we see is that he has a very strong degree of political alignment, he spends a lot of his time working on issues of leadership of other State institutions which are not the Central Bank.
The other implication is that there is a very strong filter in what gets published, if the data is not helpful, it is not published, it is simply blocked. So all this means in addition that the work with the technicians is very controlled. The technicians cannot freely express their opinion, they have to wait to see what the orientation that the president gives to be able to proceed to continue with a proposal for “x” or “y” work, because one cannot take any initiatives that they would consider fall outside of what was directed. So, of course, this intimidates institutional development and undermines the functions of an institution as important as the Central Bank.
For example, the statistics that INIDE presents on the dramatic reduction in poverty levels, that appear supported by the president of the Central Bank, are they trustworthy?
The problem is that you are working with completely outdated data, you have a disjointed, gutted, half served institution, with an old census, outside of what normally could be a trustworthy sample framework, and with some methodologies that are not necessarily the ones that they should be using.
What I do know is that not even we as researchers had access to standard of living surveys since 2014, what was done in 2016 they did not let us have access to at all, and I am technically clear that the sample framework is completely out of date.
And nevertheless, in spite of these discrepancies, even before April 18th, you, and possibly many other technicians and officials from the Central Bank and that State, supported the management of the Government. Was this personal support for Commandante Ortega, the Sandinista Party, or an opportunity to keep a job?
For me it is a mixture of all of that. On the one hand, it was the only time that a Government had invited me to be able to exercise functions of preparing policy notes, when I had spent 17 years being a university researcher, where I evaluated public policies, and they invited me to be able to contribute to the Millennium Development Objectives with a team composed of different ministries and supported by the United Nations, so it appeared fantastic to me.
On the other hand, on the political level, in spite of the fact that I was not active in politics since I had been working as a researcher, I did receive political formation when I was little, since my Mom went into exile in 1978, and later I grew up with the Sandinista Children´s Association (ANS), the Sandinista Youth, the coffee harvests, the Federation of Secondary Students (FES), I was with “Baquita”, with many fellow students. So I have believed in a social project and I thought that participating should not be something that I would be ashamed of, because it should be something that all of us should do. Unfortunately, the party is no longer what we thought that it was, and since I have been political secretary they never invited me to any Congress, the people who go to the congresses and the activities are chosen and are only youth, because people like myself are considered disposable, and we should only follow orders and that is it, and if not, we are considered undisciplined.
After April 18th: “we are going all out”
In your testimony before the Human Rights Committee of the US Congress, you said that you passed by the Camino de Oriente on April 18th and you saw when the protestors began to meet. Were you a witness to the repression?
The thing is I live close by, so I went there to buy POPS ice cream for my daughters, and the youth who were there to protest were eating POPS, they were not many, they were a few, and I was shocked when I got home they were already beating them, so I did not see the beating, but it was all at the same time, it was a big shock, and after that the tension of that moment got worse.
The president of the Central Bank called me asking me what was happening, and I told him, the people protested for this, but the repression that existed, the reaction was disproportionate, please talk to them because they listen to you, you have a position where they can hear you. So he just insisted on telling me, “What directions did you receive from Fidel Moreno?” And the orientation that we received from him, in the meeting that was held the following day, we are going all out, we are not going to let them steal the revolution from us, and that “we are going all out” is true. So, he said, well, there is nothing to debate here, I do not have anything more to say, you have to perform – and that the people from the Government who expressed views against what was happening, that we should draw up a list and pass it to him, because he could work with less people without a problem.
And you passed some list of people from the bank who did not support the repression?
No, I did not pass it, and I would have been the first one on the list, of course. And in that moment my ethical moral dilemma began, one thing is supporting activities where you go house to house, doing (health) work because of the mosquitos, that even though the work is a form of patronage, but you do not consider it to be work that morally goes against your principles; and this other, so now with this moment of repression happening, I now did have a limit of what I would allow or not.
That emergency meeting that you mention with Fidel Moreno, the day after, April 19th, where was it held, and who else was present?
The first one was in the auditorium of the Japanese park, and the second one was in the auditorium of the Municipal government of Managua, the Miguel Larreynaga auditorium. Now in the second meeting Lumberto Campbell was present (Vice President of the Supreme Electoral Council), and they showed us a video where they were saying that they were showing us that everything we were seeing was staged, that that did not exist, that we should tell our families and all the workers that they should only watch the official channels, and everything that we were seeing was pure theatre. And Lumberto Campbell, who was asking us that we do this, said that he was even asking his wife to do this, was asking her to not watch this, because she was driving him crazy with the questions that she was asking him, and he said to her. “Well, are you going to believe us or what?”
They put in front of us people who previously did not come to the meetings, those who directed the attack on #OCUPAINSS (June 2013), and that I know only by their faces, were already up front and were observing the faces that we political secretaries made while watching the videos that they were showing us.
That second meeting is after the weekend of April 21 and 22, in other words on Monday April 23, when the first huge peaceful march was done in Managua toward the UPOLI. For the party structure that met, the 20 dead that there were at that moment, and that peaceful march, did they represent an armed rebellion against the government, or a massacre against the population?
The first thing that happened was an alignment, in other words, first you receive what you should accept as the response. And the response comes from the meeting that Rosario Murillo had with the Ministers, and then Ovidio Reyes arrives and repeats. And what was the argument? The argument was: nothing is happening here, power is completely secure, you should be calm, there was only a little mistake here, of having touched some young people and some elderly people, we already know that this should not be done, and the opposition is completely divided, there is no opposition, no one has a Daniel Ortega like we do, so we are going to have power for a long time. So, say that to the people, that everyone should be at peace, that nothing is happening. Even more, in the management meetings there was already open support of Ovidio for the repression, to such an extent that he was saying to us, “If anyone goes to a march, or calls a march, know that you are inviting to kill.” But, why do they have to attack a march? In other words, why saying that you are going to invite to a march is accepting that there have to be deaths. It does not make sense, right. So it was part of that ethical and moral problem that we were experiencing, and I think that it was not just me, probably many people who are still inside.
The failed takeover of Managua on April 20th
There is an email dated Friday April 20 where the national leadership of the FSLN under the responsibility of Rosario Murillo orders that 61 symbolic points of Managua be taken indefinitely. Nevertheless, that day what was seen in Managua was a spontaneous rebellion of the population. At that moment, were the structures of the FSLN not able to take those 60 points?
Yes, we tried to do so, I tried to comply, they placed us on the suburbana highway.
When you say we, who are you referring to?
The CLS, the Sandinista Leadership Council. So in the Central Bank we had a role where a group of us would go on Friday, another group on Saturday, another group on Sunday, there were two groups per day because there were 24 hours. We put up tarps, we put up sound equipment, but as I am leaving the people and went east, I went by the neighborhoods in the east because I took a fellow worker to her home, so I went into the neighborhoods that are close to the UPOLI, and I saw that this was an insurrection, I saw it with my own eyes. It took me a long time to get back to my own home, people were out in the streets with pots and pans, in other words I felt like in 1978, I lived through that. I was little, I was eight years old but I remember all of that perfectly well. So I called the people and I told them, go home. And Saturday and Sunday I did not comply with the order, I dismantled them [tarps] completely, and it was my first act of indiscipline, that was how it was categorized by the president, that I committed indiscipline.
According to your testimony, you presented your resignation as political secretary on Wednesday July 25th. What happened that day?
I was heading for work and it was completely blocked, it took me forever because you could not go by the UNAN, you could not get into Managua, so a young woman called me named Blanca García, who is the connection between Fidel Moreno and the institutions, and she told me that we had the last shift, the one at six pm, that we had to go to the Hugo Chavez (roundabout). So I said to her, I am seeing that this is very dangerous, why are you going to expose people to get there? Even more, in the previous meeting they had already told us, if they attack you, film it, because they come out saying they are the ones attacked, if they attack you, film yourselves. I did not want to experience a situation where I am responsible for mobilizing people who are going to be attacked, and they tell me, in addition, to film it. So I began to even have doubts that they were going to attack them. So I said to him, look, the Central Bank is not going to send people. It was my decision, and afterwards I communicated it to the president (Ovidio Reyes), and I said to him, Look, president, I said that I am not going to send people. So the president said to me; No, you have to comply. You have to do it. And I said to him, No, I am not going to comply because I am not going to carry in my conscience if something happens to some worker who I am sending. So I said to him, if you want, remove me from my post, but I am not going to do it.
So he immediately called a meeting, he told them that I had cracked, and that I would quit being the political secretary. From that day on he has never spoken to me again. I disappeared, they took away my phone, they blocked all my emails, they blocked my technical work immediately, in other words, life changed completely at that very moment.
Resignation, firing and threats
They accepted your resignation as political secretary, but you did not resign from your technical work. Could one thing be separated from the other? How did people react to you, was there solidarity because you were protecting them from being exposed to danger, or did they take some reprisals?
Well the truth is that I quit going to the cafeteria because people quit talking to me; some because if they greeted me, it was like they were supporting me, and they did not want to be seen doing that, because if they were supporting me, it was dangerous; and others because they considered me a traitor, because they were organized, so I was the one who had betrayed them, according to what had been proposed. So I began to suffer severe marginalization, and blocking of my technical work as well. I continued going to the management meetings, but they did not take me into account at all, even more, the orders that came for my management team now were channeled through another manager who was at my same level, not even with my immediate boss.
In your testimony before the Congress you said that on July 17th you received a letter of dismissal, but in the end they accepted your resignation.
The truth is that the manager of human resources called me saying that the president of the Central Bank had ordered that on that day she should proceed to cancel my full time work contract with the Central Bank. I asked her to tell me what the reason was. She told me that he was saying that I had a position of trust. And I said to her, but I am the research manager, it is a technical job, I do not have anything to do with a position of trust in that sense. But she told me, well, but that is his decision. And I would suggest to you that you take the option of resigning immediately. So she told me that if I did not take that, I would lose all the benefits that the law provides. So I took advantage of presenting my immediate resignation, and I left immediately, since that day I have not stepped foot in the Central Bank.
Why did you decide to leave the country with your family? You had already left the Bank, you had already left the Sandinista Front, why did you decide to migrate?
Because there was no other option. In other words, I began to receive through different channels threats for being a traitor, you are an infiltrated MRS member, the commandante is staying and you thought he was leaving, you did some bad accounting. And I was afraid to be on the street with the girls, we no longer would go out together in the car. Where I live we have cameras, so there were three ugly attacks on the place where I live, even bullets shot off. All that together was very risky, more if I wanted to make my contribution by making this denouncement before the US Congress so that this would not happen again in Nicaragua. Because if we do not assume the responsibility that comes our way, this is going to continue happening, and we cannot continue like this.
Ligia, some people who will read your testimony would be able to point you out as an accomplice of the regime for many years, others are going to celebrate it was an ethical and brave decision, and some partisans of the regime, as you have said, accuse you of treason. How do you feel after providing this testimony?
The truth is that there are two feelings: one, I feel liberated because I am me, and I can say what I think, feel, and I can respond to my commitment to society. I studied and got an education, and all my life I have dedicated to working against inequalities; and on the other hand, I feel fear for my family, for my friends. I have had to close down my Facebook, but I am not sorry. And I believe that is the example that I have to give to my daughters. My daughters are growing up. To have a salary, one cannot support something that passes beyond humane limits, in other words, massacring young people as they have been massacred, torturing as they have been tortured, and jailing people just for demonstrating, is something that one cannot support. So my daughters, what example was I going to give them? I prefer to be experiencing difficulties than be supporting what was happening.
The State technicians and professionals who continue in the roundabouts and the marches to Hugo Chavez (roundabout), will they be there permanently? Are they providing conscious support to a regime that has been identified as perpetuating a massacre?
The truth is that some are moved by ideological aspects in the sense that they do believe, and they put in them hate between the poor and the rich – those are the rich that you have to attack, they do not forgive us because we have taken their capital, and therefore they are reacting. Others are simply forced to, because if they do not go, they begin to get on a black list, and the first reduction that happens, they are out of there, there are already people leaving. In the Central Bank, even with the incentives, the amount of people who are participating in those roundabout mobilization are going down, always the same people go now, and the president is now asking for list of those who have quit going. There is a perverse incentive, if you went, and you stopped going, they attack you; if you never went, you are more safe, see? So it is terrible, because they are attacking their own people, the ones who are more exposed are their own people.
 In Nicaragua after one votes their thumb is dipped into ink, which is meant to prevent anyone from voting twice. In this case it is also used to determine who did not vote.
 Since the US applied the Magnitsky Act to the President of the Supreme Electoral Council in Dec 2017, he has been the acting President.
 At 4am June 2013 young people in FSLN t-shirts with their face covered brought in by municipal government trucks, attacked retired people and their supporters who had taken over the social security offices in protest for not getting partial pension as established by law in 2005. The area was cordoned off by police, who witnessed the attack and the theft of vehicles, laptops, cell phones, etc. The police later refused to file theft reports.