The author is well known essayist in Nicaragua on a wide array of topics. He is a sociologist and researcher who has published several books on migration, youth and gangs in Central America. This article addresses a key issue for the left in Latin America: the number of deaths caused by the Maduro and Ortega governments.
The human sacrifices of the left
By José Luis Rocha, Confidencial
Feb 14, 2019
During the Cold War Latin American thugs in the name of anti-communism murdered, disappeared and jailed citizens subjected under their boots. Now in the name of socialism and anti-imperialism the leaders of the left are massacring us, because the people must be punished when they are so stupid as to not recognize what is benefitting them, and for spitting on the hands of their liberators. Napoleon, that instrument of the budding bourgeoise order – progress , in the dominant narrative – imposed the principles of the French revolution at the point of sabers and on a volcano of cadavers. In a letter to one of his lieutenants, he is the one who best formulated the idea that progress comes with blood, “If the people reject their own happiness, the people are culpable of anarchy, and deserve to be punished.”
Maduro and Ortega are punishing the people who are insubordinate and out of line. They have more than enough bullets to make them pay a high cost for the ingratitude and lack of class consciousness. A cappella or with a large orchestra, Atilio Borón and Ignacio Ramonet applaud them. The politicians-consultants of Podemos in Spain join them, who hide from the treasury the petrodollars that Chavism pays them for their consultancies (let the prostration of Venezuela serve as a test of their skill and effectiveness). José Mujica places warm compresses on a bloody gash when he says that Ortega should realize that sometimes the moment to leave power arrives, and he does not say one word about the massacres and the hundreds of political prisoners. Looking toward Venezuela, he conjures the danger of a military intervention, but neither the voting with their feet by the millions who have migrated, nor the evidence of the repudiation of the millions who have demonstrated in the streets, pull out of him even a marginal comment. On the other extreme of Latin America, breaking in the eagle´s chair*, AMLO [Andrés Manuel López Obrador, newly elected president of Mexico] discredits the pluralistic and consensus (also dissensus) vision of the OAS as interventionist. Immediately after that he proposes himself as mediator. Concerning the deaths and the prisoners? Silence. AMLO wants to enter the negotiation (or is he just asking for dialogue?) in big steps to lessen the possibility of tripping over the cadavers.
All the people that I identified by their names or acronyms are intellectuals and politicians who deserve a certain amount of respect from me. Some more, others less, all have demonstrated having glimmers of lucidness in more than one episode of their lives, their speeches and texts. That it why it surprises me to see them underestimating, dismissing and even discrediting the demonstrations of repudiation of the regimes of Ortega and Maduro. In their judgement, they are not genuine rebellions, but skillfully conceived uprisings meticulously executed by imperialism. If the masses are participating, it must be because they were deceived. In the end these alienated masses were the ones who supported Bolsonaro. The masses can be mistaken. They tend to be mistaken. So, in whom does sovereignty reside? In inalienable principles, according to them. Sovereignty for the left is an impersonal entity. The people in the streets are not sovereign nor self determined. They are manipulated and dependent. Above all, if they are demonstrating against their buddies.
These analysts and politicians on the left have made a preferential option for everything that smells leftist. Their position is located on the polar opposites of what has been the tradition of the left since its beginnings. The French revolution had extreme expressions about what were the divisions among the left back then. The differences allowed us to know who were in favor of granting more social and political rights. Karl Marx invested a big part of his time and acuity in fighting those who he considered members of a false left, a satchel where he stuck idealists, radical activists, dreamers, sell-outs and coopted people. His most ferocious pages showed no mercy with Max Stirner and Bruno Bauer (idealists), Mijail Bakunin (anarchist), Karl Vogt (agent of Napoleon III), Ferdinand Lassalle (romantic socialist and eventually subject to Bismarck) and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (scientist). Most of them were beloved comrades in arms with whom Marx broke when they adhered to questionable creeds, repressive regimes or sterile adventures.
The regime of Luis Napoleon Bonaparte, that many greeted as the opportunity to return to the republic, and to that transmutation from solid to liquid of that bourgeoise that Marx commended so much in the Communist Manifesto, did not fascinate Marx with its mixture of romanticism, authoritarian liberalism and utopian socialism. Instead of invoking the defense of the established and prosperous order during most of the 17 years that it lasted, Marx studied and applauded the Comuna of Paris (1871) that snatched the control of capital from Luis Napoleon, before the invasion of the Prussian troops put an end to his regime.
Europe has been a persistent scenario for fights between different factions of the left. It appears that in Latin America it was enough to proclaim themselves leftists for their colleagues to extend to the caudillos of the socialism of the XXI century carte blanche to allow them to massacre their peoples without impairing their support. They don´t care that the leaders of that left suffer from intellectual poverty and represent small groups without arguments, accustomed to repeating slogans like litanies, and in the face of stressful predicaments, respond to arguments with violence. It does not matter to them, because they think that in the end it is the only left that we can aspire to here. Parodying the old saying, they seem to say, “each people gets the left they deserve.”
These analysts and politicians only have eyes for a movie where the empire is the principal protagonist and the leaders of the left are undermining it. The people are the extras in favor of one side and the other. If a regime is opposed to the empire (be it even rhetorically, and subject to its logic in everything else), they go there with their gold, incense and myrrh to render homage, and tend to leave with more gold or glitter than what they brought. This Roman narrative does not correspond with reality. The empire moves its pieces, the people move theirs. At times their movements overlap and tactical interests partially coincide. The peoples´ movements, which are varied, contradictory and at times erratic, do not quash the imperial interests that are in play. But the action of the empire does not cancel the strength of the people.
The empire rules, a friend with pragmatic realpolitik used to tell me. The empire is the unchanging variable. That is why it is ridiculous that, with eyes focused on those interests, some analysts pretend to discover as a new event, like a type of breaking news or finding, that they arrived at after arduous and incisive cogitation, that the United States is interested in Venezuelan oil! A fact that allows them later to snub the fact that the people are also moving their pieces, and that within the big story of the imperial strategy there are hundreds of small stories of surreptitious and open resistance, and that not everything that dazzles with leftist colors is emanicipatory.
There is no better example of what I am saying than the dual nature of the armed counterrevolution in Nicaragua in the 80s. The counterrevolution was a peasant movement that emerged because of the erroneous policies, urban option, and repression of the FSLN. The technical and financial support from the government of the United States gave them fuel to maintain themselves, perdure, and have a greater military and economic impact. But 150 Elliot Abrams and 200 Oliver Norths would not have been enough for the Reagan Administration to put together such a movement. The primal component was a discontented peasantry, that not only supplied the ranks of the counterrevolution, but also provided the basic elements that any guerrilla force must have: sympathetic population where it can hide, refresh itself, and mount ambushes. This version, which is open to multi-purpose interpretations by political actors – is discomforting to the narrative of the good and the bad – the white and the black, or red communists and black imperialists.
A large part of the left – like the old historians focused on the life episodes of emperors, princes and princesses – also exclude ordinary people from history, the little people, the “errant, municipal and dirty common people” that Rubén Darío used to say. In their two colored playing board, there are only two players: the empire and the coalition that opposes it. They forget or relegate to the box of third rate events the cries of those killed, the widows, the mothers, the children and political prisoners. Maybe they think “if they were not manipulated, they would complain less”. They also leave aside the fact that the left – above all, if it is an oil left or a left that sells adulterated gasoline, like the Nicaraguan left – gets their resources from the bloody imperial market. Or in what market would they think the Venezuelan oil is in?
There are loose ends that are difficult for me to digest in this indifference or willingness to deny the suffering of the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan peoples. I can leave to one side the fact that the left that supports Ortega does not consider it more than a minor peculiarity the fact that in Nicaragua the Vice President is the spouse of the President, a rarity that you will not find in any other country of the western hemisphere. I can pass over the fact that some analysts might be blind, indifferent or celebratory about the unbridled accumulation of capital that the Latin American left (Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and others) have mounted on the Venezuelan oil. I suppose that their confreres will think that it is better that this dough go to fatten the pockets of the leaders of the left, than fall into the coffers of the traditional domestic oligarchies and multinational corporations.
But I do not have any hermeneutical framework to explain the large number of analysts on the left willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that under the regime of Ortega mining has expanded as never before. Gold exports have grown at a dizzying rate from 99,400 troy ounces and $55.3 million dollars in 2006, to 236,000 troy ounces and $357 million dollars in 2016, precisely the period of government of Comandante Ortega. Silver exports in that same period went from 94,200 to 681,700 troy ounces. At the hands of the law creating the Nicaraguan Mining Company (ENIMINAS) in 2017, the territory ceded to mining concessions went from 12,000 to 26,000 square kilometers. All these data are official, available on the web site of the Central Bank.
And there is more, much more evidence of the current immolation and future costs that the socialism of the XXI century entails, that intellectuals and politicians celebrate, while they have their cocktail shaker stirred for them, preparing their Martini “Bond style”, with the comforting perspective that one gets from watching the bulls from the sidelines. Because that is what is occurring: the indifference of the many to two peoples who are resisting with their fingernails from being sacrificed at the altar of the noble causes of the left, now contaminated because for the outlaws who proclaim them in word only, they are nothing more than an excuse for stuffing their own pockets.
The theologian and economist Franz Hinkelammert some time ago wrote about these human sacrifices. Western society – he explains to us – “always talks about such an infinitely worthy man that, in pursuit of he and his freedom, real men have to be destroyed. That men might know Christ, their souls be saved, that they have freedom or democracy, that communism be built, are such ends in the name of which the simplest rights of specific men have been obliterated. From the perspective of these alleged values, those rights seem simply mediocre ends, materialistic goals in conflict with the high ideas of society. Obviously it is not a matter or renouncing any of these ends. What it involves is rooting ourselves in the simple and the immediate, which is the right of all men and women to be able to live.”
In the face of the left that blandishes the sacrificial knife, the multitudes who are opposed to Ortega and Maduro are unworthy and mundane, because they reject the socialism of the XXI century and prefer jobs, toilet paper, beans and that land that the interoceanic canal was going to swallow up. On that basis some politicians and analysts have taken the level of distortion of the debate to the point where the tradeoffs seem to be: the ideas or the people, the principles or the human beings. And this is a falsification of what is truly in play, but serves as a symptom of the fact that there are two value systems in conflict: those who are committed to the lives of real women and men, and those who immolate them at the altar of great ideals.
Perhaps being on the left today implies being a feminist and ecologist. This should not be exclusively leftist. The struggle against patriarchy, the looting of the wood mafias and the large corporation who pollute the environment and minds should be present in the agendas of all responsible politicians. Norberto Bobbio found a minimum common denominator about what it means to be leftist: the distribution of resources in accordance with needs, to decrease social inequalities and reduce natural inequalities. But the task of distributing has at least two pre-requisites: having resources to assign, and that the potential beneficiaries are not imprisoned or dead. How does the left that is indifferent or inclined to human sacrifice manage this scenario?
These articles, part of a two part series, are important in that they address the Nicaraguan government´s contention that the crisis in April 2018 was really a coup attempt on the part of right wing forces supported by the US.
La Prensa, February 8-9, 2019
By José Adán Silva
The thesis of the “failed coup.” that the regime argues to the point of desperation, began in the fourth session of the National Dialogue on May 23, 2018, when at least 109 people had been killed (data according to the detailed records of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, GIEI). The first official who coined the implausible proposal was the Orteguista Foreign Minister Denis Moncada Colindres, in response to the document proposed by the Civic Alliance to reach a peaceful outcome to the crisis in April, which at that time was seen as bloody and brutal. What did the Civic Alliance propose? Move up general elections, changes in the electoral system and constitutional reforms that would eliminate presidential re-election. How did the Foreign Minister respond? It was a coup attempt.
Denis Moncada Colindres: “The agenda that we are looking at has approximately 40 points and on looking at it in a concentrated way it takes us to a new point, the design of a path for a coup to change the government of reconciliation outside the Constitution, violating the Constitution and violating the law.”
Who was the first person or institution to reject the thesis of the coup? The Catholic Church of Nicaragua, seated as mediator at the National Dialogue Table.
Mons. Silvio José Báez: “This is not a coup d´etat: That accusation is very serious against the Mediating Episcopal Conference. A coup is the taking of political power in a sudden and violent way on the part of a power group or in a non violent way, infringing on the established institutional legitimacy in a State.”
Since then to now the thesis of the “coup”, which has become the principal excuse of the regime, has been rejected and stripped bare by most of the forums, international organizations and countries of the planet.
June 21, 2018: Report of the IACHR to the Permanent Commission of the OAS, United States: Paulo Abrao: “The State of Nicaragua stated that the events that the IACHR analyzed did not happen in the framework of social protests, but in the framework of an attempt of a constitutional and institutional rupture to change the legitimately elected authorities and overthrow the government (read, Coup)”. The response of the IACHR: “The Interamerican Commission for Human Rights has recognized that the social protest is a demonstration of the joint exercise of the right to meet and freedom of expression, as well as a mechanism for political participation and defense of human rights, which has a fundamental social interest to ensure the functioning of the democratic system and the defense of human rights. In this sense, it has stated that the public demonstrations and other forms of protest against government projects or policies, far from being a provocation to violence, are appropriate for any pluralistic democracy and deserve its highest protection.”
July 18, 2018: Extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of the OAS, United States: With 21 votes in favor and 3 against, the OAS approved a resolution that condemns Nicaragua for all the acts of violence, repression, violations of human rights and abuses, including those committed by the Orteguista Police, para-police groups and other actors against the people of Nicaragua. In that same session the proposed resolution on Nicaragua was voted on, that justified the violent actions within the framework of a coup and the Orteguista thesis was rejected with 20 votes against and 3 in favor.
July 19, 2018: Press release of MESENI in Managua: In the face of the justification campaign of the regime for describing the repression as a response to a coup: “The IACHR has reiterated that social protest is a fundamental tool for the work of the defense of human rights. It ends up in principle being inadmissable the penalization as such of demonstrations on public roads when they are done within the framework of the right to freedom of expression and the right to assembly.”
August 29, 2018. Report of OHCHR in Managua: Guillermo Fernández Maldonado, coordinator of the Mission of the OHCHR in Nicaragua: “Since the first meeting that we had in the Foreign Ministry when that was what was proposed, what we said is that if that is the vision (of a coup), that they should give us access to the information, and if we indeed find the facts support that vision, we would make it public.. up to now they have not responded to any of our requests for information, nor have they allowed us to go to any of the places that we proposed”, said Fernández, before presenting the report which ends up holding the regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, obstruction to medical attention, arbitrary detentions, abductions and sexual violence, among other human rights violations.
September 1, 2018. Human Rights Watch, United States: José Miguel Vivanco, Director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW): “they are not credible reports (the officials from the State of Nicaragua on the theory of the coup)”, and the “authorities of Nicaragua have continuously blocked the work of the OHCHR and the IACHR throughout the last two months on denying them official information and preventing their entrance into judicial hearings and detention sites.”
October 18, 2018. Amnesty International, Spain: Ericka Guevara-Ross, director for the Americas of Amnesty International, report “Instilling Terror: From Lethal Force to Persecution in Nicaragua: “The Nicaraguan State maintained its criminalizing discourse where it called `terrorist´ or `coup supporter´ anyone who demonstrated against the Government, for the purpose of justifying their violent actions”, and “the organization concludes that with these techniques what is intended is to shut down social protests, but the Government has tried to sell the idea that what has developed is a coup promoted by the US”.
December 21, 2018. Final Report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). Presented in the United States after being expelled from Nicaragua on the violent events that occurred between April 18 and May 30, 2018. The GIEI concluded that their report “did not find evidence that these violent acts had been coordinated or formed part of a plan.”
January 2, 2019. Extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of the OAS, United States: Luis Almagro, secretary general of the OAS, in response to the accusation of being a“coup supporter” on the part of the Orteguista Foreign Minister Denis Moncada: “The response that the State of Nicaragua gave to the social protests do represent an alteration to the institutional order.”
Crimes in the name of the coup
The first time that the governing party alleged a “coup” in the midst of the social and political crisis of April, there were 109 people killed. Little by little the discourse repeated time and time again from the power structures of the dictatorship of Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega continued playing, and along with the chorus grew the figure of deaths, until reaching 325 killed according to the data of the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights, in a report supported by the majority of countries of the continent represented in the Organization of American States, who rejected, likewise in chorus, the discourse alleged by the retime: “It was a failed coup attempt”.
What did the regime intend by maintaining against all the evidence a hypothesis that they have not been able to demonstrate to the Nicaraguan people and to the entire world.? Among many others, two things: justify the crimes and write their own history of one of the worst massacres of the civilian population in contemporaneous history. The sociologist and specialist on issues of Citizen Security, Elvira Cuadra, argues that the argument of the coup “does not fit the situation of Nicaragua no matter how much the discourse of the Government has repeated it in that sense.”
“Basically, a coup is a dispute between branches of the State where, in most of the cases known as of today, one or several of the branches end up deposing or overthrowing the other, usually the executive branch,” explains Cuadra. She analyzes that in the case of Latin America, until the decade of the 80s coups were carried out by the armed forces, in such a way that were also called military coups.
“The last of those we saw in Honduras in 2009. Nevertheless, times have changed and the forms of feuds between state branches are not the same. There is the case of Fujimori in Peru (1992, dissolved the branches of the State) and more recently the case of Dilma in Brazil (2016, deposed of her post by the Congress to face justice in corruption trials). In these cases the military forces have not intervened. In the case of Nicaragua, no branch of the State has threatened or put at risk the presidency of Daniel Ortega”, noted Cuadra.
The sociologist explained that the generalized discontent and dissatisfaction of the people, expressed in protest marches and demonstrations “cannot be considered a coup”.
According to a report of the situation from the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development, between April and October of last year 2,045 social demonstrations were held, with June being the month with the largest number of marches: 776.
“Their argument does not fit neither theoretically nor politically. It is a matter of a political conflict between the ruled and the ruler, it is legitimate, civil, attached to citizen rights and its purpose is to publicly challenge the ruler.”
Coup No, Self Coup, Yes
Carlos Alberto Pérez Zeledón, political analyst and coordinator of the Citizen Proposal Civic Forum, does not believe in the theory of “the failed coup”.
“It is an issue of definitions, by definition a coup happens when a power group attempts to replace the person who is legally occupying the administration of the State, and generally involves the participation of some institution of the State itself. The traditional is when the armed forces intervene, like the Army, which allies itself with the power group. It can be a technical coup, like when the Assembly or the Supreme Court goes against the Executive, or the Executive against the Assembly. The constitutional order is broken and an invasion of the branches of government or their supplanting happens, it is quick and tends to be violent and in some historical cases, bloody.”
In the case of Nicaragua does the traditional and classic political figure of a coup fit?
No, not at all.
What are your reasons for explaining that the figure of the coup does not apply?
First, it was not a branch of government (factual or legal) that directed the actions, but diverse, autonomous groups with different claims or demands. Second, at no time did any factual or legal branch take over the leadership of the movement, or pretend to take over the leadership of the State. Up to now the Civic Alliance or the Blue and White National Unity have not spoken about their taking power, but of going to early elections where even no one has rejected the fact that the FSLN itself could participate. Third, the social protests are a normal phenomenon in all countries around the world, but not excessive repression. It is not normal that the State would order the protestors killed; it is the excessive violence that puts in question the mandate of Daniel Ortega, talk begins about his replacement as a response to the repression, not as the primary demand.
The official propaganda also talked about a “soft coup”. Does this exist in Nicaragua?
Yes, but on the part of the Government. The principal difference between a coup and a “soft coup” is that the latter do not intend to take power, they are happy with overthrowing the existing power to open up a new possibility for a democratic discussion. The soft coup is successful to the extent that the Government discredits itself and loses legitimacy in the face of the governed. The success of the soft coup depends more on the mediocrity and brutality of the Government, than the “coup supporters”. We can say that the government of Ortega carried out himself a “soft coup”, because he was the one who incited the rebellion and continues doing so…that is why the international community has reacted condemning the actions of the Government and rejecting the coup theory. There are no hidden interests, there does not even exist an established organization that might aspire to power at this moment, so we are facing the pathetic case of an absurd, “soft self-coup.”
CONSCIENCE CLEANSING AND MESSIANIC EGO
For the sociologist Oscar René Vargas, the theory and discourse of the “coup” is in the end a strategy to moralize the Police after committing crimes, a discourse to keep his followers united in the face of the gravity of the moral impact of the massacres, and an egocentric shield to not admit the mistakes made. “In the first phase, before the entire world rejected the thesis of the “coup”, it was the way to internationally justify the indiscriminate repression, and unify their bases in defense of the `revolution´. With the coup thesis taken apart by the international organizations (IACHR, MESENI, UN, OAS, different governments, journalists, etc), the Government continued in the same position to not recognize their original version and not lose face nor credibility”, says Vargas.
“Now he continues maintaining the thesis as a way of maintaining the loyalty of the grassroots Police, Army and militants of the governing party. It is the way of maintaining the fidelity of the grassroots in the `revolution´ and in the Ortega-Murillo leadership. Recognizing that there was no coup attempt is recognizing that the Ortega-Murillo leadership was mistaken in the tactic that became strategic, they did not know how to correctly read the crisis…This negation of the reality had led Ortega-Murillo to demand that their followers (deputies, mayors, head of Police, magistrates, judges, etc) continue maintaining the thesis that allows the judges to convict the political prisoners without proof, given that they start from the principal that there was a `coup´ attempt and they all participated in the aborted coup. Also the `coup´ thesis works so that the police and paramilitaries have a moral justification for having participated in the repression, killing their adversaries. In this way many of the members who carried out the order to kill and take innocent people prisoner avoid having guilty consciences .”
The author of the following article just won the Ibero-American Rey de España award for this article, originally published in Confidencial May 26, 2018. We provide the translation of that article here because of its international importance. See the version in Spanish for the photos of the MRIs mentioned in the article. An interesting recent analysis of the weapons used , which confirms what is reflected in this article, was published on Feb 12, 2019 by Bellingcat. The same author just did an update on the original article, and the English version was published by Confidencial on Feb 14th
They were shooting with precision: to kill!
A pattern of lethal wounds to the head, neck and thorax was verified in the people killed and wounded. MRIs of those who died in Lenin Fonseca Hospital reveal the use of high calibre and high impact weapons used by sharpshooters.
By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto
In Confidencial of May 26, 2018
The projectile hit Juan Bosco Rivas Martínez under the brow, between his two eyes, where his nasal septum begins. A precise shot. The young 23 year old man was bending down to get a rock when the bullet got to him. He fell on his back and his head hit the pavement. No one knows how long he was unconscious, but when he came to, he felt like he was drowning.
“In addition I had a big headache, as if my head was going to explode,” remembers Rivas Martínez a month and two days after he was wounded, on Saturday April 21 in the immediate vicinity of the San Miguel neighborhood of the city of Masaya.
The secondary student was taken by his fellow trench companions to the Humberto Alvarado public hospital, where the doctors did not want to treat him when he was admitted. The cries of the young man forced the doctors to act. They took an xray and determined that “he was wounded by a rock”. But an otolaryngologist- the only one who “treated my son properly”, denounced his mother, Ana María Martínez – was shocked when he saw the xray.
“The otolaryngologist told me that what he had was a bullet”, said Rivas Martínez in his small home in Masaya. A 23 millimeter AK bullet, that was left lodged a millimeter from the foramen magnum, the passage through which pass the ends of the central nervous system, and that connect the brain with the spinal cord. For the doctors who treated him it is a “miracle” that he is alive.
Rivas Martínez tells the story in a rocking chair; next to him he has a wastebasket full of toilet paper. He is constantly wiping the fluids that come from his nose. Even though he is recovering favorably, the damage is irreversible. The nasal septum and his right cheekbone were destroyed by the bullet.
“I am living proof of the repression. The sharpshooters who were in the Craft Market were shooting at us to kill”, stated the young craftsman who will no longer be able to practice boxing. Rivas Martínez is one of the few left alive after receiving well placed shots during the repression in April by the National Police and the paramilitary forces of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. His name nearly ended up on the list of 76 deaths that the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) said they were given by the Government.
The case of Rivas Martínez illustrates thoroughly the pattern of the shots against the demonstrators: lethal wounds to the head, neck and thorax. Those most seriously wounded from firearms have been taken to the Antonio Lenin Fonseca Hospital in Managua. The neurosurgery unit has been full. Patients who arrive with perforated, cracked craniums and some brain dead.
CONFIDENCIAL has in its possession 19 MRIs done in Lenin Fonseca Hospital, of which 15 are of patients wounded in the head with firearms. At least eight of them died, according to the doctors consulted. Their identities have been confirmed by this communications media and the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH).
Impact on frontal, parietal occipital lobes
The MRIs show precise shots in the foreheads, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes of the victims. Others in the cervical and thorax regions. Craniums shattered, displacement of the middle cerebral line, inflammation, and serious hemorrhaging. It is very difficult to be saved from these wounds. The bullet impacts mostly show entry and exit wounds. Trajectories that leave a trail of destruction in the brain mass. In the MRIs a grey groove can be seen opened by the projectile that left, in some of them, scattered shards of lead or bone. Powerful bullets.
CONFIDENCIAL consulted with a medical specialist in ballistics to get his analysis on the MRIs from Lenin Fonseca. “According to what I am seeing, they were shot with `scientific precision´: directly to kill”, maintained the doctor, who requested to remain anonymous for reasons of security. This doctor saw many similar wounds when he did his military service during the war in the 80s.
“They are high power bullets. They are rifles, weapons of war. These are not pistols,” assured a ballistics expert.
“Jefferson Flores Medrano. 25 years of age. Bullet trajectory top down. It entered the frontal lobe and left the parietal occipital. Tangential wound from a high power bullet, because it fractured the cranium into multiple pieces through the trajectory. Cranial shattering”, detailed the doctor while he analyzed the MRIs. The bone damage can be observed better when the doctor ordered the software to show the MRI in 3D: Cranial splinters, cracked, cheeks shattered…
The doctor could not determine the bullet that killed Flores Medrano because it is not there. It passed through his head, but he does not doubt that it is a bullet from a rifle like in most of the victims. In the case of José Alfredo Leiva it was a bullet from a AK-47, and in the case of Nesker Velásquez, a shotgun. In the case of Kevin Dávila López it was a circular pellet 1.85 centimeters in diameter.
“It is a circular orifice. That munition is not found in any armory. It is a special shot exclusively used by the police forces. The metal sphere entered into the right frontal-temporal region and was left lodged in the left frontal-parietal region, ruled the expert. The pellet can be seen lodged in the brain. For being a lesser powerful projectile, the doctor believes that the shot was carried out from a distance not far away.
Shots from “privileged positions”
The MRI of Darwin Medrano, done on April 22 at 10:42 at night in the Lenin Fonseca Hospital, shows a top down trajectory. The bullet entered through the nose and ended up in the left base of the skull, very similar to the case of Rivas Martínez in Masaya.
The top down bullet trajectories lead the victims and their relatives to conjecture that the police used sharpshooters. In Estelí, the mothers of Orlando Pérez and Franco Valdivia maintain that the shooters were located in the mayor´s office of that city. Both university students were wounded mortally in the thorax and in the face, respectively.
Given the lack of autopsies of the victims of the repression on the part of the State, the MRIs from Lenin Fonseca contribute valuable information for the clarification of the crimes.
“The person who shot my brother was in a privileged position. He was located high up. The bullet trajectory is from the left to the right, entering through the left eye and was left lodged in the right side”, denounced Francis Valdivia, Franco´s sister, after the victim was exhumed in order to do the autopsy.
The citizen testimonies in Managua also coincide with the use of sharpshooters “in the National Baseball Stadium”, one of which, supposedly, took the life of Álvaro Conrado. The 15 year old boy was wounded in the neck.
CONFIDENCIAL in addition collected dozens of testimonies on sharpshooters in the city of Matagalpa on May 15th, when the police repressed with violence. The confrontations left three dead. Citizens and university students denounced the presence of sharpshooters on the hills of El Calvario, Apante and San Francisco that surround the city.
In that campaign José Alfredo Urroz Jirón was killed, a 28 yr old teacher. That death was attributed to “right wing groups of vandals” by the mayor Sadrach Zeledón. According to the Ortega-Murillo regime, the road blockages prevented the ambulance from arriving more quickly to the Lenin Fonseca hospital to prevent the death of the professor.
The MRI of Urroz Jirón in the hands of CONFIDENCIAL shows one of the most lethal shots fired among the victims. With precision the projectile entered the middle cranial line, through the parietal-occipital, and left through the forehead, shattering all the bone. “You will never survive that shot. That is a high power bullet because it did not stay in the head. Bullets of that calibre only the Police have”, insisted the ballistics expert.
The preliminary report of the IACHR gathered denouncements about the presence of sharpshooters in the Dennis Martínez National Stadium and in Matagalpa. The organization concluded that “these serious acts indicate the possibility that extrajudicial executions had taken place.”
“The IACHR considers that potentially lethal force cannot be used just to maintain or restore public order. Only the protection of life and physical integrity in the face of imminent threats can be a legitimate object for the use of such force. Nicaragua should implement immediately mechanisms to prohibit effectively the use of lethal force as a resource in public demonstrations”, exhorted the preliminary report.
The cases in Vivian Pellas [hospital]
After the otolaryngologist saw the bullet that Juan Bosco Rivas Martínez had in his head, other doctors did an anterior and posterior nasal packing to contain the profuse bleeding. The procedure was done without anesthesia, something considered “cruelty” by a doctor consulted by CONFIDENCIAL.
“Since the anatomy of his face was destroyed, with even greater reason the patient should have been sedated. Because without anesthesia it is doing a procedure in the dark and under the danger that the shards of the bone would affect the eye. Without a doubt it was cruel”, explained the doctor.
The cries of pain of the youth were heard by his mother Ana María Martínez at the entrance to the emergency room of the public hospital in Masaya. The mother stated that a policeman dressed in a black jacket was taking photos and wrote down in a notebook the names of the wounded who arrived at the hospital.
Martínez insisted with the gatekeeper to let her into the emergency room. There was her son writhing in the bed. “His face was monstrous, his eye was nearly out”, narrated his mother. The next day, after vomiting blood in the early morning, the doctors of the Humberto Alvarado Hospital did another packing in the operating room. This time he was sedated.
The young man spent a week on a stretcher in the hospital without more treatment and with the same nasal packing. His condition was getting worse. The family members were getting desperate. They heard that the Vivian Pellas Hospital was treating for free those wounded in the massacre of April. The step father of Rivas Martínez, Lester Ruíz, went to the hospital in the capital, where the doctors responded immediately. Rivas Martínez was transferred without medical opposition in Masaya. His epicrisis said “contusion from stones” and not by a bullet, his relatives complained.
Doctors who rent space in the Vivian Pellas hospital formed a group to treat the wounded. They received dozens of people, among them people with head wounds. Like those in the Lenin Fonseca Hospital. The independent doctors were surprised on seeing the status of Rivas Martínez. Immediately they did an endoscopic procedure to identify the wounds. They saw that it was impossible to operate on the young man. Extracting the AK 47 bullet so close to the vital structure of the foramen magnum could cause his death or leave him paraplegic. They had to leave it there.
The doctors of the Vivian Pellas hospital did a more sophisticated nasal packing on Rivas Martínez. “I was able to breathe again through the nose. It was a relief, as when you breathe for the first time when you are born,” said the young man.
The medical treatment in the Vivian Pellas hospital has continued for this victim who declares himself to be “living proof” of the repression. Rivas Martínez is improving in his home in Masaya. His psychological status is fragile. Even though he does not know what happened around him while he was lying on the pavement, he knows that he saw his pregnant girlfriend during the time he was unconscious.
“She took my hand. She said to me, “don´t leave me, remember that this baby is coming.” This made me hold on,” says Rivas Martínez with tearful eyes, yearning for his son who is about to be born. His nose bears the scar from the impact of the AK 47.
This document could not be found on the official website of the FSLN, el Digital 19, but is reported to have come from a political secretary in one of the Government Ministries. The Spanish version can be found here.
It does reflect the government´s perspective on the crisis- that it was promoted by coup supporters – and lays out a series of measures in response to the crisis, including: an increase in recruitment and pay for police, plan for government “compaction” or layoffs in government ministries in response to the economic consequences, and the creation of a fund for the victims of the coup supporters, created through the sale of the assets of those accused of terrorism.
Again, capitalized letters reflect the original Spanish document.
POLICY OF NATIONAL STRATEGY
“DEFENSE IS FIRST…FOR PEACE, THE COMMON GOOD, FOR PRODUCTION”
The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation, within the framework of its commitment to the Well being of Nicaraguan Families, has prepared the present Policy which addresses again the Work Processes which will be implemented from different spheres and sectors to thus be able to ensure the achievements and blessings which have been built throughout the eleven years of good Government to improve co-existence in families, communities and strengthen the Defense of a Revolution which today is stronger than ever, alive and full of offspring willing to defend it, without regard to cost.
The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation of the Republic of Nicaragua reaffirms to the International Community, that in the months of April to July the People of Nicaragua were subjected to a coup attempt by political groups disguised as Non Governmental Organizations, partners of organized crime, and financed from outside the country, carrying out abductions, torture, extortion, murder, looting, obstruction of public roads, the destruction and burning of public buildings.
This coup attempt undermined the Peace, Security, Stability and Economy of the Nicaraguan People. The terrorist actions and crimes committed left as a result 198 people killed, of whom 22 were Members of the National Police, 1,240 people wounded, of whom 401 were Officers of the National Police, who were wounded by firearms.
These coup groups caused damages to the infrastructure of the Country; 352 buildings were vandalized and damaged, 209 kilometers of streets and highways were destroyed, 278 heavy machines were vandalized and burnt, and 389 vehicles were destroyed. The damages caused to the Economy added up to US$ 205.4 million dollars as destruction in the public sector, US$231 millions of dollars in losses in the Tourism Sector, and US$525 millions of dollars in the Transportation Sector, all this caused a direct impact on the population with the loss of 119,567 jobs, and a decline of C$7 billion córdobas in the General Budget of the Republic.
After these acts of violence and destruction, the competent Institutions of the State of Nicaragua, in fulfillment of the Law, have worked on the investigation and trial of the authors and participants calculated on November 5, 2018; 273 people detained for these crimes.
Added to this barbarity is a new imperial instrument to try to subdue us: the NICA-ACT law, a criminal act that attempts to intimidate our courage and impoverish our land full of blessings.
We have expressed our Position in the face of this irrational action, offensive to the Human Rights of Nicaraguans, in different moments and with the same firmness: We consider this Bill a violation of our sovereignty, and a negation of all Political, Social, Cultural and Economic Processes, which are carried out in our Blessed, United and Always Free Country to improve the Lives of all, and promote Joy, Harmony, and Well Being.
The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation reiterates the Conviction of a people who are facing an aggression of reactionary, interventionist and disrespectful Positions on the part of certain US political movements that do not yet get beyond conflict and interests foreign to the Will and Peacefulness of Peoples.
We swear before God and the People of Nicaragua, before Nicaraguan Families, Youth, the International Community, that we will fight in our invariable Commitment to Democracy and the Paths of Harmony, Encounter, Understanding, Security and Prosperity, which, in Union and Hope, in Faith and Trust, we traverse as people of God. Yes, we will not keep our arms crossed in order to defend our Revolutionary Process, we will act under the legacy of the ideals that have formed us in Struggle, we will equip our people with Hope with the Sandinista example to defend the revolution of any action that is taken, and in all areas: the Defense of Peace, Production and the Economy.
The Commandante-President Daniel Ortega in his pursuit for the defense of the Country, Peace, Security and Reconciliation of the People of Nicaragua, has committed himself to the implementation of strategies that would build the bases for a deepening of our model of development.
The Government of Nicaragua, committed always to Reconciliation and Peace in our Country, will take actions that work to enrich and elevate the power that the people placed in the Sandinista Front. Only establishing our values in all spheres of the country: economic, political and social…will we be able to ensure the continuity of our achievements.
General Objective of the Policy of the Culture of Peace and Reconciliation
Creating a strategy for the Defense of the revolution, involving each militant to ensure the success of the tasks necessary to provide solidity to our program of Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based development.
Our slogan: “For Peace, Defense is always first”
“Sovereignty is not discussed, it is defended with weapons in hand”
– Augusto C. Sandino
In the new context of aggression, we must reinforce our moral and combative conviction on all fronts. The NICA-ACT as an imperial tool is just one more acknowledgement that our path of Peace, Unity and Reconciliation is the right one. Today more than ever we say to them in a proud voice with the light of the Sun that does not go down: They couldn´t , nor can they!
It is up to us as Sandinistas to fill ourselves with Love and Peace, to work day to day and leave behind the hard Times, difficult Times, which have been Times of lessons, and plant, install, cultivate, harvest Love and Peace every day. And think of others. Think about each one of us, think about our Loved Ones, those who are with us, those who were victims of the criminal coup; Offer from our Heart Thanks to God for the Lives of All, and for those who, in another Plane of Life, beg Our Lord God for Nicaragua, and because we are going ahead and we know how to go Ahead, in the Fraternity that we know one another, in the Sisterhood that we know one another, in the sense of peace and its unwavering defense inherited by the blood of the heroes and martyrs.
Promoted and coordinated by the National Police in the different Territories, we will offer spaces and opportunities for Dialogue and Re-encounter People, Families and Communities around the Culture of Peace.
Using for that the Community Work Method promoted from the Citizen Security Program carried out by the National Police for working on Community Security Plans and Re-encounter Processes.
Under the responsibility of the National Police these different tasks will be done as priorities:
a) Consolidate the role of the National Police in the Community, recruiting new agents in each municipality so that they can go back to their own territory and exercise clear and close leadership, supported by their family, cultural and political connections.
b) 15% increase in the recruitment of new agents for 2020, professionalizing our current leaders and expanding their territorial basis in accordance with the previous point.
c) Integration into the Citizen Security Cabinets retired members of MINT [Ministry of the Interior], SMP [Patriotic Military Service] and the EPS [Popular Sandinista Army, all three entities from the 1980s] as community defense leaders and instructors for institutions, strategic and key points for the security of each community.
d) 12% salary increase for the agents of the National Police for 2019.
e) A National Defense Cabinet for Peace and Security will be created, that will include: 1 representative of the UAF [Financial Analysis Unit], 3 representatives of the National Police, the Provincial Political Secretaries, and two representatives of the Ministry of the Interior. The task of the Cabinet will be Coordinating, Informing and Executing by presidential order the plans for the promotion of Peace and Security in the country.
f) With the Municipal Governments and the Police Delegations in each community, structure the Battalions for Defense and Production, organizing Volunteer Police and coordinating security plans from the people and for the people.
Austerity and Honesty: The Moral Basis for the Construction of a Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based Model
“Our army is the most disciplined, self sacrificing and selfless army in the entire world, because it is aware of its high historical role”
– Augusto C. Sandino
The current Policy will consolidate the Strategies, Programs, Actions, Methodologies and Materials for the struggle against the ravages that the Criminal Terrorism left on the National Budget. Unfortunately, the social-political situation and the disturbances causes by the criminal-right left a nefarious legacy impossible to cover, which itself has directly modified the functioning of our model of execution, having to make urgent and priority changes in order to be able to ensure the sustainability of the social programs and the functioning of the state.
The effect of the criminal Nica Act Law has little to do with the concern of the United States for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Nicaragua, and everything to do with the escalation of the agenda for change of the regime of the Trump administration. It will put at risk a whole series of social programs implemented by the Nicaragua government, and it is also very probable that it might mean that it will be necessary to put limits on the investment of the government in health, education and infrastructure.
The Law will deepen the poverty of those most vulnerable and impoverished in society, intensify the polarization in Nicaragua, and l block the efforts of the Government to build peace and reconciliation after the failed coup attempt.
The direct blockage imposed by the imperialistic appetite will force us to make budget changes and take austerity measures that will directly affect the price of transportation, which will have to be increased; the school snack, which will be reduced in scope; Social Security, which will have to make structural changes; and the subsidies for Basic Services, where priority will be given to the most vulnerable communities.
This new context forces us to make decisions that even though they are hard, will serve as the basis for the more Solid, Strong and Mature Revolutionary Project that will be a part of the legacy of Peace and Harmony for new generations.
In the same way we have to see this situation as an opportunity to achieve a more modern, compact State, full of fellow Sandinistas committed to the model of sustainable development based on Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based values that our revolution preaches in the pursuit of improving the lives of each Nicaraguan.
To carry out this arduous task a series of actions have been set out:
a) Creation of State Compaction Cabinet, chaired by Ovidio Reyes, and it will be composed of the Coordinators of the CLS [Sandinista Leadership Councils] of each state institution, Members of the FNT [National Workers Front] and representative of MITRAB [Ministry of Labor] and INSS [Social Security]. Each Ministry or Autonomous Entity will have their own Compaction Council organized by the CLS and the representatives of the unions.
b) The Compaction Strategy has the purpose of being able to decrease the labor force in the Ministries and Autonomous Entities by 30%. Except for the Ministries of the Social Cabinet, where the decrease will be 10%.
c) The Compaction Councils of each State Institution will have meetings every two weeks starting in January 2019 to present their proposals for cuts in personnel with the objective that in June 2019 the quotas established in the Strategy will have been met. To carry out the compaction, the Councils of Each Institution must do Employer-Employee reviews based on a Holistic Evaluation Guide.
The Holistic Evaluation Guide will have the nature of a monthly review where five key indicators will be taken into account:
Commitment to and Defense of the Revolution.
Monetary Contribution to the Party.
Fulfillment of Labor Objectives
Attendance at Party Activities
Characteristics of Special Review.
The Characteristics of Special Review are: closeness to Retirement Age, Repetitious Positions and Level of Technical Specialization.
d) Labor Reinsertion Committees will be formed in each institution supporting the party members to be able to apply the different Programs that our Good Government offers them, and in this way have an opportunity to continue building the Country in Commerce, Production and Entrepreneurship.
Economic Reactivation: Empower the People with Dignity
“Here a Sun shines on us that does not go down”
Defending the Revolution is also producing and working, so as in this way to move forward in the new economic model, in this model that recognizes the skills and strengths of the medium and small entrepreneurs in the countryside and the city.
One of our biggest tasks will be that of being able to execute the projects, proposals and programs that we have for continuing to move forward within the Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based model.
For a country to be able to be on the road to development, the first thing is ensuring a very strong program in social spending, aimed at education and a robust system of public attention of the population, with a big impact on the lives of families and the country.
These programs and technical and technological projects [are] for strengthening capacities and for working better and having better results in the countryside and the city. Responding with a new Solidarity Model, Agricultural Production with increase in yields and crop diversification, as well as proposals for livestock development, pigs, poultry and others.
So that the social, productive and economic processes ensure the full rights of all Nicaraguans, fully restoring or developing them, improving our lives, we must take a series of actions that would strengthen our revolution:
a) Expansion of the Zero Usury Program for small and medium loans, made for the work that ensures Peace. Giving priority to the requests from the Labor Reinsertion Committees.
b) “Camilo Ortega” Solidarity Land Fund: this fund will be part of a new development model for small producers and peasants without land, where in addition to being able to opt for the Production Dividend, they will have the opportunity to get a loan exclusively for the payment of a production plot from the new rural properties that will form part of the “Fund for Assistance and Holistic Reparation for the Victims of Terrorism”.
c) Intensification of the Family Economy model, providing the opportunity for Undertaking and prospering in faith, family and community to any person who wants to work on their ideas and projects. MEFCCA [Ministry for the Family, Cooperative, Community and Associative Economy] will coordinate based on their projects, opening the opportunity to all these new entrepreneurs for collaborating.
Healing the Wounds: Reparation for the Victims of the Coup
“When the curved bow is drawn no longer, The mystical dove will bring in its beak… The olive branch of peace!”
– Ruben Darío
Our good government has 11 years promoting a model of Culture of Peace Policy, that serves as a starting point and essential target for Families and connected Institutions and Entities, capable of strengthening the role of recovering and strengthening Values for the growth of our Blessed and Always Free Nicaragua.
This Policy recognizes Peace as a human right and at the same time as an indispensable social asset so that human rights might continue being restored and therefore, this policy connects all the social programs that the people, families and communities have.
Since April of this year our People were subjected to a Coup attempt by minuscule groups that will not only have to pay justice for their legacy of Destruction and Death, they will also have to morally and economically pay the victims of their barbarism.
For us Nicaraguans to be able to resolve our conflicts without violence, our disagreements through dialogue, tolerance and listening, we need to create mechanisms that would strengthen and help to heal the wounds that the coup inflicted:
a) Creation of Holistic Assistance and Reparation Fund for the Victims of Terrorism with the assets, properties, businesses and lands of those sentenced for terrorism.
b) The Administration of the Fund will be composed of the “Organization of Victims of Coup Terrorism”, FNT, INSS as well as the National Police.
c) with the Earnings of the Fund based on its investments and assets, the creation of a Special and lifelong Pension for the Victims will be coordinated, designated by Law and through payments to INSS.
d) For the sale, auction and loan opportunities for the investment of the properties and assets of the Fund, priority will be given to Combatants, Voluntary Police and recognized Sandinista Militants for their unrelenting defense of the Revolution.
From December 6-31
Formation of a National Cabinet Team for the Defense of Peace and Security
Week of January 7-11
Presentation of the National Strategy Proposal: “Defense is First…For Peace, Common Good, Production”
Provincial and Municipal Delegates of Institutions
Sandinista Leadership Council
Establishment of the Compaction Cabinets in each State Institution.
Week of January 14-19
Establishment of the Provincial and Municipal Policy Team, with Ministries.
Preparation of Provincial and Municipal Plans for the Presentation of the Policy
National Launch of the Policy: “Defense is First”. Heads of Ministries.
Week January 28 to February 2
Review of Compaction Plans.
Responsibility of National Policy Team, Supervisors of the State Compaction Cabinet, Compaction Coordinators in the State Institutions.
Followup and monitoring of the implementation of the Policy. Responsibility of the National Policy Team, National Cabinet of Defense for Peace and Security, and the State Compaction Cabinet.
Pope Francis traveled this week to Panama for the celebration of World Youth Day. Thousands of Nicaraguans traveled there as well, and this letter was delivered to the Pope asking his help in resolving the crisis , freeing political prisoners, and breaking what the letter calls “the cycle of impunity.”
Managua, January 20, 2019
From Nicaragua the People of God affectionately greet you in the midst of our pain and suffering, but with an unbreakable hope that your Holiness, as a Good Pastor, will echo our prayers. Your Holiness has been informed by the Papal Nuncio, our Cardinal and our Bishops about the terrible situation of our country.
Nine months ago the calvary of our people began with more than 500 murders, more than 700 political prisoners, thousands of tortured and wounded people, and more than 80,000 exiles. The situation is worsening and the response of the government has been more repression, with great cruelty and hardness of heart. Your Holiness, as Jesus, reminds us every day that our concern should be always for those who suffer, and in our country the poor, students, peasants, working women and men have been beaten, tortured and disappeared, and this continues.
In the Blue and White National Unity we believe in the precepts of justice and truth for which Jesus lived and died, and we fight for them. Your Holiness is a reference in today´s world, not just for Catholics but for all people of good will, because the truth speaks in you and you authentically represent the teachings of Jesus. For this reason, we turn to you with all humility.
We ask for your mediation for the immediate liberty of the more than 740 political prisoners who are abducted in the jails of Nicaragua, as the Committee of Relatives for the Freedom of Political Prisoners requested of you in their communication to you on December 24, 2018.
We implore you to raise the voice of the Church to end the repression, persecution and criminalization of innocent people, and so that the thousands of exiles can return to Nicaragua.
We ask that your vigorously urge the government of Nicaragua to set the conditions for a true dialogue with the bishops as mediators. This dialogue is urgent and needed to get out of the crisis in our country that has experienced crimes against humanity, confirmed by the report of the GIEI of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.
We ask you to cry out for justice in Nicaragua. That we might close the cycle of impunity, that has done so much damage for generations to Nicaraguan families, as the Association of the Mothers of April (AMA) are demanding within the framework of Truth, Justice, Reparation and No Repetition for the case of their murdered offspring.
Holy Father, we trust in your wisdom in these complex times that our people are experiencing, and we are grateful for the effort that Your Holiness can contribute to the search for peace for our country. We wish you all success in your trip to Panama, and we are grateful for your example of love and solidarity.
This is a long interview, but worth the read because it addresses in a comprehensive way different facets of the crisis and options for its resolution. The author was a founding member of the National Directorate of the FSLN in the 1980s, and has the experience of being part of the FSLN´s negotiating team during the transition after the FSLN lost the elections in 1990. The Spanish version is not yet available on the Cultura de Paz website, a magazine that for the 23 years of its existence has made important contributions to the promotion of peaceful resolution of conflicts. The author has been a frequent contributor to that magazine.
The crisis of April: Nature and scope
Interview of Dr. Jaime Wheelock Román, to be published in the “Cultura de Paz” magazine of the Martin Luther King Institute of the Poly-technical University of Nicaragua (UPOLI).
You were a member of the negotiating team in 1990, in an extremely delicate moment for signing the peace agreement, because as we know, Doña Violeta had won the elections, but the Resistance was armed. What are the most important experiences that, in your judgement, need to be recovered from those negotiations, taking into account as well that we were coming out of a war that had left 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of victims?
This has been one of the most critical and harrowing moments that many people still remember and that we all suffered, but it also showed us that if we Nicaraguans act with responsibility and patriotism, we can reach an understanding, get out of war and conflict, and move the country forward. Even in the midst of the armed conflict, the revolutionary government agreed to move up the elections to February 1990 in keeping with the agreements of Esquipulas and Sapoá. But also due to the pressing needs of that moment: the economic crisis was getting worse because of the effects of the war, and above all because the allies from the socialist camp were throwing in the towel because of the impossibility of their providing economic and military aid, and because of the reality that we had exhausted the reservoir of Patriotic Military Service, to be able to continue the conflict even one more year, to not even mention indefinitely.
Likewise, moving the elections up would allow us to receive the new US president George Bush with a very helpful electoral ecosystem installed in Nicaragua for blocking the continuity of the economic and military aid to the counter-revolutionary forces in the US Congress. Under these accords, the armed groups of the Contras or the Resistance had to be re-concentrated, demobilized and disarmed before the elections.
The FSLN lost the elections on February 25th, and the Contras continued armed. At that moment, the situation was very serious and unacceptable for Sandinism: losing the elections with an opposing army at its doors. The next day February 26th we, a delegation of the FSLN and the Government, held a meeting with three important observers: James Carter, ex-President of the United States; Joao Baena Soares, the Secretary General of the OAS; and Ramsey Clark, special envoy from the UN. Our delegation (Humberto Ortega, Joaquín Cuadra and Jaime Wheelock), after a quick evaluation of the situation, explained to those observers the essential concerns that were putting at risk the possibility for a peaceful transition: the Contra forces, without being disarmed and expecting to replace the Constitutional armed forces; the climate of vengeance and “long knives”** that was evident on the part of extremist sectors of the UNO; declarations from the victorious camp that they would roll back all the revolutionary changes, including, above all, the transformations in land ownership, and the rural and urban property allocations that benefitted hundreds of thousands of families.
The observers received these first reactions from us as legitimate concerns and promised that very morning to communicate with Doña Violeta and her team. By the afternoon there already was a response.
The first agreement was that Mr. Lacayo personally would travel to Honduras to accelerate and assure the demobilization and disarming of the Contras, so that it would take place before the inauguration on April 25th. The second agreement was the organization of a roundtable composed of high level representatives with enough power to arrive at agreements leading to a fluid and peaceful presidential transition. From that transition commission came the Transition Protocol agreements that assured a peaceful and successful change of government, but principally the establishment of peaceful conditions that would put an end to years of war, foreign intervention and the destruction of the country.
In my opinion the first thing to highlight in this effort is that the differences that have led us, even to war, can be resolved patriotically through dialogue and understanding; also you have to highlight the willingness that both parties showed in making very difficult reciprocal concessions in favor of national co-existence and peace. Likewise essential was the reconciliation between the parties achieved by the friendly mediators, Carter, Baena and Clark.
I also believe that the National Directorate of the FSLN had the political maturity to recognize the electoral defeat, not giving in to opportunities to fix the results to their favor, recognizing unanimously the triumph of their opponent, which also meant in those circumstances an unexpected mortal blow to the continuity of the revolution. We knew that it would put an end to the revolutionary stage, but understanding that it was not possible to continue without putting the population in risk of more sacrifice and blood. It was preferable to accept the defeat and in the future look to rectify and build new opportunities.
On part of the team of Doña Violeta, with Mr. Antonio Lacayo at its head, I would highlight the understanding and negotiating skill of recognizing that there were legitimate concerns on the part of the Sandinistas, among which I recall: the continuity of the Army and the Police, as well as their leadership; respect for the transformations of the Agrarian Reform; legalization of the homes that the revolution had provided; effort of both parties to create an environment of peace, mutual understanding and cooperation in favor of stability and the economic development of the country.
The negotiating effort was conducted in a discrete and really closed framework. This helped to avoid misunderstandings and interference, or false expectations from the public. Work was done for several weeks in daily meetings for long hours. We had the initial help of the reconciliation group that I mentioned, but nothing else. They played the role of high level facilitators at the beginning.
When we arrived at the final agreements, we asked Cardinal Obando to sign them with us as an Honorary Witness. And that is how it was. On April 25th the presidential sash was turned over to Doña Violeta, while the FSLN went into the plains to remake itself and take up their responsibilities in the National Assembly and in the spaces that we were able to keep. That dangerous excerpt of our history was bridged through maturity and constructive dialogue, which gave way to the future of many years of stability and co-existence. Without those agreements and their willingness, I am not sure that the peaceful transition would have existed from a revolutionary government to another of a more civil and conventional nature, and that even many of us would still be alive.
From your perspective, what is the origin and nature of the political, social and economic crisis that we are currently experiencing in Nicaragua?
I will refer first to the possible chief causes of the outbreak of the crisis , and then the general context. The causal factors are different, but interconnected by political practices perceived as limiting citizen spaces and rights. In the case of the university students, there was discontent over the tendencies of their official leadership to bring the university into line with policies that conflicted with autonomy and freedom of opinion.
In the neighborhoods, communities and municipalities there were complaints of leaders and authorities around directives sent down from the capital, not always consistent with the interests of the population. Peasant communities in the south and southeast of Nicaragua felt themselves threatened by the property encumbrances required by the canal project. In the autonomous regions there were complaints from the communities and their authorities about the lack of recognition of their autonomous rights.
In the NGOs unrest was growing over hostile policies and actions to suffocate them. Also among veterans, retired military and local Sandinista leaders there were complaints over marginalization and limited response to their problems of unemployment, poverty and health care. On their part the Catholic church resented the silence of the government to their demands in the first attempt to seek understandings, while the discontent continued of the clergy over the manipulation of their rites and feast days. The business sector, while receiving preferential economic treatment, saw itself positioned as a partner of the government in the institutional shipwreck that was dragging the State toward an authoritarian regime. All of this formed a breeding ground for the crisis.
What are the similarities and differences with other conflicts of extreme violence in our recent history?
The protest movement that started in April does not have a precedent in contemporary Nicaragua. Seen in general terms, it has been a multi-class movement of a national character, with urban and rural expressions and to a certain point unconnected to the activity of parties. In their massive expression it is an outburst of radical condemnation of a large part of the population against abuses of public force. Seen closer up, it is noted that the protest movement is composed of at least four components: a) network of self convoked and indignant people who later joined the Civic Alliance, and that expressed themselves through massive demonstrations on a national scale; b) a component of the focal insurgency with the presence of ex military or veteran combatants, and urban and rural population who, with the use of fundamentally rudimentary means, set up barricades and blockades and gained partial control in neighborhoods in some places; c) sectors with unresolved conflicts who joined the protests bringing their own demands, the peasant movement, women, retired people, etc.; d) component of informal sector without political motivation who from the nearby neighborhoods maintained a presence around the university campus takeovers, or set up barricades from which they acted in a somewhat disorderly fashion.
These complex forms of protest arose from the events of April 18th and 19th, even though they responded to a dynamic and leadership independent from one another. In my opinion it is not a matter of a civil war, or a conflict between armed groups, or a coup or terrorist riots. Rather it is a matter of a civic protest with a predominance of massive peaceful marches that were interspersed with insurrectional outbreaks, also spontaneous, as a reaction to the disregard for life and fundamental rights of the citizenry, which came to light in the bloody episodes of April 2018.
What is your assessment of the Nicaraguan youth in this stage of our contemporaneous history and in the current crisis?
Starting in 1990 after the electoral loss, the youth were demobilized without a banner for focusing their energies on altruistic causes, as they had for ten years, the literacy and health campaigns, support for the harvests of cotton, coffee, volunteer work, and above all the defense of the revolution. With the governments of the FSLN since 2007, the youth were not mobilized nor called upon to participate. The impression existed of facing a new individualistic generation of young people, and more connected to the globalized world of the superficial, without much interest in transcending toward social or political concerns addressing the national reality. But the concerns of the youth were there, and what was missing was the motivation. In fact, in the universities and high schools there were concerns about participating or collecting funds for noble causes. Later, demands of a more political tone were gestated around autonomy, the independence of the student movement, and the first sit-ins in support of the elderly contributors to INSS.
The youth were in search of a cause that they soon found. Everything fell into place. It was enough for a violent governmental reaction against the students around their schools for the spirit of struggle of the entire community throughout the country to be stirred. This youth in a short period of time showed great human quality and fearlessness, on a par with the most responsible and valiant youth generations in the defense of their rights.
From the perspective of the crisis, what is the reading that you have of the Nicaraguan political system and the political class in general?
I think that the Nicaraguan political system presents one of the most complex crisis of a functional nature in contemporaneous history. A quick diagnosis of the social and political body of Nicaragua allows at least three compromised and even collapsed vital systems to be perceived with concern.
The first, institutional disfunction, the result of the political cannibalism that has prevailed in the parties, and particularly among the two important political forces. The second, the closing of spaces in the political system. The third, the loss of direction of the path that the country is following.
In terms of the first, the end of the war and the transition begun with the government of Doña Violeta Chamorro, unlocked opportunities for convergence and cooperation among the forces that were fighting. But on the contrary, among the leaders of the UNO – the victorious alliance – a mood of confrontation remained, where politics became the continuation of the war by other means.
Throughout the period that extended between 1996 and 2006, Sandinism saw itself subjected to a barrage of attacks to corner it and even remove it from the political and institutional scene, in spite of the fact that they had lost with 42% of the electorate, and still maintained 36% by the middle of the 2000s. Also the FSLN took on a defensive-offensive attitude, and in the context of these new forms of confrontation – governing from below and acting from above – got involved in an all-out fight for control of the branches of the State. Without the option of agreements between the parties (PLC-FSLN), the institutions were being devalued and emptied of their capacity to be adherents and guarantors of democratic life and exercise, turning them into partisan fiefdoms for beating or neutralizing the adversary.
In this way the spaces for the solution to conflicts were dealt with on the basis of shady deals between leaders, political allocation of public institutions, arranged elections, all interspersed with corruption and patronage. At the beginning of the 2000s, the Alemán-Ortega Pact was created through which the number of votes required of a candidate to be elected to the presidency was lowered to 35%. Aided by this reduction in the electoral floor, in 2006 the FSLN with Daniel Ortega as candidate won the elections with barely 38% of the electorate, beating the liberal groups, whose popularity and capacity to be the opposition would enter into a free-fall until these times.
The second disfunction rooted in the political system itself, currently closed and collapsed, closed and collapsed in the sense that Sandinistas as well as Liberals, through different political and legal arrangements, obstructed the entry of parties or people to compete in free elections. The system was also closing because through several voter barriers, society had been left blocked from knowing the true results of the elections as a result of an electoral system highly intervened to the advantage of the two dominant parties. The result of both interferences has been the increasing loss of citizen credibility in the parties and in the political system itself.
Two indicators offer us references. First, the growth of electoral abstention, which if in 1996 had been 23.6%, and in 2006 31.5%, now in 2016 had risen to 52.3%, to reach more than 60% in the municipal elections of 2017, and according to the disputed data from the Electoral Council. Nevertheless, citizen perception and that of independent observers estimated abstention to be close to 70%. The second indicator of the collapse of the system resides in the growing proportion of citizens without a party, or without preferences for any party. Likewise, while in the 1996 elections those who declared themselves to be independents constituted one digit of the electorate, now by 2016 they reached 34% of voter preferences. This last tendency, which would continue increasing in succeeding years, reveals the departure of hundreds of thousands of citizens from the game of politics.
In a first moment the massive desertion of political preferences came from the PLC that had won the elections in 1996 with 51%, years later in the elections of 2017 they barely registered a preference of 8%. This same electorate, previously identified with the liberals, did not side with the FSLN either, and was dispersed in other minority preferences or, more probably, quit going to the ballot box, enlarging the cohorts of abstentions.
In this way, following the first wave of desertions from the political system due to the liberal collapse, a second wave of desertions among the electorate came from the camp of those in sympathies with the FSLN, accelerated with the municipal elections of 2017. What weighs so much outside the FSLN as well as inside it, is the rupture of the rules of the institutional and political game, and the natural attrition that characterized the last years of Ortega´s government.
The reasons for this migration outside of the game of politics are common to the two large parties, but there are other limitations and errors of each one on their own. In addition to those already noted, I note down quickly the following: lack of confidence in the clean up of the electoral system; administrative corruption scandals, pacts, cronyism and anti-ethical behavior of the candidates; outdated party programs more inclined to exploit strong man style leadership and the spirit of political patronage. One weighty reason comes also from youth sectors who, in their educational and professional ascent, bore expectations about the economy, the improvement of the State, society and political democracy that greatly surpassed what was offered, and the limited willingness of the traditional parties to incorporate them, and much less concede them.
Now, the event of April signified a remarkable loss of sympathizers for the FSLN. In the best of the results of surveys and polls, the political base of the FSLN appears to have suffered a reduction of close to 50%. This data and tendencies – with all the ball park nature that it might have – situates between 65-75% of the potential electorate outside the current political institutional system, combining all the parties.
This process led to a counterproductive overall result in the historic scenario of our institutional evolution: the departure from the political system of a broad electorate, declaring itself subsequently as independent or without political preferences, or simply remaining absent from the elections.
Using a metaphor, it is as if ruptures appeared in the circulatory system of a body simultaneously in the arteries, where the blue blood circulates (red and black), and in the veins, where the red blood circulates (“red without stain”*). And all this blood, each one on its own, is deposited in other parts of the body. The body cannot function, it loses oxygen. Likewise the political system collapses with the voting citizens or electors not going to the ballot boxes, abstaining, leaving the ballot blank, without a party, without candidates – distancing themselves from liberal and Sandinista leaders. Later on I will refer to the third disfunction.
The social movement, fundamental actor of the civic protest, called itself the movement of the “self-convoked”, with the characteristics that it burst out without the classic leadership of any political party or movement, but also without a platform or program, which is just now being delineated seven months after the rebellion of April. What comments does this unusual phenomenon in our contemporaneous political history in Nicaragua provoke from you?
The first is that it is a matter of a protest movement crossing the entire political spectrum of the country, and realigning the population into two groups. On the one side, the government supported primarily by a military apparatus and by an immediate support composed of public employees and the militants or closest collaborators of the party in government; and on the other side, a massive popular expression created based on the indignation and solidarity provoked by the armed attacks against youth and the population, disseminated in full color and on a national scale by different communications media. The very fact that a large mass of the population came from deserting the conventional parties, in part explains the great magnitude of the demonstrations that came together around the protests against the governmental repression, without the guidance nor intervention of the traditional political parties.
This social movement of civic protest was not even a matter of an opposition movement with political shades. It is composed of people from every flag and color – including Sandinistas – who have in common the irresistible natural instincts of indignation and in addition solidarity over the abuses that mowed down the lives of youth, the promise of tomorrow. This was the mental picture shown in all the homes of the country as a general threat that hung over all their children.
What role do you attribute to the new communication technologies in the new forms of doing politics? We have examples of presidents Obama and Trump in the United States, the Arab spring, among others.
Without a doubt, they played and play a qualitative role. I think such a massive and quick popular reaction like that of mid April and the following months would be very difficult without the mediation of the new communication technologies. For several years Nicaragua was among the American countries with the smallest coverage of internet. Currently, according to figures from CANITEL, the media network in Nicaragua covers 85% of the population with 8.3 million mobile cell lines. By January 2018 only 11 municipalities did not have coverage, and most of them are in the Caribbean regions.
The population could directly see, be that through news programs, on line newspapers or networks, the attacks with weapons of war by government forces against unarmed demonstrators, the burning of an entire family and their children by paramilitary, the shots of armed groups, masked civilians, sharpshooters carrying war weapons, women and elderly beaten, a newly born baby dead from a gunshot in the head. This media coverage allowed, among other things, calls for massive and fluid demonstrations, the creation of subnetworks of denouncement, solidarity, influencing public opinion, etc. In addition, by virtue of the in situ capacity of transmitting the acts of repression through videos captured by the population itself, it was able to be established that the versions of the official spokespeople and media lacked credibility. The technology here had an organizing, educating and mobilizing role that I believe took all of us by surprise.
What comment does it merit the fact that, once it was known that the decree about INSS that led to the civic protest was repealed, that did not stop the protest, rather it transformed it into a large scale movement, with actions of force and violence (trenches, roadblocks, burning of buildings and vehicles, attacks on bases of the National Police), with a clear purpose that the current Government resign?
Once the acts of violence happened, in my opinion disproportionate, I do not think that anything nor anyone could prevent the eruption of the massive protests, not even the church itself. Nor could the government do it. Even more, in the same appearance of President Ortega announcing the withdrawal of the decree, other members of the government had harsh and offensive comments against the students and population who were leading the movement. This had the effect of throwing more wood on the fire, neutralizing the positive results that taking a step back with the decree could have caused.
If the massive protest was the offspring of the indignation and solidarity that all people have with their fellow citizens – even more when most were youth and students – the barricades and roadblocks seemed to due to a defensive response of the population in their communities. Let us not forget that from the beginning groups of masked paramilitaries went out with weapons of war, which later mushroomed, attacking civilians in neighborhoods and localities. There is no doubt that both defensive forms, roadblocks and barricades – in short order were transformed into forms of struggle and on occasions, gave way to acts of violence. The principal point is what unleashed them? What provoked them? Likewise, if there were attacks from there that took the lives of poor police, is it valid to think that those attacks would have existed without what happened on April 18-19th?
The movement that emerged beyond the problem with INSS, do you think that it could have been avoided, and that this also could have had the result of a smaller number of human lives lost?
It is very difficult to state that the escalation of the protest in a few weeks, taking 200 or 300 lives, could have been controlled, if the government had taken a self critical and restorative approach. But in the first moments it was possible. Of course, the discontent that had been incubating in different sectors would have remained without a solution. It seemed that the withdrawal of the INSS decree on the part of the President on his return, it seems from Cuba, gave the impression of an initiative that sought an arrangement, as also was accepting the initial solution of dialogue with the call to the Catholic church to mediate and be a witness.
But on the other hand, the pre-eminence of the use of force was noted. It is as if there were two contradictory approaches at the same time to solve the crisis. In my opinion, if the President retracted withdrawing the INSS decree, he would have had to censure as well the use of violence and assume responsibility for the 20 youth and citizens fallen in the first days. But that did not happen. The path of confrontation was taken, with the expectation possibly that a hard hand could quickly resolve the state of agitation. Of course, a calculation that did not work out at all, and that led to several hundred dead, thousands of wounded, hundreds of prisoners, dozens of thousands of people stampeding toward neighboring countries. Practically then a point of no return.
The movement that emerged from the civic protest, called the self convoked, with purposes beyond the issue of INSS, do you think that it has been something genuine, or that it responds to another reality?
The civic protest is the movement itself. Until the opposite is proven, it is a spontaneous manifestation of generalized protest and indignation, a direct consequence of the repressive acts. That is why it lacks organization and formal leadership. Its strength is its massiveness and the self convocation. Some describe it as opposition, but it really is not, at least not yet, even though its objective – open the way to a path for the democratization of the country – it could address without necessarily becoming a political or even electoral movement.
In my opinion, as a political coalition, they should move very carefully and make efforts to get closer to the existing parties, including dissidents and groupings of business owners. Likewise I think that first of all, this coalition should prioritize the task of seeking a way out of this crisis through dialogue without proposing maximalist ends. We should not forget that the Civic Alliance is a convergence of sectors with different natures, origins and interests. Nor should we forget that some political groupings with their own agendas and interests have been adding to the motives for the protests.
The government states that there was a conspiracy, but they have not presented convincing proof. Let us think for a moment that the pre-existence of an entire destabilization plan to overthrow the government could be a possibility. Well, present the proof then. So far those accused of coup supporters and terrorists are mostly young students, or people without apparent connections with one another. Here the point is that the violence came from the government first. The protest had a civic form and content, even though later on with the intensification of the government repression, there were focal points of armed acts, at least in the neighborhoods of Diriamba, Jinotepe and Monimbó, principally.
A point of legitimate concern for Sandinism was that of the insecurity that families aligned with the FSLN suffered, exposed to the dangers experienced in places where roadblocks were placed and arms were exhibited on the part of people without leadership, although they were mostly homemade weapons. The question, nevertheless, is who ignited the violence? It is on this point that I state that the outburst of Abril did not seem to be part of any plan, but rather emerged spontaneously like a spark. A spark capable of igniting the prairie where the contradictions were accumulating of the different sectors who provided the firewood that extended it.
What is the situation and perspective of the Sandinista Front in the midst of this crisis, as a fundamental actor in the past half century in Nicaragua?
I have not been an active militant for many years, and can only base myself on observations of a non participant, with the shortcoming that implies. Every party and government in a society where the citizens have the right to chose who governs them, undergoes deterioration. This is natural and in my opinion positive, because it gives way to periodic turnover, bringing in new ideas, while it allows the one who has lost to renew itself for the next round.
What seems to me in plain view is that starting in April 2018 the political correlation was turned more sharply against the FSLN for the reasons stated. The solid support, particularly that the youth and urban sectors lavished on it, had diminished. The alliances with the church and the private business sector have been broken. If the elections were held today, the FSLN has a high probability of losing them; and their capacity to govern is found eroded by the determination to trust more in repressive responses over dialogue and cooperation in pursuit of a peaceful solution to benefit the entire Nation.
Since April the political crisis has triggered a severe economic crisis. In a few months the GDP has plummeted 8%. Close to 400,000 workers have been laid off. Dozens of thousands of citizens have opted for exile and thousands of businesses of different sizes have gone broke. Fiscal revenue has fallen and foreign and domestic investment contracted, along with bank deposits, credit and international reserves. This economic crisis tends to worsen and feed back into the political crisis, exposing Nicaraguan society and the FSLN itself in government to slip into dangerous limits of citizen insecurity, increase of violence, crime and larger waves of migration.
In the international sphere, the government as well as the FSLN finds itself isolated. There are complaints and protest from the international community. Political leaders, intellectuals, ex-presidents and well qualified voices from the left continue condemning the violence used against the civic demonstrators, and the lack of willingness to dialogue and a joint solution.
There is a central matter that I would like to link to the collapse of the political system. It has to do with the third disfunction that I referred to previously: a notable lack of direction in the path that the country has undertaken. The new government since 2007 came to power with the rules of democracy, within the framework of a democratic constitution promulgated in 1987. The 38% who voted for the winning party, as well as those who voted against it, agreed that the direction of the car was aimed toward a society in transition under the design of the existing constitution. But in mid course and without any explanation, the direction was changed, and the rules of the game were modified. The changes, even drastic ones, are not bad in themselves, but they should be consulted. Nevertheless, the consultation was omitted, and in addition the changes proceeded without the cover of legal modifications. The branches of government ceased to be independent; the police ceased being national and were treated as partisan; the President could be re-elected indefinitely; a first degree of affinity relative was chosen as Vice president, etc. All this in violation of constitutional dispositions.
The government and even the republic were declared to be socialist and Christian, which in itself could be praiseworthy, but on the condition that it be based on the will of the citizenry, and not on the individual preferences of the ruler of the time. It is not by chance that there would be reactions and conflicts for that very reason. It is as if not just the circulatory system would quit working, but also the central nervous system of the country, the one that sets the direction we take, would lose the sense of direction leaving all of us disoriented.
If there was a first and later a second breakdown of the social and political structure, now this third rupture was experienced. If we were in a stage of transition to democracy and even to a social democracy, without citizen consultation, a referendum, we turned toward a regime of another nature and even a divisive one, which in itself represents a fundamental contradiction with the type of society, economy and political culture that had prevailed in contemporary Nicaragua.
It would seem a condition or a challenge for the possibility of the FSLN or any party that would aspire to play a relevant role in Nicaragua, to try to be a factor of order, institutionality and legality for the Republic, as well as a unifying force for Nicaraguan society. Internally, it will have to reinvent itself and take up again the hard work of party formation in the fields of program, organization, political education, direction, etc. But above everything else consensus must be sought urgently and immediately, in order to obtain a peaceful way out of this conflict for the country.
How do you assess the impact that international economic actors could have, including the government of the United States, on Nicaraguan economy and politics?
Recurrent in the history of our conflicts has been the hope of groups in conflict to place the political solution on the external factor. Thus Walker came in 1855 and those who called him also facilitated him proclaiming himself president of Nicaragua. Thus the marines came in 1912, 1927, etc. It is also surprising that an eventual collective defense of forces from the Alba countries is being encouraged. The two options are harmful and pernicious for the national sovereignty of Nicaragua, and for the obligation of the political forces of the country to seek a national solution to this crisis. The sanctions that the United States conceives for the government and those around them in themselves are not a solution, and in the short term are not going to dismantle the power of those who have already experienced two wars and confronted blockades and foreign interventions of a large magnitude and duration.
The sanctions, those coming from the Trump Administration as well as those known as the Nica Act, are going to incentivize the polarization within the country, and intensify the current measures of intimidation against critics or opponents. The Nicaraguan people are going to be the ones who pay this cost.
In the 1980s the Reagan administration declared Nicaragua an imminent danger for the security of the United States, and imposed an economic embargo escalating the military aggression that they were directing and financing. But then the cause of Nicaragua had worldwide solidarity support, including important allies of the United States, that for years offered us political, economic and even military solidarity. The decree of the Trump Administration is not properly speaking against Nicaragua, but aimed at the government and its actions, and in fact puts it at risk. The cause defended today by the government is at least questionable, and it is in a deep isolation. The capacity to govern is limited and seriously disorganized. Surely the economic crisis is going to worsen. The solution in any case is that we Nicaraguans be the ones that put an end to this conflict.
The bill for the Culture of Peace and Reconciliation that the vice president of the Republic is promoting has shaken up public opinion, because of its characteristics and the moment in which it is proposed to be implemented. What is your opinion about the need for the establishment of a lasting peace, true reconciliation processes that have never existed, and of the bill itself?
Nicaragua needs a space of calm, of serenity. Let us treat Nicaragua as a patient who needs rest to rehabilitate itself. Let us not set her to doing things that she should not, cannot do. It is important to know first what affects her health as a republic. It requires a type of board of doctors who would reach an agreement about the diagnosis; that would review her metabolism, her circulatory system, her nervous system. And look for the appropriate remedy. Introducing into this crisis the promotion of a Culture of Peace would seem pertinent. And if it is being proposed out of good faith, it is positive. But not for that reason opportune and adequate at this moment. Here it is not a matter of a change in the culture in favor of peace – what generally in the field of customs and values takes many, if not hundreds, of years. There already is a commotion over who, how and in what opportunity this initiative was launched, and who will coordinate it in the territories. We need to bridge first our differences, because the culture of peace cannot be decreed. Many see in this possible law a ploy, not any different from decreeing the normalization of the country, or conferring overnight – in a challenge to COSEP – to small, popular businesses the role of being the new fundamental actors of the Nicaraguan economy, which is equal to giving the task of being the spearhead for the economic development of this or any country to sectors with lower productivity and greater disadvantages.
There is no room for improvisations in the search for the solution to this crisis, that can instead block the achievement of a real and lasting peace. In addition if we want to promote a culture of peace, the promoter herself should start and show herself to be the first and most consistent practitioner of peace.
Do you believe that the government of President Ortega has the capacity to rebuild its alliances and model with which it had been functioning until April 18th?
It would seem that the government itself does not believe that. There is a flexible and negotiating facet that Daniel Ortega has shown in the past, and let us hope that he shows it quickly by returning to the dialogue. Many people are surprised on hearing the people in the government determined to see enemies where there are none; see coups where there are only protests of the indignant; see terrorists where only women, youth, peasants, people are seen, fighting for what they feel are their rights or complaints protected by the constitution. All of them cannot be demonized by exceptions. Why choose the violent response that has already cost the lives of 300, 400 Nicaraguans, mostly young people? And thousands of wounded, and other hundreds of prisoners? The one who pays for these mistakes and these visions are the people. But the one who most loses appears to be the government itself and also the FSLN.
Now, after what occurred and given the official line on the confrontation, it is very difficult that the previous scheme can be remade. But it is not impossible. In any case it is going to require a genuine willingness to compromise with this people, and have the disposition to recognize errors, act with generosity and carry out the changes in direction, vision, leadership and coherency needed in accordance with the responsibilities of any ruler. Only changing the path of confrontation for one of a peaceful solution, the disposition to correct mistakes, exchanging persecution for justice, will lead to new opportunities.
In your judgement, for the country to get out of the crisis will it require renewing and adapting the National Dialogue, or rather a Political Agreement? If it is the Dialogue that is needed, what do you think should be the most functional reconfiguration, in particular, what should be its agenda seven months into the crisis?
To overcome the crisis a negotiated solution is needed. There is a lot of accumulated conflict and several breakdowns in the system. The country needs to get out of the crisis in any way, but it needs to get out and soon. If the crisis gets prolonged, it is going to cost more lives; there will be more people detained and more citizens fleeing from the violence or unemployment, and a runaway economic crisis that will affect the most vulnerable the most. There is a point in which the crisis will have qualitative effects so serious that it will plunge the country into chaos and ungovernability.
The current government in its course represents a factor of instability for the region at least. I am referring to the economic breakdown, the wave of migrants that it is causing, the obstacle to regional trade, and what is most dangerous to the already known historical tendency that the growing internal discontent, connected to the cross-border exile, ends up triggering armed conflagrations. For the government here there is no possibility of trying their luck with a Venezuelan type path, without oil nor the capacity to discourage aggression from its neighbors. In addition the government lacks the allies of the revolution in the 80s, which provided generous solidarity to maintain itself. The national leadership should cut off these tendencies toward chaos and move on to peaceful solutions.
The Dialogue is the best vehicle, but we need to accept that we have had mistakes in methodology as well as in the expectations of what can be obtained, and in terms of trust and commitment. In my opinion, a first step should be taken in the search to improve the climate of internal understanding, even before the dialogue is reopened. Seeing and considering the legitimate concerns of both sides. It is evident that the president and the FSLN had legitimate concerns that were not taken into account.
I have insisted on that fact that it is important to first place the patient under forced rest so that it can recover. Obtaining a haven of serenity, to then proceed to the Dialogue with the changes that could improve it along the lines of: a) raising the power of representation of the spokespeople; b) conducting the negotiations with discretion and in private; c) ensuring the impartiality of the mediation, supported by international experts with authority; and d) forming an agenda with two or three essential points, without purporting that the Dialogue be a form of an impossible Constituent Assembly.
The FSLN led a broad and transcendent revolution in the life of the country, with its own characteristics in the humanitarian and Christian planes, that distinguished it from other revolutions. Generosity was something essential in the Sandinista Revolution. The Government has described those who participated in different actions against the Government, including attendance at marches and demonstrations, as coup plotters and has tended to deprive them of their liberty. Do you think that it would be more beneficial for the country to return to generosity and spirit of high mindedness?
Yes, I completely agree. This is one of the points that could open up a path for a new opportunity for the government and the FSLN. The chain of mistakes that were committed, and those that continue being repeated, should be recognized with integrity.
There is a great silence, void and distrust between the fundamental actors of the crisis, government-opposition. How do you think trust could be recovered that would allow for a return to dialogue, that would address a way out of the crisis.
Recovering trust each day that passes is getting more and more remote, while new confrontational and intimidating measures are deployed. It is absolutely necessary that the government recognize that it is going in the opposite direction. Changing that direction is indispensable, and moving to build bridges. Do it out of a commitment to the Nicaraguan people and for the peace of the Nation.
I would like to insist on this point. I do not strictly see an opposition to the government among those who are protesting and in solidarity for obviously just reasons. Many of those who were demonstrating in April were Sandinistas or children of long term Sandinista families. I have learned in these days that Lester Alemán Alfaro, for example, the very young man who lambasted the government at the beginning of the dialogue, was born into a family of Sandinistas who since the 1970s provided refuge to clandestine militants, and it was a home for national leaders.
Lester was still a boy* when Tomás Borge took refuge in his house in Villa El Carmen after the action of December 27th. Through there passed Pedro Arauz, Roberto Huembes, Luis Carrión and other of us compañeros. Lester in his school was and maybe still is, an admirer of those clandestine combatants that his own family and his martyr uncles, like Abraham Sequeira, taught him to admire. Without knowing it, in April from some part of the government came the order to fire against young men linked to Sandinism. I know that in the Alliance, the business chambers, the academy and the students themselves there is the willingness to dialogue to seek a solution to the conflict.
The Army is one of the institutions that is a fruit of the Revolution, that until now has maintained its nature and functions with which it was founded and that the Constitution established, even you as one of the chief negotiators of the Transition Accords, ensured their continuation, which later would progress to their process of professionalization and institutionalization until arriving at what it is today. In the framework of the crisis in general, behavior has been noted outside its institutional framework, which now is saying something. Being a key entity in any contemporary society, how do you assess their behavior and what should it be in the face of the crisis that we are experiencing?
With the electoral triumph of Doña Violeta Chamorro in February 1990, there was in effect within the parties of the UNO the eminent opinion that the Sandinista Army should disappear, and even be replaced by the armed members of the Resistance. In the agreements signed between the incoming government and the outgoing government to ensure a fluid and peaceful transition, not without some resistance, it was agreed that the only Armed Forces of the republic would continue being the Army as well as the Sandinista Police, in exchange for both forces being made to have a national, professional and apartisan nature.
These transition accords helped to cement in Nicaragua a new climate of peace, understanding and cooperation among the political forces which helped stability continue forward, not without some hiccups. The army and the police proceeded to be called the National Army (NA) and the National Police (NP), and their legislation, as well as the training of officers and soldiers, were directed at transforming them into national professional and apartisan instruments of defense and internal order, respectively. This has been a positive historic step.
In our history there are several examples of attempts on the part of the rulers in office to influence and even break up the Armed Forces, who receive a ample battery of every type of resource. It has been questioned, for example, the decision of the current president to pass over military law extending the term of the Commander in Chief of the Army, which objectively weakens the military institutional structure and the authority of the command itself, subjugated for its continuation to the discretion of the ruler, which makes it political. I am not going to refer to the intentions of the president. But the commitments made in the Transition Protocol should, in my opinion, be honored and maintained, and particularly that of ensuring that the armed forces of the republic do not become partisan.
It is comprehensible that it ends up being at least uncomfortable for the military command to oppose the decisions of the person who constitutionally is the Supreme Chief of the Armed Forces, but in practice that decision violated the law and affected the armed body, as it would affect it more if taking sides is permitted in times of peace, or even worse during civil conflict. For the strengthening of the army it would have been preferible if the respect for the five year [term] and the periodic replacement of the military command would have been kept.
On another plane, the institutional posture of the Army of not intervening in this conflict of a political, domestic nature is correct. And correct the position to call for a peaceful solution through dialogue. At some moment the responsibility of the Army from the point of view of intelligence and prevention is to maintain the warnings to the President about the dangers for domestic peace implied by the economic breakdown, increase in unemployment and the escalation of violence that sooner or later will culminate in an armed conflict that it would be difficult for the Army to avoid. Armies are not just for fighting wars, but principally to avoid them. The army itself, in a civil armed conflict, will always be bound to lose: exposing themselves to be accused of being partisan by the defeated side, or in the worst of cases, be dissolved by the winner and disappear. Today at this moment the Army should be faithful to peace for the republic with the mission of promoting a quick and consistent peaceful solution.
What are the political scenarios that you would see as possible paths in the immediate future to get out of the crisis?
The first, working and achieving an environment of serenity and pacification that is not difficult, to take the second step to negotiate free elections and transitional justice. What is surprising and upsetting is that the solution is simple. It requires nothing more than a dosis of patriotism, responsibility and the will to achieve it: I see it feasible to create first an environment of tranquility, with the government proceeding to demobilize the paramilitary groups and freeing all the prisoners for political motives. In accordance with this gesture, from the side of protest and resistance, call the citizenry to open a space of tranquility. With this elemental agreement that would open a consensus-based normalization, the National Dialogue would continue with two essential points: a) Legal and institutional reform that would ensure clean, fair, transparent, inclusive and observed elections; and b) Transitional justice that would ensure punishment of those responsible for human rights violations, and reparation for the affected families.
It is the least costly and safest scenario, and without a doubt the one that is helpful to the country, the FSLN and President Ortega. The first is peace, tranquility and security for all families. As a key matter and going back to the issue of what has affected us as a society, I would say that the Gordian knot here is getting back on the central path that we have abandoned: the evil that afflicts us is only cured with interior peace followed by clean, transparent, fair and inclusive elections, the only medicine within our reach to restore trust in the political system for citizens: that it be the citizens who chose in a fair contest the leadership and the path that the Nation should take.
The only losers are those few you can count on your hand that are looking to open up opportunities for power and get ahead riding in the car of repression and violence. The rest of the scenarios are the multiple variations that come from all the possible combinations of the same ingredients that are invariably going to end in a abyss: continuation of the repression, extension and diversification of the protests and internal ill-will, worsening of the economic crisis; political, financial and commercial sanctions on the part of the United States, European Community and Latin America, international isolation, fall of direct foreign investment, increasing loss of the capacity to govern, etc. So in any case there will be a way out. But a dramatic one, and with the country destroyed.
* expression comes from purges done by brownshirts in 1930´s in Germany
* phrase the PLC has used to refer to itself to distinguish itself from FSLN which has red and black.
* Translator´s note: Lester was not born when that action happened, Dec 27, 1974. It would mean that Lester would have to be at least 45 years old. This fact however does not detract from the main point that he comes from a historic Sandinista family.
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 the year 180 AD the Greek writer Lucian de Samósata in his short novel called “True History” wrote a story that captivated his followers. His story tells how Eucrates was able to secretly obtain the magic formula that a renowned Egyptian sorcerer used. The spell allowed him to give life to inanimate objects and put them at his service.
With the magic formula he made a broom go out to get water, but on concluding that task, the broom continued bringing in more water. On not being able to stop it, Eucrates, now desperate, cut it in two with an axe, only to discover that the two halves took on life, and continued their work until the house of the sorcerer was flooded.
The power of this cautionary tale drew the attention of Goethe, who in 1798 developed it in his poem Die Zauberlehrling, the sorcerer´s apprentice. The message of caution: you should not unleash forces that cannot be controlled.
Nicaraguan political history reveals that the message has not been heard, sooner or later dictatorships have always unleashed uncontrollable social and political forces. One example we find in the resignation and declarations of the ex Magistrate Rafael Solís.
The entire principal ring of power, from top officials to the last member of the social base of the party in power, are going to suffer the repercussions of Solís´ declarations. The decisión of Solís can push others to do the same. It is almost certain that now key officials will be watched. The Ortega-Murillo regime cannot control the repercussions of his desertion, nor do they have the capacity to prevent new desertions.
Cohesion and strength are basic for confronting the social and political rebellion of the self convoked from April; now Ortega has to deal with this desertion that puts him in a bind with his followers, now that distrust has come alive and will continue its work until the maintenance of the Ortega-Murillo regime becomes unsustainable.
Solís´ resignation has an immediate demoralizing effect for his social base, in addition to the legal, juridical effects that can be derived from his denouncement and criticism of the massacre, and the future behavior of the judges in the processes against political prisoners.
The resignation and denouncement of Rafael Solís was not just any act. It is a stake in the power center of the presidential couple, which helps to accelerate the implosion of the Ortega-Murillo regime. With the information from Solís, surely the blows of future sanctions will be more well aimed and directed.
The worldwide impact was immediate: The New York Times published the news, and many foreign newspapers did as well. Radio France International interviewed him, and all of them think that this is not an isolated event, new resignations are expected, and in this way the regime is going to run out of rope.
Ex magistrate Solís not only managed a coffer of secrets from all the legal and unconstitutional abuses that were done in the country, but he also was the trusted political operator of Ortega in the judicial system, and knows intimate details of power. He was a participant in and/or knew about all the most important political operations.
The adverse economic situation, the difficulties to process transition political agreements, the collapse of the power center, allowed for the reinforcement of the State of terror denounced by the IACHR, GIEI and ratified by Solís. All of which has resulted in the exhaustion of the Ortega-Murillo regime in terms of the international community
What is horrifying about what has happened in Nicaragua in the last 10 months is that all the red lines that we could imagine that existed have been crossed, be that out of an absence of principles, or political calculation or logic of dictatorial power.
What is horrifying about what is happening is that there are no longer any limits; the police and the para-police armed groups who are operating have no limits, and that is part of the strategy of terror that is trying to paralyze society.
The intent of the persecution, repression and torture has the purpose of breaking the resistance of the self convoked, with the supreme purpose of keeping power for power´s sake. The government uses also detention and criminalization as a form of repression of social protest.
The judicial branch indeed is acting in the political persecution of the self convoked, and passively in the protection of the Rule of Law and democracy. The judicial system is an important element of the dictatorship while providing complicit coverage for the repression.
The Ortega-Murillo regime represents a “new type of fascism” which is expressed in a poisonous and cynical way, like a dark tide, fed by the policy of the regime.
The problem is that the social and political rebellion of April weakened the backbone of the governance of the authoritarian regime, without generating a new form of power, and between it and the self convened citizens. The denouncement of Solís shows that the Ortega-Murillo regime is remaining within the logic of power or death.
Ms. Murillo is calling on sorcerers disguised as international evangelical pastors to come to pray in certain sites. No magical formula, no incantation of the sorcerers, no enchanter at the service of the dictatorship will be able to stop the unrelenting march of the collapse of the Ortega-Murillo regime.
An earlier version of this document was published in September. With minor changes it was inserted in the version of La Prensa on January 14, 2019. This translation includes the minor changes.
We are Building Nicaragua
“We are Building Nicaragua” Program
This document is the draft of the Program of the Social and Political Movement called “WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA” which we submit to the consideration of the readers to open a public discussion among all social sectors on the urgent tasks that we need to promote for a real democratization of Nicaragua.
PROGRAM FOR THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF NICARAGUA: GIVE BACK TO THE PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO DECIDE!
The days of struggle, started in April 2018, are forging and consolidating a strong sense of collective national identity in favor of democratization and justice, as had not occurred in our nearly two centuries of independent history around fundamental symbols and values: the blue and white flag, inextricably linked to republican democracy, public liberties, citizen participation in the State affairs, a strong sense of social equity and true solidarity.
The democratic struggle started by the youth opened the possibility of rebuilding and re-founding our nation on the bases of democracy, justice and social equity. The enjoyment and exercise of public liberties, as well as absolute respect for citizen rights, should not depend ever again on the will or discretion of any government. We all the sectors of the people (youth, students, women, workers, peasants, indigenous, etc) need to recover our popular sovereignty to re-found a new Nicaragua, creating a Social and Democratic Rule of Law on new bases, that imply eradicating forever the use of violence, repression or intimidation by those in power for the purpose of remaining in it, or limiting and blocking the exercise of these freedoms and rights.
The fundamental decisions of Nicaragua should not be made by small oligarchies, but by the broad majorities of men and women through democratic and deliberative processes with all the information on the table, where the broadest sectors can participate.
So that our society might move from the discretional and arbitrary and personalized use of power, to a social interaction more and more regulated by laws, norms and policies that are implemented in a more impartial, transparent and impersonal way possible, that is, with the absence of discrimination and punishment for some, and privileges and “awards” for others.
Currently State institutions have lost their public character by being completely subordinated to partisan control and the discretional management of the rulers. It is urgent to begin the transition toward the new Nicaragua, where national public institutions exist that fulfill their function of providing public goods and services, and that are capable of ensuring confidence, security and certainty to economic agents and all the citizenry.
Nicaragua needs a radical democratic revolution that would build national public institutions that can keep themselves relatively isolated from the pressures of economic groups and those in power, be focused on effective, professional performance and their objectives and responsibilities, establishing mechanisms that would ensure transparency and accountability, and that would make citizen control possible over the institutions that administer power.
Within the framework of this context, we a group of youth, men and women from all social strata, have agreed to launch a new political organization called “WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA”, an inclusive, horizontal, democratic and progressive political movement for the purpose of promoting structural changes for the sustainable development of Nicaragua.
WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA is a social and political movement where all us Nicaraguans find the opportunity to voice our opinions and participate to achieve our political, economic, social, cultural and environmental aspirations.
The mission of WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA is to provide each Nicaraguan the opportunity to promote and defend their rights to achieve a full, just and prosperous life.
We present, then, our proposal for a political program that we submit to the consideration of the citizens for their study, critique and improvement, because only united will we be able to accomplish the immense task of democratizing Nicaragua for the benefit of the great majorities.
16 BASIC POINTS FOR FOUNDING THE NEW NICARAGUA
Free and Sovereign Constituent National Assembly
We men and women of WE ARE BUILDING NICARAGUA, many of us had not even been born during the time of the revolution, we think that the first thing that we should do is dismantle the status quo of the political power that was established in the last period, and that has roots in the institutions created during the process of the death of the revolution of 1979.
It requires returning sovereignty and decision making capacity to the people, in other words, the citizens. This elemental principle of democracy has been systematically denied in the history of Nicaragua. It requires profoundly reorganizing the State institutions. And this can only be achieved by repealing the Constitution of 1987 and its reforms, discussing and approving a new democratic Constitution, that would minimally bring together the issues that we discuss in what follows and that would bring the Nicaraguan State into the modernity of the XXI Century.
For the will of the majority of the people to be reflected, the call for a free and sovereign National Constitutive Assembly should be preceded by a profound revolution of the electoral system, which would ensure the democratic participation of the people and eradicate the possibility of new electoral fraud.
A new electoral system
A complete reform of the electoral system is needed, approving a new Electoral Law that would do away with the bipartisan system inherited from Somocism, and that served as a cover for installing a new dynastic dictatorship. A new Party and Political Association Law should be approved, which also should have constitutional standing, that would allow for the creation of groups, associations and political parties at the municipal, provincial, regional and national levels.
The obstacles created by the constitutional reform of 2000 should be ended, that demand a minimum of 4% for a party to maintain their legal status, because it limits the right to representation of minorities. The myth of the dictatorships, that only the traditional parties should exist, should be done away with,. Democracy rests on the principle of diversity and the respect and protection of minorities.
But, above all, the monopoly of the political parties should be ended, which are the only ones who can propose candidates. A new emphasis should be placed on the fact that citizens can run as candidates regardless of whether they are party members, in any type of election, including presidential elections, prioritizing the fact that youth, who have traditionally been marginated from political activity, can have a dominant role in the destiny of the country.
The election of deputies should be by provinces or districts, doing away with the election of national deputies. The right to proportional representation of minorities should be ensured, especially of indigenous, in every type of election.
The functions exercised by the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC) should be decentralized in different institutions (identity cards, parties and associations, organization of electoral processes, etc), completely reorganized, not just with the participation of the political parties, but civil society organizations, who should play a role of oversight and control.
The new electoral system should include the partial or total renovation of the deputies of the National Assembly halfway through each presidential period. The dates for legislative elections should coincide with municipal and regional elections which should be held every two years, so that the elected officials might know that their posts will always depend on the assessment of their performance and the will of the electors.
To be a candidate for popular election they should be qualified and honest. In addition the 50/50 Law should be kept and respected that ensures the presence of women on electoral ballots which opens the doors for their participation in political decision making posts.
Finally the new electoral system should ensure the right to vote of the citizenry who, for economic or political reprisal reasons, went into exile and live outside the country.
Limits to re-election for popularly elected officials
Re-election is not a problem of principles in democracy, everything depends on the political culture and the electoral system, whether it is sufficiently democratic to respect the popular will.
Nevertheless, this is a key discussion in Nicaragua, because the emergence of the dictatorships of José Santos Zelaya (1896-1909), Anastasio Somoza and his successors (1937-1979), as well as the new dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo (2007-2018) have been related to presidential re-election.
For this reason, and taking into consideration that a good government is not improvised, presidential re-election should only be permitted for a second period, so the new election becomes a plebiscite on the first mandate. Starting with the second period, there should be an absolute prohibition of presidential re-election, establishing iron clad clauses in the new Constitution that would prevent a third presidential period.
Likewise the deputies should only be elected for two consecutive periods. This same norm should be applied to mayors and council members and the members of regional governments.
System for direct election and renovation of magistrates and of other high officials, under citizen control.
The citizens should be given back the capacity to elect and remove magistrates, as well as other high officials from other branches and institutions of the State. That vicious cycle should be ended where the executive branch proposes candidates for magistrates who end up being approved through agreements and negotiations among the deputies, who generally obey the interests of party leaders, who include them on the electoral lists, annulling the capacity of the citizens who elected them.
On establishing a percentage of votes of deputies to choose the magistrates, the problem is resolved through transactions or political pacts, turning the deputies into the principal electors, annulling the popular will. This type of indirect election makes possible the creation of political rings and castes, which are the negation of democracy.
It should be established that the holders of the executive branch, deputies, mayors, councilpersons, members of the regional governments, all popularly elected officials, are subject to the evaluation of the people through a recall referendum. In this way any popularly elected official, having finished a third of their mandate, and in the face of a petition for their removal signed by a certain number of citizens, those signers should have the capacity to call for elections in that specific case, so that it be the electors who decide if the official continues or not in their post.
Restructuring of the judicial branch
Democracy is, in the last instance, the governance of judges. These officials are the ones who decide on the freedom of people, the future of their assets and settle political conflicts. The one who controls the judicial power, controls the State and political power. That is why a profound reform and restructuring of the judicial system should be done. The magistrates, judges should be directly elected by the people, and submitted every two years, when intermediate elections are held, to the control of the citizenry.
The judicial profession should be submitted to periodic controls. Only the people through their vote can decide whether a judge continues in their post for one more period. The re-election of judges and magistrates should have a limit, no more than three periods, to open the way for the formation of new judges and magistrates.
A commission composed of recognized jurists and national and foreign academics should examine and review the curriculums of the aspirants, and they will be the candidates who would be subject to popular balloting. Political parties cannot campaign in favor of the candidates under pain of disqualification.
The Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) should decentralize their functions, so that the administrative functions are not mixed with jurisdictional ones, and with those of control and sanctioning. Deputies cannot be candidates for judges or magistrates. It is a matter of building a new judicial branch that would supervise jointly with the citizenry the functioning of public administration and democracy.
Amparo [constitutional or administrative protection order] should not be an appeal but a judgement, as happens in Latin America. A Constitutional Tribunal should be created, whose magistrates will not obey political parties, but the mandate of the citizenry.
Ongoing fight against corruption
In Nicaragua corruption is an evil embedded in all the State institutions, and it has become part of the political culture: popularly elected posts and public service have been turned into ladders for illicit enrichment. That is why the fight against corruption should be ongoing and at every level. Corruption is one of the principal causes of the increase in poverty and social inequality. It is not possible to fight poverty without fighting corruption at the same time. Indeed corruption erodes and weakens democratic institutions, annulling existing legality, promoting impunity and social chaos.
The existing laws for fighting corruption are not applied because the State institutions responsible for fighting it, like the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR), the Attorney General of the Republic and the different tribunals of justice have been victims of the concentration of power phenomenon, which centralizes the mechanisms for the election of magistrates and other high officials solely on the deputies of the National Assembly, who are elected through the lists of the political parties who exercise a monopoly on popular representation.
The anti-corruption legislation should be modernized, administrative processes should be greatly simplified, a new law of State Purchasing and one for Conflict of Interest of Public Officials should be approved, establishing online bidding, so that everyone can see what is happening with prices and technical specifications, taking into consideration citizen participation at all levels, developing to the maximum electronic governance.
Transparency should become a new fundamental right, a key factor for strengthening social confidence and a sense of participation and co-responsibility in the construction of a shared destiny. Public information should never be managed as if it were private. The people have the right to know all the affairs, no matter how complicated they may seem. The officials who violate this principle of access to public information will be submitted to severe penal sanctions.
Likewise, the obligation should be established of all officials to be accountable to the general assembly of workers of the public sector with the participation of the citizenry every three months for spending, investments or purchases made. The result of these reports should be placed on the web page of the respective institutions.
In all State institutions an assembly of public servants should be organized to create citizen control commissions responsible for overseeing the implementation of the budget, plans for purchasing and bidding, with the legal faculties to file the corresponding charges. Those who make any denouncements will not be able to be fired nor will there be any administrative reprisals against them, unless it is shown that they had no basis.
The new constitution should establish the new principle that there is no immunity for crimes related to corruption. All assets obtained through acts of corruption or money laundering are imprescriptible, it is the obligation of the State to pursue them until they are recovered, trying and punishing those who are guilty. The officials punished for acts of corruption through a final judgement will be disbarred for life from running for public posts or providing public service, as well as prohibited from being a supplier of the State or contracting with Public Administration.
Professionalization and dignity of public service
A radical democratization is required so that workers in public administration never again are hired or fired based on their party affiliation or loyalty, but rather on the basis of their capacities and competency, and so that the career of civil service be respected.
The Civil Service Law should be governed by the principle of the merits and capacities of the applicants, we should eradicate the culture of sharing posts by pacts and political arrangements or by electoral quotas. Likewise they should promote reforms so that the youth can make a career in public service in a decent way and with facilities for access.
A fair tax system
The taxes of all Nicaraguans should not be used or diverted to enrich small groups, but should form part of the sacred national patrimony. Tax collection should be based on transparency, social control and the principle that the payment of taxes should be proportional to income. In this way society will have the resources needed to cover social spending and ensure the minimum functioning of democracy and the construction of a medium and long term national development plan that is able to transcend changes in government.
Incorporating new rights in the Constitution
Respect for human rights in Nicaragua will never be limited by any government, placing arguments of “national sovereignty” above the relevancy of international treaties on this matter.
New fundamental rights should be incorporated and applied, like Gender Equity, and other specific rights of women, that should be implemented in all the State institutions and at all levels of social life.
Likewise, basic income should be established in a progressive manner for people who are living in levels of poverty. It is the only way of ending the political patronage that does so much damage to democracy, and so that the State might protect in this way those most in need.
Nicaragua should be proclaimed as a Social and Democratic Rule of Law State, governed by fundamental rights, by the principle of absolute respect and equality under the law, the control of the citizenry in the affairs of the State, and the defense of the environment.
The right to rebellion or insurrection against dictatorial or dynastic governments should be recovered, as a fundamental essential right of Nicaraguans.
Likewise, new procedural guarantees should be reformed or incorporated: the function of the Police should be to investigate crimes and send the accused to the judicial authorities in a term no longer than 24 hours. In their investigations the Police should be subordinated to the Prosecutor´s office, who should be responsible for directing the investigations and the gathering of proof. Detentions can only be done through a judicial order or when catching a crime in progress.
Jury trials should be re-established for all cases, and exceptional jurisdictions should be ended.
In addition, Nicaragua should bring itself into the XXI Century and promote the access of all children and adolescents to information technologies and the internet.
Reorganization of the Army and the Police
The role that the National Police have performed in the current civic insurrection, as a small, very centralized repressive army, forces us to re-examine the role of the police forces. The Police should play a very important role in ensuring citizen security, in a context of the advance of the drug trafficking cartels and organized crime in Central America.
To keep the National Police from being a small, mercenary army at the unconditional service of a dictatorial government, their operation should be decentralized, creating municipal police who will maintain a national coordination or command, but whose members will be recruited from within the community, who will be subject to the local authorities. The naming of the Chief of Police in each municipality, as well as their term in the post, will be done through direct election of the citizens. The monopoly of the control of the president of the republic over the National Police must end, it should be shared with the local authorities.
The National Police should have a Community Policing approach, composed of people from the community on a rotating manner, with a reduced administrative apparatus and permanent officials. More women should be incorporated into the chain of command of this Community Police.
Likewise, the role and conception of the National Army should be re-evaluated. The collective trauma that the implementation of military service had during the civil war (1982-1990) has made it possible, contradictorily, for the evolution of the National Army as an institution ever more separated from the people.
In times of peace, the Army should have a very reduced apparatus, it should be composed of citizens who provide their civil service regularly within the armed forces at certain times. Likewise, more women should be incorporated into the chain of command of the Army.
It should not only defend the national sovereignty against drug trafficking and organized crime, but also exercise a social function in the most vulnerable social sectors, protecting and defending the environment, enabling youth to join as their first job and acquire technical training. This is the only way to prevent having an Army of full time paid soldiers unconnected to the people. The Army should not have, nor its officers, businesses or companies to finance retirement systems different from those that most of the population have, or caste privileges that promote social inequality.
Due to the importance of this issue, a special plebiscite should be promoted on the reorganization of the National Army and the National Police, so that the people might democratically decide the path to follow.
Educational revolution, academic freedom, and university autonomy.
Nicaragua will never come out of poverty without being able to raise the educational level of its population.
Nicaragua is losing the only opportunity from the “demographic dividend” as dozens of thousands of youth do not have the opportunity to study and work. The dichotomy between primary education and higher education is false. Both are complementary. That is why academic freedom and university autonomy should be insisted on for training the technical staff and the professionals that the country requires.
Primary and secondary education should include a class on civic education, so that the students might learn from an early age how the State functions and what the principles of democracy are.
Within the framework of basic income, it should be ensured that all children finish their primary and secondary schooling. For that purpose 15% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be used for public education. State resources should be used to develop public education, and the businesses of private schools and universities should never be subsidized. The universities should never be submitted to political power and party control.
The teaching profession and scientific research should be encouraged and protected by the State.
Social innovation and entrepreneurship should be encouraged by the State to expand the labor prospects of the recently graduated youth from the Universities so that they can be inserted into the work world. Likewise, the Youth First Job Law should be approved where the universities and companies will coordinate to provide facilities of access to work to recently graduated youth, and so that the relationship between professional majors and market demand might be improved.
The role of the State in the economy
The principal of the social function of property should be rigorously ensured. The State must protect and promote small and medium ,urban and rural producers.
Given the backwardness of the productive forces in Nicaragua, the State should play the role of promoting economic development, the only way of doing away with migration and poverty. Within a social market economy framework, the principal public services (water, health care, education, energy and communications) should be in the hands of the State. The acceptance of mixed enterprises in these areas, and the percentages of private, national or foreign participation, will depend on the needs of each concrete case.
A State bank should exist that would promote financing, at fair interest rates, to the benefit of the peasantry, artisans and small urban and rural producers. To prevent political patronage and corruption that can lead to their bankruptcy, the workers and clients of the state bank should be allowed to form a verification and control commission of the loans, focused on citizen participation.
The profits of the private banks should be regulated, through a policy of fair interest rates, that do not exploit the population.
National or foreign private investment should respect the universal labor rights and gains of the workers. The State should protect with special care worker-owner relationships.
Agrarian reform and the defense of the environment
The agrarian reform that was promoted under the revolution in the 1979-1990 period was reversed in later decades. A process of land concentration functioned and now we have the existence of new large landowners. This process was possible because the peasantry did not have financial and technical assistance that would allow it to develop agriculture or ranching. Not only should the right of the peasantry to land be ensured, but also the right of peasant women to be owners of land. Likewise, a state bank is needed whose principal function would be to develop the peasant economy. The State should ensure a policy of fair prices for peasant products.
The agricultural production of Nicaragua in large measure rests on small and medium producers. It is necessary that these sectors grow through increase in yields and productivity, more than by the expansion of the agricultural frontier, which has degraded hydrological basins, produced sedimentation and the disappearance of water sources, and destroyed biodiversity.
Protected areas should be expanded, like Bosawás and Indio Maíz, and other new ones created. Protecting the national capital of the country should be a priority – water, soils, forests and biodiversity – the State should ensure that they be used in a sustainable manner.
The agrarian reform should have an ecological approach, one of defense of the land, forests, water and the environment. Zones apt for agriculture should be defined, planting should not be done on hills or inclines, what lands are apt for ranching should be pinpointed. Extensive ranching should be eliminated, promoting the creation of modern farms with breeds of cattle that allow production to increase without the need to destroy forests. Peasant or indigenous communities should be the protectors of the forests. A process of reforestation should be promoted and the protection of natural reserves for the purpose of caring for the water of rivers and lakes.
For true autonomy in the Caribbean Coast
Raising the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast to constitutional status in 1995 implied great progress, but the real effects of the Autonomy Statute of the Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are more formal than real. The principal decisions on the economic resources of the Caribbean Coast, and investment in them, in reality are not up to the Regional Councils, nor the indigenous communities, but the central government, which continues limiting the right to autonomy of the native population.
Not only should the customs, language and culture be preserved, but also the communal forms of organization of the indigenous population, which should administer and protect the natural resources.
Even though it is true that as a result of the struggle of the indigenous communities progress has been made in the titling of communal lands, as long as there is no resettlement of non indigenous on their land, the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast will be a fiction.
Consolidation of municipal autonomy
Municipal autonomy has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1987, but in reality the municipalities are subordinated to the central government, in spite of the existence of the Municipal Law. The role of the State in society should be realized through the municipalities. The national budget should be invested in the municipalities. The role of the central government should be reduced, and the functions decentralized in the municipalities. The structure of the State should rest on the municipalities, who should control education, the supply of potable water, public services, services of police, sewage and the defense of the environment.
The democratization of Nicaragua passes through transferring more national power and resources to the municipal governments.
Reconstructing the Central American nation
In the XXI century the countries of Central America are intimately linked by their economic bases, but not on the level of state superstructure. What happens in some of the countries of Central America has repercussions on the rest. SICA [Spanish acronym for the Central American Integration System] has played a great role as a project for the reunification of the national economies, but it has not achieved the goal. The establishment of PARLACEN was a great step forward on the political plane, but it has very limited functions. We should make more progress. The deputies to PARLACEN should be the same deputies of the national legislative organs, so that there is no separation and ignorance about the regional reality.
We should proceed until achieving the call for a Central American Constituent Assembly that would allow for the creation of a Central American federation or confederacy.