Raúl Zibechi is an Uruguayan activist-journalist and researcher of social movements in Latin America. His reputation – well known and respected especially by the left- makes this article on the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution so significant.
40 Years of the Sandinista Revolution: Debating is Important
by Raúl Zibechi August 3, 2019 in the online magazine Rebelión
Those who believe that criticism and self criticism are useless, or dangerous, can read the speeches and interventions of Lenin after 1917 to his colleagues in the congresses and plenaries of the party and the soviets. You will observe the rigor of his analyses, merciless with mistakes and deviations, uncompromising with his closest comrades.
He was always like that, but once taking power he improved in density and precision, always exploring new issues. The bureaucracy and traps that his colleagues would make to shirk the problems that they created, or were not capable of solving, exasperated him. All revolutionaries, at all times, are implacable in the field where they militate, because they risk their lives and disparage titles.
When the 40th anniversary of the triumph of the Sandinista revolution happened, deep analyses of the hegemonic left were not heard, in spite of the fact that the process led by Daniel Ortega foundered in corruption and repression, leaving in its wake people murdered, tortured, imprisoned and in exile. A noted academic said, days before, that the massacre of April showed exemplary restraint (…) an example of nerve and a capacity for a constructive, generous and patriotic response.
The most serious analyses these days come from ex combatants who at different moments have abandoned the FSLN. Mónica Baltodano, Dora María Téllez, Luis Carrión, Henry Ruíz and Óscar René Vargas, among the most well known. For reasons of space I will focus on only two of them.
Baltodano considers the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo a dictatorship, in an article published in Brecha. She states that the great majority of the “commandantes of the revolution, guerrillas, popular combatants and common people who massively joined the final offensive disavow Orteguism, its atrocities and the repression unleashed, which includes – according to the conclusions of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights – crimes against humanity.”
She denounces the military-police repression unleashed by Ortega against students and peasants, which she does not hesitate to describe as a massacre, perpetrated starting with the popular mobilizations of April 2018 against the cuts in the pension system.
Allied with bankers, big business and the United States, starting in 2007, according to the ex commandante, Ortega turned into a crusader for capitalism and the free market, for concessions to multinationals, brutal extractivism, the exploitation of natural resources and the privatization of all public wealth. She is outraged that some leftist parties and intellectuals would support the regime, even after the massacre that left hundreds of dead, thousands of wounded and mutilated, as well as more than 70,000 political refugees.
Carrión focuses on self criticism, but after recognizing that he was part of what he is denouncing, in an extensive article in the magazine Envio. He dwells on the achievements of the revolution in health and education, the empowerment of popular sectors and the agrarian reform. The criticism begins with the fact that the Sandinistas assumed absolute power, that led them even to place society and the social movements under their control, following the logic of the single political party.
The conversion of the social organizations into the transmission belt of the leadership of the FSLN, in the worst Stalinist tradition, went hand in hand with the accusation of the contras (counterrevolutionaries) who did not fall into line with the decisions from above. Plurality was not accepted on any terrain, not even in organizations of women, peasants or urban populations. Carrión recognizes that everything had to be painted red and black.
With the passage of time, we can understand the policy toward the Mískitos of the Caribbean Coast, on whom they tried to impose Sandinista logic, which they took to be a new colonization. It was an issue of the traditional mistakes of a State centered policy, in spite of the fact that the Sandinistas themselves tried to correct them with the declaration of autonomy, which he considers a virtue of the revolutionary government.
The treatment that the peasantry received was different, which Carrión assesses as key for the derailment of the revolution. He maintains that the war between the Sandinistas and the contras, supported by the United States, would not have become generalized if a massive uprising against the revolution had not been produced by peasants from the center of the country, from north to south.
In this respect, he thinks that there was abuse with the confiscation of lands that initially affected only the Somocistas, but later was applied to people who were not supporting the revolution. An additional problem was that the confiscations “were carried out by officials and political leaders who came from the cities with an ideological vision of the countryside, without knowing the identity of peasant society.”
Sandinism reproduced the colonial/patriarchal attitude of leftist parties toward the peasants and original peoples. According to Carrión, “an incapacity to relate to the peasantry, who spoke a different language, different from the one that those who arrived in the countryside representing the revolution.”
Lastly, the commandantes addressed the problem of a revolutionary power that reproduced the already existing political cultures in pre-revolutionary societies. Thus like Stalin (and the entire Bolshevik party) reproduced the legacy of the Zarist power, Ortega inserted himself into the authoritarian tradition of Nicaragua, where the Somoza dictatorship lasted for a half century and was preceded by other similar dictatorships.
How can one not reproduce and [instead] transform hegemonic political cultures? This is the nucleus of the debate that we owe one another and that, for now, only the women´s movement and the original people´s movement are beginning to address.
(The approach of the article is reminiscent of the central theme of the historical novel “The man who loved dogs” written in 2009 by Leonardo Padura, who paints an intricate and detailed picture of the type of mindset that ends up betraying revolutionary idealism. The novel is experiencing renewed interest in Nicaragua today).
The current FSLN administration promotes itself as a pro-poor government, and rallies its supporters with the threat that the current opposition would not be as beneficial to the poor as the FSLN is. Yet this recent post by a key analyst in exile examines the economic policies that have resulted in ever increasing inequalities in Nicaraguan society after 11 years of FSLN rule. He then goes on to address the current political struggle.
An interesting aside is to note the similarities just between the economic policies as such applied here with the economic policies implemented in the US since the 1980s.
The Strategy of Termites
By Oscar René Vargas, July 30, 2019 published by Las Mesa Redonda, online magazine
The waves of the sea grow gradually, they can be impressive in size, reach a maximum and then they fade away. One wave follows the next and so on. Social and political waves do not have the same regularity as those of the ocean. But in the present and the foreseeable future it is probable that we might have new social and political waves; lived social experiences do not die, they revive.
In spite of being a country with a lot of natural wealth (minerals, water resources, forests, an extensive coastline on both oceans and enough agricultural land to feed its inhabitants), more than 50% of the population is found in conditions of poverty, the problem is that the distribution of wealth is very unequal.
Wealth combines physical assets (buildings, cars, home goods and the other articles that individuals possess), as well as financial assets (bank deposits and financial investments), distributed in an unequal way.
Nicaragua is a society where inequity predominates, with “unfocused” social spending that does not promote equity. The regressivity is the product of fiscal transfers in favor of large capital. Taxes are reduced and the capacity of large capital to evade them is increased.
In Nicaragua the tax system is inefficient, generates a low level of collection – which limits social investment, maintains many subsidies to capital, and to sum it up, is unfair.
In recent decades (1990-2019) the banking and financial sectors established their control over the economy. Transactions and investments were made and are made more and more to the image and likeness of the circulation of financial capital.
The cycle of productive capital was more and more subordinated to the dictates of the interests of the banking sector. And the priorities of macroeconomic policy became a simple reflection of the needs of the banks and other agencies of the financial sector.
Among the measures that constitute the basis for the economic model adopted by the regime is the indiscriminate promotion of large investment, which occupies a privileged place. Reality does its best to debunk the idea that any investment promotes growth and the distribution of wealth.
The regime promotes, authorizes and supports agroindustrial, mining, logging or housing projects without taking into account the negative impact that they can have on the equilibrium of ecosystems, destruction of forests, water pollution, aquifer recharge areas, and the undesirable consequences derived from altering things.
Insecurity, corruption and the repression of the regime are blocking productive investment, which has a negative repercussion on social investment or spending.
Social spending or investment is slanted against the population with less resources, and principally benefits the wealthiest 10% of the population, who need it the least.
Average capital yield in recent years has been higher than the increase in the minimum salary and the median nominal wage per worker. That is why we have growing inequality in income distribution.
There is profound inequity in asset ownership that has a negative impact on income distribution. More wealth implies more income and viceversa, principally among those whose receipts come from income from property.
The Somoza and Ortega-Murillo dictatorships were and are exclusive, and their policies have created strong authoritarian states that, in addition, have interest in keeping the population from knowing one another, communicating with one another, and mixing with one another, and on the contrary, do everything possible to turn their neighbor into a potential enemy.
To organize those who authoritarian society and the dominant ideology do everything possible to keep as isolated individuals opposed to their peers, it is important to start from what is local, where people know one another well and interact, and where they have more security and trust.
The governing caste is systematically destroying the economy of the country; it is wiping out the cream of the population and leading us toward a catastrophe.
The regime promotes the political opportunism of the traditional politicians, which consists in passive adaptation to the regime and the parasitical nomenclature.
It is clear that brutal social justices remain in the country, along with poverty, overabundance, unending increase in inequalities, the independence of institutions is ended, the lives of “those below” did not improve, sectors of the middle class were impoverished, and it is evident that the country exists immersed in a corrupt sea.
The Ortega-Murillo regime did not transform the State, it went backwards in terms of human rights, did not progress in transforming the production model, there is an absence of fiscal transparency, many decisions are concentrated in few hands, the concentration of wealth was promoted, and for this reason it is not possible to provide continuity to the current model, a change in direction is needed.
The democratic struggle against the dictatorship is a labyrinth and complex fight. It is important to begin from the cracks in the Ortega-Murillo regime, widen them, plant seeds in them, directly apply solutions to the small and large difficulties that arise in the fight against the dictatorship.
At this point, the most reliable gamble of the regime aims at wanting to negotiate directly and only with the United States. For now it is only a gamble, a game of representiveness. There is an asymmetry between desire and reality.
The crux of the democratic struggle consists in how to pave the way to defeating the dictatorship, how to find a way that would make the triumph of the social movements easier, how to mobilize the masses at each specific moment that would allow for the end of the regime. Finding the bridge that would allow the ebb tide to move to the second social wave; that is the task.
It cannot be forgotten that one of the keys to politics resides in knowing how to correctly manage different moments. The most important part of a negotiation is listening to what is not said; to do so, an a prior analysis and strategy are needed.
As known, the strategy of termites is based on their collective and coordinated action, which allows them to reach the point of eating up the structure of a house until making it uninhabitable or causing its collapse.
The challenge of the social movements is to act like termites, collective and coordinated action, to defeat the dictatorship.
This is an account of the incident among Nicaraguan exiles in a meeting on July 28, 2019 in Costa Rica from the viewpoint of one of the panelists, Félix Maradiaga, whose NGO was also intervened and closed down by the Nicaraguan government in Dec 2018.
The Complaint of the Exiles: National Strike and More Representation
By Félix Maradiaga, July 29, 2019 published in Confidencial
A description behind the “bitter episode” of the encounter among Nicaraguan exiles and members of the Civic Alliance and the National Unity in Costa Rica.
This Sunday the organization Hagamos Democracia (as a member of the Blue and White National Unity) organized a conversation with people in exile in Costa Rica and members of the Civic Alliance and the National Unity.
I was invited to the panel composed by several invitees, among whom were Violeta Granera, Edwin Carcache, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Medardo Mairena, Mónica López, Ana Quirós, Max Jerez, José Pallais, Mario Arana and Luciano García (I hope I did not forget anyone). In what follows I lay out in summary fashion the evolution of this activity, which was pretty complicated:
At the beginning of the meeting, a group of exiles entered, very upset because they had not been invited. They demanded to be present at the same time that they said that they did not feel represented by the Alliance.
Luciano García, president of Hagamos Democracia, trying to accommodate, explained to them that he apologized, but the invitation was limited because the capacity of the hall was limited to 120 people. After a heated discussion, that I am sure you have seen in the social networks, Luciano spoke with the manager of the place so that they would accept going beyond the original capacity of the room.
Thus it was that the activity began, through a long session of questions and answers. In total more than 300 people remained in the room.
The questions and strong complaints on the part of a group of attendees revolved around the following issues:
Demand for a national strike and plan for civil disobedience
Emergency plan to meet the need for food, health care and jobs for the exiles.
A plan for the safe return of those in exile.
The establishment of a formal and democratically elected representation of the exiles in Costa Rica. Several attendees said that they did not feel represented.
More unity among the opposition
Representation of other sectors on the negotiating table (for example, peasants and mothers of victims).
Primary elections for choosing candidates
Participatory preparation of a nation plan, etc.
(I am sure that I have forgotten some issues).
It is clear that the community of exiles in Costa Rica is very upset and have enormous needs that have not been met. I want to be the first to admit that we have not been able to provide an adequate response to the brothers and sisters in exile. That is why I understand the tone of anger and complaint on the part of a good part of the attendees. Other incidents occurred, however, of physical violence among the exiles, that indicate to us that we still must work to build a culture of civility and democracy.
For nearly three hours an effort was made to respond with transparency. Nevertheless, the meeting ended abruptly when two small groups of attendees began to argue among themselves over internal differences that I did not understand well. The discussion ended in an regrettable way, when some people from the audience came to blows against one another. The situation did not lead to anything more, but it left behind a very bitter taste.
I feel sad at seeing the violence among the exiles themselves. I understand the level of tension that is experienced in Costa Rica, but nothing justifies the use of fists when we want to build a nation in freedom.
In spite of this bitter episode, I reiterate the commitment to continue making the greatest human effort from my small trenches to achieve a quick departure of the dictatorship, who is the true adversary. We are not going to rest until we see a free Nicaragua.
This is an important current assessment given the background of the author, his intimate knowledge of Daniel Ortega, and touches on a number of important and sensitive topics: the role of the military, US and big business in the current crisis.
Homegrown fascism is what Nicaragua has
Interview of Julio López Campos by Julián Navarrete
In the Sunday supplement “Domingo”, July 7, 2019
Julio López Campos never imagined that the boy he met more than 50 years ago as a student leader would be responsible for a massacre in Nicaragua. In this interview it is the first time that he will call him by his full name: Daniel Ortega, because forever he has simply been “Daniel”, that untiring student leader who went from neighborhood to neighborhood, and who had so much trust in him that he did not need intermediaries to talk to him, and many times he welcomed him into his home after his speeches on July 19th, the day on which is celebrated the triumph of the Popular Sandinista Revolution in the country.
Along with Daniel Ortega, López Campos was the person responsible for the international policies of the Sandinista Front. Even during the internal division of the party at the beginning of the nineties, he led the movement that made Daniel Ortega secretary of the party. He had a lot of differences with him that led him to break relations in the year 2000, based on the pact that the current president of Nicaragua made with ex president Arnoldo Alemán, the strongman of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC).
“But after he became a criminal, they have no name for me”, says López Campos in this interview, where based on his knowledge of Ortega he analyzes the future political scenarios for the country.
How can we define the regime in Nicaragua?
In previous years we used to debate whether this was an authoritarian regime or a dictatorship. The alliance between Daniel Ortega and big capital made it difficult for the big business owners to accept that this regime was a dictatorship. They even found a very charming formula to describe it: “responsible populism.” Nevertheless that discussion ended with the events of April. Then everyone began to say unanimously that we are facing a dictatorship.
Do you believe that it is a dictatorship?
I want to go a little bit further. Because with the passage of time and seeing things in our country, it is essential to confirm that we are facing a version of homegrown fascism. I am completely convinced and can demonstrate it.
We have all the traces of fascism, except for one element: the backing of big capital, and even that is yet to be seen. Outside of that factor, you have all the elements of political theory to describe it as fascist.
How can this be explained?
Never in the history of Nicaragua have two people (Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega) controlled and made decisions about the entire apparatus of the State of Nicaragua. This is not an authoritarian regime. A new phenomenon has developed here in recent years: a small group has appropriated the rights of the entire society. Here there is no possibility that the workers might organize in an independent manner, nor on their own account, that they might demand salary increases, there are no strikes, no freedom of expression. Here the possibilities for independent media have been confiscated. Here no candidate can criticize the regime because they will be taken prisoner. We are in a regime of ongoing terror. There is no judicial mandate, no time frame for a house search, to harrass you.
Are you saying that this transformation has developed over recent years?
The crisis was what removed the veil and allowed us to see the nature of the regime in a transparent way. For example, many of us had differences of an economic and political nature with Ortega. But when the mass murders began, when the regime of terror began, because here it is not only the Police, here there is a very powerful paramilitary apparatus that is at play around intelligence work, creating panic among the people. These are the forces that contribute to the abductions, and serve as witnesses in the political trials. In other words, there is a terror apparatus here that can only be described as fascist.
Last year, during the harshest part of the crisis, you said that Daniel Ortega felt comfortable. Did he prevail in the end?
My statement seemed very harsh to some. But the truth is that Daniel Ortega showed that he was in his element, and later events confirmed what I said at that time. What I mean to say is that we have become familiar with the development, the expansion of this regime even taking it to fascism. And that cannot be resolved at a negotiating table.
And how will it be resolved?
This is a problem that the Nicaraguan nation has to resolve, and there is only one way: defeating it, overthrowing it, or by the insubordination of the people, as it was on the point of doing last year, or through the ballot box, but it has to be overthrown and destroyed.
How effective can the 75 day resolution be, that the Organization of American States (OAS) set for the government to negotiate?
These points are important. Not so much because they come from the OAS, but because they strengthen the position of the Civic Alliance. The issue is that there were already two accords that they had achieved: complete liberation of prisoners and the recovery of freedoms. And the Alliance got up from the table until these two agreements were fulfilled. So the Alliance would have to begin its strategy for negotiating from there.
Do you think Daniel Ortega has made concessions during these months?
Ortega was left no other alternative than to take the steps that he did. And the truth that it was a victory for the people of Nicaragua to have seen these compatriots leave the jails. That is a partial victory, because Daniel had to give in. This shows us that it is possible that things can be obtained from the dictator by way of strength. Because you have to be honest, those who had the highest profile of resistance to the fascist regime were the political prisoners. They behaved as heroes in the jails, as great patriots. This resistance we have still not finished assessing, but it was the resistance in the jails that made all of us outside ashamed if we were not doing something for them to be released. So that is a victory of the heroism of the prisoners. Notice that none of the prisoners has been coopted by the dictatorship, all of them left jail with a patriotic strength, one of surprising challenge and struggle.
Can this peaceful revolution that emerged in April overthrow a dictatorship?
I believe that in the campaigns of April we were just steps away. We only needed a slogan, which I am not going to say today, to achieve that objective.
People are going to ask…
Really there was hesitation in that circumstance to advance in the correct direction. But there is certainly no doubt that Nicaraguans conserve the political awareness of the need to change things. They are only waiting for the moment to unleash it. And I can enumerate tons of examples where the strength of the opposition is much stronger than that of the Sandinista Front. What happens is that the regime of terror does not allow that political awareness to be exteriorized. That is why it is vital that the Civic Alliance does not sit down to negotiate if democratic liberties have not be recovered. Because are you going to negotiate with empty streets? The only thing you are going to do is expose yourself.
How do you evaluate the behavior of big business?
They completely showed us that democracy is something dispensable. That what is really important is economic stability, capital accumulation and profits. Now they know that Ortega will not be the same factor for stability. There is the uncertainty. Next to the interest of big business was the interests of the US government. It worked for US policy, and that is why 11 years went by in absolute tranquility because of the alliance with the business people and the willingness of Washington. So both are concerned about stability. They could negotiate bilaterally with Ortega. That is why we Nicaraguans need to pay attention, because there can be no thing more terrible and more dramatic than they impose stability on us over the blood and sacrifice of so many Nicaraguans.
Do you think there could be a new negotiation of the business people with Ortega?
I think that big capital is attracted to stability. Because they can only exist if they think about their own interests, and that is a threat, a vulnerability of the process in which we find ourselves. That is why they say in the streets “only the people will save the people”. Because there is awareness about this risk, because they did it for 11 years.
You recently wrote an article about the behavior of the Army in this context, but a year ago you told La Prensa that you were giving them “a vote of confidence”. What role should this institution currently play?
For years I have said that the Army is a condition for peace in Nicaragua. Now I am not so sure. With complete responsibility we should ask ourselves whether under the administration of General Avilés that apartisan army that had been built since the nineties was buried. I want to bring attention to this delicate situation. The other thing is when the outcome of the crisis it talked about, the Army is almost not mentioned. I think that you would have to be naïve to think that there could be a conclusion to the crisis without the participation of the Army, either on the side of the people, or on the side of the regime. And it is important to be building bridges so that at the right time, with the appropriate resources and means, the Army might act for the people.
That moment has not arrived?
Not yet I think. But it will have to come…
In the worst of the crisis, many people requested the operation of the Army to disarm the paramilitaries. Why would it have to act now that there is relative tranquility?
What I have no doubt about is that there are others who are working on the Army, from inside and outside the country. That is why popular sectors have to think seriously about looking how to build bridges to the Army as well. There is no way to resolve a crisis of this magnitude without the military factor. There is no way.
Are you proposing a military coup?
I do not know what the circumstances will be that might take place…
You worked very closely with Daniel Ortega. How was your relationship?
I was responsible for the international policy, and as you could imagine, I was with Daniel on all his trips. But since we had also known one another as boys, obviously we knew one another well. In political terms we had an absolutely close relationship. It was known that many times after the July 19th speech, Daniel came to our house many times. But we broke with him when he made the pact with Alemán.
Did you imagine that Daniel Ortega would unleash this repression?
Never. That is why I tell you, I had differences that led to a political rupture. But that was one thing, and another thing is what happened…Well, to help you understand, this is the first interview that I am not talking about “Daniel” but “Daniel Ortega”. Because for me it is difficult to say his full name. For me he was “Daniel”, but since he turned into a criminal, I cannot call him that. Because in addition I saw the repression. For me it is unacceptable. He does not have God´s forgiveness.
Ortega says that a coup attempt against him occurred. Is his reaction not justified from that point of view?
No there is none, there is no possible justification. For my work in the revolution I went to Cuba numerous times, and I had nearly a relationship of friendship with Fidel Castro. I can tell you that in Havana once a complicated situation of insubordination occurred in several neighborhoods, with reason because the shortages there are diabolical. Do you know what Fidel Castro did? He went to that place, stopped three blocks before and told his bodyguards to stay behind. He went ahead alone just with two of them, disarmed. It was at night and he went to confront the people. He spent hours there talking with the people, but he really came through. They could have killed him, and in the end he resolved it. So in one written piece I said to him, “Daniel, Fidel Castro taught you how to deal with such situations. You have no justification for ordering people to be killed.” Sharpshooters were used with the idea that killing 10 or 11 would stop this thing. That is why they were used. And obviously La Chayo (popular nickname for Rosario Murillo) was involved in this. Another person that I do not mention, I never mention her.
Did you not have a relationship with her?
No, because she had no power. She was simply the wife of Daniel. In the trips we did have to be traveling together in the same plane, but I never related to her very much. In addition at that time she had a very strange way of dressing that made me uncomfortable. And luckily I made a distinction between personal issues and political ones. In other words, my closeness with Daniel Ortega was political. I had access to him at any place.
At that time she had no power. Do you think that now she functions in a combination with Ortega?
That is how it is. Her strength began with two factors: the weakening of the leadership of the Front, and the accusation of rape of Zoilamerica against Ortega. She openly took the side of Daniel, and it was then that she grabbed power. At the same time Daniel was weakened in his leadership. For me Daniel Ortega was admirable, because that guy had no rest, neither Saturday nor Sunday. He was everywhere, meeting with people. Everyday, everyday. But now you know that Daniel has not gone anywhere for some 15 years. So, who does this work now, it seems to me that la Chayo grabbed more space, more power.
Julio López Campos is 72 years old and is from Managua. He is married to the ex-commandante Mónica Baltodano and is the father of the activist Mónica López Baltodano. He was a boy from a poor family. His mother was a “washerwoman with 10 children.”
He was a leader in the Miguel Ramírez Goyena school at the same time that Daniel Ortega was a leader in the Maestro Gabriel school. They have known one another since that time.
He studied Political Science and International Relations in Switzerland.
During the insurrection he did the work of preparing the masses in the Pueblo Unido movement. He prepared people from block to block in the neighborhoods. So he knew who was a Sandinista or a Somocista; how many doctors, medical posts, nurses and medicines there were, as well as what objects could be used to make barricades for the insurrection.
He was the Secretary for Political Education and Propaganda for the first year of the revolution. Tomás Borge told him he was responsible for the slogan, “National Directorate, give us orders”.
He received the Carlos Fonseca Award in the 1980s. He was never expelled from the Sandinista Front.
Monimbó, Masaya has always been a Sandinista stronghold, so it was somewhat surprising when it was one of the neighborhoods that most strongly protested the government´s brutal response to the protests in April 2018. This interview recounts the experience of one of the recently released political prisoners from that neighborhood. While the specific details of his confinement differ, the general treatment described mirrors the stories of other recently released prisoners.
Professor Gabriel Putoy: “Commissioner Avellán hit me in the forehead with an AK 47”
Published in Artículo 66, online magazine, July 2, 2019
After torturing him and convicting him, the regime proposed that he be reconciled, promising to give him back his job and pay him his entire salary.
Gabriel Leónidas Putoy Cano, 41 years of age, is a Mathematics professor, from the indigenous neighborhood of Monimbó, Masaya, who was abducted for eight months and 25 days in the dungeons of the Jorge Navarro penitentiary system, known as “La Modelo” in Tipitapa, after he was captured on September 15, 2018, accused by the dictatorship of the crimes of aggravated theft, simple kidnapping, minor injuries, torture and interference with public services.
Putoy was sentenced to 47 years and eight months in jail, after the justice of the regime found him guilty, and put him on the list of “terrorists” and enemies of the government of Daniel Ortega. Nevertheless, on June 10th, he was freed under the new Amnesty Law.
Purgatory at the hands of the dictator
Professor Putoy was abducted by Orteguista anti-riot police and paramilitaries on Saturday, September 15 of last year, when he had taken refuge in a safe house in the San Fernando neighborhood in the city of flowers [Masaya]. “I knew that they were out looking for me, but days before I had gone to my home to leave a cake for my son, because he had a birthday, I suppose that they followed me, then within two days the police and paramilitaries came to the house where I was and captured me,” narrated Putoy.
Like an inferno and purgatory, is how Professor Putoy describes his capture and the months that he was abducted, where he denounced that he was subjected to torture and taunts on the part of the Orteguista agents, who were commanded by the Commissioner and “beloved native son of Masaya”, Ramón Avellán.
“They captured me at noon, then they took me to the police station in Masaya, there they began to kick me, they beat my entire body, Commissioner Ramón Avellán said to me, “Uh-huh son of a bitch, do you think that this has ended? This has not ended yet, son of a bitch, it has barely begun, and the worst of who you are, son of a bitch professor, don´t you realize what you are teaching your students?” Then he began to kick me and he asked an officer to lend him this weapon, and I was just praying to God, I was saying that if it was my time to die, that let it be soon, all of sudden I felt a hard blow to the forehead, Commissioner Avellán had hit me with an AK 47”, the very shaken, now ex-political prisoner said.
According to Gabriel Putoy the torture by the repressive agents of the regime continued, who kept him naked, from the time of his capture until they transferred him to the old Office of Judicial Support, known as “El Chipote” in Managua.
“When they took me out of the office where they tortured me, and officer said that I should take off my clothes, but I couldn´t do it, because in addition to being badly beaten, I was handcuffed, so a policemen ripped off my clothes and I was left naked, then they transferred me in a white car, the driver diverted the vehicle through Tipitapa and the officials were kicking me, the driver from time to time was punching me in the face.”
“They took me to a desolate place, they put a hood on me and they began to kick me; for awhile they quit beating me and I was no longer hearing anything, then I head someone say, “Don´t bring him here, because I have two already, another one was saying: “Tell the boss”, then a man came up to me and told me, “you saved yourself, you son of a bitch, because you are going to El Chipote.” I got to El Chipote at seven pm and the inferno continued there, they beat me and asked me about weapons and that I tell them who was financing me, but I did not know anything, so they were worse than the torture,” said Putoy.
They proposed that he reconcile himself with the dictatorship.
After being tortured, convicted and his human rights abused, Professor Putoy revealed that three days before being freed, the Director of the “La Modelo” penitentiary system, Julio Orozco, proposed to him that he reconcile himself with the regime of Daniel Ortega.
“On Friday June 7, the director of La Modelo, Julio Orozco, came to the cell where I was and said to me, “Reconcile yourself with the government, everything will be returned to you, if you are fighting for your salary, well everything will be given back to you, even the months that you were here they are going to pay you for, we only want you to reconcile yourself with the Comandante, because if you don´t, you are going to rot in jail. But I said to him that no, because I knew that with the help of God I was going to get out, because in addition, it was not easy all that I experienced, and the last thing that they did to me, after the death of Eddy Montes, that they nearly killed me, and now they wanted to buy me off, never”.
He has not received his severance pay
After nearly of month of having gotten out of the dungeons of the dictatorship, the Mathematics teacher has not received his severance pay as a teacher. He worked for the Ministry of Education (MINED) for 19 years.
“Last August (a month before his abduction) I went to the school where I was working in Masaya and they told me that my salary was withheld, that I had to go to the Ministry of Education. In the Ministry, the provincial delegate, Soraya Amador, told me that I had to make a phone call, but I told her that she was not fooling me, because the call that I was going to make was to the Police, so she ordered them to close the door to the office so I could not leave, but I was able to get out in a hurry. Today I continue to demand the 53,222 córdobas of my severance pay which by law I have the right to, because it is the fruit of my work, “ concluded Putoy.
Professor Gabriel Putoy is one of dozens of political prisoners in Nicaragua who continue demanding that the dictatorship respect their rights and stop the harassment and repression.
By any reckoning, any resolution to the current crisis will still leave a very polarized society. In fact current government pronouncements fuel the polarization by continuing to refer to the opposition as coup supporters, many of whom were actually FSLN members shocked at the willingness of the government to kill their own people.
But another reason for the polarization – and one of the key arguments the government makes to garner support – is that it has implemented, and continues to implement, policies that benefit the poor majorities, i.e. building public parks, investing in health care infrastructure, rural roads, providing subsidies for production, etc. Any glimpse at the official website el 19 Digital provides daily updated lists of examples. The unspoken but obvious question the government poses to the population is whether another government would implement such policies.
This article stresses how important it is that any future government address this key issue. The position of the opposition is that the current “pro-poor” policies of this government are forms of political patronage, financed with money siphoned from the Venezuela oil deal that Ortega used to enrich his family, and has also used to buy popular support. Therefore some of them argue that such policies should be terminated by any responsible future government, because in fact they are unsustainable. While this may seem a logical argument, if the end result is that the poor feel abandoned again, it will only feed the polarization.
The opposition now legitimately asks the question where the government is getting the money to finance all the police and paramilitary activity. But if a future government is not able to find the resources to respond to the social inequality, it will be asked a similar question about their own increased spending on “security”. Because if history is a gauge, what is saved by cutting social spending, ends up getting spent on social control.
By Oscar René Vargas, published in electronic newsletter Artículo 66
The social inequality that prevails in Nicaragua has reached such levels that it conspires against social harmony, the environment, the security and development of the country.
The social inequality is also violence on the part of the higher social strata toward those “below”, and every day moves us as a country away from the fruits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Important changes have only happened in the spheres of those above, the lives of those below continues not to be of interest the powerful.
This growing inequality is not sustainable, and the way to attack it, the master key, is: employment, decent, well paid, productive work with rights and social protections.
The phenomenon of child labor has its origins in the inequality, poverty and extreme poverty that leads families to send their youngest members out to work, as well as the different forms of domestic violence that force minors to earn their own living.
The discrepancy between the volume of services provided and the meager health results have several explanations of a social, economic and political order, but the deficient and disfunctional public [health] system has a very direct influence with direct repercussions on the most vulnerable sectors.
Also undeniable are the different forms of corruption that have grown like a cancer with multiple metastases in all the health sector to the detriment of the poor.
We are immersed in a mind-boggling and monumental corruption of the Ortega-Murillo government that has lost even the smallest trace of honesty in the so called mafia of power.
All of this are effective obstacles to health care services, and get translated into social inequities and inequalities.
The social inequality must be the future of the country agenda from here to 2030. It is where we should go because the dominant, authoritarian and despotic style of development is not sustainable.
Equality has to be in the center of the future economic policy of a progressive government, because what has increased is the disparity, the inequality between the one who has the most and the one who has the least; the inequality of income, distribution of wealth, opportunities and access to public goods.
In the future the logic of zero corruption has to be implemented, zero cronyism, zero nepotism; eliminate all that blight of the national political culture.
To effectively fight against inequality it is important to close off the tax evasion of big capital and take the case to a national debate.
The country needs a redistribution of income and wealth, above all of profits.
A national debate that would allow us to reach a consensus around a solution to the current imbalance in the distribution of income, social inequality, access to health care, type of education, as well as the appropriation of wealth.
Therefore, the progressive government has to have as its priority objectives: improving equity, reducing social inequality and poverty.
In other words, being in favor of a key point: not imposing poverty salaries as a mechanism for business productivity and bloated profits for capital.
If we should learn anything from these hours of struggle and indignation, it is that without a social and political organization of citizens, the adversities will become a permanent and recurring tragedy from which no one will be exempt.
This interview of the Director of Human Rights Watch was done on the release of their report on repression and torture in Nicaragua. It is significant because it came out right before the Nica Act demanded sanctions against Nicaragua if there was no progress by the Nicaraguan government on prosecuting human rights abusers and corruption. It also came out days before the General Assembly of the OAS would look at applying the Democratic Charter to Nicaragua for similar reasons.
“Sanctions are the only language that Ortega and Murillo understand”
by Carlos F. Chamorro in Confidencial, June 20, 2019
Hours after Human Rights Watch presented in Washington a report on the repression and torture against the freedom of expression in Nicaragua this Wednesday, in Managua and Masaya the Police repressed and detained citizens for protesting.
This police State merciless with civil protest and the attempts of the Ortega-Murillo regime to mislead national and international opinion about the fulfillment of the agreements in the dialogue table, are some of the reasons that moved José Miguel Vivanco, Director for the Americas of HRW, to vigorously demand the United States, Canada and Latin American democracies to “redouble sanctions” against Managua.
The HRW report proposes applying individual sanctions against the members of the chain of command of the National Police: its Supreme Commander, President Daniel Ortega; the ex Director, Aminta Granera; the current Director, Francisco Díaz, and generals Ramón Avellán, Assistant Director; Jaime Vanegas, Inspector General; Luis Pérez Olivas, Director of the Judicial Support Office (DAJ also known as El Chipote); and Justo Pastor Urbina, Director of the Special Operations Office (DOEP).
Vivanco stated that these sanctions “that freeze pocketbooks” worry authoritarian regimes, but he also highlighted that “It is the only language that they understand.”
“If the international community stops, or lets itself be confused by the recent release of prisoners who should never have been in prison, there are no possibilities that an improvement would result in human rights and public liberties, much less a transition to democracy”, warned Vivanco.
In this wide ranging interview offered to the program Esta Noche, he analyzes the principal findings of the report titled “Crackdown in Nicaragua: Torture, ill treatment and Prosecutions of protestors and opponents.”
This report analyzes the pattern of the repressive methods and is based on more than 70 interviews, and an exhaustive study of 13 political prisoners who were tortured, and some of the doctors who treated them. What is its principal conclusion on the situation of Nicaragua?
This is a study done in Nicaragua. We have been able to enter Nicaragua, to go around the country and gather direct testimony from the victims, their relatives, doctors and civil society experts. On the basis of that information and testimonies, we have arrived at the conclusion that the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo are directly responsible for the commission of serious and massive violations of fundamental rights. These violations have been committed by police agents and highly armed criminals who have a license to shoot and kill.
The people who have survived the murders, or those who have been left seriously wounded, have been arbitrarily detained by the regime. They have not had the possibility of defending themselves before an independent tribunal, exercise their basic rights. Many of them have been the subject of brutal and abhorrent torture.
The torture that we have been able to document are extremely cruel. They include sexual rape, removing fingernails from those detained, electric shock, brutal beatings, asphyxiation to the point of killing the detainees…really they are the very practices of the dictatorships of the sixties that governed the southern cone of Latin America. Those of Pinochet.
Is there proof of these tortures that you have pointed out?
Yes, there is. We gathered the proof in the report. We are fortunate to have the testimony of doctors, and not just the victims and witnesses who have supported us in the preparation of this report. Doctors who in some cases we have had to protect their identity, and who in other cases have had to leave the country. Several doctors told us, and it was information consistent with several localities, that there was an order issued by the regime at the highest level prohibiting especially the doctors in public hospitals, but also in private ones, to assist and treat victims of the repression. Something really unheard of that shows the level of cruelty that this regime is willing to reach.
The allegation of the regime is that they reacted to an attempted coup, and that on the other hand abuses were also committed by the protestors against the police and the partisans of the Government. What criteria does the report have about these allegations?
There is no evidence that we have been able to gather, credible evidence, that would pass a minimal level of reasonability and seriousness, that would show that an initiative of a coup was in play here. Under no circumstance can one justify the type of atrocities that Murillo and Ortega are responsible for, as well as the hierarchs of the party in power, and particularly the highest authorities of the police of Nicaragua. There is no possibility of justifying before any type of serious, impartial international body that a State would end up committing these type of atrocities to protect itself from an imminent coup. But there is no evidence that that has occurred in Nicaragua.
The arguments of the regime are for propaganda purposes. Typical of a tyranny. That abuses were also committed against the police, there is no doubt about that. We have serious information that reveals the death of police offers during some confrontations.
They Urge International Sanctions
You propose that the international community be called to apply sanctiopns, principally individual ones against those responsible for the repression. Why? Is there evidence that sanctions in individual cases like Nicaragua might produce the results that are sought, establishing justice, truth and ending the repression?
A totalitarian regime like what Nicaraguan is suffering today is, usually, very sensitive to sanctions that are directed at freezing pocketbooks. Because what it deals with is punishing the corrupt people who have stolen from the national coffers. And since those who are governing Nicaragua have done it for many years, without being accountable to anyone, in a system of government with complete concentration, where there is no independent oversight over the use of public funds, the fact that the United States, Canada, the European Union and some of the most important democracies of the region would freeze the assets of the hierarchs of the regime and their relatives and their front men, and at the same time cancel their visas, we know that that worries them.
We believe it is time to redouble and duplicate the sanctions. That is why we are offering a list headed by Daniel Ortega as the Supreme Commander of the Police, an entity that has shown no mercy with grotesque cruelty toward disarmed civilians; vulnerable people in different places in Nicaragua. It is a Police force that Daniel Ortega directs. And therefore he, along with other police authorities, should be the object of these sanctions. That they be replicated by the European Union and democracies of Latin America.
The government of the United States in previous sanctions already applied them to Daniel Ortega´s wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, to one of her sons, Laureano Ortega, and also to the current chief of police, the treasurer of the party and the administrator of the Albanisa funds, Francisco López, now HRW proposes sanctioning President Ortega. What consequences does it have that a State with which Nicaragua has diplomatic relations would sanction Ortega?
Legally it is possible that a democratic and sovereign State, for reasons linked to corruption and the violation of fundamental rights, might do so. It is acceptable that someone like Daniel Ortega would be included in that list. In our opinion this is the only language that Ortega and Murillo understand. It is time to redouble the pressure. If the international community quits, or is distracted, or lets itself be confused by the recent liberation of prisoners who should never have been in prison, and allows itself to be manipulated by the propaganda of the regime, there are no chances that an improvement would be produced in terms of human rights and public freedoms, nor much less a transition to democracy.
This transition should be accompanied in any negotiation by strong and unequivocal sanctions from the world community.
How do you evaluate what happened yesterday in Managua, when the time frame ended that Ortega himself had accepted for definitively freeing all the political prisoners? The government says that it already complied because it freed some prisoners from an agreed upon list with the OAS, the Vatican and the Civic Alliance. But the Civic Alliance says that they have not complied because there are 86 prisoners left, and the police state prevails. What can be expected from the international community?
Much more can be expected from the international community. Here there are full judicial responsibilities that should be exercised by the international community. On a multilateral level as well as bilaterally. In this sense the OAS has a role to play, and in fact there is a General Assembly in Medellín where we expect that the issue of Nicaragua will be on the agenda, and not just that, but the application of the Democratic Charter with direct sanctions against the regime.
You ask me what can be expected from the government in these negotiations. I would say very little. It is a duplicitous regime that manipulates national and international opinion. In addition it is a regime that represses those who bravely challenge it in the streets and churches. Many of those who have been freed continue connected procedurally to a fraudulent process. Many are freed but detained in their own homes.
The proposal to quit financing the Police
There are another two proposals in the Human Rights Watch Report. One is about the proposal that the European Union and the Central American Integration Bank end the financial relationship that they have with the Police. And the other is the invocation of the convention against torture of which Nicaragua is a signatory. With these two cases, can processes and investigations and penal processes be opened in light of these crimes?
In international law there are solid principles and precedents that allow for the exercise of universal jurisdiction if some of those responsible for the repression in Nicaragua are found under the jurisdiction of a State that is respectful of and has signed international commitments on matters of human rights. That path exists and we call on the member states of the European Union, the OAS, the United States and Canada to take advantage of any opportunity to begin a penal type process for the atrocities committed. Some of these cited authorities of the regime have direct responsibilities. This is an important path.
In terms of the financing for the police, we have discovered with this investigation that the police budget is maintained to a large extent on international aid. The European Union provided the Police last year $1.2 million dollars as part of a donation. We have tried unsuccessfully to find out whether the European Union is going to continue contributing resources to the Police. We have spoken with the authorities at the highest level, and we have not been able to figure out the response. We do not understand what their position is. The responses of the European Union are ambiguous. We hope that the political debate that this report generates would force the bureaucrats of the European Union to make a clear and firm decision about suspending any type of financing for an entity that has stood out for its repressive conduct.
The Nicaraguan State makes known to our People and the International Community:
That in the Session held on March 27 of this year 2019, through the Delegations present in the Negotiating Table, the Freedom was agreed of People involved in the violent events since April 20189, in accordance with agreed upon Lists.
That these agreed upon Lists were turned in and reviewed with the Representatives in Nicaragua of the International Committee of the Red Cross (CICR).
That the Apostolic Nuncio Mons. Waldemar Stanilaw Sommertag, Representative of His Holiness Pope Francis in Nicaragua, and Luis Angel Rosadilla, Special Adviser to the General Secretary of the OAS, were Witnesses of the Consensus around those Lists that were turned over to the CICR.
That on Saturday, June 8, the National Assembly discussed and approved a Amnesty Law that made possible the liberation of all these People, on Monday and Tuesday June 10 and 11 this month of June, with the Commitment of No Repetition.
That the Witnesses Luis Angel Rosadilla and Mons. Andrea Piccioni, in Representation of the Nuncio, as well as the Delegates of the CICR, participated, accompanying and verifying, as Observers of the liberation, in accordance with the agreed upon Lists. The CICR on Monday June 10, and all on Tuesday, June 11.
That on reaching the date committed to by the Nicaraguan State and the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation, all these People enjoy Freedom, with the Commitment of Non Repetition, according to what is stipulated in the Amnesty Law No. 996.
We the Nicaraguan State and the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation have complied with our People and the International Community, in accordance with the Commitments contracted that are explained in this Press Release.