Coup d’état?

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. 

Coup d’état?

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.”


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 .”

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