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.