Interview: Francisca Ramírez, Leader of the Peasants Movement Against the Canal

This interview was done of Francisca Ramírez, the most recognized leader of the Anti Canal Movement, officially known as the National Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty-Peasant Movement. They are participants in the National Dialogue

Francisca Ramírez: “We need to rise up with more force”

“The barricades have become the national power to force him to resign”

by Maynor Salazar published in Confidencial on June 27, 2018

The technical team of international experts of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner will be “witnesses to the repression and death” that the Government of Daniel Ortega (his police and paramilitaries) has installed in the country since last April 18th, said the peasant leader Francisca Ramírez in the television program Esta Noche.

Ramírez said that the members of the IACHR and the High Commissioner will also be fundamental actors in the search for justice for the murders, in order to accuse those responsible for the more than 200 deaths that the repression of the Ortega Murillo government has left.

“What is left us Nicaraguans is to be intelligent. We know that he is gong to try to change things. We are clear that we are winning and the presence of the IACHR should push us to go out in the streets. Daniel has wanted the people to respond to his violence, but he has not gotten that because no one wants war, and that is why we have decided to fight together, we know that it is not going to be easy, and that is why we are going to continue fighting, that is why we are organized,” stated Ramírez.

Last weekend [June 26] civil society and the self convened had planned to hold the “March of the Flowers”, nevertheless, they decided to cancel it due to the strong presence of paramilitaries in the capital. The peasant leaders highlighted the fact that even though the activity was suspended to save the lives of the population, now this type of demonstrations should be promoted in unity and with strength, not just from the municipalities, but in the neighborhoods and villages of the country.

“Daniel has wanted to sow terror in the neighborhoods, and it is not for anything that the people are terrorized, but I think that today for those more than 200 deaths, we should rise up with more force and we need to be united, that is why we now have an articulation of movements to demonstrate civically and peacefully,” said Ramírez. [Note: a large demonstration was held one week later on Saturday July 31].

What is the status of the barricades in Nicaragua? In the last weeks the Government has launched a strategy of terror in the country with paramilitary groups?

The population have made the barricades to protect themselves and to demonstrate peacefully. And they have become a symbol for publicly indicting Daniel because he is a criminal and torturer and murderer of his own people. They have become a national power to force him to resign.

The discouragement of the population has been seen in the Pacific at the moment of demonstrating and maintaining the barricades because of the attacks of the paramilitaries. What is the status of the mood in the interior of the country?

The people have been encouraged in Masaya, Carazo, León, they have demonstrated that they love Nicaragua and want freedom. In spite of so much aggression and murders, they have maintained and continue the struggle. We only have rocks and morters, and even though the Government shows up with AK47s, sharpshooters and hooded people to make them back down, they continue forward. We were waiting for the IACHR team because we know that they are judges and they are going to show that here rights are violated, and that it is the Government who is violating our rights. The Government has wanted to say that it is a lie, but no one believes them. We have international backing that knows that Ortega is a person who should not continue in power.

What is the message of encouragement and strength that you send to the population?

Demonstrating is a right, what Daniel has wanted to do is take this right away from us. Today we have a great commitment, and there are now 285 people murdered and Ortega has wanted that, to shut us up, and so that we do not continue demanding justice, because he knows that we are demanding that he should be jailed because it is the Government who has been killing us. We need him to resign and to have a transitional government come in, because he is not capable of continuing, and we do not want him in power.

What do you think about the proposal that the Bishops gave the President about early elections?

We do not accept that Ortega be there until March. Elections should be organized, but if he stays in power until March, he would end up finishing (killing) off all us Nicaraguans.

Is there another type of pressure that can be applied to get the Government to make a decision at that level?

Now we have the international organizations, who are going to come to verify, but we should use this moment to demonstrate more forcefully until achieving the objective, and that is that Ortega resign and be tried. This should motivate us to achieve justice and make our demand and leave fear behind. We have 285 murders, but if we shut up it is going to get worse. Now is the moment to take advantage and go out and demonstrate. Daniel cannot continue killing, there should be a stop, if he continues it will go badly for him, because there is international pressure.

As peasants you have experienced fear since 2011 promoted by the authorities and the National Army. They have said that they ensure security in the countryside. Up to now they have not intervened to stop the paramilitaries, in spite of the fact that in the past they would act against the “criminal groups”, who were raised up in arms against the Government. Why do you think they have not executed any plan so far?

The National Army became a partisan army, because really all the murders were of people who were against the Government, but as always the Government has had the weapons and the people the desire to live in peace, only press releases would came out saying they were criminals. That was in the mountains, today it is in the capital that tons of pickups are running around, and they [the Amry] are only silent, and if we demand that they act, surely they are going to persecute the people. At times I do not want to believe that they have killed so many of us. You look at them closely and they have the physique of the Army, we have no doubt.

The official discourse says that the barricades affect the national economy and the cities are being left without supplies. What is the situation in the countryside? Can the peasants get the production out?

It is a sacrifice that we have decided to make. We have decided to not think about money, and think about justice, I know that big business and the Government are getting uncomfortable because they live off of selling what they exploit the people for. 200 trucks each week leave Nueva Guinea, and this is an enormous amount of spending on diesel, and it affects them. We have decided to make the sacrifice because we want a change and we will not rest until Ortega resigns. The peasant struggle has transpired.

What is the call to the business leaders?

They have the commitment to the people to be in the Dialogue, and if nothing is achieved, because those people from the Government come to play, then they have the commitment along with the people to apply pressure on the Government and a 48 hour strike can be done, or whatever they consider necessary.

You have been involved for years in the struggle to repeal the Canal Law. What is your expectation about that other struggle?

We know that it was Ortega and his Assembly that did that law, and as long as he is in power we cannot repeal that Law. We have to demand that he not continue because of all the damage that he has done to the population. Five years ago he turned over National Sovereignty to a Chinese person. God gave us the strength to resist, because we already had the Chinese in Punta Gorda. It was only the force of the peasantry that got the Chinese to return to their country.

Is there a call to maintain the fight in the barricades?

We have two months [there]. When we first took to the streets it was thought that this would not last long, But every day that passes you get more committed to not feeling the night, the rain that we put up with or the hunger, or the fact that we do not have money. We feel indignant and strengthened to continue struggling because we do not want neither war nor more deaths. There is persecution of the leaders of the barricades, those youth are fleeing, .These people who are allied with the Government are spying on us. But each day you feel the commitment. This struggle should be done more forcefully. The barricades are maintained, they are not going to remove them, where they have removed them the people are going to put them back up again.

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