In all of history, mankind has too often concluded that truth tends to hurt us. Whether in refusing to face a reality which we don’t wish to acknowledge or bending a reality to serve some other purpose, we are masters of deceit. The continuing deaths of 130 Yemeni children per day is a truth better left unknown. Thousands of immigrants approaching the southern U.S. border are more easily dismissed when seen as criminals. We even bend the truth to our own detriment, as when misrepresenting to our physicians how much we exercise, how much we drink, what we eat. (Really?)
One of the great ironies is that speaking the truth- which is said to set us free- is one of the most difficult tasks of our lives. Which is why we stand in such awed respect of those who summon the will to say the truth, regardless of the cost. One such individual is profiled in the “Nica Update” section of this website. Our most recent entry there presents the testimony of Ligia Gomez, former Manager for Economic Research for the Central Bank in Nicaragua, and Political Secretary of the Sandinista Leadership Council in that State institution. Read her story, an increasingly rare profile in courage and truth-telling. She has given up much in speaking her truth.
In our complex and results-driven existence, we tend to value what we can possibly get done, and think less about how the thing has been done. The current U.S. president likes to heap praise upon himself for the current strength of the U.S. economy. What he will never talk about is the cost of this economy- in terms of debt, environmental degradation and the threat to our very planet- to be born by future generations. In other words, the truth we are unwilling to tell our children is that we are creating future burden for them for our own comforts today. That truth is a painful one; it’s much nicer to contemplate living in excess and comfort today: have you seen the numbers? Simply fantastic!
Of course, truth is rarely an absolute. It is shaped by our life experiences, our feelings of compassion, and ultimately just how willing we may be to live with the discomfort that truth creates. No one owns the market on truth. Maybe the best we can do is to be truthful with ourselves before demanding the truth from others. Self-truth gives us the opportunity to be truthful with others and better qualified in calling out deceit when we hear it….
For the past several weeks I have struggled to come up with the right means of expression to describe how I feel about circumstances in Nicaragua. In the shadow of killings and abductions and fear, Nicaragua would seem to be quite unlike the country in which Winds of Peace has worked over the past 35 years. Pictures of massive protests in the places I know, photos of masked shooters in the neighborhoods where I’ve been, blood in the streets where I’ve walked: these are surreal images that choke the words I should say. I have not traveled to Nicaragua since February, and I feel as though I’ve been away even longer.
The development continues, nonetheless. Loans are being made: last week, two women’s cooperatives received small, initial funding for local agriculture. Grants are being given: despite the vastly reduced attendance in schools over recent months, elementary-age reading initiatives are being redirected through community sites and churches Repayments are being made: even where full repayment might be delayed, partners are reworking payment plans to honor their obligations as best they can. There may be few causes of great joy within the current turmoil of Nicaragua, but there are hopeful moments.
Of course, what matters in this crisis time is not the impact upon a small U.S. foundation; Winds of Peace is just fine. Of importance is the real-life upheaval being lived out daily by Nicaraguans who struggled for daily survival long before the first protests were launched, and who now find themselves threatened with even greater hardships than before. Most North Americans would have a difficult time fully comprehending Nicaraguan poverty prior to April 18 of this year. We have even less likelihood of understanding their realities given the way things are today. And my words are simply insufficient to the cause.
So I invite readers to shift their attentions to the “Nica Update” entries at this site. They are frequent updates on the status of the confrontation and the contain the observations and experiences of men and women caught up in current struggle. They are words of passion. They are expressions of the most deeply-held beliefs of Nicaraguan people yearning once again for peace and equity. They are the fluent articulations of a people’s soul, in a time of deep distress.
Over the din of bullets and bulldozers, emerge words of eloquence and meaning….
Now in the fourth month of discord in Nicaragua, there is no end in sight. Statements and actions of the president indicate no capitulation to the demands of the protesters. The demonstrators show no weakening of will or purpose in their stand against the government. Other voices from outside the country weigh in on both sides. But there are other voices, unheard, who are paying a steep price indeed for the impasse that is Nicaragua today.
There’s an entire population, urban and rural alike, which survives hand-to-mouth in the Nica economy, and the upheavals that have occurred over the past several months have all but quieted those hands. Tourism, an important component of the economy everywhere in the country, has ceased. Rural producers, who have labored hard and diligently sought to learn improvements for their yields and their markets, have watched their momentum slip away once again, not due to rainfall or drought or crop infestation, but from politics. The improved road infrastructure throughout Nicaragua was rendered inaccessible for long periods of time during the protests, as barricades achieved what they sought to achieve: the halt of commerce. Markets demand goods, and goods must make their way from the farms. As a result, credit obligations have sometimes not been met. Materials for a new harvest cycle cannot be bought. Collateral has been called. Sources of credit have evaporated.
In the words of Sergio Ramírez, former Vice President for Daniel Ortega:
“The universities have been closed for three months and the high schools as well. 10% of the public schools are functioning, no parent thinks about sending their child to school. Life ends at 5pm, everyone looks to get home. There is no night life in Managua, being out on the street after 6pm is putting your life at risk. Social life has changed a lot, so it is a situation of seclusion.”
This is not a life of vibrant progress, but of loss.
To be sure, some of these voices have joined the chorus either in support or defiance of the government. But the “silent majority” of Nicaragua, as usual, has little opportunity to speak its reality. As always, those in the countryside are paying an enormous price for that reality. The disappointment must be immense; hard work perhaps does not always pay off. Still, they persevere. What else is there?
The litany of matters which have oppressed and stalled Nicaraguans for portions of two centuries are long and diverse. Some were natural disasters. Others were the result of outside forces seeking to own the beauty and the richness of the country. And often the sources of the inequities and the impoverishment were the legacies of leaders who could not envision leadership without autocracy. As the saying goes, “There’s always something.”
There is likely a limit to human resilience for most of us. These is a saturation point beyond which even our tenacity and determination will not permit us to go. I worry about Nicaragua a lot these days. I anxious for the lives of those who are on the front lines for a cause in which they believe, for whatever reason. My heart aches for the places I have come to love in Nicaragua, some now relegated to battlegrounds once again. But my greatest fear is for the steadfast endurance of those in the countryside, for whom every day is both a blessing to be celebrated and a threat to be confronted.
The number of physical victims in the Nicaraguan turmoil of the past three months continues to grow. Some estimates have the number of dead at more than 300, the number of “disappeared” at more than 750 and many thousands of others injured from the attacks from paramilitary forces. No matter what the actual count, the costs have been extensive thus far, with no end in sight. These are the dramatic affronts that deserve our tears and our prayers. But the price being extracted is strangling all Nicaraguans….
Periodically, I have written letters between the U.S. and Nicaragua through two made-up pen pals. The correspondence is intended to reflect the views that a U.S. citizen might have about his/her own country, as well as Nicaragua. What follows is the latest of these, a response to a letter from Nicaragua on July 1.
Thank you very much for your last letter. My whole family enjoyed hearing from you and hearing that you are safe. Like you, we have had some very heavy storms here in our part of the country. The rains have not really affected the crops very much, but there has been some flooding in towns close to rivers. You know all about that! I remember the stream that flows down the hillside near your home and how it swelled during the heavy rains that fell during my visit a few years ago!
I read with interest every day about the confrontations in Nica. Mostly we are getting our information from La Prensa, since the U.S. news outlets provide very little coverage of events in Nica. I am really sad to learn of police shooting citizens who are protesting. Here, there is usually no worry about the police unless maybe you are African American or Hispanic. Don’t worry- if you ever come for a visit we’ll make sure you are safe with us!
I am disappointed to hear of the allegations made against the president of your country. I don’t know whether he has told the truth about the latest violence against the protesters. We do know here what it is like to have an elected leader who lies. Our current president tells lies or misrepresentations most of the time. At one of his campaign rallies, he made 98 statements and 76% of them were either false or misleading! The Washington Post newspaper has counted up more than 3,000 lies told in 500 days. So we know what it feels like to have a leader who says whatever suits him. The good news is that the press reports on it and the people get to decide what they believe.
I am particularly sad about the deaths of so many young people there. I have met so many wonderful people, just like you, with beautiful families and loving homes. To think that even one of these has been torn apart by violence is hard to imagine. Maybe you have heard about some Nicaraguan families being separated by the U.S. Border patrol at the Mexican border. The difference here is that the children are mostly young- under age 15- which makes the separation almost as hard as what you have experienced. But each one of us is somebody’s son or daughter, so the pain is universal. I hope that the killing stops.
You asked me about human rights in this country and whether the U.S. is somehow less interested in them than before. I cannot say for sure, because of course I am not involved in making policy. I know that I still care about it. But the politicians end up doing whatever suits their own interests, which is why I haven’t even voted in recent years. It’s not like I have any voice. I think we still care about rights, but I don’t know. What organization was it that the U.S. dropped out of? I did not hear about that. But I have read that our president continuously asked his top advisers about overthrowing Venezuela’s president to stop the growing problems that his leadership of that country has created. I think maybe that has to do with human rights there, but I’m not sure.
I can’t imagine another war in Nicaragua! It’s too hard to think about the people I’ve met and the beautiful places I’ve seen being in the middle of bombs and guns. And all the great shopping markets, like at Masaya. I don’t think a civil war will happen, do you? What would you do? I think I agree with your brother, that the conflict is mostly in Managua and some of the other big cities. Getting involved could be dangerous! And would you really want to fight? In the end, I always feel like things will work out the way they’re meant to be.
I would love to come back to Nicaragua for a visit! I hope that things settle down there and that you can get back to selling your harvest without any trouble. Do you know anything about NAFTA? I was going to ask you if were affected by it. Our president thinks it’s really hurting the U.S. and he wants to re-do the agreement. I suppose that would not be good for you, but maybe Nicaragua has been benefitting from it for a long time and it should be evened out. Oh well, I just wondered.
Our family thinks of you often and wishes you peace and prosperity. I hope you will write to us again.
We didn’t know their names. We hadn’t seen their faces. We really didn’t know much of anything about them, except that there were twelve soccer players altogether, accompanied by their coach. They had crawled up into the inner reaches of a cave, exploring with the excitement and energy that 12-year old boys seem to have, when outside rains created rising waters inside the cave, submerging the very passages that the boys had used hours before. They became trapped.
We all know the story by now, as it became a topic of international attention. News sources from around the world featured daily updates about the fate of the boys; indeed, nine days elapsed before rescuers even discovered the boys still alive, but each and every day we received updates about rescuers’ progress. It was no less than a miracle that the team survived so long underground. And then we waited and watched as rescue teams- made up of Thai, U.S. and other international support- completed the meticulous planning and execution of the rescue itself. In the end, there was a universal sigh of relief from all corners of the globe that these young lives had been saved. Maybe the world needed a unified success in something, anything, at this time of extreme nationalism and name-calling.
The international interest and support puzzles me. I readily understand the empathy and emotional attachment that we feel: imagining one’s own children in such dire circumstances is a nightmare that most parents have, and to which even non-parents can relate. The anguish and outrage expressed in the U.S. on behalf of children separated from their parents at the border with Mexico demonstrated our ability to activate on behalf of kids. But the capture of the entire international conscience over the fate of 12 boys astounds me. There have been and continue to be almost daily events which threaten the lives of children, in many cases far more than a dozen young lives, and for which we show almost casual interest at best. Sometimes the young lives are lost, and the world takes little note. Middle East violence has destroyed young lives as a matter of policy. Syrian war has made no distinctions between use of nerve gas on adults or children. In Nicaragua, young people are being killed or “disappeared” each day during the current political turmoil, and the world barely knows of it. What made the Thai soccer team so different for us?
Was it the uniforms? Was there something about the context of a boys’ athletic team? Perhaps the difference was due to the nature of the threat: not imposed by politics or other man-made conventions, but rather from Nature herself. Maybe it’s easier to root for people confronting the forces of natural calamity than to be forced to choose sides in a conflict. Someone suggested to me that we have a limited capacity for empathy in crises, and that we are more capable of emotion for smaller numbers of victims: we can handle our fears and grief for 12, but it’s much more difficult for, say, 1,000. For whatever the reason, we seem to pick and choose the victims who we will care about. It baffles me. And I feel badly for those other victims who wait for the caress of human accompaniment, prayers and support, even when it never comes.
My reflections over this brought to mind a scene from the movie, “Schindler’s List,” where Schindler is in despair over Jews he could not ultimately help away from Nazi danger, despite his urgent desire to save them:
“I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more…. If I’d made more money. I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just….
“I didn’t do enough! This car. Someone would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t. And I… didn’t.”
Sometimes conscience is too slow, or too selective, and becomes numbed by the happy drama of boys being boys….
Periodically, I have written letters from Nicaragua to the U.S. through two made-up pen pals. The correspondence is intended to reflect the views that a Nicaraguan might have about his/her own country, as well as the U.S.. What follows is the latest of these.
Greetings from Nicaragua! I hope that this letter finds you in good health and happiness; may God bless you with His enduring love. I have not seen you now for many months so I will be pleased to receive any word you might send in response to this letter. My family is in good health and our farm is producing well, though the heavy rains and recent violence have given us worry.
Of greatest worry is the state of our country. You may be reading about the protests and demonstrations which have happened, and the government’s reaction. The violence which has happened seems to be every night and reports of more deaths reach us in the countryside each day. These are happening mostly in the cities, but we have had some troubles here with young people in cars yelling bad things. We don’t know if the violence will spread but it makes us worry.
It is hard to know what is happening for real. Some outside people have come here and said that our president has told lies. Many people within Nicaragua have said so, too. But the president and his people say that it is the protesters who have lied and that the violence comes from them. Sometimes it is very confusing, these different statements that are made. My son gave to me a report from a group called Amnesty International; maybe you have heard of them. They were not supportive of our president. They said that he has told lies. But he is our president and it is hard to believe that a leader would openly do that.
I think in your country you have had some problems like this with your president, no? We read here about some of the untrue things he says (like when he was elected and said that the number of people to watch him was the biggest ever) and I wonder how you react to them. Is it OK for North Americans speak out about these? Is it your duty? I am very uncertain here.
What I do know is that there are families that have been torn apart by the government’s policies. In some cases there have been arrests and even kidnappings and no answers about what has happened to the people taken. There have been more than 200 killed so far, mostly young people from the universities. There are many mothers and fathers who are deep in grief. I don’t know if I believe that university students have shot and killed one another, as the government claims. But if they did not, then who did?
My brotherAlfredo has a nearby farm. He says that what is happening in Managua and other large cities is nothing to do with us, that it is the university students and Daniel, and that we should not get involved. He says this will all go away in time and things will go back to normal. He does not want to get involved because maybe the party would do something to get even. He thinks there is not much happening in our part of the country. But twice we have had a hard time to get our harvests into the city to sell, with the roads being barricaded. I have a small loan through the cooperative and I must be able to pay it back in order to receive a new one. So these events are creating some problems.
The protestors are saying that the government has violated their rights and that is why they continue to protest. I would like to ask you about human rights in your country. I have read that the U.S. stopped being a member of a human rights organization that is world-wide. Is that true? Does this mean that the U.S. is no longer interested in what other countries do? And does it no longer care what other countries think about its eagerness to support things like what are happening here? I think this must be disappointing to the people here who have taken to the streets.
My hope is that there will not be another war. Our country still feels the wounds of the revolution and the Contra War. Maybe we are still a very poor country but at least we have been at peace. But maybe there has been a price for that which now is being paid. I know that you have planned to travel here once again and I would be happy with your visit. But I know that this might be difficult at this time. Do not forget that Nicaragua is not just the ones in authority, but mostly made up of good, peaceful people.
Meanwhile, I will send to you wishes for your health and that of your family!
A number of people have asked me about the sequence and timing of events since April that have led Nicaragua to this moment in time. With that question in mind, please click on this link for a pretty good timeline synopsis of events to the present. It may not transport you into the thick of the confrontations, but close enough to smell gunpowder. It also presents some good resources for reading more about any of the daily events. The timeline leaves us asking, “Where does it end? How? And when?”
The confrontations continue, and with them the growing uncertainty of where it all will end. Comparisons with the Sandinista Revolution of the 70’s are inevitable, even with the figure of Daniel Ortega front and center as he was all those years ago. But this time, he finds himself on the other side of the fence, being characterized as this generation’s Somoza.
Is it the same? North Americans may struggle to understand the basis for the demonstrations and protests, given the relative lack of media coverage in the U.S. So I include here an interview by La Prensa newspaper with Enrieth Martinez, a member of the University Coalition who was present at the National Dialogue. Her perspective provides a more detailed look into what is driving the protest movement in Nicaragua and what might be expected from this period of confrontation and mutually exclusive demands by both sides.
Enrieth Martínez, University Coalition: “This is a Revolution”.
Enrieth Martínez, member of the University Coalition present in the National Dialogue. LA PRENSA / Manuel Esquivel.
She was at the table of the National Dialogue the only day that Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were present, but before this, she was active at the civil protest on behalf of the Indio Maiz Natural Reserve and against the reforms made to social security. Her name is Enrieth Martínez, she is currently in her 5th year of Sociology, and despite the continuous massacre that has already taken the lives of a hundred people in Nicaragua, the young girl has hope.
“It is a conviction more than it is a certainty”, says Martinez. “There is hope for Nicaragua this year, because I feel we are working for it”
Martinez is co-founder of the University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice, and member of the University Coalition that has been present in the National Dialogue, she analyzes with Revista Domingo the demonstration of 2018, which she calls as a “revolution” with no absolute doubts.
What was the beginning of this so called “Nicaraguan Spring”, was it the fire at Indio Maiz, the beating of the elderly in Leon or the brutal repression that took place at Camino de Oriente?
I believe it was the explosion of social media. For example, I was not in Leon at the moment of the repression, but I felt indignation as I saw the way they attacked the young people that were protesting, the way they attacked the elderly, the way they attacked the feminists who were the ones that led the protests to the reforms to the social security system there. It was all of that together. It was the feeling of impotency. I believe that besides all these events as such, which were immensely violent, it is about the feeling of being attacked, of feeling vulnerable, powerless and at the same time feel the anger, the rage on a system that has always done this. But now there were too many things happening at the same time. And then you realize the spine-chilling reality that this Government does not care if it kills you. These were young people protesting and you knew they were doing it for a just cause, you cannot reform a law that affects all the country in a unilateral way without consulting. There was nothing wrong in what we were doing. But suddenly, they start attacking you, shooting you with rubber bullets, then with real bullets. They start killing you. Then you start seeing the images of murdered young people (chavalos). It was unbelievable, almost.
May ended with a massacre on Mother’s Day… Is this a Revolution?
Can we use the word, revolution?
You should not be afraid to use these types of words. They were captured, kidnapped by this Sandinista Front for 10 years. I believe that these protests cry out for justice and democracy but are also reclaiming our history. We need to take it away from their hands and tell them that this history is not owned by the FSLN, it was the people that constructed it. This is a revolution in all senses. It is a revolution that intends to be civic. That tries to recover lost spaces, that tries to recover the historic memory, that tries to recover symbols. It is a revolution.
Is this revolution comparable with the one the overthrew Somoza´s dictatorship?
It is comparable in the way that both look for a process to democratize institutions, to return to a democracy with strong institutions, with zero “caudillismo”. This means it is trying, recovering many of the past slogans, because many of the demands and feelings are still here. These are demands that have never been accomplished.
Although the revolution from the seventies pursued the things you are saying, what came after 1979 did not necessarily guarantee strong institutions, nor a separation of powers, or ended the caudillismo, because in the 80s is when the figure of Daniel Ortega is born…
I cannot give such a direct answer. I believe that the Sandinista Revolution was a daughter of her own era. It was not a perfect revolution. I would never be willing to romanticize a historic and military process that was so tragic for the country. It had significant changes. The idea of the people. How that idea was positioned, the demand of the people, what they were asking for was accomplished through that revolution, and that is something that has had a profound impact in Nicaraguans. The idea of the People, that it is the people that must rule, this is something very important and we are trying to recover it, many of us are defending this, even with our own lives.
Do you not believe that there was a dictatorship during the 80s?
I believe that it was a very complex process. I am not willing to categorize it as a thing only of a dictatorship. It was a different context. It was a cold war, it was economic crisis, it was the attacks from United States through the beginning of the Counter-Revolution, it was a geopolitical game. I am not saying there isn´t a geopolitical game today, but in the past it was very paralyzed. It was a period with authoritarian accents, popular accents, with an amalgam of things…The Sandinista Revolution was a daughter of her own history. And this one is ours, it has been catalogued as a civic revolution, and it is a daughter of its own history.
Do you think it will still be a civic revolution after the hundred deaths?
I think everyone fears this: that it stops being so. They, themselves fear this. The Government fears it. The day before May 29th, we were driving around in the car and we saw how they moved concrete blocks around the perimeter of El Carmen, they were building barricades.
I think it is not only because they fear the people or my generation that is a daughter of a revolution that due to internal and external reasons was not able to function. But it is also a fear of themselves. It is important to recognize that the people that are here today, have tried everything. We have even taken the risk to be in the National Dialogue where it is evident that the Government does not have the political will to dialogue. It is more than evident, that during the mixed commission of three and three, while dialoguing at the Episcopal Conference, at the same time they were attacking young people at the UNI (National University of Engineering). It is important to recognize that Civil Society as such, until today, has done all in their power to maintain this as a civic struggle. And I hope that, as I said, we are the children of the revolution, grandchildren as well. We do not want to repeat it because of the human cost. Because of the immense losses. However, I have talked with young people and I know that many of them feel that the pacific revolution, the revolution of protests, sometimes does not satisfy immediate demands. Sometimes it does not provide a response to the massacre that is happening on the part of the Government.
The wealthiest men in Nicaragua ask for anticipated elections, the Civic alliance that is present in the dialogue is also asking for a democratic exit, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, has made it clear that we have suffered extrajudicial assassinations commanded by the State….Why doesn´t Daniel Ortega leave if everything is against him?
I think they feel that they have an “apparatus” that supports them. For 10 years, they have dynamited the Government apparatus, the State apparatus, in such a way that what is in power today is not an elected president, but a political party led by Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their family. This means that, during these 10 years he has destroyed all the Institutional apparatus and has imposed in its place a system that supports him as a person, and not as a figure of leadership, as a post, a role, but specifically, him as a person, as a member of a family. This figure that is Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their family, probably gives them the security that despite the killings, they have an apparatus that they feel supports them.
But who is part of this apparatus, its close officials participating in the Dialogue, the Police, the Mobs, the one and a half block of people that they can convoke to their events? Are they willing to rule just a few?
I think I can just speculate on this. It is hard to understand why these people prefer so many killings, but we can´t just see everything in black or white. If this process has done anything it has shown us how fragmented we were and how much we need to consolidate ourselves. They have been very good in all this time of managing crisises. That is why they have lasted so long. But I also feel this will also be unsustainable. The polarized discourse that they used to use for great gatherings is being diluted. They are making their own bases turn against them by the fact that they are using their own sons as cannon fodder to kill other young people. The people from the neighborhoods are the first affected, because neighborhoods are the most vulnerable areas and it is the barrios who they always aim at, thinking that with their miserable programs of social help and assistance they were buying the loyalty of the people. I think that to the extent that we can break that polarized discourse…Who is the people and who is not the people, who is with the Government and who isn’t with the Government, their system of exercising control will lose effect. And as this system of power, control and manipulation decreases, this can have a chance. The reason this has lasted so long is not because of their ability to convoke people, it is precisely the issue that there is control, manipulation of the National Police, the electoral and judicial system. It is an entire apparatus that, being independent, would ensure you that he could leave immediately, but because of their dependency on the executive they are the ones that make him stay.
How do you interpret the massacre of Mother’s Day? What was Ortega looking for with this?
To instill fear, absolutely. We saw this from the first protests, since the 19th. The police firing their shotguns against young people (chavalos). It is a process aiming to install a state of terror. It is through fear that you are able to reach another type of control over the people you can no longer manipulate. Transgress everything that is attempted to be built as a moral statue, any symbol that would represent hope.
Do you think people will be afraid to go out in a massive way again?
No. Would you be afraid of going out on a demonstration that is that massive?
Some people complain that the big demonstrations often repeat the same locations: The Jean Paul Genie circle, Metrocentro, the UCA. What would you tell people who maybe have doubts about always going to the same places?
That they have the right to not have doubts. This is a process that is building itself along the way. These spaces are also symbolic, because of the crosses, because of all that has been put into it. But I would tell them to not be afraid of calling their own gatherings. Right now, it is so easy to do it , you just organize with other people, make an announcement, and you are ready. I am betting on this, on people taking the initiative to take new spaces and not always stay with the same ones.
On social media, Lesther Aleman’s interview to the New York Times has generated a debate on whether he is bringing back to life that “caudillismo” that sometime seems as if its tattooed in Nicaragua’s history…
It is very naive to think that living in a country with a vertical political culture, that is so machista, so racist, these kinds of things don’t decrease. We are people who have been socialized in these systems and through these processes. I saw a publication saying that this was a young man of only 20 years of age, that he is learning. And that is the truth. We are all learning. I believe that the most important aspect of the interview is to realize that those of us who are present here today are young people, we make mistakes, we have many hopes, we have many dreams. I believe that is something that is reflected in Lesther in that interview, the thing about feeling you are an empowered young man, of feeling you are a young man that can confront the world. And that is ok. And sometimes it is not so good because of an issue of vulnerability, for facing a Government that is willing to kill you. I think we would do ourselves a favor if we realized that there are no definite answers here. Nobody here is a figure built for this historical moment. This is a process of construction and reconstruction of ourselves, of what we want, of what we think. And this will be reflected in every triumph, but also in every mistake we make.
It has also been said that men are the ones who appear in public representing the university students. The image of Madelaine Caracas throwing out the names of the murdered student in Ortega’s face is unforgettable, but at least in what is visible it is the only moment you remember of a woman. Do women not have the leadership they deserve in this struggle?
I cannot speak out for others, because each one of them went through an internal process to elect their spokespersons. In the case of the University Coordinator we had a internal process that was democratic, and our spokesperson is Francisco. First, he knows himself to be a spokesperson not a representative. He knows his work is to verbalize our demands in the dialogue, which have been previously agreed in the Coordinator. And that is fine. We try to avoid verticality as much as possible. But it is important to recognize that we are all affected by the machista, sexists and racist issues. That is evident. I think it is important to try and not see things just as white and black. Or to jump and exclaim: “On my God, look, there is machismo!” I mean, obviously there is machismo everywhere. This State, this Government has been built upon that. Our society functions because it is machista, because it is racist and because it is capitalist. And it is class biased too. Micro-machista expressions and machista expressions are things you will see all the time. The important thing now is to be willing to reconstruct ourselves in this process. There are young women that are not showing their faces in the dialogue, but they are in their work groups making substantial contributions to the decision making, that are not the decisions of Victor Cuadras, they are not the decisions of Francisco Martinez; they are the decisions of a collective.
Enrieth Martinez Palacios, 24 years of age, from Leon. She studies Sociology at the Central American University -UCA and won a research scholarship to which she dedicates time daily. She joined student protests since the Indio Maiz fire and the Social Security Reforms. “With April’s protests, more than being at the protests I got involved in a support network that worked on how to move food supplies. I was in the church of Santa Martha, I was in the Cathedral, delivering supplies to UPOLI”, she says.
A movie, she says she loves is “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson, 2012) Her favorite book is “Never forget I love you” (2008) form French writer Delphine Bertholon.
People that support the Government made a video with a picture of Enrieth Martinez and audio where she supposedly denounces that the University students of the Coalition who are in the National Dialogue have a pact with the MRS to allow civil unions among same sex couples.
“It makes me laugh, that is not me, obviously. I am also not financed by the CIA or the MRS”, Martinez states. “It is campaign to discredit any kind of symbols that represent an alternative for organizing, and an alternative to this Government.”
A song she listens to in these times, because of the reality that Nicaragua is experiencing, is “La Maza” of Silvio Rodriguez.
She speaks Spanish and English.
These comments are not the ramblings of an anarchist or terrorist. They are the deliberate reflections of a young woman convinced of the rightness of her beliefs and representative of those who have come to believe that the government must undergo systemic change, in the same way that a young Sandinista leader named Daniel Ortega felt and spoke decades ago….