Daniel Ortega´s brother and chief strategist of the war against Somoza, and the founding general of the Sandinista Army, took out a full page ad in the La Prensa newspaper on Dec 11, 2019 in which he asks his brother to release the political prisoners before Christmas. This is within a context where two weeks ago the Mothers of Political Prisoners were harassed by the Police while holding a hunger strike in the San Miguel Church for the release of their loved ones. Ironically in December 1972 other mothers of political prisoners back then, which included Daniel Ortega, took over the atrium of the Cathedral in Managua with similar demands. The translation of Humberto Ortega´s full page ad follows.
Yesterday and Today, Reflection December 2019
General Humberto Ortega Saavedra
Paid ad in La Prensa, December 11, 2019
Fifty years ago in 1969, led by Carlos Fonseca, we arrived in Costa Rica to do an assessment of the course of the decade since 1959 when the FSLN germinated. Veterans met, like the Mexican Victor Tirado and young people, clandestine and persecuted by agents of Somoza and Costa Rican authorities, several of us taken prisoners, among them the second in command of the FSLN Oscar Turcios and Tomás Borge, both were deported to different countries, while the legendary “Danto” Germán Pomares and I evaded the Central Penitentiary.
With the leadership of Fonseca, in that hectic year we were able to do an assessment of the struggle, and were able to take a political, legal, and organizational leap, we approved the political-military strategic directions, the Historic Program, the statutes and for the first time the leadership of the FSLN was structured with the name of the National Directorate, in which Fonseca and Turcios included me.
The leader Julio Buitrago contributed his own arguments and those of our fellow fighters, prisoners in Managua, among them Daniel Ortega; a little later Buitrago died heroically fighting dozens of National Guard troops of Somoza.
In August Carlos Fonseca accused of assaulting a bank, is taken by surprise in his refuge, and incarcerated in the Third Company in San José, where Dr. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro visits him in solidarity, later as a prisoner in Alajuela published in December “Nicaragua, Zero Hour”, an essay of an historical-political nature, where he set out the oath of the FSLN concerning its creation inspired in the thinking of August César Sandino and Ernesto Ché Guevara.
On midnight on December 23rd, I commanded a group of idealistic militants and we attacked the Garrison of Alajuela, freeing Carlos Fonseca. It was the first action of this type for the FSLN; pursued by the police, I begged Carlos to leave me and escape, he responded: “We never abandon a wounded fellow fighter”. One hour later in search of a hospital our car was surrounded by 13 patrol cars.
In those moments Fonseca was helping to keep me from drowning in my own blood, that was gushing from the wounds from bullets that I had received. Plutarco Hernández, a Costa Rican, braked the vehicle, pulled out his pistol, and said to Carlos, “on your orders”, but Fonseca in silence lowered his pistol and Plutarco then did the same, when by then the submachine guns of the authorities were aimed at and touched our heads. We were captured there, and the rest of our group were able to escape, among them Germán Pomares, but the young Rufo Marín was taken wounded when he fled on foot close to the Garrison. Unfortunately, in the dramatic action Costa Ricans ended up dead and wounded, and as part of the plan, three internationalists hijacked a plane to Cuba.
A year later Carlos Agüero commanded a guerrilla group, hijacked a LACSA plane and carried out an exchange with which the freedom of Carlos Fonseca and his fellow fighters was obtained, including myself, now with lifetime paralysis in my arms and hands. The Nicaraguan participants in both guerrilla squads later died in the fight in Nicaragua, among them Germán Pomares and Carlos Agüero.
Ten years later in 1979, with titanic efforts, deeply committed morally and ethically to have our actions be guided by our oath, we were able to put ourselves in front of the people who gave dozens of thousands of lives to overthrow forever the cruel dynastic dictatorship of the Somozas, thus closing the “historical military dictatorship insurrection cycle” of 1934-1979.
We, the leaders of the revolution, were not capable of maintaining the great national patriotic alliance that we promoted from flexible positions since 1977 to defeat Somocism. Our society quickly polarized, and the devastating unjust war of external aggression came, external for being directed by the president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, but also a civil war, for being we Nicaraguans the forces in combat.
A decade later in 1989 we achieved the implementation of the political-constitutional steps to put an end to the immense bloodletting of the youth, who in any war bear the fundamental weight of the sacrifice, steps made possible by the Central American agreements of Esquipulas and particularly by the Sapoá Agreement, that obliged us leaders in the war to negotiate face to face, full of hate and with our rifles still hot, achieving a connection with our penetrating gazes, while feeling ourselves above everything, as human beings, which allowed us to talk, discuss, negotiate, knowing that only Nicaragua and its youth, children, mothers, fathers, elderly, women, men were the winners, because debating with respect we were able to put together in Esquipulas-Sapoá free elections to secure the Peace, which we all so much desired.
With the free elections of February 1990 we entered into a stage of Peace, and forged the democracy of the “historical revolution-democracy cycle” that began in 1979. I have insisted on the need of doing an assessment since 1990, to enhance the accomplishments and correct the mistakes, being clear that we do not have a democratic culture, our history demonstrates that we have lived more at war than in peace-democracy.
Today requires wise and firm, fair steps that overcome the very painful crisis that since last April we all have suffered, the first one being, in the heat of these Christmas days of so much Christian fervor, that the government would appeal to legitimate mechanisms that would permit the prisoners of this political crisis to be freed, melting into the heart of their homes in embraces with their loved ones. This just decision will provide encouragement to the civic and electoral struggle, far from the violence and destruction, full freedom to criticize the established powers, authoritarianism, to enable the economy to recover, and in this way whoever wins the free elections can more easily call for a National Accord that would properly sustain their program of government.
Over more than six thousand years ago the Sumerians started writing hieroglyphs on clay tablets, emerging later written testimony, in other words, history, which since then has compiled the behavior of human beings with values and anti-values, some create and others destroy, and now fully in the XXI century the dramatic reality persists of civilization at the service of barbarity, a complex association that has brutalized nature, its most disadvantaged human beings, animals, plants, the climate, sickening our planet.
In these moments, your government, President Ortega, has the opportunity for a profoundly humanistic, just gesture, expediting the process for the freedom of those incarcerated.
General Humberto Ortega Saavedra, member of the Academy of Geography and History of Nicaragua.