“We are seduced by the fact that the children eat and go to school.”
–Orlando Nuñez Soto speaking about Cuba
By Katherine Hoyt
The phrase that has been going through my head for the last few weeks is something that Orlando Núñez Soto said a number of years ago with relation to Cuba: “We are seduced by the fact that the children eat and go to school.” It can also be applied to Nicaragua. I am seeing that, on the issue of the violence in Nicaragua, people on the left, be they Nicaraguans or concerned foreigners, break down into two groups. The first group is composed of those for whom free education and health care, land titles, dependable electricity, food and transportation subsidies, expanding potable water and sanitation, renewable energy, rising minimum wages, farm-to-market roads, low crime, high levels of GDP growth, declining Gini coefficient, declining poverty rates, declining infant and maternal mortality rates, etc., are enough to allow them to close their eyes to certain adjustments in election results and other questionable partisan political and governmental activities. And those achievements now make it difficult for those same people to believe (in spite of some shocking videos) that the police would have changed from one day to the next, from community policing to working hand in glove with blue shirted, black hooded goons. (I count myself among that number.)
In the second group are those who find that material improvements are not enough for them or they are not particularly interested in them. They want an open political system with democratically run political parties, term limits, an end to closed-door decision-making, clientelism and nepotism, and much more, including removal from office of men who have abused women and girls. Some have been trained in liberal democratic forms by non-governmental organizations financed by the United States and European countries. They were appalled by the police reaction to demonstrators at the beginning of this uprising, believe that the authorities are responsible for almost all the subsequent deaths and feel that this reveals the true character of the FSLN government.
But, let’s take a look at the political uprisings of the last few years especially those of the so-called “Arab Spring,” which were similar to the events in Nicaragua in that they were demands for liberal democratic reforms. We see that none of them (with the possible exception of Tunisia) experienced results, after the head of state was forced out of office, that improved the lives of citizens. In Nicaragua, the political parties are notoriously ineffective and have not been visibly involved in the recent events. The groups and individuals that have been involved have no joint program or any program at all and seem to incoherently span the political spectrum from right to left. And some have carried out brutal acts of violence that, much as others among them liken themselves to the Sandinistas of the 1970s, the FSLN of that period would never have committed. (I know; I lived in Nicaragua for the last eleven years of the Somoza period.) Does some of this brutality indicate that organized crime and drug traffickers have gotten involved on one side or the other? Or on both?
And where will this go from here? The uprising has been put down and it remains to be seen if the various bodies, national and international, assigned to investigate the over 250 deaths will complete their missions and if the culpable will be brought to justice. The dialogue mediated by the Catholic Church has been on again, off again (it is now off) but may result in something good. The government and the Organization of American States say they have been working steadily on the electoral reforms that were agreed upon months before the uprising began. These reforms are with an eye toward the presidential elections of 2021 while the opposition continues to demand that those elections be moved up to 2019.
The economic damage has been enormous. The government has announced that highway and other construction projects will move forward and will be a boost to getting the economy back on its feet. However, the government was already feeling the crunch from the economic problems in Venezuela. As one example, Nicaragua’s cattle ranchers had come to rely on Venezuela’s large purchases of beef. That has dropped down to almost nothing. Big agriculture and big business, both of which were in coalition with the Ortega government and benefitted from both ALBA and CAFTA, now appear to be breaking away. The government is turning to the medium, small and micro (MIPYME) sector which forms 40% of the economy (and is a more natural ally) for support. Because Nicaragua has such a high rating for completion of projects from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and other international financial institutions, loans from these agencies will probably continue but some bi-lateral aid will likely be cut. It would be a moral travesty for the United States Congress to pass the so-called Nica Act, which would use the US vote in the financial institutions to try to stop loans to Nicaragua, or to approve the new proposal for sanctions by Senator Melendez.
But, on the personal, family, and neighborhood level, Nicaragua has been ripped apart by this crisis. Both sides apparently have lists of people they want to harm or even kill. Whether Nicaraguan society can knit itself back together again will depend on the actions of the President, the investigative commissions, and the Catholic Church and other religious bodies that the people look to for moral guidance. We have to wish them well.
By Nan McCurdy
Prospects for an Expanded Dialogue
President Daniel Ortega has asked the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres for the UN to play a role in mediating and guaranteeing an expanded national dialogue. He has also approached the Vatican and European Union. Guterres and Germany’s foreign minister have both expressed willingness to help Nicaragua find a peaceful resolution in the wake of the failed coup of the last three months. The Nicaraguan private sector, presumably meaning the business sector, has approved of involving the international bodies in the dialogue. The Nicaraguan Liberal parties, which weren’t included in the round of dialogue, are demanding a seat at the table in the new round. Details remain to be worked out. (Informe Pastran, July 30)
Trump Condemns Nicaraguan Government
A statement on July 30 from US President Donald Trump reads: “The United States strongly condemns the ongoing violence in Nicaragua and human rights abuses committed by the Ortega regime in response to protests,” The Trump administration called for “free, fair, and transparent elections” in Nicaragua and said it would revoke or restrict visas for some Nicaraguan officials and announced an additional $1.5 million in aid to “continue support for freedom and democracy in Nicaragua, providing a critical lifeline for civil society, human rights organizations, and independent media currently under threat from the Ortega regime”. The White House statement defending freedom of press in Nicaragua comes a week after CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins accused the White House of barring her from attending an event because she had asked Trump “inappropriate” questions during his meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. (Note from Nan: The $1.5 million simply adds to the millions given to non-governmental organizations and the media who are behind the coup, including human rights organizations (one of which was founded in the 80s to defend the ‘contras’), by the National Endowment for Democracy, one of the main US institutions that have fomented the coup. (The Hill, Washington DC, July 30)
Masaya Commissioner Avellán explains that 107 delinquents were freed in Masaya
On Monday, July 23, the Municipal government and Police of Masaya invited the family members of 80 delinquents in custody and released them to their families. They signed contracts not to be involved in any kind of violence. On July 27, they freed 27 more people. “This is a sign of reconciliation we are giving,” Avellán said. “This is the greatest sign of solidarity we can give to their families and to them. Most of them were fooled and used. We have been catching the leaders fleeing to Costa Rica, leaving their underlings to take the rap – a bunch of young people – who believed in them at the beginning. But today the Nicaraguan population is totally clear in their rejection of them.”
He went on to state, “We also want to say to the population that we are going to take the necessary measures with the leaders of these groups. We will apply the laws to them. They have to pay for their crimes: murders. Police and other citizens were tortured, burned and murdered. Those who burned the town hall have to pay. Those who burned homes of Sandinistas have to pay. Of all the people we have been investigating, there are 23 who will be accused and go before the competent authorities; they will get a fair trial and the right to defense. This will happen here in Masaya and a similar process will happen in other municipalities.” Commissioner Avellán was one of the police in the Masaya headquarters besieged for a month by a large group of armed protesters that made nightly mortar attacks. They constantly threatened to kill the police, who were also without food the last days before being rescued by the National Police. (video of Avellán speaking to Journalists on Facebook – contact Nan McCurdy)
Wife of Policeman killed in Masaya Denounces Manipulation by Opposition Media
Police Lieutenant Karla Torres Hernández, was the wife of Sub Official Gabriel Vado Ruíz, abducted July 14, tortured, then killed on July 15; then burned for hours in Monimbo, Masaya by armed, hooded men related to the roadblocks in Monimbo, Masaya. The Lieutenant says she last chatted with her husband about 10am Saturday morning July 14 as he was coming home on leave. “He always traveled in civilian clothes but had a police uniform shirt in his bag that he was going to mend”. He should have been home by 11am so she began calling around, terrified, since she knew of so many people who have been tortured by those related to the opposition who work at the barricades. Later that day someone let her know that there were pictures of him only in his undershorts, being tortured but still alive. “They were the undershorts I had just given him”. On Sunday, she got the news he had been killed and his body burned as if in a satanic ritual. “They took everything out on him. Why do they have so much hate. He never carried a gun”. The couple have a one-year-old. They both worked in neighborhoods with at-risk youth and with youth already suffering from addiction. Their work was trying to rescue the youth so they could have a better life. Vado was only twenty-three years old. “La Prensa [The paper that has received US funding since the 80s] seems to want to make me feel worse – they get everything wrong”.
A July 27 La Prensa article about her husband had the picture of him dead propped up against a barricade in Monimbo. This picture is from Sunday morning July 15 – the photo that went viral. However, they put the wrong name – Kelvin Javier Rivera Lainez. And La Prensa wrote that on the 17th when the police went in to clear out the barricades, he was still alive – that he had been shot nine times and kept alive by opposition doctors. Lieutenant Torres asks La Prensa to stop lying and manipulating the horror her husband suffered and that she continues to suffer. She also asks that people stop making fun of her husband on social media. (Note from Nan: Three friends met with her last week. Like anyone who loses their spouse, she’s in bad shape. But because of what they did to her husband she is absolutely devastated. To see pictures of the Lieutenant and a story in Spanish: https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:79573-manipulacion-golpista-profundiza-dolor-de-familiares-de-policia-quemado-en-masaya (19 Digital, July 28)
Student Leader Leonel Morales, Shot Three Times, Finally Able to Share his Story
Morales, elected leader of the UNEN, National Union of Nicaraguan Students, was a student at the UPOLI (Baptist/public university where a lot of the violence took place for months) and also a member of the National Dialogue elected by the Public University Students. “Since the night I was kidnapped God has put angels on my path,” referring to the doctors who saved his life. At the National Dialogue meeting Morales had denounced the students who were participating in the dialogue with the opposition because they weren’t elected and because of the violence their group was carrying out.
So, on the night of June 13th Morales was kidnapped from his girlfriend’s home. “When they kidnapped me there was a truck and about twenty motorcycles full of guys.” They were excited that they had Leonel from the Dialogue – “the toad” (meaning “traitor” or “spy”, what people call Sandinistas to denigrate them). They had me for a long time taking me from one “tranque” (roadblock) to the next. They beat me along the way. They kept saying they would kill me and burn me. They put me in the back of the truck and everyone had their guns on me. That’s when they shot me in the face and I lost consciousness.
Sometime later they threw me on the road and that woke me up. Once they saw I was awake they started shooting and thanks be to God, there was a canal and I threw myself in it (For rain water – quite deep). I played dead and they left. Time passed and I finally saw a couple and yelled to them. Then someone else came by and with the neighbors they helped me – they called an ambulance and the police.” Morales was in a coma when he arrived at the Hospital. He was in intensive care for over a month as one shot was in his lung, another in his liver and the third totally destroyed his jaw. Because of the grave threats from the opposition his location is always kept secret. “Sincerely, I want peace. I want to be able to walk in the streets, to go on the marches for peace and justice. And now I’m well enough I can watch the news in the morning, mid-day and at 6pm. I wanted to be in the Plaza for the July 19 celebration. Here I have my FSLN flag. And just for having a certain political ideology they do this kind of thing to a person. Sincerely, it’s not right. Imagine what my life was like before this.” “And the different human rights organizations and the Inter American Commission for Human Rights – do you think they have come to see me or tried to find out what happened? Not once. I really hope other young people can see what is really happening and not just be influenced by social media”. To see pictures and a story in Spanish: https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:79565-leonel-morales-lider-de-la-unen-yo-quiero-que-haya-paz- (19 Digital, July 27)
Health Personnel Fired from Various Government Hospitals for Coup Activity
Sixteen doctors in the Department of Esteli say they are being accused of financing coup activities. They told this to CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights) in Esteli. The doctors work at the government hospitals in La Trinidad and Esteli. On Saturday health personal were fired in Leon and Jinotepe. (Note from Nan: the dismissed doctors actively supported the coup, far beyond “humanitarian” medical attention, they abandoned their hospital posts and served in ad hoc opposition medical posts like one set up in Estelí by Bishop Abelardo Mata so as to avoid any record being kept of peoples’ injuries, thus permitting uncheckable opposition lies against the government about “victims of live rounds”. In the case of Leon, the doctors wouldn’t let the Minister of Health into the main hospital. But the worst infraction I know of is that some of the doctors working in government hospitals told the press they were ordered not to attend to protesters, which has been proven to be a lie.) (El Nuevo Diario, July 30)
The Government will provide help to people whose homes were burned or destroyed
The government announced this weekend they will provide help for 70 families that lost their homes to terrorist destruction and burning. They also announced that psychological help will be available around the country for all of the traumatized people who want to make use of this service. Vice President Murillo said “People want justice and reparations for those who lost family members, and for those who were kidnapped, tortured, raped, beaten and those who lost their homes and their means of work. (Channel 6, July 28)
Nicaraguans Overflow in Managua to Demand Justice for Victims of Terrorism
Thousands of Nicaraguans demand justice and reparations for the victims of coup terrorism; and human rights for all. This is the third similar march in Managua in the last two weeks. There have been marches for justice for the victims in many of the municipalities. The majority of participants were under thirty and the day included many cultural activities. The march culminated with a large musical concert. To see photos and a story in Spanish: http://canal4.com.ni/index.php/multinoticias/42461-nicaragueenses-desbordan-managua-para-demandar-justicia-para-victimas-del-terrorismo (Canal 4, July 28)
Nicaraguans March for Justice in different Municipalities
Photos of various marches on Saturday: http://www.lavozdelsandinismo.com/nicaragua/2018-07-29/miles-de-nicaraguenses-exigen-justicia-para-las-victimas-de-terrorismo-en-todo-el-pais/ (La Voz del Sandinismo, July 28)
Brazilian Medical Student Killed
On July 23 at approximately 11:30 pm 29-year-old Reyneia Gabrielle Da Costa Lima Rocha was killed on her way home from her work at the Police Hospital. The most recent police report on July 27 says they have arrested 42-year-old Pierson Gutierrez for shooting and killing her with a M4 Carbine gun. (Channel 2, July 27)