In different areas, using different spokespeople, and in several different ways, the regime has made clear its message: “lead bullets” for those who dare to emulate the Bolivian demonstrators. The latter, following weeks of protests, forced the resignation and departure of President Evo Morales, accused of trying to “steal” the Bolivian elections on October 20, when he declared himself the first-round winner in a visibly flawed electoral process.
In Nicaragua, former political prisoners, priests, business owners and dissident citizens have been harassed and threatened this week by those tied to the regime, groups of paramilitary and the Ortega-loyal National Police. The latter were joined on Thursday night, November 14, by the presidential couple, who stated that the opposition was “playing with fire”.
During a gathering with representatives from the countries belonging to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Daniel Ortega spoke regretfully of Morales’ departure, calling it “incredible, but true”. Along the same lines as Venezuela and Cuba, he termed what had happened in Bolivia a “Coup d’Etat”.
“We’ve been following the electoral path, but what happened in Bolivia was burning evidence about what can happen when you trust in the electoral path; on the contrary, people will feel that they have every right and obligation to seek arms to take power via the revolutionary road,” the strongman said.
Ortega recalled the role that the armed forces play in scenarios like that in Bolivia. “Despite great strength on the part of the social movements and of the native population; despite great combativity, the Army and the Police are determinant factors in tipping the balance to the side of capitalism or imperialism on the one hand, or in the people’s favor.”
“They better not dare”
Ortega threatened the opposition movements in all the ALBA the countries, warning that they should think “very well” before trying to replicate the case of Bolivia. “Let them think very carefully, because they’re playing with fire.”
In an equally menacing tone, his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo warned that “you don’t play with peace, they better not dare to play, as those miserable people did for a short while. They better not play with the peace.”
The warnings of the ruling couple were in synch with other messages emitted by figures close to the regime, such as National Assembly President Gustavo Porras, who called on the Sandinista revolutionary forces to be on the alert for “any enemy action”.
“If we don’t act here, they’ll want to proceed right now as they did in Bolivia,” added the deputy who has been sanctioned by the United States and Canada for corruption and human rights violations.
Presidential couple’s son also threatens
Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo, one of the ruling couple’s sons, appeared on Wednesday night – visibly bewildered – in front of the installations of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) to threaten the citizens that oppose the regime.
Together with a small group, Juan Carlos Ortega paraphrased General Augusto Cesar Sandino: “Liberty isn’t conquered with flowers, but by bullets,” at the same time that he made known the creation of a movement they called the “May 4th movement”. The name is in allusion to the date in 1927 when Sandino refused to sign the “Espino Negro” pact, essentially ending a Nicaraguan civil war by disarming both sides and setting up an armed National Guard under the control of the United States Army.
The presidential son haltingly read a proclamation stating: “We mobilize against the enemies of democracy, of real democracy and social justice, the enemies that are against the people.”
Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo is the only one of the presidential couple’s children that has publicly expressed his political positions. On his social media feeds, commentaries can be read in which he defends the regime. In contrast, his siblings have only appeared publicly in cultural or fashion events.
To defend with arms
Others reading a message were some paramilitary troops from the self-proclaimed “Carlos Fonseca Amador Northern Front, Defenders of Peace.” They threatened to “totally annihilate” those opposing the regime and they defended the permissive and passive actions of the Police and the National Army. “They [the security forces] have continuously respected the Nicaraguan Political Constitution.”
“We’re not going to allow our conquests, which we’ve obtained through the good directives of our government, led by our president, Comandante Daniel Ortega, to be snatched away. We’re alert before any actions in favor of a coup, in order to annihilate them completely. If they lift their hand, we’ll knock it down,” said the statement read by one of the paramilitary members.
The document was read in the patio of the departmental offices of the Ministry of the Interior in the northern city of Esteli, which has functioned as a paramilitary command center for over a year.
Yet another who threatened armed action was Carlos Fonseca Teran, a son of deceased FSLN founder Carlos Fonseca. He wrote on his Twitter account that “the revolutionaries are armed”.
A sign of fear and weakness
Former guerrilla commander Dora Maria Tellez, founder of the Sandinista Renewal Movement, highlighted that Morales’ departure has signified “a very hard blow” within the regime and has influenced in “a general demoralization within the Ortega camp.”
“There’s fear that a new wave of protests, like that in April 2018, is going to occur in Nicaragua. That explains the fact that they’re throwing it all out there with some old union leaders who are at the point of retiring,” Tellez commented, referring to Gustavo Porras’ meeting with the heads of unions tied to the regime.
Sociologist Oscar Rene Vargas feels that the regime’s threats are part of the effect that the departure of Morales has generated in the Ortega camp. In his view, the public appearances of the Sandinista Front cadres are also an attempt to “intimidate” Nicaraguans in the face of the political changes in the region. “They’re fearful” and “they’re willing to do anything in order not to lose ground,” he commented.
Retired general Hugo Torres said the different statements from the Ortega camp are seeking two effects: to “motivate” their depressed bases and to try and frighten the population so that they don’t go out to protest.
“Their messages are a demonstration of the desperation they suffer, because they can’t find a way out. Citizens continue protesting, despite the repression. They don’t know what to do,” concluded Torres.