On Friday, March 29, “Esperanza” turned on her television and listened to the reading of the agreements signed by the government of Daniel Ortega with the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, in search of a political agreement to overcome the social, political and economic crisis after the repression against the April Rebellion. That day, the regime committed itself to respect the right to demonstrate, freedom of the press and expression, the cessation of arbitrary detentions, the disarming of the paramilitaries and the release of all political prisoners.
When the conference ended, her telephone began to vibrate. Several WhatsApp messages entered almost simultaneously with two questions in particular: Why did the government sign agreements to release the prisoners and let the coup mongers march? And, what is the strategy to follow? “Esperanza” did not respond. Even she had no idea of what was happening. She quickly contacted the political secretary of her district, received instructions and later responded to the neighbors.
“One must be loyal to the party. You cannot question what they are saying. For that our good government is meeting, to get us out of this crisis caused by the “Blue and White.” And, it is not that all of them are going to leave, no. The roadblock leaders, they will remain as prisoners. Justice has already been dictated,” said “Esperanza” a CPC (Citizen Power Councils) coordinator in a western barrio of Managua, who agreed to talk to Confidencial in exchange of keeping her name anonymous, because the party “prohibited us from giving interviews to coupist media,” she said.
“Esperanza” was born in the sixties. Her father participated in the Patriotic Military Service and she participated in the literacy campaign. She affirms that she is loyal to the Sandinista Front, because it is the only party that “has done something for us and for the economy of Nicaragua.” She also says that she respects what Ortega decides, because “he is the head of the whole nation.” In the conversation, “Esperanza” hints at a disagreement with some guidelines, but rushes to reaffirm her party loyalty, because “they know what they are doing.”
“People like Medardo (Mairena, a peasant leader) or (university student leader Edwin) Carcache, are going to remain guarded in prison,” she says, convinced that her party will not disappoint her.
“If they let them out—she adds incredulously—then the militants must watch what they do so they won’t continue to be coup mongers.”
“Esperanza” maintains that she does not agree with the release of the political prisoners but considers that she must be loyal to the party. For her, everything is part of a good strategy that, although she does not know it, she has no doubt that “at the end it will work.”
“They must not be allowed to march.”
In her house, “Esperanza” has T-shirts commemorating the anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution. She also has a photo with Ortega and several red and black flags.
Before the negotiation table was resumed, in February, Ortega assured his bases that the dialogue would be internal, with the people themselves. “Esperanza” believed that speech, and several times organized and participated in local town-meetings.
“The dialogue with the people existed, but it was necessary to negotiate with the businessmen,” she explained and later keeps silent. Afterwards she adds that the businessmen designated the Alliance to be on the table. “I do not like that it is they who are there, the coup mongers, but as I said, if my President says that it is fine, then we must obey,” she said.
“Esperanza” does not “fully” understand if they will let the “blue and white” march or if it is that they will let them concentrate at some point in Managua.
“For me, we should not let them march because they are only causing problems. They do not let anyone live in peace. They frighten everyone. But I repeat, if Daniel does allow it, then let it be. The strategy has to be followed,” she repeats.
Sandinista by conviction
Sergio Jose Mena is 59 years old and a taxi driver in the capital. He claims to be a founding member of the Ministry of the Interior in the 1980s and defines himself as a “Sandinista by conviction” since the armed struggle that overthrew Somoza.
For Mena, the Ortega Government is not a dictatorship, because the “commander” was elected in a fair and transparent manner, and his administration had been “tranquil” until April of 2018, when protests against the Social Security reforms broke out. The same to which Ortega responded with a massacre, which led to the demand for his resignation or departure from power.
“What has happened is that now exists a ‘you should go, so I can have your place” led by political parties that were corpses and now walk in the streets hurting those who want to work,” says Mena. This FSLN supporter believes that the deaths from the massacre—325 according to confirmed figures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)— “are the most painful and regrettable,” although he says that he does not justify the deaths, he believes that the Police had to “defend itself,” even with the help of the paramilitaries.
Mena is convinced of the official script of a “coup d’état” and believes that the self-organized demonstrators only take to the streets for the international community to see a dispute and affirm that Ortega is repressing, as happened, he says, with the “roadblocks of death.”
“What happens is that they do not want to recognize it, but there were people who were not there for the interests of the people, but more than anything to harm us. To me, on May 30, they wanted to kill me in a barricade. I do not know how the opposition can say, the Civic Alliance or the Blue and White Unity or whatever you want to call it, that there were no weapons in the barricades. I am a Christian person, I cannot lie, I am telling the truth. There were people at the barricades that were well armed,” he insists, after justifying, on the other hand, the weapons of the police and paramilitaries in the so-called “Clean-up Operation.”
The Sandinista Youth does not abandon its president
In March, a survey by “Borge and Associates” revealed that Daniel Ortega’s political base is going downhill. Ortega returned to the presidency in January 2007 with 38% of valid votes. However, the survey showed that by mid-March only 22.3% would vote for him again.
The sympathy for the FSLN have also been reduced. In 2016, 57.4% said they sympathized with the FSLN; now, the figure has been reduced to 41.6%.
“Rogelio” is 28 years old and a member of the “Juventud Sandinista” (Sandinista Youth) in his neighborhood. In his family everyone admires Ortega and he grew up with the “revolutionary mystique” of the commander. Proudly, he shows me a picture that was taken with him when he was an eight year old boy. “He is the spurred rooster,” he says happily.
Unlike “Esperanza,” this young graduate from a private university in the country says that he “strongly questions” his leaders within the JS for the decisions the government has made throughout this long crisis. “Within the party there is room for constructive criticism, we are not fools,” he says.
“I do not agree with the fact that they went to talk with the Alliance. They have nothing to do with these people. Nor with the release of the coup mongers who robbed us of the peace and stability we had in recent years. I communicated that, my superiors know it,” he says.
“Rogelio” alleges that within the party structure “everything is a constructive criticism.” “It is not that we are going to fight like the opposition. We are united. The JS does not abandon its president. We understand that in the end sometimes other decisions must be made,” he argues.
During the half-hour conversation, “Rogelio” explains that his party loyalty is above everything else, and that, although he does not agree with the negotiations, everything in the end is part of a strategy to maintain the reins of a path that will take Nicaragua out of this hole in which “they put us, the enemies of peace.”
Rosario for President?
One of the demands that the Civic Alliance keeps at the negotiating table is the guarantee of free, transparent and early elections, which the Government continues to reject. The Sandinista bases do not contemplate a change in the presidential figure either. They believe that Daniel is the one who must represent them. Nobody else exists, for them, more qualified than Ortega.
“Esperanza” and “Rogelio” are also not convinced of the handover to Rosario Murillo, wife and Vice President, sanctioned by the Government of the United States, for her “responsibility” and “complicity” with the “serious” human rights abuses in Nicaragua, following the repression of the Ortega regime.
“No. She is not Daniel. She should not be President. Her role is to be by his side, as she has done. Besides, part of what has happened in the country is her fault,” says “Rogelio.” However, “Esperanza” admits that “if the party puts her in that position, militants can only provide support to her.”
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