The tension that exists within the Rural Movement has its roots in the political pact between the Sandinista Front (FSLN) and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), sealed by Daniel Ortega, current president of Nicaragua and former president Arnoldo Aleman [back in the late 1990s]. That’s the firm conviction of Francisca Ramirez, former coordinator of the National Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty.
Ramirez, a leader from the community of La Fonseca in the department of Nueva Guinea, explained that since the foundation of the Rural Movement political leaders from the PLC and the FSLN have tried to influence the participants in the anti-Canal struggle and get them to affiliate themselves with a party. Nonetheless, the movement remained firm up until this past year, when Medardo Mairena took over as the Council’s coordinator.
.“The crisis has been influenced by Ortega and Aleman. They’ve tried to destroy us in a thousand ways. Daniel with repression – he’s provoked confrontations with the police. Now his ally is trying to get the farmers’ attention so that they can bring in a political banner and divide the Council,” Ramirez affirmed.
Mairena was named coordinator of the Council on May 14, 2017. According to Henry Ruiz, a territorial leader in Ometepe, Rivas department, Mairena never distanced himself from his party. Proof of this is that without any authorization from the other Council members, he approached Adilia Salinas, a PLC deputy, to ask that she file a bill in Congress against the Canal Law.
“However, this bill had already been introduced by Monica Lopez, former legal advisor for the Council. As a result of Mairena’s action, affiliates of the PLC then approached other Council members,” Ruiz related.
In Ramirez’ view, although Medardo Mairena has been in the struggle against the Canal Law since the beginning, the influence of the PLC sympathizers led him to make poor decisions. So much so, that within the Council there now exist two factions that are arguing about party independence and the support of this political party.
“Since we began, they’ve wanted to destroy the Rural Movement. Last year they spread false stories against Monica, our legal advisor, and myself. They try to discredit our work and we’ve made public denunciations of that and also held four territorial assemblies to clarify the matter,” Ramirez expressed.
Ruiz declared that the political leaders of the PLC would have the farm population believe that the only solution for repealing the Canal Law is via alliances with the political parties and their “role” within the National Assembly.
“That’s how they did it, and some members of the Council went over the heads of the other members. We took note of their ever-closer relations, and we became alarmed, because we all know the reputation that this man [former president Arnoldo Aleman] has, and how he’s conspired against the people,” Ruiz expressed.
Voice of the Grassroots
Up until now, the territorial leaders have held four assemblies in the communities of La Union, El Tule, La Fonseca, and on the island of Ometepe. The members of the Council have been present at each gathering. At the assemblies, each member has stated clearly their goals within the Movement, and have had their mistakes and their accomplishments pointed out to them.
The territorial assemblies have had a positive effect, but they’ve also caused a degree of discouragement among some of the leaders, who can’t understand how the politics of the PLC and the FSLN could have penetrated the Rural Movement.
“There’s uncertainty among the leaders, and a loss of trust at an internal level. Right now, we don’t have a plan developed, and we’re not ready to say how we’re going to face the next months. But we do know that this is a process; we have to sit down and go over the inputs and demands that were raised in the territorial assemblies and go from there,” Ruiz explained.
Ramirez emphasized that in each one of the gatherings that have been held in the communities, the citizens have stated that they don’t want the Movement to become political, since they’re aware of the damage that the government and the other parties have caused to the Nicaraguan population.
“We’ve held 93 demonstrations, all of them with our own resources. We’re not financed by any party, nor by non-governmental organizations nor by any other institution. Thank God, this struggle has been genuine, and we know we have the support of Nicaraguans. And we know that there are many who want to join us, but we won’t accept them if they seek us out of party interests, or if they’re looking for some perks,” the community leader emphasized.
Several of the territorial leaders expressed in the community assemblies that certain Council leaders weren’t respecting the internal regulations. That’s the reason the tension has risen to a point that it can only be resolved through dialogue.
They also voiced their view that political party ideas shouldn’t prevail in a movement that, up until recently, has been autonomous and strong in the face of the pretensions of some figures from the Ortega government and their allies.
Ramirez highlighted the fact that there aren’t two movements, and that this idea isn’t on the agenda in the territorial assemblies that they’re organizing. What she did confirm is that Mairena has been participating in each one of the gatherings, but upon hearing the accusations his only response has been silence.
“The Government has placed its bets on destroying us, but the Movement has high principles. We have no reason to divide ourselves. What we are hoping for is that these young people who have let themselves be influenced will recognize the responsibility they bear on their shoulders, and respond according to the best interest of the population, not that of a party,” affirmed the rural leader.
A message to Nicaraguans
The Rural Movement is the only social and non-political movement that has maintained itself for four years struggling to repeal the Canal Law. Although in the rest of the country there’s no direct citizen participation, the community leaders have manifested that they’ll do everything possible to maintain unity.
“Up until now, we’re winning the fight. The Canal isn’t going to happen. But we’re left with Law 840, and that’s the thrust we have to give. Many people have joined this movement who aren’t part of any party. We’ve looked through the recommendations given us by the Catholic Church, civil society, friends and the international community, and they’ve all pointed us towards the need to talk,” Ruiz declared.
In addition to the unity that the Movement has maintained all through these four years, a large part of its acceptance in the national community is due to the fact that they don’t defend any political banners, nor do they trot after the leaders of party alliances.
Ramirez hopes that they can extricate themselves from “this crisis”, and together with the others can put Daniel Ortega on the dock, and have him respond for all the damage that he’s caused to the farmers and producers.
“But the important thing is going to be the conscience of each member of the Council regarding what we want in this country. I believe that it’s the rural residents, those who are in the zone, the zone leaders, who are going to reflect and are going to see that this situation can’t continue. To me, the leadership posts end, but we the citizens keep on going. What we have to do is empower ourselves with the force we have and always continue to struggle and not place bets on achieving a position of power,” Ramirez argued.