Open Letter to the Sandinistas who Support Daniel Ortega
Poor are the prisoners; the unemployed; poor are those who’ve left the country; poor are those who will suffer most the collapse of the economy.
There was a time, the time I come from, when being a Sandinista meant putting your life on the line. It was a time when the FSLN was a clandestine organization, and belonging to it was a secret that only you knew: a time where Somoza proclaimed, “Sandinista seen, Sandinista dead”. Many of our companeros died in those years when the FSLN was being shaped.
I was recruited by Camilo Ortega. My Sandinista vows were sworn and recorded by Leana – Rene Nunez’ partner – inside a car parked at the Parque de las Piedrecitas[“Pebbles Park”]. Many companeros I knew were killed by Somoza’s National Guard: Ricardo Morales, Oscar Turcios, José Benito Escobar, Arnoldo Quant, Oscar Pérez Cassar, Blas Real, Gaspar García Laviana, Eduardo Contreras, and Camilo himself, among so many others. I was part of the information teams that contributed to the action carried out on December 27, 1974 when the Sandinista movement “broke the silence” to strike a devastating blow against the Somoza dictatorship.
Somoza’s security apparatus followed me day and night for two months. The military tribunal that passed judgement on many of my comrades after 1974, sentenced me to jail for “illicit association to commit crime and treason against the Nation”. But I was able to get out early and left to exile myself in Mexico and Costa Rica, where we put together the solidarity networks and the rearguard that backed the internal struggle with arms and money, and fought the battle to win over international opinion.
During the ten years of the Revolution, I worked within the party structures, earning twenty dollars a month. I wasn’t a member of the Sandinista Assembly; I was a Sandinista working at a middle level. Those who often accuse me of having “suckled at the breast of power” are mistaken. I even returned the house that they gave me in the 80s to live in.
I’ve earned my living honestly, and with my efforts I raised four children. I married an Italian-US journalist in 1987, and in 1990 I went to the United States with him. However, I continued making constant trips to Nicaragua. I worked on the MRS campaign [Sandinista Renovation Movement, an opposition party] in 1996, and I left the MRS when it participated with the FSLN in the elections of 2000. By that time, I could no longer recognize the FSLN, now led only by Daniel Ortega, as the same FSLN where I had participated as a militant since 1970.
I returned to live in Nicaragua in 2013. I don’t own land, and I never profited from the “pinata.” Everything I have I’ve paid for with my own money, honestly obtained as a product of my own and my husband’s work. Because of this history, I believe that I deserve to be listened to.
Daniel was a man who didn’t listen to criticism, nor did he accept that anyone beside himself could be right. To him, any criticism “threatened the Sandinista unity.” In 1990, instead of trying to modernize the FSLN that had lost the election with 42% of the votes and convert that force into an opposition party that could win over those who had voted against the Sandinistas for fear of the war, he decided to “govern from below”. What he calls “delinquency” today is similar to what he himself organized against Dona Violeta Chamorro [President of Nicaragua from 1990 – 1997] in the streets.
His discourse and his actions began isolating him from his fellow Sandinistas and from a people tired of the war. That’s why there was no way he could win power again with a majority vote. He lost against Dona Violeta, against Arnoldo Aleman, against Enrique Bolanos, always with under 40% of the votes. Nicaraguans were afraid of him. To win, he had to “clean himself up”.
He dressed in white, he got married in the church, he allied himself with Cardinal Obando, promising him that he’d outlaw therapeutic abortions. He forged an alliance with Arnoldo Aleman and pardoned him from the jail term he’d deserved for corruption, in exchange for lowering the percentage required to win the elections in the first round from 45% to 35%.
Rosario directed his campaign. She switched out the Sandinista red and black for psychedelic colors, she used Beatles songs. She spoke about love and light – she wasn’t yet as religious as she is now, but she already had the esoteric ideas that today she mixes in with quotes from the Bible.
With a huge number of concessions, the Sandinista movement was transformed into a party very distant from the FSLN of Carlos Fonseca. Eventually, favored by the sudden death of Herty Lewites and the division in the Liberal party, Ortega was able to win the 2006 elections with 38% of the votes.
From that time on, he’s done everything he could to change the Constitution in order to centralize power. Through a series of maneuvers, he’s managed to dominate the upper echelons of the Army, put his brother-in-law in charge of the Police (something forbidden by the Constitution, as is having his wife as vice president.)
Daniel rules over the courts, the Government Accountability Office, the ministries, the Supreme Electoral Council, and the National Assembly. Democracy is a system where – in order to avoid concentrating all the power in the hands of a single individual – independent institutions are created that can check the power of the president and of the other state powers. Daniel Ortega decapitated all those institutions.
The rebellion of April 18 was sparked when a group of youth and retired people who were protesting changes to Social Security were savagely repressed. The government ordered thugs on motorcycles, along with those old and weathered people who continue calling themselves the “Sandinista Youth” to beat up the protestors.
When the students took refuge in the universities, the government sent snipers to kill them and to assassinate those who were supporting them, like Alvarito Conrado who was merely bringing them water. The country rose up, enraged by the cruelty and viciousness displayed by the hired killers. It rose up against what it felt to be a return of Somocismo, the methods of the Somoza dictatorship. Daniel and Rosario never imagined that the people who had accepted their abuses of power for eleven years, and who they believed to be docile and quiet, would respond with the social explosion that brought a return of the battle trenches in the streets, as the masses demanded an end to their authoritarianism and absolute power and to see justice for their crimes.
Many Sandinistas who had a commitment to the old slogan of “Free country or death,” and to the people, instead of to a couple who have appropriated Sandinismo [the ideas and history of the Sandinista movement] as a system of personal power, reconsidered. They realized that supporting the repression meant betraying their principles and the legacy of so many who died in order to overturn a dictatorship.
We’ve seen Ligia Gomez, former FSLN political secretary in the Central Bank, explain what she felt during those days, and how her Sandinista history kept her from accepting what her superiors ordered her to do. What they asked of her wasn’t part of the Sandinista movement she believed in. She didn’t see any coup d’etat in the streets, but a popular uprising.
However, the propaganda campaign against those demanding a democratic, just and principled power – demands well within their rights – began to classify these farmers, workers and students as vandals, rightists and pro-imperialists who were conspiring to stage a coup. The falsity of those accusations has split society.
A government whose only goal is to have its orders obeyed and to defend its own supporters, can’t govern. Every Nicaraguan citizen has the right to demand a country where their freedom to think differently and to protest if they don’t agree is respected. But here, the exercise of those rights has already cost more than five hundred fellow Nicaraguans their lives. And that violence, which has also affected police and allies of the regime, has been and continues to be fostered by the deafness and blindness of those who refuse to see the reality of thousands of discontented people, and who want to govern under the slogan of “whoever’s not with me is against me”.
That’s the argument behind all this. The struggle they’re inciting isn’t for a good government for all, but for the hegemony of a single way of thinking and behaving. That mentality is leading us to the precipice, to the country’s collapse, and thus to the collapse of our children’s and grandchildren’s future.
The refusal to see reality, to engage in dialogue and to find a formula for constructing a Nicaragua that belongs to all of us, has led this regime to pull the phantom of imperialism out of the closet – a phantom that for eleven years was silently supporting them with loans and measured language. It has led them to blame the right – which certainly also has the right to exist – for what has happened.
The right, they say. Take a close look at those who are prisoners. They’re the sons and daughters of the people: farmers, students, workers, vendors who sell hammocks, artisans from Monimbo. The fact that the business community supports them doesn’t make them rightists. Those who think they are, have to admit that the first one to move to the right was the Ortega government that ruled hand in hand with the wealthiest business people in the country.
This government that boasts about being on the side of the poor, is inflicting enormous harm on the poor. The dead are poor. The filmed attacks of the police and the paramilitary forces and the cadavers of the young people buried by their family members offer silent proof of their class. The prisoners are poor; the unemployed are poor; those who have left the country are poor; those who have suffered most the collapse of the economy are poor. It was the poor who painted other poor people blue and white in reproachable acts, but they don’t represent the civil behavior of the majority, who have gone out on the streets by the thousands despite the risk to their lives and liberty.
We have to understand that this alleyway with no other exit but disaster, repression and poverty favors only the Ortega-Murillo pair, their family and the small group that have enriched themselves under them. For that reason, it’s not up to them, the minority, but to us to break the stalemate of this situation that they have barely managed to contain with the arms of the police and paramilitary.
Sandinistas, supporters of Daniel, State employees, soldiers in the Army, the Nicaraguans on one side and another, we all have to realize that we’re the only ones who can resolve this situation and escape the cycle of violence that’s been the curse of this country.
The only route to reconciliation isn’t another campaign of propaganda and words. We need a serious and mature dialogue, where the governing family agrees to listen and respond to the complaints of the majority of Nicaraguans and to lay their cards on the table. This requires some courageous people in the FSLN and in the state apparatus who refuse to continue being accomplices to the upcoming misfortunes. You have to demand solutions instead of chanting, “He’s staying”.
Furthermore, at this juncture, the dialogue must go beyond demanding the surrender of one side or the other. Only if we use that people’s power that we have, and with all seriousness and with our dead in mind demand the maturity that this grave situation requires, will it be possible to see light at the end of the tunnel.