Daniel Ortega says nothing about the United States’ sanctions against his government and against his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo. Not a phrase, not a word has crossed his lips: no reference to the topic at all.
In his second public appearance after the US sanctioned the first lady and Nelson Moncada Lau, the presidential couple’s personal secretary, Ortega referred to the Catholic bishops from the Episcopal Conference as “criminals and terrorists”, blamed all bad things on neoliberalism, and added a new public enemy to his list: his brother, retired general Humberto Ortega Saavedra.
The president accused his brother of becoming a “peon” and “servant” of the oligarchy and of the US Empire. According to the ruler, at the beginning of the 90’s Humberto Ortega “sent the Army out against the people,” who were protesting in the streets to “defend” the State-owned enterprises.
Daniel Ortega went on to affirm that at the departure of the Sandinista government, Humberto – then head of the Nicaraguan Army – “decided to go over to the side of those who had won the elections.” In these February 1990 elections, Daniel Ortega had lost to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, candidate for the National Opposition Union or UNO.
Beginning July of this year, during the most intense months of the Ortega repression, the retired general asked that his brother move up the presidential elections in order to resolve the sociopolitical crisis. Up until the present, that same unresolved crisis has left at least 325 dead, thousands of wounded and some 600 political prisoners.
“All Nicaraguans want a peaceful solution to the tragic crisis we’re suffering and President Daniel Ortega, by constitutionally moving up the presidential election for the year to come, could say ‘yes’ to peace,” wrote Humberto Ortega in an open letter to his brother.
Bishops with “criminal mentalities”
Ortega was the principal speaker at the closing of the XVI Congress of the Nicaraguan National Students’ Union (UNEN), a Sandinista-affiliated student group that roundly opposed the protests. In contrast to his last public appearance in which he spoke for under 15 minutes, the president continued for at least 40 minutes, during which he reviewed his first years in the opposition during the 90s and how the deceased Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez “saved” Nicaragua from a serious energy crisis.
He also had words for the Nicaraguan bishops, who he once again accused of being part of the “coup” forces that are trying to get him out of power. “They happily joined the terrorist and criminal coup attempt, they weren’t pained by the death of their fellow Nicaraguans, they weren’t pained by the torture,” Ortega declared, without mentioning any specific Catholic clerics or presenting any evidence of his charges.
He stated that the bishops “that speak in Christ’s name” don’t know the word “forgiveness”, and that as “Christians they should reject any crime”; Ortega continued: “[The priests] are not Christian at all and act with a terrorist, a criminal mentality.”
Last week, the bishops from the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference issued an advent message in which they declared themselves convinced that “dialogue is the only peaceful solution to this sociopolitical crisis” and that the dialogue “should be oriented towards opening new perspectives where there are none.”
“This requires courage, audacity, respect for the other, and above all great love of country,” highlighted the Episcopate. The Catholic leaders observed that “a good politician is one that, keeping in mind the interests of all, accepts the opportunity for dialogue with an open spirit.”
To close the topic of the bishops, Ortega commented sarcastically: “God willing that in these days of Christmas, a little light from the star of Bethlehem will reach them and cleanse them.” The Presidents’ words were met with laughter and applause from the audience.
Awards presented to the faithful
Before his speech, Ortega awarded the “Ruben Dario” Order for Cultural Independence to the Sandinista-allied UNEN, the Nicaraguan National Student Union, and to former student leaders, labor leaders and university authorities. The “Ruben Dario Order” is the highest distinction that Nicaragua confers on those who have done outstanding work in culture, education or the sciences.
Among those decorated were former student leader Fidel Moreno, secretary for the Managua mayor’s office, who last July was sanctioned by the US State Department as being the functionary responsible for leading “violent acts committed by the Sandinista Youth and armed pro-government groups, implicated in numerous human rights abuses related to the ongoing protests against the Nicaraguan government.”
Others who were decorated include two rectors of the National University (UNAN), both of whom have obeyed orders to take strict repressive measures against those students who don’t identify as Sandinistas. Seven former presidents of the UNEN – all Sandinista loyalists – also received the award, along with a student leader from the embattled Polytechnic University (Upoli) who, according to the Ortega camp, survived an attempt on his life last July.
New measures against the Central American University (UCA)
Finally, the current UNEN president received the Ruben Dario award. This student read to Ortega the resolutions reached during the Congress, among them that of “eliminating the budgetary allocation (6%) to the Jesuit-run Central American University (UCA)”.
The UCA authorities in Nicaragua and Central America and the international Jesuit Community have opposed the police actions against the civic protests. They have also condemned the regime’s constant attacks against the university.
Although he’s inaugurated a still-incomplete overpass, awarded decorations to the loyal, mounted new attacks against the bishops and added a new enemy to the list, Ortega has said not a single word about the actions of the US Senate in approving the Nicaraguan Magnitsky Law or the Treasury Department’s sanctions against Rosario Murillo and Nestor Moncada Lau for “rampant corruption and dismantling of the democratic institutions.” He has neither railed at the punishment nor defended his wife. On that topic, all is silence from the El Carmen bunker.