Member of the historic National Directorate of the FSLN: “many Sandinistas support the protests.”
Wheelock: “Ortega has the Option to Resign”
There are two paths: confrontation which will destroy the country; or return to dialogue, dissolve the paramilitaries and cease persecution.
In his three roles as president of the republic, FSLN party leader, and head of his family, Daniel Ortega still has time to amend his mistakes, if he begins by telling the truth to the nation and shows a willingness to find solutions through the National Dialogue, says sociologist Jaime Wheelock Roman, who was a member of the historic National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
“I see two paths: one is confrontation, which is the one we are living, where everyone is a terrorist or coup monger; and, another that leads him to act as a statesman, recognizing that that is not the case, and that we have to solve this problem through dialogue, to seek a political solution that will put the country back on the course of national harmony,” expressed Wheelock, when interviewed on the TV program Esta Noche (Tonight), which is broadcasted by Channel 12.
To achieve a political solution, Ortega must act in one of the three levels in which he moves, and in which he has failed, according to Wheelock: as President of the Republic; as leader of his party, and as father and head of a family he must protect.
“The ruler is sitting on three steps. The first provided by his status as President. As a statesman, he is obliged to safeguard the welfare, economic development, peace and stability of Nicaragua; but with hundreds of deaths, he must know that one of his options is to resign, if he wants to act as a statesman and not destroy this country,” said the former minister.
The Risk to the FSLN
“The second step places him as leader of his party, whose task is to magnify it, strengthen it, give it direction; and, if the mistakes committed put the FSLN in serious danger, what he has to do as Secretary General, is to push for a solution in the dialogue that will allow him to rebuild the party in a few months or a few years,” said Wheelock.
But, if the president “unleashes armed groups or parapolice forces, or tells his militancy to arm themselves, almost generating a civil war and chaos; then, he is not fulfilling his responsibilities,” he added.
The third—and last—step that remains, is: “I am the President of Nicaragua, and I am governing with my family.” And, it may be that he doesn’t care about Nicaragua, may not care about the FSLN, and is willing to take Nicaragua and the Sandinista Front along the route of confrontation and bloodshed, but that probably will also affect those around him,” including his family, stated Wheelock.
In all cases, “Ortega must necessarily search for a solution to this problem in the dialogue,” he explained, pointing out that the solution is simple: first, dissolve and disarm the paramilitary forces that are illegal, undermine the institutional framework, are a danger for the country’s stability and contradict the constitutional forces that are the Police and the Army.
Second, “persecution must end and political prisoners should be freed, and in the peaceful climate that the President should provide, do everything possible to find a solution to the problem,” he noted.
Sandinistas against Orteguistas
Jaime Wheelock was one of the nine Commanders of the Revolution, member of the historic National Directorate of the FSLN, which led the final insurrection against the Somoza dictatorship in 1979.
During the 80’s decade, he held the post of Minister of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Reform (Midinra) and, after the FSLN’s electoral defeat in 1990, participated in the negotiations and transition agreements. He remained in the National Directorate of the FSLN until the second congress of the party in 1994.
In 1995 he retired from FSLN party activities and since the end of the nineties serves as President of the Institute for Democracy (Ipade) and as a developer of a tourism project in the Tola area of the Pacific.
The following is an excerpt from an interview that journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro did with Wheelock on the television program Esta Noche.
What is your position on the national crisis? It is said that this is a civic rebellion against a dictatorial-family regime that has been brutally repressed, but President Ortega alleges that his government has been subjected to a violent coup financed from abroad.
Jaime Wheelock: The thesis of a coup d’état, from a historical perspective…a coup d’état was carried out by Louis XIV when he violated the laws and institutional order to establish an absolutist government, and this is not the case.
Can it be said that Ortega carried out a coup d’état in the last 11 years by violating the Constitution, imposing indefinite re-election, and illegally excluding the opposition?
If you see it as a process, yes. It could be said that it was. But, I would also say that coup d’états in Latin America have been generally executed by the armed forces against governments that in general had been legally constituted. That is not our case.
The government says that this is a “soft” coup, which is a new modality attributed to these types of civic rebellions or nonviolent protests.
The truth is that in the analysis I have made of this situation, I have found that there is resistance on the part of the Executive, to really say what happened. It is difficult to appear before public opinion and admit that they were wrong, that mistakes were made. Starting from that, a whole series of criminal categories [to accuse the protestors] are created that do not correspond with reality.
What I find is that a population reacts indignantly to the fact that unarmed students are attacked with firepower by armed forces. And, once there was an attack against unarmed university students, there was a generalized act of solidarity and indignant reaction of the Nicaraguan people. I would not even call it rebellion. There is a generalized indignant reaction asking the government to resign, because in other countries with something five times less serious, presidents have resigned.
What happens in the so-called historical Sandinismo? Why has it kept silent, in an ambiguous attitude?
It is important to say that Sandinismo has been present.
First, a good part of the bulk of those showing solidarity in support of the students, with those who have been beaten, those arrested and those that have been killed, are Sandinistas.
Sandinismo is on the streets, not with the flags of sandinismo, but with the same ideals of Carlos Fonseca; with the ideals of the martyrs…Sandinismo is alive. And, it is extremely strange that suddenly, the bulk of Sandinismo is denouncing the one (Ortega) who appears as official chief, with the flags and seal of the FSLN.
What does the party that officially presents itself as the Sandinista Front, the one that Daniel Ortega calls out to the Hugo Chavez Avenue, represent?
There is an undeniable fact: the correlation of political forces turned against Daniel Ortega. Among those that do not support him are various segments, leaving him and a group of collaborators in the last ring. Even within that ring of support, there are people that I know do not agree with the fact that there are so many dead, nor are they in agreement with the persecutions.
They believe that historically, neither the Sandinista Front nor the Sandinista Youth had ever turned their rifles against the people. But now we see hooded men with flags of the FSLN; pick-up trucks with flags of the FSLN and they are using that flag to suppress the people, because those they are repressing are the youth, the residents, the workers, those that are protesting.
Ortega accused the bishops of being coup mongers, and now wants to neutralize them or remove them from the National Dialogue. What options do you see for the Dialogue?
For now, the dialogue is the only instrument that we as Nicaraguans have, and that the government has to begin to resolve this crisis. I believe that the role of the Church is fundamental, and that its mediating role should not be changed.
The mediators have a very delicate position and they have to have a great balance, because they are mediators and witnesses, and at the same time, they are pastors who must protect their parishioners.
This double role must be developed in such a way that it does not harm the neutral role that they need to have as mediators. I would say that from the side of those at the Dialogue table, the objective is to find points of consensus to get out of this crisis quickly, without more bloodshed. And to leave open the possibility that the Dialogue, which is very complex, continues later touching on a series of points that are necessary.
You shouldn’t mix the dialogue needed to resolve the issue leading to a solution, with others that may cause a lot of “noise,” such as thinking about organizing a provisional government or work on a governing plan, or issues that should be given later to political parties. The dialogue should not be put in danger, if suddenly, instead of asking for the serious demands and needs of the population, they appear replacing the political parties in a certain way.
What future do you see for the Sandinista Front as a political party after this massacre that has already killed more than 320 people, and because of its links to the Ortega-Murillo family?
The Sandinista Front as an organization with a large political base is seriously hurt. But I don’t see that the FSLN has lost its validity. First, because sandinistas are struggling in the streets, and I know that within Sandinismo there are many people who are worried, that have been wanting to talk, and that are in disagreement with the repression.
From my point of view, if the government, if the leadership, acts responsibly, there are possibilities in the future for the FSLN.
In this unarmed revolution, are we facing some kind of parallelism with what happened with Somoza in 1979?
Somoza accepted to leave. Somoza agreed to negotiate with us. We were willing to be part of the army, without the officers that had been repressive. There was going to be a transferring of command, and Somoza accepted. What happened is that afterwards he retracted, and that is why we took power.
We in the National Directorate, (Daniel only made the announcement), called for early elections in 1989. It is not true that in the Central American peace process there was never a discussion on early elections. We did it to avoid bloodshed; to prevent us and the Front from falling into chaos. With that negotiation we managed to have another government that played a decent role. We went into the background, but years later, the Front was once again in the government.