“Chino Enoc” Case Poses a Dilemma for Nicaraguan Opposition

A young woman protests against the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The evolution of Chino Enoc’s loyalties is a process that must be repeated in many other cases, in order to dissolve the regime’s remaining support.

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – While Nicaragua confronts the bloody dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, the opposition is wearing itself thin by being unable to reconcile its differences.

The opposition is made up of blocs – some large and silent; others small but noisy. It includes the old Somocistas; likewise, those who opposed the Sandinistas but never supported Somoza; and some Sandinistas who became dissidents thirty years ago. Now the opposition is broadening to include those who supported the dictatorship up until a short time ago. That’s the emblematic case of “Chino Enoc.”

Among the 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners who were banished to the United States on February 9, there are also some very recent detractors of the regime. Among them is the very controversial figure of Marlon Saenz, better known as “El Chino Enoc,” a case that poses new challenges to the opposition.

Are these figures really government opponents now? Are they trustworthy? What should be done if these people were once accomplices of the crimes against humanity ordered by the dictatorship? Can they play an important role?

El Chino Enoc never criticized Ortega

El Chino Enoc is a Sandinista supporter who was jailed and then banished for criticizing VP Rosario Murillo on Facebook Live, while remaining staunchly within the Sandinista ranks. He always took care not to criticize Ortega, thinking that this position would keep him out of Murillo’s reach. However, not even his support for the bloody repression of 2018 offered him any protection. “There’s a famous photo in which I have a weapon – a rifle,” he declared in an interview with La Prensa’s Sunday supplement “Domingo.

In the same interview, El Chino Enoc stated that Ortega “lifts morale and that Rosario is demoralizing and divisive, because she creates a gulf between the young and the old.” Days later, the regime arrested El Chino and accused him of drug trafficking.

The case of El Chino Enoc is the most visible, but not the only such case among those banished on February 9th. As the regime’s deterioration advances, there’ll be more cases of those who “just a little while ago” were directly supporting the dictatorship.

A fractured society, all victims of the same wrongs

Political analyst Jose Antonio Peraza affirms that Nicaraguans should understand that they’re victims of the same wrongs but have different perspectives.

Jose Antonio Peraza, is a Nicaraguan, a university professor, and an expert on Political and Electoral Systems and on Development Projects.  

Jose Antonio Perraza, political analyst banished from Nicaragua. Photo: La Prensa archives.

“We’re a fractured society, with different layers, as Dr. Alejandro Serrano Caldera says. These layers don’t interact, hence it’s not an integrated society but a society where each individual has their own narrative about what happened and why it happened,” Peraza explains.

He notes: “There’s not going to be an implosion within the regime if those who are unhappy don’t feel that there’s any alternative for them, post-Ortega. If they don’t feel there’s space for them in the future.

El Chino Enocis very important for the struggle, because he’s the living counterpoint to the regime’s discourse. He’s someone who talks like them, who uses their methods, and who was even a member of the paramilitary that defended the dictatorial couple when they were at their weakest. Despite that, they sent him to La Modelo prison. Beyond that, I don’t see another role for him,” Peraza says.

He adds:“That doesn’t excuse his crimes, if he committed them, but that’s something for a judge to determine, and with evidence.”

Other political prisoners criticized for being seen with El Chino Enoc”

Any member of the opposition who sees value in El Chino’s newly developed dissidence is pitilessly attacked. Yubrank Suazo was all but pelted with stones on social media recently for showing a friendly reconciliation with the former Sandinista.

The young opposition leader Lesther Aleman had to apologize on Twitter for appearing in a photo that
El Chino
took during an activity.

“Chino Enoc’s” evolution

Three years ago, El Chino Enoc began to publicly question the regime’s abandonment of the veteran Sandinistas, blaming the neglect on Rosario Murillo. That made him into an uncomfortable figure for Ortega and his wife, a critic within their own ranks. In 2022, he was imprisoned in the same way as the opposition figures had been.

Now banished, Saenz maintains his Facebook Live posts, but many recall his support for the dictatorship, including his boasts about having participated in the armed repression against the 2018 civil protests which left over 300 dead, according to a report from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

Peraza notes that El Chino went from being a fanatical Sandinista, willing to die for Ortega, to a repentant ex-Ortega supporter. To Peraza, that evolution in his attitude is something we should hope to see happen in others, to further the erosion of the regime’s remaining support.

Peraza believes that Nicaragua’s greatest problem is being a society anchored in the past, which hasn’t succeeded in overcoming its traumas and conflicts.

“Everyone has been left anchored in the moments of glory, or disappointment, or suffering we lived through, and we’re not giving ourselves the opportunity to open a space for a different future. What we need is to converge in a country where we all could live. We have to accept that there are Chino Enoc’s, there are members of the former Sandinista Renewal Party, that there are conservatives, descendants of Somoza, and all kinds,” asserts the political expert.

The April struggle was for democracy and freedom of speech

Yubrank Suazo, one of the banished opposition leaders, declared that if Nicaraguans remain unable to accept that they must tolerate people who think differently, even those who think like Sandinistas, then the blood spilled in April 2018 was in vain.

“To say today that those who were Sandinistas, or those who still profess to be Sandinistas, have no place in our cause is completely offensive to those who have dedicated their lives to struggling and raising their voices, defending freedom and clamoring for justice on behalf of those who were assassinated,” Suazo insisted.

Yubrank Suazo, opposition leader originally from Masaya, now banished from Nicaragua. Courtesy photo

Suazo stressed the need to wait for the application of justice, something that has been part of their demands since 2018. Not doing so would be incongruent in a struggle for democracy, equity, and justice.

“We can’t be the judges of those who ten or twenty years ago, or a year ago, or six months ago, opened their eyes, and today are victims of that system. This doesn’t mean impunity – those who have committed crimes and there’s evidence, should be brought (in their moment) before judicial processes,” he added.

There’s been no justice here in the past or in the present

Tamara Davila, also a banished former prisoner, agreed with Suazo and Peraza that in a Nicaragua without dictatorship those responsible for assassinations should be judged.

“There’s been no justice here – neither in the past nor the present. Nor have there been any investigations of any denunciation or crime,” Davila stated.

Opposition leader Tamara Davila speaking before the OAS Permanent Council. Chile ceded its place to her so she could denounce the human rights violations she experienced as a political prisoner. Photo: La Prensa /screenshot from video.

One of the mechanisms for clarifying those crimes is a Truth Commission that could probe deeply into the facts. Davila underlined the importance of transitional processes of justice, deep and impartial investigations with special independent prosecutors, so that justice can be served, and, above all, there be no repetition.

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