“We are the majority… we just look at each other and gesture, that is how we prefer to remain,” explains a public employee.
By Octavio Enríquez (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – When on March 23, Arturo McFields, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), denounced the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega for human rights violations in the Permanent Council of the international organization, he surprised thousands of state workers who preferred caution to jubilant expression.
“We are cornered, in other circumstances we would take to the streets,” assured an educator. She said McFields’ speech caught the attention of people in education who for years have denounced being subjected to surveillance, political pressure and humiliation by the most radical sympathizers of the regime.
Likewise, a worker at the Ministry of Finance explained that they have been resigned for quite some time to being in a situation of darkness and fear, hence the diplomat’s statements gave them “a light in the tunnel. We hope that others will make the decision (and denounce),” he encouraged.
McFields said that he could not “defend what is indefensible” upon discovering the situation political prisoners are in and the thousands of public servants who are forced by the dictatorship to feign, fill up plazas and repeat slogans because if they don’t, they can lose their job.
According to 2020 statistics, cited by Vice President Rosario Murillo in one of her midday addresses, there are at least 150,000 people in Nicaragua who earn their living from the state. Although some sympathize with Ortega, others have expressed for years to independent journalists, on the condition of anonymity, that they feel hostage to the ruling party.
“To denounce the dictatorship in my country is not easy, but to continue to remain silent and defend what is indefensible, is unbearable,” the ambassador assured in his speech, in which he also said that Nicaragua is the only place where there are no printed newspapers, no human rights organizations, no independent political parties, no separation of powers, and no credible elections.
The diplomat’s words stunned Ligia Gomez, a spokeswoman of the independent Urnas Abiertas, an organization that denounced precisely the irregularities in the electoral process, which allowed Ortega’s reelection without competition after imprisoning the opposition leadership and intensifying repression.
The economist is a formed manager of economic research of the Central Bank of Nicaragua and former secretary of the Sandinista Leadership Council in that institution. She denounced on September 27, 2018, before the United States Congress that Vice President Rosario Murillo gave the order of “we will hit them with everything” against opponents who were demonstrating by the thousands in the streets, which resulted in a brutal repression that left at least 355 dead between April 18 of that year and July 31, 2019.
Surveillance and humiliation
Gomez stressed, “The fact that McFields explains that people are tired is because they are pressured a lot. Apart from the fact that you have your job, they make you feel that they are doing you a favor and that they are the owners of the money. The relationship established (with public employees) is very humiliating. It is not professional. When this kind of thing happens, they increase their controls and the pressure against them.”
A civil servant, who asked not even to identify the institution in which she works, commented that this is a reality and that surely the Ortega supporters will be on the watch, especially in this year when municipal elections are scheduled and house to house visits have already begun to survey what the people think.
In an interview with the television program Esta Noche, after his OAS appearance, McFields reiterated the difficult situation of those who work in the public sector and think different from the FSLN. “The psychological warfare being inside is more difficult than you think. There are people who have resigned five times from their post, then come back, then regret it, because they have a huge moral and spiritual conflict,” said the diplomat.
According to Gomez, political control over state workers is exercised by drawing up lists of those who commented about the McFields’ issue—whether on social networks or personally. They also do it through “orejas” as whistleblowers are known, according to an official of the Ministry of Creative Economy.
These partisan political watchdog groups are active at this moment, according to this same official, because they are making house-to-house visits in the context of this year’s municipal elections, trying to find out what the population thinks of the country’s situation.
“State workers avoid saying anything in public and express themselves in very small groups, among friends, they only talk among those they trust,” explained Gomez.
Another state employee related that on March 23, many people looked at each other with complicity when listening to McFields, but someone said that it would be better to keep quiet, because we may be fired and sent home “without compensation.” “We are actually the majority of the workers, we were not laughing with joy, but we were just gesturing and looking at each other, that is how we prefer to remain,” he added.
From the field of health care, another worker agreed that the reactions in general were minimal, given the fear that prevails in the State, even from those loyal to Ortega, who keep quiet, because they are hurt by the news impact of McFields’ denunciation.
Gomez added that the script from the presidency is the same as in previous cases: a smear campaign with false accusations, among them that the ambassador received a payment from the United States. This, together with the silence at the highest level and in the rest of the executive branch. Ortega participated, for example, in a brief public act on March 23, but ignored McFields’ statements.
For the former Central Bank official, public employees would be “disappointed” if nothing happened with the international community, because there is an expectation that they will put more pressure on the regime and not just congratulate the ambassador.