Murillo’s Sandinista Youth – From Shock Force to Spy Network

Fiesta time during a gathering of the 585 national delegates of the Sandinista Youth on July 15, 2023. Photo from the government website “El 19 digital.”

At the recent Sandinista Youth national convention, the group swore “loyalty” to “the Comandante and his partner.” “They’ve sold themselves for perks,” three former members affirm.

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – At their recent national convention, the Sandinista Youth organization swore fidelity to the dictatorial couple of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo and to the government they preside over. As part of their role of “loyalty” to the regime, this FSLN youth organization is now directly controlled by Vice President Rosario Murillo, and has gone on to become a spy network. That’s the assertion made by three former members of the group, from Managua, Esteli, and Granada, in conversations with Confidencial.

In the context of the 44th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, 585 national delegates of the Sandinista Youth [in Spanish, Juventud Sandinista or JS] took part last weekend in a gathering at the Olof Palme Convention Center in Managua. There, according to the government news apparatus, 294 women and 291 men from all parts of the country unanimously ratified their vow to “deepen their support to Ortega and Murillo.” This ratification came in the form of a proclamation that Guadalupe Padilla, member of the JS National Council and coordinator of the Young Communicators’ Network, submitted to a vote. The document also agrees on their “permanent mobilization for territorial work, because these practices strengthen peace and activism in the neighborhood and community.”

“All their speeches leave it clear that the Sandinista Youth has gone on to become not only a portable force for clashing with protesters, but an organization that spies on the population in the neighborhoods of every town and city in the country,” warns “Elias” [assumed name], a youth from Esteli who was a member of the JS until 2020.

According to Elias, many of the JS members have gone on to work for the government, “where they engage in surveillance and evaluate loyalty to the regime.” They also “work in the departments, monitoring persons of interest to the dictatorship, be they dissenters or just local leaders.”

“Many of those who worked with me are now dedicated to profiling people who could pose a risk to the dictatorship, including teachers, priests, journalists, former workers with the opposition, and people who are no longer Sandinistas,” he explains.

Elias now works in Managua, and claims that as the reason he couldn’t continue in the JS ranks. “But they always write me, come looking for me at home.  I know they’ve been suspicious of me, but I simply chose to disappear and dedicate myself to other things.”

Attacks and threats

To “Gerald,” a youth from Granada who belonged to the JS until 2022 and now lives outside of Nicaragua, the youth organization has “gone from functioning as decorative figures in public events, to determining when to launch coordinated attacks and threats against those opposing the government.”

He explains that many of the actions of harassment against citizens in Nicaragua “aren’t random. The JS elaborates documents justifying the supposed reasons that such and such a person should be harassed, kept under watch, or imprisoned.”

“The graffiti that’s been painted since 2018 against those they consider traitors to the regime has been based on lists made out by people close to the FSLN (Sandinista Party), including members of the JS,” he comments.

Gerald recalls that the JS members have been tapped to work with paramilitary groups and the Police, accompanying their work with graffiti, verbal attacks, or delivering police citations in the Granada department. “Sometimes people don’t notice them, but they’re going around recording on their phones,” he stresses.

A report from the Inter-Cultural Human Rights Association presented in March 2023 identified “invisible patterns” of human rights violations in Nicaragua between 2018 and 2023. It noted how on multiple occasions the Sandinistas ordered motorcycle brigades of FSLN or JS members to watch the houses of members of the opposition, “to collect better information, as well as taking photos or even recording videos.”

Spying in the social networks

The decision to consider someone an opponent or “traitor” to the regime, and to punish them with threats and reprisals is based on whether they participate in protest activities, stay away from party events, or abstain from voting or assemblies. People can also be targeted for expressing an opinion against Ortega and Murillo on social networks, says “Bernal”, a former member of the Managua JS.

“The Sandinista Youth members are often ordered to review the social networks of certain people. In addition to the members’ obligation to remain active on the different social media platforms, they’re told they should detect any subversive activity,” he points out.

Until 2018, “Bernal” was a member of the JS and the student organization at the university where he studied. “Many times, I had to go and leave invitations to people we had ‘mapped’ as having been active Sandinistas until 2018.  We were asked to assess their reactions upon receiving us, to determine if they should be considered apathetic, disenchanted, manipulated or traitors,” he explains.

They’ve been bought out and silenced

The three former members of the JS agreed that the members of this organization “have been silenced, because they’ve bought them off with perks.” They’re also “silenced by fear, because they know how the repressive machinery functions.”

“Many of those who have gone through the JS now work in the State institutions, or they give them some help in the form of salaries and buy them off with that. Others have family members working for the government, so in that way they’re guaranteed not to leave [the organization],” Elias details.

Bernal clarifies: “there are levels of loyalty within the JS,” since “some do simple tasks, while others have access to more compromising information.”

“There are some who find out about secret investigations of the very people considered loyal to the party or historic Sandinistas, but that’s a task that only those close to the inner circles of power in each department know about,” Bernal expresses.

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