Nicaragua’s Rural Anti-Canal Movement Reorganizes Amid Tensions

Resignation of the National Council’s legal advisor triggers a series of grass-roots assemblies to resolve the conflicts.

“The movement isn’t going to fall apart.  What we want is to correct our mistakes and not let them influence us,” affirms rural leader Francisca Ramirez.

By Maynor Salazar  (Confidencial)

Medardo Mairena (checkered shirt) alongside Francisca Ramirez. File photo: Carlos Herrera /confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The resignation of Monica Lopez as legal advisor for the National Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty was a strong warning blow for the inner circle of the Rural Movement. The lawyer presented her notice on January 15th in the form of a letter in which she expressed that she couldn’t continue working under the current conditions imposed during the term of Medardo Mairena as director.

In the letter, Lopez stated that it was impossible to continue serving as advisor to the Movement, because its leadership has broken with the concepts of political party neutrality, unity and permanent consultation with the communities when making decisions. She assured that some members of the coordination team have hindered her work by hiding information about negotiations of a political nature with government officials and members of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC).

“The main idea of the letter is to warn the rural communities while there’s still time about some of the behavior of some members of the Council – behavior that is neither constructive nor positive, nor in accordance with the objectives set by the social movement. We’re not advocating for the formation of any type of parallel effort, nor are we talking about two movements; instead, we’re asking them to correct the mistakes and analyze the way in which these council members are operating,” Lopez declared in a telephone interview.

The former legal advisor for the National Council explained that for several months some members of the leadership team have been hindering her from carrying out the work that the Rural Movement entrusted her with.  This trust was established from the moment they asked her to accompany them legally in their struggle for the repeal of the Canal concession law.

She explained that she was kept from attending work meetings organized by certain members of the National Council, and revealed that information was hidden from her about ongoing political negotiations with individuals, dealings that could damage the true spirit of the rural struggle.

“There are very serious problems: the deliberate violation of the internal regulations, for example the process for electing the members of the Council leadership team. As legal advisor, it was my role to let them know that the procedure that had been used for Medardo’s continuation went against the regulations, and that there hadn’t been any democratic discussion of the decision,” the lawyer recalled.

Lopez decided to make her resignation public because she hopes that some solutions can be found through the movement’s internal democratic process. She assured that she no longer holds the formal role of advisor to the Council, but that she’ll continue at the side of the Rural Movement until the Canal Law is repealed.

Farmers’ reaction

The lawyer’s decision was communicated to the leaders of the different communities, who opted to hold urgent territorial assemblies to resolve these problems, evaluate the work of the council members, and possibly reorganize the coordinating team.

Francisca Ramirez, former coordinator of the National Council, declared to Confidencial that this dialogue within the communities will strengthen the Movement, since the mistakes brought to light by Lopez will be corrected. All efforts will be concentrated on emerging intact from this crisis and not dividing an organization that has faced down the government for four years for the repeal of the Canal Law.

“This isn’t going to affect us. Yesterday [Monday, Jan. 15] there was a large assembly in El Tule (Rio San Juan Department). It’s clear that there’s a great desire for justice in the countryside. The Movement isn’t going to fall apart. What we want is to correct our mistakes, not let the movement be influenced by people who are offering themselves as advisors, but who have political interests. We maintain an open-door policy for whoever wants to join with us constructively. This doesn’t mean leading us towards any political party, because that’s not our intention,” Ramirez assured.

The former coordinator of the National Council affirmed that there won’t be two rural movements in existence, since in the countryside the citizens are tired of divisions, and they’ve seen in this organization an option for change.

“No one can divide this movement, because the farmers and rural residents aren’t the same as before. Today, we’ve suffered persecution, we don’t have medicine, roads, today the people know that the politicians only use us and later never look at us again,” Ramirez argued.

Mairena’s versión

Confidencial also spoke with Medardo Mairena, current coordinator of the National Council. We asked him to explain the accusations that Lopez made in her resignation letter on January 15. At the moment we spoke, he assured us that he was attending a grass-roots assembly in the community of La Union, an assembly where Francisca Ramirez and the now ex-advisor Lopez were also present.

“We announced at year’s end that we were going to begin 2018 with territorial assemblies, and that’s what we’re doing,” Mairena told Confidencial.

With respect to the accusation that certain members of the Council were reaching accords with political leaders of the PLC party, Mairena responded that no member of the Movement is mixed in politics, and declared that the rural struggle would continue under the same principle of defending the land inherited from their ancestors.

On being consulted about machismo and the intention of bringing in a new legal advisor (rumored to be a political figure) for the National Council, Mairena declared that there’s nothing in dispute and that it’s only a proposal that hasn’t been approved.

“The truth is, that’s her perception. As far as macho influences go, this movement isn’t like that. We respected doña Francisca when she was the coordinator. I don’t see how we can be accused of machismo when we’ve always given opportunities to the women,” Mairena stated.

The National Council coordinator assured that his reelection for six more months was unanimously agreed on by the coordinating team in recognition for his work in the Movement.

“No one is asking for my resignation. What occurred is that Monica resigned. You know that in the Council we don’t have money to pay an advisor, but there are other legal consultants who have also demonstrated loyalty to the movement,” Mairena noted. He affirmed that the struggle would be maintained and that the assemblies were being held to strengthen themselves with an eye towards the activities they would realize this year.  “The struggle isn’t finished here, and it doesn’t end because someone distances themselves or doesn’t want to stay.  It’s going to continue because it’s a struggle to defend our land and sovereignty.  There’ll be no rupture,” he concluded.