Nicaragua: “There can be no negotiated solution with Ortega”
Moises Hassan, Ortega’s former partner in the 1979 Junta, believes the dictator wants a negotiation that will allow him to preserve his wealth, impunity and power.
HAVANA TIMES – Moises Hassan, 80, was part of the Sandinista Front that triumphantly entered Managua after overthrowing dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle in July 1979. He was one of the five members of the Government Junta that, in theory, assumed power, together with Daniel Ortega, who acted as coordinator, Sergio Ramirez, businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
In June 1985 he resigned from the Sandinista Front and has made a separate political career, usually with a critical perspective towards his old party comrades.
In this interview, Moises Hassan affirms seeing the Daniel Ortega dictatorship “in a serious situation” that makes it feel compelled to show cruelty, to demonstrate a strength it does not have. “If they were feeling strong, secure, safe, their behavior would be less cruel,” he says.
Hassan believes a negotiated solution to the crisis in Nicaragua unlikely, to the extent that Ortega, understands negotiating as “to put the noose around the neck.” However, he thinks the dictator is seeking a negotiation that allows him to preserve his wealth, remain unpunished for the crimes committed, and leave open the possibility of returning to power.
What is your personal situation these days?
I had to leave Nicaragua because there were too many indications that I could be arrested. I left Nicaragua initially to the United States to visit a daughter and, in the process, to got vaccinated. That was on May 30, 2021. In June the hunt began in Nicaragua. My family and I, also under the advice by a lot of friends, decided that it was not convenient to return in the time frame we had planned. We spent some time in Washington and then moved to Costa Rica.
Do you think that if you had return to Nicaragua, you would be imprisoned?
It is very likely. Obviously, one cannot say it with absolute certainty, but it is very likely, considering the number of people that have been imprisoned in an absolutely arbitrary manner and at the whim of those who make those decisions. The probability that they would have thrown me in jail is much higher than the probability that they would not.
To what do you attribute this “hunting” of opponents?
First, to frighten most Nicaraguans who are against them and, second, to give strength and encouragement to their followers.
Political prisoners are treated differently from common prisoners. Does that serve some purpose, according to you?
Of course. The common prisoners are even released to become hard-core government supporters and go around slaughtering, beating and doing terrible things. The intention is for you to know that if you are arrested for political reasons, you will receive a treatment outside the norm: solitary confinement, bad food, lack of medical treatment, not being able to see your family, poor sleep, and others. It is a particularly harsh treatment, because they know that this treatment does not remain hidden, that people know about it and that makes it more difficult for other people to rebel.
Does this cruelty have to do with political calculations or with the nature of the captors?
Partly it is the latter. There are people who have a tendency for cruelty, for evilness, for torturing people and making them suffer. There is also some desperation. It is a big change that they have experienced. To go from being people who had no major privileges, with no higher education in most cases, to pass to feeling that they are the lords and masters of the country. The mere thought that they could lose that status and even face justice for the crimes they have committed, makes any feeling they may have of humanity or of respect for other human beings, disappear. Human feelings are swept away by the horror of returning to the previous situation or, worse, to an exacerbated situation.
How do you see the dictatorship’s well-being?
In a predicament, we could say. It is extremely weakened, and that also explains its behavior. That is why it needs to strengthen the supporters that remain so that they will not split. There is despair. If they were feeling strong, secure, safe, their behavior would be less cruel. In last Wednesday’s speech you could see a blatant attempt to keep the Police and Army forces happy. They know they need to do that, because there are already too many wavering people there.
Ortega lashes out against the Catholic Church, against countries and international organizations…this fighting with everybody seems more like a suicide act.
It is their struggle to survive. With these blows they try to show strength to their people and terrorize the immense majority of those of us who are against them. On the one hand, he is trying to find a fixed solution which would not allow an abrupt change, dreadful, that they fear. They have not had the solution they want. So, he strikes more. It is a form of saying: I keep hitting harder, because if you would give me the way out that I want, I would stop doing the atrocities that I am doing. The solution he wants, I am convinced, is to leave quietly and later return to power when the waters calm down. To preserve absolute power would be ideal, but if absolute power cannot be kept, he would seek a solution that preserves enough power, riches, to rest easy in impunity and in a position of power to pressure and return to power later on.
How do you see Daniel Ortega?
Daniel Ortega does not believe in commitments; he does not believe in complying with agreements. He is a character who does not believe in anything but what he likes and what is convenient to him. He is absolutely unscrupulous. He does not feel that he should resign. His mind must not be functioning well. He can’t be trusted. He said himself recently: to negotiate is to put the noose around your neck. So that, from that point of view, if I negotiate with anyone is to put a noose around my neck, and if the others want to negotiate with me, it is to put a noose around my neck. He acts like a thief who believes that everyone is like him.
On the other hand, there is no opposition.
The opposition is totally divided. There are some efforts, it must be recognized. There is a space for dialogue. Organizations that are somewhat disperse and that I trust that at some point they will unite around a strategy and a leadership. In this, unfortunately, the history of Nicaragua works against us. In our history there has been so much trickery, so many agreements, so much backstabbing, that people remain fearful. So, you must look very cautiously at leadership disputes.
Does Moises Hassan see a negotiated solution to this crisis as unlikely?
To tell you the truth, a negotiation could happen, but it will not be the solution. Any negotiation with Ortega would mean that Ortega gets some of his objectives. There can be no negotiated solution with Ortega, with people who are not used to complying with any agreement. I could make a list of the broken agreements. A negotiated solution is not possible because in the end it will result in a situation of simply buying time. For Ortega it would be to remain in impunity, with his stolen riches and with the possibility of returning to power, he, or his family.
If it is not negotiated, what solution is there for Nicaragua?
Ortega must feel so terribly lonely, nationally and internationally, and the population should carry out actions to make Ortega tremble. It is difficult, but actions can be taken to break up Ortega’s base and that will allow the organized population to carry out actions that will make Ortega feel completely alone and to look for a way out of the country. To put Ortega in a situation where he will have to say: I better leave the country, salvage some of what I have stolen, not face justice and maybe later I will come back.
At a personal level
Moises Hassan Morales is the son of a Palestinian immigrant fabric merchant and a woman from Nagarote. He was born on May 4, 1942, and is the second of six children.
He is a civil engineer and has a PhD in Physics. He was Minister of Construction, Deputy Minister of the Interior, Mayor of Managua and presidential candidate in 1990, when Violeta Barrios won the elections.
He was a member of the Government Junta of National Reconstruction with Daniel Ortega after the fall of the Somoza dynasty.
He says that since he was a child, he was a rebel and that nearly cost him his life. At the age of twelve, after classes and without his mother’s permission, he went swimming in the Tiscapa lagoon and almost drowned because he did not know how to swim. He was Rosario Murillo’s brother-in-law. His older brother, Anuar Hassan, was married for three years to Daniel Ortega’s current wife in the early seventies and had a son who died in the 1972 earthquake.