Nicaraguan Business Executive: “People Demand a New Government”


Piero Coen supports “democratization” and advocates for a “quick and peaceful solution”

By Carlos F. Chamorro  (Confidencial)

Piero Coen: “The government’s response [to the protests] was authoritarian.” The private business sector “has changed and there’s no turning back.”  Photo: courtesy
HAVANA TIMES – Businessman Piero Coen Ubilla, president of the Coen Group, a large conglomerate that wields a lot of weight in Nicaragua in financial services, agroindustry, cattle raising, the agricultural sector, real estate and ID solutions, hopes to see a “rapid”, “peaceful”, and “constitutional” way out of the political, economic and social crisis that has engulfed the country since civic protests erupted on April 18th.

Coen questioned the “authoritarian” response of the government, a response that “spun out of control”, causing over 76 deaths. He advocated for a “quick solution”, “peaceful and constitutional” in accordance with the demands for democratization that different sectors of the population have introduced.

Regarding the role that leaders of the large business sector can play in the crisis, Coen stated that “the businesspeople no longer set the beat.” “The decision has to be inclusive and accepted from the bottom up.” He greatly hopes that this implies a way out “with not one more death, nor the need for any Nicaraguans to emigrate from our country.”

Below are his answers and comments in response to questions that Confidencial put before one of the most influential business figures in the country.

What’s your view of the situation affecting the country as a result of the civic protests that have been unleashed since April 18 and the government’s response to them?

It’s a very difficult situation that’s affected the country politically, economically and socially.

Politically, because the people are demanding justice, democracy, solid institutions and they’re insisting that those things can only be achieved with a change of government.

Economically, because it’s affecting investment, tourism, exports and because the unemployment is growing day by day. The banks are cutting back on their credits and services due to fears about the current situation, and as such the repercussions will increase as this situation drags on.

Socially, unemployment – aside from the economic damage – causes worry and stress within families. This emotional cost, that no one has stopped to weigh, will take a long time to heal.

I believe that the government, like many Nicaraguans, focused on a model based only on good economic results. They never noticed the level of discontent that existed in many sectors of our country over measures that were – in one way or another – weakening the independence of the State’s branches of power and closing political spaces.

The response of the government was completely authoritarian and it spun out of control, leading to the death of more than 76 people, many of them while they were engaged in peaceful protest.

Last Monday, the OAS’ Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) presented their preliminary report, documenting the existence of 76 dead and over 800 wounded. The IACHR proposed 15 recommendations for the Nicaraguan State. Although Foreign Minister Moncada stated in the National Dialogue that the government would accept them, up until now they’ve complied with any of them.  What’s your opinion about the human rights situation in the country?

Beyond a doubt, there’s been a drastic violation of Nicaraguans’ human rights. Through social media, we’ve been able to see first-hand, and live everything that’s been happening. So, it’s not only because the IACHR says it, we ourselves can affirm it.

Human Rights haven’t been a priority for the Nicaraguan state; on the contrary, there’s been documented proof of violations of Human Rights that were reported to and denounced by different national and international institutions working for human rights. And the population feels that their demands against such violations haven’t been redressed by the corresponding state institutions.

It’s obvious that the government has lost a bit of control over its sympathizers and that this group has continued generating chaos, confrontation and the violence we saw over the last week. It’s hard for me to think that the President is ordering the police or the Sandinista shock troops to kill someone. And because of that, the best manner and opportunity for the government to show their interest in clearing this up is to facilitate, permit and guarantee the investigation into all of these acts of violence via special commissions with the participation of international experts like those from the IACHR to determine the guilty parties and punish them according to the indicated legal proceedings.

In the national dialogue, the bishops proposed an agenda for democratization that includes a partial reform to the Constitution, an electoral reform and a framework law to facilitate holding early elections. The government refuses to discuss this agenda alleging that it’s equivalent to a “Coup d’état”.  What’s are your thoughts about the demand for democracy and the government’s reaction?

The agenda they introduced is a proposal from different sectors of society, all of them very important, in favor of democracy. The response of the government in the dialogue was that in the way that it’s been presented, the agenda comprises a path towards a coup, but that the government is willing to discuss an agenda only when it’s within the framework of the constitution.

We’re all very clear that you can’t execute a coup d’état at a table for dialogue. The very concept of dialogue discredits the notion of a coup. I continue to believe that a dialogue that is accessible for the government is the best option to resolve the population’s demands and those of all the sectors while guaranteeing the security of all Nicaraguans and the end of those acts of violence that the government can control. While these conditions aren’t met, the dialogue will continue to be just a method for stalling that leaves the most critical points that are troubling the general population with no resolution.

Democracy has been an aspiration and a demand of the Nicaraguans since long before I was born and for which more that a hundred thousand people have died.

I support the just demands of the population for the democratization of the country, since it’s the democratic countries that show robust and constant growth.

What the people wish for isn’t a coup but a constitutional, democratic and peaceful solution.

In the national dialogue, the business delegation now forms part of a “Civic Alliance” with the university students and civil society, as the principal counterpart to the government. Why has the relationship of the private business sector with the government of President Ortega changed?

There’s an enormous difference in the climate for social and economic development in Nicaragua before and after the events that transpired in April and May.  We business executives can’t ignore either the population’s demands nor the lack of clear actions on the part of the government to resolve them.

The relationship of the private sector with the government has been steadily deteriorating, since it’s a model that by definition wasn’t sustainable forever and which like every model suffers if it’s not revised.  From that starting point, they began to make changes and implement policies in the social and economic sector of the country without the participation of consensus of the private sector. Apart from this, on finding that there was no decision-making power in the Ministries, the business sector found itself with no way to propose, debate, discuss and resolve. As the representative of the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) mentioned in the dialogue, the private employer sector has already changed their position and there’s no turning back.

From your perspective as one of the leaders of the business sector, how do you view the options the country has for a way out of the national crisis?

I continue to trust the dialogue as the best way out for our country.  An orderly and peaceful ending. I advocate for a rapid solution so that we can soon concentrate in recovering our calm and redirecting the economic growth towards a sustainable model. The decision has to be accepted from the bottom up – inclusively. We’re no longer the ones who set the beat. It must be a solution that very hopefully implies a Nicaragua in which there’s not one more death and no more Nicaraguans that have to emigrate from our country.