“Ortega and Murillo Can’t Live without Political Power”

An interview with Murillo’s daughter and Ortega’s stepdaughter Zoilamérica

Zoilamerica Ortega Murillo. Photo: La Prensa / AFP

By AFP (La Prensa)

HAVANA TIMES – She went into exile in Costa Rica after accusing her adoptive father, Daniel Ortega, of rape and 19 years of abuse in 1998. From afar, she stays in close touch with events. Zoilamerica Ortega Murillo affirms that Ortega, as well as her mother, “will put everything on the line” to remain in power in Nicaragua.

With less than four months remining until the Nicaraguan general elections, the government has imprisoned 26 members of the opposition. Among them are six presidential hopefuls, accused of conspiring to defeat the current regime, with help from Washington.

Ortega, 75, first ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990. Defeated in the 1990 elections by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, he eventually returned to power in 2007. For all these years, he’s headed the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), formerly a leftist guerrilla movement, now a powerful political party. His wife, Murillo, 70, is also his vice president.

Following the violent repression of anti-government demonstrations in 2018, the international community has accused Ortega of running an authoritarian regime. His actions are believed to be aimed at clearing the way for his fourth consecutive term in office.

“It’s important for the international community to recognize that, in the face of these dictatorships, diplomacy via pronouncements doesn’t function,” says Zoilamerica, 53, in a recent interview with AFP.

How have you felt during these past eight years outside of your country? [Zoilamerica left Nicaragua in 2013.]

The forms of persecution I experienced are being repeated today. My [1998] denunciation was the first evidence of what they [Ortega and Murillo] could be capable of. Thinking of Daniel Ortega as a sex abuser and my mother as his accomplice points towards the way they were rehearsing the use of political power for their own aims.

In her documentary “Exiled”, filmmaker Leonor Zuniga compared what happened to you to the crisis in Nicaragua. Are there similarities?

Naturally. The first element of abuse had to do with a profound manipulation of a child. The illusion of a protective father, who at the same time assaults and abuses you, is the same thing that Nicaraguan society has experienced. Also, just like what happened to me when I denounced the abuse, once the people’s awakening became evident in 2018, his destructive capacity and criminal side came to light.

How did you react when your mother turned her back on you?

I would have understood if she’d chosen to remain silent, but not that she’d become my main persecutor. Nor that she’d be capable of denying her maternity. Nonetheless, for her, power isn’t negotiable. It’s been my lot to understand that the person who gave birth to me was left behind, in order to make way for someone whose social role and identification is defined by power.

Did you perceive Murillo’s need for power?

I should be careful about implying that they’re two irrational people. What’s irrational is the way they’re glued to power, but the criminal acts they commit have been strategically calculated according to an unscrupulous and inhumane political vision. They practice techniques to annul people’s will, dignity and physical integrity.

Are their actions planned, or are they desperate measures?

Rosario Murillo never takes action without being ready for what follows. We can’t underestimate the destructive power of someone who is putting their life on the line in some elections. (…) They’re risking everything, because they can’t survive without power, they never really forged a life as human beings.

Is it because of that need for power that the last name Chamorro is synonymous with “enemy” to them?

The 1990 electoral defeat was a surprise. In their arrogance, they never thought they could lose, just as they never thought that in 2018 they could face a national resistance movement.

The Nicaraguan people believed Doña Violeta when she offered peace, and they opted for a civic proposal. That was a slap in the face for them [Ortega and Murillo].

That’s the battle they can’t lose today. But to keep [public opinion] bottled up, they need to recreate the scenario of the 90s, which was one of war. That’s why they speak about imperialism and about the CIA paying the opposition. They want to lift conflict and repression to their highest level, because their act plays best within a wartime scenario.

Is that why Cristiana Chamorro, Doña Violeta’s daughter, was the first candidate to be arrested?

Essentially yes, because they want to lock up history as well. To the people, Cristiana represents a conviction: “yes, we can”. That symbolism is something [Ortega and Murillo] not only need to get off the public stage, but also to eliminate from the consciousness of Nicaraguans. Transforming the heroes of the civic struggle into criminals is a way to erase that symbolic message, which energizes and gives hope.

What actions are left for Ortega and Murillo?

Unimaginable. They’re capable of everything. We’re going to see more crimes, but the resistance has been constructed. (..) It won’t go backwards, and it will be finding its outlets.

Are there any options for defeating Ortega without a unified opposition?

If they’ve had to imprison leaders, it’s because the opposition has indeed represented a high risk to them.

Months before, there was distrust and a lot of concern about the lack of unity. We were beginning to question who were really allied with the government. But now, they’re doing us the favor of making it evident that each one of the people who raised their voices is willing to pay the price.

What solution do you see?

The solution is not to call for a dialogue in order to repair the electoral process. (..) There’s no possibility for change if the negotiations don’t include the departure of the regime.

What could happen after the November 7 elections?

The elections are no longer the most worrisome factor. Rather, it’s how to put the brakes on Ortega and Murillo’s capacity to isolate Nicaragua as a country, to generate blockades that in the long run will hurt the people most.

[We could] reach the point where Ortega doesn’t care if he has to hold the entire country hostage, in chains. He’s prepared for a blockade; he’s prepared for everything.

Is there any scenario in which Daniel Ortega could leave, under pressure from the international community?

They’re never going to leave of their own free will.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.