Ortega on Fox News: leaving power would “worsen things”

Daniel Ortega and his VP Rosario Murillo


Analysts: unprecedented interview aimed at furthering his goals with the international community

“The paramilitary forces are the ones that have attacked the Nicaraguan police trying to protect the population during the disorders,” the leader assures.


By Arlen Cerda (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – He won’t leave power because that “would worsen things.”  His government has no relation whatsoever with the paramilitaries.  There are no problems between the government and the church. No student has died in any church. And the country is in route towards ‘’normalization.” That’s the Nicaragua that comandante Ortega described in an unprecedented interview with the Fox News television network, one of the most conservative in that country, three months into a political crisis that has left some 300 dead.

Ortega declared that moving up the elections to March 2019 as proposed would create “instability and insecurity” and “would worsen things.”  These statements were made amid denials of the accusations of repression and human rights violations made by national and international organizations.

In addition, Ortega denied having any ties with the paramilitary groups who have seeded death, persecution and terror in different cities, despite the quantity of evidence documenting their coordination with the National Police, the pictures and videos of them holding flags of the governing FSLN party and even dancing to the rhythm of a song whose words proclaim “The comandante stays,” in response to the civic demand that he leave power.

“There’s been a campaign of lies, of terrible lies, trying to damage the image of Nicaragua,” Ortega affirmed in response to questions from Bret Baier, during the program “Special Report” broadcast over the Republican-leaning television channel known as very favorable to the Trump Administration.  Nonetheless, the Fox News exclusive – the announcement of which caused surprise in the country – is a “calculated” decision on the part of Ortega, according to Nicaraguan political analysts who are experts in international relations.  These analysts also question Ortega’s “lies”.

Interview was no coincidence

During the more than eleven consecutive years that he’s been in power, Ortega has been reluctant to appear at press conferences. His government is known for its harassment of the independent press and has offered few interviews, none of them in Nicaragua, much less with the media of the country he frequently refers to as the seat of “imperialism.”

His most extensive interview with a foreign reporter, outside of the Cuban or Venezuelan press, was that granted to now-deceased British reporter David Frost in March, 2009. But the choice of Fox News was no coincidence, feels former foreign minister Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, an analyst who is very experienced in US politics.

“Ortega believes that he’s now brought the peaceful popular uprising against him under control.  But he knows that he’s losing on the external front, especially in the United States. The US is not only our most important trade partner, but also the major hegemonic power in our continent,” states Aguirre, who has previously commented on the active role of the United States in international organizations such as the OAS that have condemned the official repression in Nicaragua.

“The comandante must feel that he’s facing a magna crisis in his relationship with Washington.  If not, he never would have taken the risk of agreeing to an interview with a US media outlet,” Aguirre says, adding that Ortega conceded the interview to Fox, “because he knows it’s the channel that President Trump watches.”

“I believe that Daniel is well advised on the topic of “fake news,” that’s shaking up the United States.  Only in that way can we explain the rash responses that he gave to Baier’s questions. For example, he denied that they’re engaged in any persecution of the church, and he maintained his line that the opposition are terrorists armed with sophisticated war weapons.”

According to the former foreign minister, “the only answer that could be considered truthful is that he only listened, but didn’t accept, when the US envoys supposedly proposed to him that he move up the popular elections,” currently set for November 2021.

Ortega’s version of the paramilitary

Since last April when the protests against the Ortega government began, some 300 Nicaraguans have been killed in different cities across the country. One of the worst spates of killing occurred during the huge march in solidarity with the mothers who had lost their children in the repression.  That march was held on May 30, traditionally celebrated as Mothers’ Day in Nicaragua. Attacked by Ortega forces more than 20 had been killed.

However, Ortega sustained that there are no paramilitary attacks from his government, defining these as outside groups, tied to the opposition, that he himself has had to disable in order to maintain power.

“They’re forces that respond to political organizations, some of which are in the National Assembly. They’re members of the Liberal Party and others that have refused to participate in the elections,” he assured.

“At night, when there aren’t any peaceful demonstrations, we’ve had attacks provoked by the paramilitary forces, organized by people who are against the government,” the Nicaraguan leader insisted.

Ortega maintained that there are no ties between his government and the paramilitary groups which according to him, “have organized attacks against the state, against the police, against the Sandinista families, blockading the entire country.”

“The paramilitaries are the ones that have attacked the Nicaraguan Police who were trying to protect the population during the disorders,” Ortega stated, after defining the situation Nicaragua is experiencing as “authentic terrorism”.