The government has lost the initiative, as the citizens have demonstrated that they can fill the streets and empty them completely.
The author and former vice president warns: “His continuance in power is unfeasible” while the elections are being moved up. Meanwhile, the country is paralyzed.
By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The National Dialogue seems to be taking place in a rarified world, at a crawl that exasperates those who are living, sleeping, waking up, being born, and dying at the roadblocks. Up to this point, the government delegation’s commitment to invite the “big fish” of worldwide human rights advocacy is, for now, the principal achievement of the Civic Alliance.
“In a situation as complex as this one – and I understand the citizens’ perspective because I’m one of them – it fills us with frustration when we see that the crimes don’t stop,” expressed prize-winning author Sergio Ramirez Mercado, who was vice president of Nicaragua from 1984 – 1990. Ramirez offered his views in an interview on the independent weekly television news roundup “Esta Semana,” broadcast on Channel 12 in Nicaragua.
What’s incomprehensible is that the day after signing the agreement, “that terrible, Satanic, fire took place, where tiny children perished together with their family members, something that according to what I’ve seen in the world’s newspapers has touched peoples’ conscience with horror,” Ramirez stated.
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that when the Dialogue recessed, after hours and hours of negotiations, the Civic Alliance came away with an important triumph – that of achieving the [upcoming] arrival of the international organizations that Ortega had refused to accept for so long.” he added.
Ramirez was referring to the return of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and that of the European Union, as well as the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts whose arrival is planned for July 5th.
Ramirez foresees that this will allow for “exposing the massive cases of human rights violations -deaths, torture and disappearances – and issuing a damaging international verification, because it includes crimes against humanity such as that fire in which a family burned to death.”
Due to this, Ramirez insisted that it’s a great advance, and warned that the first thing the Civic Alliance needed to do on Monday, was demanding to see copies of the formal letters from the Foreign Ministry, inviting these organisms to come. [Editor’s Note: this took place and the government did not produce copies of the invitations, leading to the Civic Alliance and the Catholic Church mediators refusing to continue the talks.]
Drawing on his experience as a political negotiator during the revolution against the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, Ramirez warned of Ortega’s isolation within his family bunker while his representatives in the National Dialogue aren’t privy to their leader’s agreements with the United States government.
“The first thing that strikes me as strange is that those representing the government aren’t aware of everything that Ortega and his wife have negotiated with the US functionaries,” Ramirez expressed.
“Caleb McCarry, who was sent by the president of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations with the approval of the US State Department – and that’s not a myth – sat down to negotiate with the leader and his wife, in the presence of his children who came and went from the meeting table,” he stated.
Citing the declarations of rural leader Medardo Mairena, who announced to his grassroots supporters at the roadblocks that Ortega had agreed to early elections, author Sergio Ramirez pointed out that “Foreign Minister Moncada, and the others representing the government, appear not to know this. Maybe Ortega doesn’t want to reveal that he came to an agreement with the United States to move up the elections, because that could provoke panic and disorder among his remaining bastion of support.”
Let’s recall that in Nicaragua all the caudillo strong-man figures have seen their rule end via armed actions. Zelaya (Nicaraguan president 1893 – 1909) left power after the famous Knox Note,” while Anastasio Somoza was defeated in armed conflict, in conjunction with pressure from President Jimmy Carter, “which was a determining factor in Somoza’s departure.”
“Now we’re facing an unarmed revolution, a civic revolution, and let’s hope it remains so until the end, because what we least desire here is a civil war. And, once more, the United States is in the middle,” Ramirez pointed out.
“It’s with the United States that President Ortega negotiated his departure… from a government perspective, not from the perspective of so many citizens like me, who see it as impossible for him to remain presiding over the government until new elections are held. That’s a completely different thing.”
In reference to the possibility that Ortega might continue governing until the realization of new general elections, Ramirez believes that “when this began two months ago, the ladder that Ortega had was wide, but it’s been getting ever narrower. That’s one thing. Then, the question whether early elections could be sustainable with Ortega at the head of government, is another thing. I feel that he can’t openly announce his willingness to move up the elections, even though a commitment already exists with the United States envoy, because it would throw his supporters into disarray.”
Options for the dialogue
Those observing the unfolding events are wondering if the National Dialogue has any real possibility of achieving what the people are demanding – that Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo leave power – without having to continue burying the dead, and without entering into a civil war.
“If you look at a map of the roadblocks, it’s impressive. The country is barricaded off, the economy is barricaded off, transportation of merchandise and people is blocked. This is a fact that any government – as much as it may live in a reality different from ours – can’t avoid taking into consideration,” Ramirez said.
The writer also pointed out that “the monetary reserves are falling; bank deposits had already fallen 10%, and that percent has certainly continued to grow. This is a very fragile economy, a weak economy, and that fact has to influence the criteria of those making the decisions in the government.”
Ramirez observed: “the country is barricaded; the country is adverse to the government; there are cities that aren’t in government hands; there are cities where the National Police have had to leave; others where they’re under siege. It’s not a situation that shows a state of governability, and that’s why this state of affairs can’t last long.”
After having lived through three national strikes between 1978 and 1979, Ramirez considers that the 24 hour work stoppage on June 14th “is a force that we can’t make visible in a concrete way, but every time the government sends its delegation to the Dialogue table, they know that they’re more on the defensive, that they’ve further lost the initiative,” he described.
“Ortega and his wife have been left alone, surrounded by a reduced bastion of support, while the rest of the forces that backed them – in civil society, in the business groups – have deserted. The correlation of forces has completely changed, and now it’s running against them. That’s why I said that they’re on the defensive. Those Hilux pick-ups in the streets, the ones people call the “Nahua carts,”* loaded with paramilitaries mixed in with police who attack with such violence, are defensive. No one who has the initiative does that.”
Those that make up the government “can’t be blind: the citizens are able to fill the streets and later empty them completely. [On June 14th,] the streets emptied and business stopped, and it wasn’t because someone gave those instructions, but because the population was willing to go out on the street, or not go out,” he added.
“In my life experience, I’ve very seldom seen such civic determination among the citizens of Nicaragua. That unanimity of all the social sectors: from the poorest neighborhoods, the middle class, the sectors that are more or less well-off. They all acted unanimously to bring about a democratic change,” he concluded.
*Nahua Carts: Nicaraguan legend of a ghost cart (Carretanagua), driven by Death, that can be heard coming by at very late hours.