A conversation with Lesther Aleman, Violeta Granera, Medardo Mairena and Azahalea Solis, participants on the National Coalition.
By Carlos F. Chamorro (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – What is the most important legacy of the civic insurrection and why did it not succeed in 2018? What can the National Coalition learn from the legacy of the April Rebellion and its mistakes? What solution is there today to the double crisis of the dictatorship and the coronavirus pandemic in Nicaragua?
To discuss these questions, I interviewed separately, for the television program “Esta Semana” (This Week), Lesther Aleman, Azahalea Solis, Medardo Mairena and Violeta Granera, four of the protagonists of the spontaneous protest, which began two years ago, in April 2018, and who later joined the Civic Alliance and the National Unity.
This is a fragment of their answers on the evolution of the opposition movement towards the organizing of the National Coalition, which is still in process.
Two years after the April Rebellion, the crimes are in impunity. The dictatorship remains in power through a police state and no political reform has been made to facilitate an electoral solution.
What is the legacy of this civic insurrection for Nicaragua?
Lesther Aleman, university student: The greatest legacy is Ortega’s political defeat, and it begins by marking the end of the dictatorship. In 24 months there is no reliable evidence that they have managed to stabilize Nicaragua. Ortega comes out with a political, moral and social defeat by Nicaraguans, who confronted him since April 18.
That is, so far, the regime has not been able to normalize conditions in the country. On the contrary, it deepens the social, political, and economic crisis that we Nicaraguans face.
Violeta Granera, political activist, former director of the group Movement for Nicaragua: The legacy is the determination of the Nicaraguan people to fight for justice and freedom, and also to do it by civic means. This is the most important strategic legacy for the future of Nicaragua, that the youth and the Nicaraguan people in general decided not to fall into the provocation of violence and to continue the fight through the civic route. This will be an important change in political culture.
The April Rebellion also motivated us to greater coordination between the Blue and White opposition sectors that are struggling for freedom and justice. We will never forget our dead, all those incarcerated, the 70 who have not yet been released. Democracy and justice are the flags of our struggle. And finally, the legacy includes the undeniable weakening of the regime, both nationally and internationally.
Medardo Mairena, President of the Peasant Movement: The rebellion has not failed. The legacy left by our brothers and sisters in struggle —who aroused both national and international attention in Nicaragua, and many who gave their lives, we saw how the people exceeded themselves—, created consciousness among all those Nicaraguans who agree with our civic and peaceful struggle, but did not get involved. It is at that moment that they took on the challenge to also participate massively, all Nicaraguans that believe in democracy and who believe that we must live in a country free of dictatorship and corruption.
Azahalea Solis, lawyer, Women’s Autonomous Movement: The fact that a consciousness of the civic insurrection exists is essential: consciousness that the removal of the dictatorship is through a civic process, called elections; the fact that no one has forgotten that they must pay for their crimes against humanity, now coupled by their inefficiency in the handling of the pandemic.
That is, there is consciousness in broad sectors of the country, which transcends all social classes, and political or ideological positions, that this dictatorship has no future, even with the police state in which we live, and that the only solution is civic.
Why did the insurrection not succeed in 2018?
There was a time during the first 100 days of the civic insurrection that the movement seemed to have enough strength to compel the dictatorship to negotiate a solution through early elections. Did the dictatorship prevail? Why didn’t the April Rebellion succeed in 2018?
Medardo Mairena: I think it was necessary for us to unify as one fist—because although the people, those of us on foot took the street, went out to say “enough is enough” to Ortega,”—but it was needed that the private sector, big capital in this country, to be prepared and hence show its solidarity with the Nicaraguan people so that, together, we could have become involved in the democratization of Nicaragua, as is the dream of all Nicaraguans, of the 85% of Nicaraguans who fight against this dictatorial regime.
Azahalea Solis: The April Rebellion was something self-organized. At that time there were no communicating vessels between different sectors, there were roadblocks all over the country, but each roadblock had its own structure and its own leadership. In other words, there was no coordination.
On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that the police forces, the dictatorship’s repressive forces were intact. The dictatorship first tried that citizens themselves would rout the roadblocks, it sent people to confront the roadblocks. Since that did not work, it had to resort to force. From the beginning the dictatorship had the repressive force to rout those roadblocks. Because, in reality, roadblocks were groups of people who were armed with ideas, with thoughts, with a vocation for peace, but that was insufficient to end a dictatorship, if you don’t have alongside you, organization, coordination and concerted actions among all sectors.
Violeta Granera: A great lesson is precisely that despair made us believe that the departure of the regime was going to be immediate and easy. I think that we understand with a lot of pain that to get rid of a dictatorship we need to be more organized and have coordination strategies with several action fronts. This struggle is not only being in the streets but has to be at all levels, other lines of work that we have been learning and that we are implementing.
When there were roadblocks and all the repression that took place two years ago, nobody was thinking from where the other was coming from. In reality, ideological barriers or differences of any type stopped having any relevance. I believe that this lesson is what has allowed, for example, not only that people coordinate at the territorial level, but that this National Coalition has been formed, which is a political alliance, still in consolidation, but which was certainly unthinkable two years ago.
Lesther Aleman: In this self-organized process there was no coordination. Everything surged spontaneously. We are also facing mistakes, probably, when we did not really consider the force that was in the streets; and, until that moment, we began to deepen the communication links between each department, between each municipality, between each organization that appeared spontaneously. But we were with the activist vision of the street, making marches, sit-ins, protests. That activism that led us have a great presence before Nicaraguans, but it was also diffuse.
We raised the issue of resignation, others the issue of early elections, we struggled every day despite the force that was in the streets, with the repressive system that was in a process of reorganization, but did not have total control of the country.
What are the mistakes and lessons of April?
What can the National Coalition, to which you belong, learn from the lessons and mistakes of the April Rebellion?
Medardo Mairena: If we failed in 2018, it was because we did not unify. I believe that today we are making a difference, by unifying ourselves. And I believe that the side that did not push at that time has realized that the economy has collapsed, and that it has to do its part so that together we can put the necessary pressure, that is needed, so that we can achieve it with internal pressure and external pressure.
I think that what we are doing within the Coalition is important, in spite of the pandemic that has limited us from holding in-person meetings, but we are working online, elaborating the strategy, as we can, unified, to carry out actions to place demands on this regime, in order to solve this sociopolitical crisis that we are experiencing.
Azahalea Solis: The seed of a new politics emerged from the actor that was least expected, the youth. However, what can the Coalition learn? That a different political culture can be made. That there cannot be impositions, that consensus and dialogue are essential. That you cannot act behind the back of the citizenry, and that politics is not the property of political parties, much less of the leaderships.
We cannot remain in the self-organized. Let’s keep the self-organized philosophy as a matter of individual responsibility, but we have to transcend to the group, to concerted actions with others that I don’t like, but with those others, together, we have to get rid of the dictatorship.
Lester Aleman: The self-organized process had its phase, today we must move to the organizational process. The biggest challenge we have is organization, and that we learn from one of the mistakes of April 2018. An organization that will take you to the social base, to get Nicaraguans involved. If we want to continue protesting, have presence in the streets, in different territories at the national level, we need this process of organization. As of April 18, the demand for freedom, justice and democracy became preponderant, and it is a banner, but we are also dealing with a parallel struggle, to survive day by day in the face of the deepening of the economic crisis that is now aggravated by this world crisis we are facing.
Violeta Granera: We have learned that the sustainable solution to the crises that we have in Nicaragua, both those we have been dragging, as well as the current crisis of coronavirus, have only one solution: the exit of the regime and the establishment of a democracy.
There is no other more important political action at this time than contributing to saving lives. We are reactivating and strengthening our community networks to have a more fluent communication and to be able to support, as much as possible. We are also promoting spaces for coordination with the different sectors that are committed to help face this crisis. And, finally, we have to maintain the demands for measures that only the state can take, and consequently, denounce the irresponsible and criminal attitude that the regime has taken regarding this pandemic.
The crisis of the dictatorship and the Covid-19 pandemic
How do you see the solution to this double crisis, that of the dictatorship and of the coronavirus pandemic?
Medardo Mairena: The Peasant Movement, and those of us in the opposition, are taking precautions. This regime is like a part of the pandemic, because through its corrupt and flawed system it has been killing the Nicaraguan people. And today it is encouraging people to spread the pandemic. So, we must take all necessary preventive measures to avoid being infected, and not fall into the provocation of this regime that has been assassinating with bullets, and now pretends to encourage people to take to the streets to be infected.
Lester Aleman: It is time to show that we are a viable option to the power vacuum that we face with Ortega. Are we capable of taking over this country? This is the time to demonstrate it. Despite the limitations that exist, we are not a parallel government, but the pandemic puts us in an information role, of speaking to the public, raising consciousness, and showing the international community the inability of the Government that increasingly exposes citizens, and its own bases, to die by the pandemic. The greatest challenge we have as a young emerging student movement in the aftermath of April is to organize ourselves so that traditional politics does not take the lead as any alternative to power. That is, we as a youth organization can have the ability to be able to dialogue and negotiate with politicians who have been having the control.
In reality, we should not stop doing politics. We have to show the public that despite the pandemic, there is awareness that the life of Nicaraguans comes first. The fundamental base is to not cease in the organizational process, despite the pandemic.
Violeta Granera: We are facing, not only coronavirus, which is already quite serious, but an economic and social crisis that we have been dragging by the irresponsibility of the dictatorship. The only way to deal with it, firstly, is self-care and solidarity. We cannot be waiting for the state to react, we have to do what is in our reach and organize better in order to be in solidarity at the community level. At the same time we must maintain our criticism that the state actually has a policy to spread the virus. We have asked international organizations and those who are financial, for a supervision mechanism and oversight of resources that may come, so that, they are allocated to what the people of Nicaragua are really in need of at this time.
The most important political action is to contribute to saving lives, immediately, but this also means to strengthen the organization that we require to continue the struggle against the dictatorship.
We have to demand that the regime protect health professionals, better equipment of hospitals and to take measures for that 70% who live day-by-day, to have some kind of support program that allows them to go into quarantine and protect their lives. There are measures that cannot be taken by anyone other than the state, and that is the tragedy when you have a leaderless government.
Azahalea Solis: We have to realize that we are not in a sequence of 2018. What has happened with the coronavirus pandemic is an abrupt cut of an era. We have to keep talking to other organizations so that they join the National Coalition. And, of course, the Coalition must have an immediate and medium-term country plan; we cannot fall just into only early elections or to be supposedly prepared for 2021.
The reality of the coronavirus has broken all paradigms worldwide. I think that the dictatorship is playing politics of the past, that the pandemic, the deaths that it may cause will allow them to stay in power. However, the reality of this change of era also must take away this regime. And, of course, that it is going to force a political solution, for which Nicaragua as a whole must be ready, not only the sectors of the opposition.