“We Need More Condemnation of Ortega from South America”

Historian and former guerrilla commander Monica Baltodano with Celso Amorim, Lula da Silva’s main advisor. Photo: Courtesy

In visits to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Monica Baltodano condemned the Ortega dictatorship and its human rights violations

By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Former Nicaraguan guerrilla commander Mónica Baltodano, appearing before representatives of political parties, ministers and other personalities from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, denounced the human rights violations being committed in her country at the hands of the Daniel Ortega dictatorship.

Baltodano says that for the most part, she received expressions of solidarity with the Nicaraguan people and repudiation of the Ortega dictatorship. In this interview with the program Esta Semana, she says she believes that the sum of these voices, with the addition of Brazilian diplomatic prestige, can help create paths that could lead Nicaragua to the return of democracy.

Mónica, you met with important political and social leaders of leftist movements in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. In general terms, what is the stance of these left political sectors –who have been part of the São Paulo Forum– in relation to the political crisis in Nicaragua? Do they support the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega?

There’s been an evolution. All the groups I met with expressed their repudiation of the Ortega regime. We’re talking about parliamentarians, government representatives, feminists, religious leaders such as Frey Betto, social movements, and trade unionists. It’s clear that there is little information circulating about Nicaragua, and the truth is that by informing them of the extremes to which the dictatorship has gone, they were moved and, I’d say, it committed them to do something.

I believe there is great potential for solidarity and support for the struggle of the Nicaraguan people in the south. Up until now, the main emphasis and prioritization of dissemination and lobbying work has been directed towards the north. One of the conclusions I draw is that we need to direct more work towards the south, and in particular towards the left. This work obviously corresponds to the left-leaning sector of the Nicaraguan opposition, where we can clearly and without apologies organize our advocacy work towards the left. 

It’s also true that in all the groups I met with, there are factions that continue to support Ortega, and so there will certainly be disputes. We have an important role to play in influencing those sectors. Within the Workers’ Party of Brazil, in the Frente Amplio of Uruguay, as well as in left groups in Argentina, there are people linked to the Nicaraguan embassies who reproduce Ortega’s narrative. Precisely for that reason it’s important we continue our work of influencing.

Let’s talk about each of these countries separately. In Brazil, besides meeting with Celso Amorim, President Lula’s main advisor on foreign policy, you met with leaders of the PT and other leftist political parties. What can we expect now from the position of Lula’s government regarding Nicaragua? Is Lula closer to Boric and Petro, or to AMLO and Alberto Fernández?

The PT government no longer really belongs to the PT. It’s a coalition government where other forces had to participate in support of Lula to beat Bolsonaro. Within the coalition, there is, for example, the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). Within PSOL –who were the ones who invited me– there are currents that push Lula’s government to a clearer position in relation to the situation in Nicaragua. In the PT I met with founding leaders. I am even talking to people with high level responsibilities such as Tarso Genro from Porto Alegre, who have a commitment within the PT to continue pushing for a clearer position in denouncing human rights violations in Nicaragua.

It’s also clear that the Lula government achieved an important shift within the Human Rights Council that met in Geneva, where, according to some important officials with whom I met at the Foreign Ministry, they lobbied in favor of extending the mandate of the Group of Experts for two years, but wanting to make sure the approval would not be rejected at least by Bolivia and Honduras. In other words, they managed to get these two countries to abstain.

The Brazilian spokesperson stated in the Security Council, in the Human Rights Council, that in addition to the repudiation of Ortega’s repressive measures, Brazil wanted to continue to serve as a bridge. But in our conversations they made clear that so far Ortega has shown no signs of wanting to have any kind of bridge with anyone. All he wants is to be supported. This makes me think, based on all the conversations, that if we continue working with these governments –and not only governments of the left, but also governments of other political leanings–, they could build a platform in the south, in which Brazil participates, to push for building paths that lead to the return to democracy and the return of freedom in our country. It seems to me that Lula is closer to possibly assuming a position like Petro’s and Boric’s more than to AMLO’s, definitely.

In Uruguay you were with former president Pepe Mujica and his partner Lucía Topolansky, former president of the Senate, and with leaders of the Frente Amplio and also of the National Party and the Independent Party. Uruguay is not governed by the left. Is there a predominant view in Uruguay about what dictatorship means in Nicaragua?

Yes. Uruguay is a special case, because in effect, the government, which is of the whites, people of conservative tendency, is clearly against Ortega. I had an interview with the president of the Parliament and with the president of the Senate, who is also vice-president of the country, and they have declared themselves totally against Ortega’s human rights violations. The Frente Amplio, when it was the government, issued five resolutions against human rights violations and they even gave them to me.

I am talking about government action. In the case of the Frente Amplio itself, it was only in February, after the denationalizations, that they issued a consensus communiqué by all the political currents. This is a coalition that integrates political tendencies of all kinds, and in which Pepe Mujica’s movement is somehow predominant, but there’s also the presence of communists who continue to support Ortega.

It’s very important that the Frente Amplio has taken this position, because perhaps now it will be possible to build a global position of consensus in Uruguay. For me, this country is clearly inclined to repudiate Ortega and is one of the countries that can play a role in bringing together UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] or even CELAC [Community of Latin American and Caribbean States], to push for a clear definition of a break with Ortega’s human rights violations.

And on the subject of human rights: In Argentina you were with the representatives of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo Movement and also with the Nobel Peace Prize winn fer, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. How is the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, and the repression that Ortega tries to justify by alleging that he is the victim of another coup d’état attempt, being seen in Argentina?

The “founding line” Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, presided by Norita Cortiñas, has clearly repudiated the human rights violations committed by Ortega and does not justify these violations under any circumstances. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, expressed to me his total repudiation of human rights violations, and he handles a lot of information as part of a very important human rights network in Latin America. He is quite informed and believes that there are other entities at the Latin American level –and he mentioned some to me– that can play a greater role in modifying the positions that the entire South should have in relation to Nicaragua. And the most important thing is that he does not believe in this story of a coup d’état.

I should say that it was very important our emphasis on the fact that regardless of whether the Ortega regime is a left or right government, it is inadmissible in the 21st century for any government, no matter what the supposed justification, to commit the serious crimes against humanity and the crimes against human rights that Ortega has committed. I believe this is a very important emphasis that needs to be in all our information and dissemination work. 

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay –we could add Chile– went from military dictatorships to democratic processes, discarding armed struggle through different paths and processes. Is there any lesson or learning from these experiences for Nicaragua, which today is a police state?

Yes, it was very important to learn about the experience of Uruguay in particular, where the dictatorship prevented any form of organization within the country and forced thousands of Uruguayans into exile. In the meantime, there were hundreds of Tupamaros guerrillas in jail. Some of them were in prison for 13 or 14 years, like Pepe Mujica and Lucía.

They were able, from exile, to build a convergence in which whites, reds, ex-guerrillas, Social-Christians, groups from different political currents, participated and coordinated in such a way that they were able to organize resistance forces in the country, which is what allowed them to achieve a change in the correlation of forces that forced the dictatorship to hold a plebiscite. Obviously, there was also international pressure.

After the plebiscite –in which the dictatorship lost and the end to the dictatorship won– they were able to hold elections in which the forces that now make up the Frente Amplio participated in a pluralistic way. This, by the way, seems to me a very novel experience, because to this day the Frente Amplio has been constituted for 50 years as a mechanism of articulation of different ideological currents and political positions, and they manage to continuously present themselves in electoral processes, dealing with and overcoming their differences.

It seems to me that this experience is important for Nicaraguans to learn from. We obviously need to develop the ability to overcome our real differences –differences we have for historical reasons, for reasons of political thought, and for reasons of political parties. We need to be able to overcome these differences and build a minimum program, and in the same way it happened in Uruguay: a minimum program that commits us all to a democratic path of freedom and social justice.

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