Will Nicaragua Have a New Religion?

Silvio Prado: “The Catholic Church and the government dispute contact with the population”

Silvio Prado in Masaya, Nicaragua. 11/05/2017. Photo: Jader Flores/ LA PRENSA

Sociologist and political scientist Silvio Prado says that Daniel Ortega’s regime is at war with the Catholic Church because “it does not bow before them,” it is the social institution closest to the population and represents a conflict with “chayismo,” the religion of which Rosario Murillo pretends to be its priestess.

By La Prensa

HAVANA TIMES – In the opinion of sociologist Silvio Prado, Daniel Ortega’s regime only needs to subdue the Catholic Church to establish a single model of thought, and that is why it has intensified the persecution against priests and religious people.

In this interview, Prado also talks about Rosario Murillo’s intention of being a “priestess of her own religion.”

Prado, who is an expert on municipal issues, also talks about this year’s municipal elections, the deterioration of mayor’s offices, the massive migration of Nicaraguans and the role of the opposition, which he considers to be “deplorable.”

Do you think the situation in Nicaragua can improve?

It is a situation that is getting worse, that deteriorates every day because we are facing an authoritarian regime that has decided that its way of governing is through domination using the greatest possible violence. Both physical violence as evidenced with the political prisoners, as well as institutional and symbolic violence that means the cancellation of so many non-profit organization’s legal status. All these are gestures of violence against people and against society. It is an authoritarian government that has decided to erase from Nicaragua any traces of individual and collective rights and it is getting worse because it is a regime which has uncertainty and insecurity in its heart.

In the last few months there has been a massive outflow of Nicaraguans to foreign countries.

Yes, it is a way to evade repression. I understand people who go. If you don’t have freedoms in a country, you can’t work, you have to leave. People leave because life has become impossible in Nicaragua. A way of life is not only to eat, to go dancing, it is also to have the freedom to be what you want to be. Freedom of thought, freedom to form a club, an association, a union. If you have neither freedom, nor the possibilities of improving your well-being, well you must leave. Somehow the dictatorship is pushing the population to leave in order to remain with only the few remaining loyal. That is what all dictatorships in Latin America and the world have done, push people to leave because they believe that the country is their farm, and they will only keep the people who accept their rules of the game. Leaving the country is a form of silent protest.

How do you see Daniel Ortega’s base support?

Every day he faces new challenges, new desertions among his ranks. His repression is getting worse every day in two aspects: both to repress those who are not aligned with his ideas as well as his own. He is like a boa, which is contracting around itself and goes around squeezing society, both to his own as well as those who are not his. That is the characteristic of a totalitarian regime that in its creed does not give any margin to people or organizations, including its own, so it is not odd that at the same time it represses opponents, it also persecutes critics within the Sandinista Front, within its officials.

That one day the OAS ambassador resigns, well Ortega’s distrust towards his officials gets worse. That one day an almost folkloric character within the Sandinista Front such as Chino Enoc makes revealing criticism against the way the Party is led, because it oppresses all possibilities so that these criticisms do not occur. It is a system of government that its only way of relating with others is showing itself to terrify and give lessons to its own: “If you continue with that, this could happen to you.” Thus, the best way to be a citizen is not to think critically, not to comment critically and not to organize or propose anything that is outside the goals and the lines that the dictatorship has drawn for society.

How do you see this year’s municipal elections?

The mayor’s offices are offices of the dictatorship. Local government as such does not exist. There is a basic condition for municipal government to exist and that is that they be autonomous and if there is no autonomy, there is no local government. There is an administration of centralized decisions, but there is not a self-government that manages the affairs of its citizens based on the interests and the demands of its citizens, because local governments do not have the capacity to decide on their own, to make decisions based on the demands of their constituency.

The coming municipal elections will be another facade as the national elections were, a farce, because… what elections could there be when there is no freedom to present candidates, to form political parties? The only space there will be is for small aligned parties, there are no parties or candidacies to defy power and the logical thing in a democracy is that the opposition defies power. It is logical and necessary. The vast majority of the population is not going to vote. If they did not vote in the national elections, they will not vote in the local elections.

How do you see the fact that some mayors joined the repression against opponents?

The mayor’s offices are administrative offices of national decisions and in the worst cases, the mayors, as in the cases of Estelí and Matagalpa, are chiefs of the paramilitaries. They completely changed the nature of local rulers to ringleaders of the repression and of murderers. The people have reasons to feel forgotten, pushed aside, abandoned because they feel that they are not a beneficiary of an administration that is only focused on responding to the interests of the central government or party.

How do you assess the persecution of the Catholic Church? This week a priest was arrested in Nandaime.

If yesterday was the turn of the doctors, of the students, of universities, of civil society that has been sweep away, they are now going after a sector of society that does not guarantee any loyalty to them, that does not bow to him (Ortega). The Catholic Church disputes several spheres with the government, among them contact with the people and in Nicaragua there is not another social institution that has more contact with the people than the Church. It disputes this direct relationship, and it disputes the realm of ideology. A government that boasts of encompassing an ideological realm from Christianity, Socialism, Solidarity, for them a religious spectrum that does not obey them is a serious problem. If they had a yielding Catholic Church that repeated their discourse, there would be no problem.

Silvio Prado, a sociologist specialized in municipal issues. Oscar Navarrete/LA PRENSA.

Does Rosario Murillo have anything to do with this persecution of the Church?

The other realm is not ideological, but is in the realm of spirituality, namely the soul of the population. Rosario Murillo intends to be the priestess of her own religion, a religion that we could call “chayismo” and every day she preaches love, brotherhood, and everything else. The Catholic Church with its discourse of hope, of believing in a better future, that all tyrants are temporary, has a discourse that permeates the population and where the seed of rebellion germinates. The Catholic Church is the last obstacle to the establishment of a single thought system.

How does it impact the population when they mess with their spiritual leaders?

It feels terrible. The Sandinista Front already made those mistakes in the eighties when it was a stronger party, better structured, with a clearer ideological profile. It already made a mistake and I thought that they had realized they were never going to replace the religious creed of the population. For people who are religious, they are messing with something of their private life, with an entity that has been doing this for many years, a series of symbols and rites that are established in the mindset of people. You can do it through secular education, and you can shape critical consciousness, but if they want to replace a religious creed with another pseudo-religious creed of Chayo Murillo, well, they are doing badly, they are doing terrible. They are creating a greater breeding ground for increasing discontent.

The population still cannot show this discontent as it did in 2018

Who anticipated the social outburst of 2018? Whoever tells me, even on April 16, that there was going to be an outburst of this nature, I will pay him whatever he asks for. Nobody suspected it. These are cycles of accumulation. In 2018, people were fed up after so many years. This time, the repression has been greater and logically the population is afraid. People are afraid that they will be thrown in prison, that they will disappear, that they will be tortured, that they will be killed, that their houses will be taken away, that they will be confiscated or that they will have to go into exile or that they will be expatriated as happened to those poor musicians. Why don’t people rebel? Because the time has not arrived and because there has not been a mobilizing factor. I think that the dictatorship is contributing to a new social outburst. Every day it contributes because it believes that the most efficient way to govern is through repression and people are getting fed up.

How do you see the opposition?

The role of the opposition is deplorable. They continue with the same problems and have not wanted to learn from their mistakes and the people do not hear another proposal, another discourse. The ego-driven fights continue. There are a bunch of splinter groups of all types. You can see that in the communiqués. There are more acronyms than people who sign them. That is sad. They are not capable of reaching an agreement, their differences outweigh their points of agreement. The fact that the opposition agrees to overthrow Ortega is not enough. That was sufficient at the beginning, but not at this moment.  Now it is necessary to be around demands that mix several things: the immediate, the strategic.

Are you going to get involved in an opposition where there is a dogfight every day? They even fight in public, on Tweeter and YouTube. For God’s sake! There is so much immaturity. I don’t deny that there are people who are doing their best efforts and I do not believe that the opposition is divided because they are imprisoned, I don’t believe that. It is a question of egos, of “I don’t talk to you,” of an inability to manage differences. If you are not in agreement with what Tom, Dick and Harry says, then I will fight, and I will leave and form another group, even if we are only three or four of us, but immediately I will place an acronym. It is absurd.

Silvio Prado has a PhD in Political Science and lives in Spain. File photo by Jader Flores / La Prensa

On a personal level

Silvio Prado was born and raised in Managua, but has been living in Madrid, Spain, for several years. He graduated as a sociologist from the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) and has a PhD in Political Science from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

He has specialized in municipal issues. He does not like to be called a “political analyst.”

He was the director of the Centro de Estudios y Análisis Políticos (CEAP) and has worked in organizations at the municipal level in Boaco and Juigalpa.

He likes to climb mountains and go hiking. He also enjoys cooking. He says that he enjoys preparing a Sicilian dish called “caponata,” but his signature dish is “marmitako,” which is tuna-based.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times