A Generation of Nicaraguans Raises Its Hands

Amidst renewed understandings and old memories, we recognize ourselves as political actors capable of communicating, proposing and constructing agreements.

Nicaraguan students: “If you don’t let us DREAM, we won’t let you SLEEP”. Foto: elpais.com

By Alejandra Centeno*  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – It’s easy to look back and view with clarity what’s happened in Nicaragua, but in 2018, when we were running from the bullets, we couldn’t even imagine many of the things that we’d be experiencing. We could only distinguish the fact that the present seemed a bewildering mix of scenes from the past that our grandparents had told us about.

In the face of that fleeting present, moved by indignation, impotence, grief and solidarity, we filled the streets and the plazas demanding changes and screaming: “He must go!”

A year has passed since it all began, and we haven’t stopped struggling for transformations; on the contrary, as time has passed we’ve taken on more complex tasks. One of them has been to establish ourselves as social actors that can influence the reconfiguration of the national political map at the same time that we watch over the preservation of our own identity, so strongly linked to our struggle for free universities.

As we confronted the two dictatorships – that of the university and that of the country – we had to recognize two things. The first has to do with our human condition that, in the current forms of inequality, discrimination and violence, finds itself in a fragile and vulnerable state.

The second is recognizing the ethical, practical and real challenges that these realities and socio-political experiences present. It’s a challenge to stand up to the institutionalized violence that crushes human rights, and to do so with non-violent, communicative and civic actions that don’t feed a chain of terror.

Later, perhaps the most important recognition was of our duty to raise our hands, take the microphone and recognize ourselves as political actors capable of pushing our own demands, our own agenda for change. I’d note that this is perhaps the most important, because it doesn’t only force us to trust ourselves, but also to insert ourselves into spaces that “aren’t for kids,” and in which we must take on three fundamental tasks: communicating, proposing and constructing agreements.

The first task we took on upon emerging as a social force was social communication. This can be understood as an activity aimed at having different actors attempt to reason about a determined situation in order to arrive at a common agreement for action. The communicative action can be considered of little importance, until we evaluate in an ontological sense that having access to the Word means configurating social truths, islands of sense and objects of thought. Communicating with each other brings us to the almost immediate realization of our second task: proposing.

Up through the present, our anxieties and uncertainties are numerous.  Because of that, it’s really important to transform them into proposals in any way possible. As we present proposals in different areas based on our concerns, the interest groups begin to discuss our demands, which are normally those of the general population.

“They were students, not delinquents”.

It’s very important to promote solutions in the different spaces from the perspective of our thoughts and feelings. It’s not an easy task, especially if our ideas aren’t in sync with the traditional political pragmatism. However, within the challenge itself lies the predominating importance of this effort, since as we distance ourselves from preconceived notions, we contribute our concepts to the deliberative processes.

Finally, we find the most interesting task: reaching agreement. Given the heterogeneity of the interests that are being blended in the spaces, we will often have to seek accords. We understand that our strength and commitment will be utilized to the greatest extent when we grow in the capacity to achieve internal accords in an inclusive manner, when we unite around what we have in common and help overcome the tensions, maintaining clearly that we have a common goal: “He must go.”

Our current struggle is a dream of peace and of guarantees to live and develop; in addition it’s an effort to breathe life into that dream. We ask ourselves constantly: When will April 19th end? When will we be able to stop running?” When will we be able to return home? When will we stop being a people at the mercy of a monolithic armed power?”

I like to think that it will be sooner than I expect, but as the French jurist and political scientist Maurice Durveger maintained: “For a struggle to be definitively eliminated, it’s necessary to destroy the causes themselves that produce it.”  Even though the causes of our struggle assume a lot of forms – corruption, abuse, influence trafficking, impunity – they only have two names: Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. Until they leave power, until they return the Nicaragua they’ve abducted, we’ll be continuing in the struggle.

It’s clear that with their departure not all the factors of conflict will be eliminated. That’s why today, and through all the days to come, even while we take on these tasks as a kind of spot repairs, as students we must remain always ready and attentive to take issue with the logic of power and to struggle for the most basic ideals that every human being should hold present: peace, liberty and justice.

Alejandra Centeno*

When the immediate causes of our struggle have been addressed, then we must direct our understandings towards democracy, peace and justice. The democracy of the coming years must involve the construction of solid mechanisms through which the majority of us can oversee and put limits on the minority in power. We must tear up by the roots that cliché of “the popular will” that swaddles representative democracies which divorce themselves from the people’s interests.

In terms of justice, we must begin with a very simple task: “recognizing the unjust” without condemning it.  I refer to the fact that we can’t demand punishment for the murders without also demanding a penalty for a guy who sexually abuses a girl. In terms of peace, recognizing otherness without condemning it seems very banal, but it’s how you make peace. All of the understandings that have thus far been written have occurred because for this entire past year we’ve witnessed our own strength, but we’ve also been witness to human misery.

It falls to us to chart the changes. Throughout history, the students have always assumed commitments, from the time of Argentina’s university reform in 1918, through the 1956 student defeat of Franco, the 1964 student movement against the Vietnam war, and the student revolutions of 1968 that began with the French May in Paris and spread throughout Europe and on to Mexico. In fact, the Mexican government of that time called the student movement a communist attempt to overthrow the government and criminalized its members as terrorists and delinquents, just as we are called today.

These things show us that today, as never before, we’re in the doorway to the construction of a fresh reality.  We’re at the level of the convictions we defend, considering that we can be no less, since nothing that we do will ever be enough to fully honor all the Nicaraguans who gave their lives fighting so that Nicaragua can be free.

Today, even when things don’t seem to be moving forward, it falls to us to write a new chapter in history. We’re not armed, but pen and paper are enough to take us there where the bullets can’t penetrate: our consciences.

*Student and member of the University Coordinator for Justice and Democracy