Nicaragua: Is It Wrong to Look Back?

Daniel Ortega with the president of Cosep, Jose Adan Aguerri, and businessman Carlos Pellas. Niu | Carlos Herrera


You must know your friends, those who say they are your friends and those who should be at least good neighbors because you live very close to each other.


By Francisco Larios  (Confidential)

HAVANA TIMES – This morning I reread a story that shows how the current tragedy in Nicaragua has been brewing for many years. The news refers to the repression unleashed against farmers opposed to the infamous Canal Law 840, which for them, and in the light of any minimal intelligence, is just the legal veil with which the regime sought to disguise the plundering of the country’s natural resources and betray its much-vaunted nationalism.

The participants in the repression: riot police, paramilitary forces, and shock groups of the Sandinista Youth. The latter “oriented the riot police towards where there were supporters of the protests to abduct them from their homes or places of refuge.” There is talk of mistreating minors, torturing prisoners, dozens of disappeared campesinos, some of whom would later appear as prisoners in El Chipote. Today we would call them, with justice: “kidnapped”.

Now let’s go back to December 24, of the year 2014:

The party of the victors was in full swing.

And let me put my finger on the sore and mention some of those victors:

  • The new Sandinista economic elite, which little by little gained social legitimacy in the eyes of a large part of the traditional one;
  • Cosep (Superior Council of Private Enterprise), whose prominent entrepreneur had just finished pronouncing his beautiful apology for the “open system” of Nicaragua, in which people “vote”);
  • The Police were headed for years by Aminta Granera, a great woman, great humanist;
  • The “opposition” composed to a large extent by the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, whose representatives received – and continue to do so today- their juicy official salaries;
  • The Catholic Church of Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo and his entourage of bishops converted to Ortega supporters, who -whether or not-formally represented the Church; because although it is true that a large part of the clergy was already in a dignified critical position, the institution has an understandable (human) inclination to close ranks and close windows.

Of all these, it is very clear that only the Catholic Church has amended its steps, with deployments of heroism, integrity and attachment to its pastoral mission already known to all.

Why must we put our finger on the sore?

Obviously, it is not a pleasure to do so. In fact, sometimes it generates rejection and censorship. Not only because even in the best families there are censors, but because many people in good faith cling to the illusion that it is better to keep silent so as not to “affect unity”, and that “to look back” is “to play the dictator’s game.”

It seems to me that such statements are fallacies, statements pronounced with good will or that come from a political calculation.

First of all, we need the truth. The truth is not the enemy of progress, nor of liberation, nor of democracy, but quite the opposite. On the other hand, deception, or worse, self-deception, does not build anything worthwhile and lasting.

If we deceive ourselves today, we will pay again tomorrow, or at least those who in our land always end up paying: the most vulnerable, the poorest, the most generous, the purest.

We must put our finger on the wound to contribute to a democratic outcome, so that the blood and sacrifice of so many of our brothers and sisters will not be in vain, so that once and for all the sadness ceases in our Nicaragua.

Do not forget -critics of the criticism- of the label #niperdónniolvido that they constantly reproduce!

Know the enemy, meet the friend.

You must know the enemies, do not deceive yourself as those who have spoken of “dialogue” and “soft landing”. “It’s the only way out,” they told us. And of course, this was presented as the only alternative to the torture room. Desperate, and with good reason, because the nightmare must end as soon as possible, many accepted the proposal, which they believed to be civic and hopeful.

It is useless, it has served very little.

Rather, by accepting the “dialogue” when the regime was clearly overwhelmed by the popular demonstration, Ortega and Murillo were given the opportunity to rearm, to send their delegates to recruit and organize paramilitary groups and assassins who would later massacre the citizens in the roadblocks and barricades. I am not inside the mind and soul of those who participated in such a fateful decision, but for history, and for our learning, the facts are there, widely documented.

Closing your eyes will not help.

By the way, you must know your friends, those who say they are your friends and those who should be at least good neighbors because you live very close to each other, and we have to share the same street. This is the case of the country’s business sector. You have to know what moves them, what they are capable of and what is to be expected of them. It’s necessary to abandon the false expectations that paralyze the democratic movement, such as the expectation, fed by many people with access to media and circles of influence, that Cosep will act with a patriotic spirit and enter -being able to avoid it- in action against the dictatorship.

Unfortunately for the country, especially for the poor, but even for the business sector, the Cosep leaders suffer from acute myopia, which makes them obey, with gross indifference to human rights, only what they perceive as profit maximization or minimization of very short-term losses.

You have to know this, not only to not wait for a miracle, but to make sure that the democracy we want to build tomorrow is sustainable: no democratic system can survive in Nicaragua (or anywhere in the world) if it is assumed that altruism it is the dominant force, wisdom is common virtue, and goodness is sovereign.

The fear of democracy

We must also be clear that although in principle the majority wants a civilized and free country, there are minorities who are reluctant to give up their privileges, or who are afraid of the unknown, in this case, democracy.

A recent editorial in La Prensa newspaper makes clear those reluctances, and those fears, by highlighting the role of the private sector in the democratic struggle, and denouncing sectors that allegedly undermine, from the opposition to Ortega, the business sector. The editorial coincides with a Cosep media offensive, which tries to neutralize the citizen’s dissatisfaction with their position expressed with fury in social networks and in calls to boycott the sales of its emblematic companies and products.

This, at a time when the repression of the dictatorship turns the country into a hell and pushes the economy to an unprecedented depression in the absence of armed struggle.

This is closing your eyes.

This is to demonstrate once again that, when choosing between security for their business and democracy, they prefer what they have always known, which has almost always existed: authoritarianism.

This is to show that their distancing from dictatorship is for them an extreme measure, even an uncomfortable one.

This, in addition, is false. Because it is false that there are in the opposition to Ortega-Murillo “radical” sectors that attempt against the rights of entrepreneurs [“rights” does not mean “privileges”].

Nobody thinks that a new Nicaragua will bring expropriations or restrict free economic initiative. The citizens complaint is that the big businessmen, who profited spectacularly during eleven years of co-government with Ortega-Murillo, have not put their economic power at the service of the struggle against the dictatorship that they helped to build.

Is it too much to ask them to do it?

Ironically, corporate short-sightedness not only makes the overthrow of Ortega-Murillo take longer and cost much more, in lives and economic losses, but it leaves them increasingly, more for history, and for collective memory, on the wrong side. “The Nicaraguan businessmen have already made a mistake once,” said former Costa Rican president Solis, “and they may be making a mistake again.”

In a democracy, those mistakes carry costs. The problem is that neither the businessmen, nor the rest of us, are used to making calculations as a democracy, which can be tragic for both parties. It can feed demagogic discourses on one side, authoritarian ineptitude on the other, and make both lose.

Armed with courage to touch the sore, let’s hope this is not the case.

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5 thoughts on “Nicaragua: Is It Wrong to Look Back?

  • Totally agree!

  • Rob, you’ve got part of it right. Yes the Ortega government was getting great marks with the US for those first 11 years of Ortega’s return to power. The “socialist”country was praised by the World Bank and IMF, was extremely friendly to foreign corporate interests, was paying its debts and was a peaceful place for tourists and retirees. The pact between the government, the Nicaraguan big-businesses sector, the Catholic Church and yes its happy relationship with the old enemy in Washington provided the picture you draw.

    The fact that his pact with the loyal opposition party of Aleman allowed Ortega to strip the other powers of any independence was of little concern to the business world. The uncontolled 500 million a year from Venezuela was also of little concern, it meant more social spending, private investment and more money circulating, all the better.

    Now another of your true statements is: “Suddenly, the government went LOCO, and decided to create trouble to themselves?” Yes they went loco, when students and elderly protested against what they considered an unfair social security reform the government sent out its riot police and party thugs to beat and KILL demonstrators. As the protests grew so did the repression which has continually worsened over 8+ months.

    In most countries when a government orders the shooting of demonstrators, attacks journalists, and makes mass arrests, not to mention destroys the economy, something LOCO has taken place.

    And even the Catholic Church, Nicaraguan business class, and the US and its tentacles, could no longer stomach what occurred, it is too embarrassing, and Ortega became a liability instead of an asset.

    Of course the fact that the protesting Nicaraguans want a return to freedom of speech and the press, checks and balances in their State with independent judicial and electoral powers, and an end to uncontrolled corruption, nepotism and cronisim is not so unreasonable.

    And the fact is that if Ortega and his lovely wife, who actually runs the show, hadn’t massacred and jailed opponents, and basically ripped apart the social fabric of the Nicaraguan society, they would still be enjoying their honeymoon and tourists and retirees would be enjoying the country.

  • FAKE NEWS!! Think about this for a moment, for the past 11 years, all you heard and read about Nicaragua were wonderful news. “Best place to retire (International Living), “ten best places to visit”, “25 places to visit before you die”, on and on. The World Bank and the IMF only had wonderful things to say about the economy and the reduction of the poverty from 48% down to 24%. “Best executed economic plan by far” this is the IMF making this statement. This country is still considered the safest country in Central America and one of the safest in the Americas, even though its neighbors have a gang problem. You can ask any tourist that visited Nicaragua in the last eleven years and they will confirm my statements.

    It’s why I can only wonder why the sudden change in Nicaragua’s policy. Suddenly, the government went LOCO, and decided to create trouble to themselves? Or is it the the US, as usual, does not like a Socialist country that is doing great without “their help” and wonderful standards of “democracy?” I think I will give the Nicaraguan government the benefit of the doubt. This tiny country in Central America, was invaded by the US way too many times. There is a pattern of the US abuses against this country. Just in 1986, Nicaragua won a legal battle against the US in the International Court, because the US support and formation of the Contras.

    The US has change the way they battle countries that do not want to surrender to their policies. They form organizations like the USAID, among many others, they usu the “Human Rights Organization, the Organization of American States, the media and long list of groups, to destabilize Nicaragua. Fake News like this article is their main weapon. I am willing to put my money where my mouth is, and challenge the writer along with witnesses to travel to Nicaragua with me, you pick the date and time. If the country is in total peace and nothing is going on, you I win your house and you pay for all expenses. On the contrary, if everything you say on your article it’s true, you win. I will wait for your answer pal…

  • Excellent thoughts, pres Ortega needs to partner up with us quick on something To ease the USA paranoia of Russia or China involved

  • I am at a loss at what the writer really meant to say at the end of the day: Is he promoting armed resisting activities to overthrow the legal established political system in Nicaragua for a not yet seen and promised democracy of the future?

    What does all this mean? So Nicaraguanss contrary to the government and their foreign helpers
    Overthrow the current government AND only later we are to worry who takes over the new government? And we are to believe WHOSE promises of a better life for Nicaraguans? Very naive ideas brother man but no thanks.

    I don’t think so.

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