2007 - 2021

Daniel Ortega, the Bard and the Elephant

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and and their entrances; and one man in his time plays out many parts.” William Shakespeare.

On occasion of the 3rd anniversary of students killed in demonstrations in April 2018 in Nicaragua, and disturbances following.

For a teenager who asked me, “Who is Daniel Ortega?”

Daniel Ortega has played more parts than even the English bard could have imagined.

A cursory look at the record reveals: he was arrested for the first time at age 15 for opposing the US backed dictator Somoza.  He robbed the Bank of America in his early 20s to fund the Sandinista insurrection.  He was imprisoned as a political activist and sentenced to 7 years.   I have read he was tortured; many were left to stand for hours and threatened with execution.  What courage to withstand torture?  What does torture do to a man’s soul, and how does that play out in later life? It would take Shakespeare to untangle that one.

He was released on a prisoner exchange, trained in Cuba, and on his return to Nicaragua he was key figure in one of the three insurrectionary groups that organised the revolution.  He was  a brilliant organiser and lead the Sandinista revolution to success in July of 1979 which became a beacon of hope for the marginalised of Latin America.

I, (like many other thousands of young volunteers from around the world) was drawn to Nicaragua by its message of hope, especially the literacy campaign and mass vaccinations against polio and land reform.  Oxfam infuriated right wing apologists for Reagan and Bush,  by insisting that the only threat Nicaragua was to the rest of Latin America, was “the threat of a good example.   I was in Nicaragua for the first free elections in October of 1984 which Ortega at the head of the Sandinistas won handsomely, despite the violence of the United States.

On the 30th of April 1987 I saw President Ortega on TV give a brilliant speech at the funeral service of 27 year old engineer Ben Linder, the first US volunteer to be murdered by the US backed Contra.  Ortega, with dignified solemnity, before Ben’s parents,  asked “ “For whom do the bells toll?  Hemingway asked in the midst of the fire that incinerated the Spanish people, and over the ashes scattered by fascism. Yet out of those ashes rose the songs and hope of the people of Garcia Lorca.”  He went on to record the names of other International volunteers recently murdered and added “For whom do the bells toll here in Nicaragua? For the 40,000 victims that the US aggression has claimed from the Nicaraguan population in these six years of war?”

I remember being struck by how the literary reference harking back to another historical tragedy gave weight to the grief.

Over the next several years Nicaragua was sliced apart; the CIA trained the Contra who terrorised the civilian population.  The US organised the internal opposition too, co-ordinated trade embargoes, mined Nicaraguan ports, destroyed the infrastructure and generally made life hell on earth, all under a wave of constant  propaganda and diplomatic pressure.   Despite favourable decisions by the World Court in favour of Nicaragua and endless declarations by the United Nations Assembly, NGOs and Human Rights organisations the United States ignored international law and continued the blood bath on a tiny country of only  3.5 million while the rest of the world looked on.  Ronald Reagan swore he would make Nicaragua cry “Uncle”, with the might of the world’s superpower knee on Nicaragua’s neck.

I was involved in a committee that prepared the visit of  Daniel Ortega, his wife Rosario Murillo and foreign minister, Catholic priest Miguel D’Escoto to Scotland while they traveled Europe as they promoted the Oscar Arias peace plan promoted by the 5 central American Presidents who were desperately trying to end the violence in Central America.  Daniel Ortega went to Mass at the Jesuit Church in Glasgow, (after being bumped from the Cathedral by Archbishop Winning who proved himself to be no Oscar Romero)  took communion,  addressed trade unionists ,students, journalists and generally charmed the politicians and civic leaders as he promoted the plan favoured by everyone, bar the the United States.  Senator John McCain, (later to be a US presidential candidate) summed up traditional Yankee gangsterism, “We have interests in Central America we cannot consign to 5 Central American Presidents.”

I remember Daniel Ortega’s easy presence and gentle smile throughout the packed visit.  To use a football analogy, no matter whom he addressed, he seemed to have time on the ball.

In the build up to the next elections of 1990, after ten years of war, the United States announced that it would stop the war, lift the embargo, offer a mini Marshall plan, if the Nicaraguans would vote for their favoured candidate, Violeta Chamorro.   Noam Chomsky memorably said at the time it was like saying,  vote for us and we will stop killing your children.

And so it came to pass, against the expectations of the opinion polls, the Nicaraguans understandably voted to end the carnage, and voted for the favoured US candidate.  The Sandinistas were out.

What would that do to the soul of a man, to have seen his country dismembered, its citizens tortured and murdered,  and then to have the democratic experiment overturned with such gross interference, and applauded as freedom by a supine international community?  It was voter fraud on a galactic scale, that would make ballot stuffing seem like child’s play.  Even now it is shamefully missing from the grand narrative by the world’s commentariat.

How the bottles of champagne popped in the US embassy in Managua that night.  It was the final chess move in 10 years of carefully choreographed brutality.  It was a stake to the heart of all the hopes of the 1979 revolution.

I confess I felt numb with fury as I remembered Nicaraguan friends who had lost their loved ones.

What went on in the heart of Daniel Ortega and his comrades that night, for them,  the day the music died? It would take the Bard to figure that one out.

For no good reason, and no simple parallel is intended,  I am reminded of the brutality of the 30 year war from 1618 to 1648.  Marauding bands of mercenaries laid waste to peasant communities throughout  mainland Europe, all killing each other in the name of religion; then it seemed they just got used to killing; plague and misery followed, on top of more violence, and then after 30 years of mayhem, another terror descended.  In the collective madness,  fear of the Devil and witchcraft exploded; it lead to thousands of innocent souls being burned at the stake.

One grotesque aberration fed into another.

Following the defeat of 1990 Daniel Ortega was not finished with his exits and entrances; he had many more parts to play.

And of course, his performance was always subject to the elephant sitting in the front row, the malign presence of the United States.

He organised the opposition after losing the election and said he would govern from below, using all the power of the Sandinista grassroots.

He forged pacts with the corrupt right wing parties, cozied up to big business, to the Catholic Church, cementing the relationship with Cardinal Obando y Bravo, once his foe, and of course playing a populist card with the poor and marginalised. Once he got back into power again in 2006 he criminalised all abortion.  He outmanoeuvred dissenting voices within the Sandinistas, till well known faces like Sergio Ramirez the novelist, once Vice President,  and the charismatic priest poet Ernesto Cardinal, once Minister of Culture, left the party too.  The break away Sandinista renewal party MRS lost its legal status, and was sidelined.

That steeliness that must have seen him through prison, that canny organising ability that saw him lead the revolution, that ruthlessness that lead him to crush opposition inside his party and out, lead him to three more victories as President in 2006, 2011, and 2016.

Sculpted with all the skill of a modern day Machiavelli everything was fashioned in his own image,  from the National Assembly, to the Supreme Electoral Council and a supine judiciary.  The police and army were under his direct control.  So why not  go the full hog make his wife Rosario Murillo Vice President?  Shakespeare would have enjoyed the show.

It would be a pity to leave his children out the play.  Several of his siblings were put in charge of  influential TV stations and radios.  I’ve lost track of how many stations they control, and how much has been paid to them by advertising contracts from the Government.  How much tax has gone unpaid by the Ortega stations to the State?  How many of the opposition TV stations and radio have been bullied into shutting down?

One stepdaughter, not included, was Zoilamerica.  She accused Ortega of sexual abuse and rape, during his time in opposition.

Since then, power, money, influence, contracts, even a Cardinal, have been sucked towards him with all the gravitational pull of a black hole.  Not for the first time in human history a leader has seen himself as the sun; all will rotate in obedience around him.

But just like Ortega’s young teenage self at 15, many youngsters at University refused to bow the knee.

On the 18th April 2018 students lead a demonstration against changes to the law on Social Security. Those demonstrations, and those that followed, were crushed by the police and Sandinista paramilitaries.   Amnesty international sets out the time line in its detailed report ‘Instilling Terror in Nicaragua’ .

Over 328 died, 2 thousand were injured and over 1,614 were arbitrarily detained.  Over 100,000 refugees fled the country, mostly to Costa Rica.

The following  more recent Amnesty report is equally chilling; ‘Silence at Any Cost’.

As I read these reports of torture I thought of Ortega’s mother who organised support for her young son Daniel while he was in prison all those years ago.  Given the intimidation today by paramilitary thugs directed not only at released activists, but their families, would mothers be able to do what Ortega’s mother did for him?

The reports are horrific.  The young student, two months pregnant, beaten up, and had the nail of her toe ripped off.  The student who was beaten up, burnt in the testicles, sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for drug trafficking.  The student beaten up, interrogated and then raped because she refused to give the names of her fellow students.  Fragile lives most cruelly crushed for daring to speak their minds.

Did you witness this during your time too President Ortega?

Or is all this Yankee propaganda as chorused by the faithful who still come out dancing, in the most cringe worthy fashion, as long as you Daniel keep singing the old number one hits from the 80s?  Oh how Carlos Fonseca, (founder of the party)  and Sandino, must be turning in their graves.

So now we come up for another grand performance President Ortega, as the elections of November 21 give you another stage.   Up to your old tricks again, though in your own mind perhaps venial sins compared to the  mortal sin of US interference in 1990.  A report from the UN states, “The Foreign Agents Regulation Law and the Special Law on Cybercrime approved by the Nicaraguan Parliament present serious and fundamental problems of compatibility with Nicaragua’s obligations under international law.”  Human rights groups and other international organisations point out how these laws can be used to censor the opposition, or as a former Sandinista hero Dora Maria Tellez said, “Another great fraud is on its way.”

As we approach the final act President Ortega, I wonder which role you will choose?

Do you think the opposition will be so intimidated, or fragmented, you will once again get on the pope mobile with Rosario and tour Managua in triumph?  Will big business slip in behind you, fearing your wrath more than your victory, especially if you threaten havoc from below as before?

In your sleepless nights do you worry you might end up in prison again, if you lose.  Better keep those pesky international observers out of the country just in case, in the same way you have excluded human rights organisations, and forced over 90 journalists to flee since 2018.

But here is a wild suggestion to you President Ortega, since you are man of letters and have quoted Hemingway.  Why not give yourself a well earned break after being President four times, and dedicate the rest of your life to art and reflection.  You have had the courage to face Somoza, Reagan, Bush, and many others, but do you have the courage to face yourself?  Can you remember who you are after so many entrances and exits?  Can you think back to those times in prison when you were tortured?  The Bard once again,  “This above all, to thine own self be true.”

Why not leave the bustle of elections behind you, and rehearse Hamlet with the young activists you still hold in terror inside your prisons?  On the day of the elections you can confound expectation and present your work to the world.  And perhaps the world can reflect in how it helped forge you.  If you have read the text, you will see you have much to offer, and few on the world stage will have such insight to the matter in hand.  One final supreme entrance awaits you.  Perhaps, if you can persuade the youngsters in prison, you might get to play Marcellus and utter the immortal lines that echo down through the ages from 1603…..

“Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.”

Comments (86)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    Thanks Paul. A very informative article. I knew little of Nicaragua beyond the 1990 election.

    USA foreign policy = Soldier Blue on repeat play.

  2. Chris Ballance says:

    Lovely article Paul. I was in Nicaragua as a coffee brigadista a few years after you, as you know. I met Ortega, shook hands with him for Nicaraguan tv, which makes me feel a little sick now, with all that’s gone since.

    Living with the Nicaraguan people on a coffee farm for a couple of months “helping the revolution” I did f. all to help them; but they did so much for me – changing me radically and for all time. It’s the people of Nicaragua who are the true heroes of this drama – the tragic heroes. I salute their cheerfulness and resilience, in the face of oppression, illness, poverty and death.

  3. Daniel Raphael says:

    I’m so grateful for this article–it covers it all, speaks the truth in plain words. For those of us who helped Pueblo to People, attended the Conference in the Spirit of Ben Linder, and actively opposed the US-Contra terror, this kind of witness is like balm to the soul.

    Our work for Nicaragua was and is, for many of us, part of a larger struggle that does not end–the effort to instill hope and install justice, the world over. That struggle continues.

  4. Kevin Hattie says:

    Beautifully written. Such a sad story.

  5. John Perry says:

    Paul, in the 1980s you were strongly critical of Amnesty International’s biased reporting about Nicaragua. Yet now you quote their work, even though they refuse to acknowledge the extreme violence of the opposition during the attempted coup in 2018, in which 22 police officers and 48 Sandinista supporters died, and many were tortured or otherwise suffered. The report ‘Dismissing the Truth’ exposed AI’s failure to investigate the facts and its reliance on local media and NGOs who are paid by the US to promote regime change in Nicaragua. You are aware of this report yet you (like Amnesty) refuse to respond to it.
    We knew each other briefly in the 1980s, and I have attempted to engage with you about the situation in the country where I now live, but you seem uninterested in any views which challenge your support for the opposition groups. Why is this? Can’t you see the danger of their unleashing the neoliberal policies in Nicaragua that the US promotes, to disastrous effect, in neighbouring Honduras?

  6. DialMforMurdo says:

    Ooft.

    “You have had the courage to face Somoza, Reagan, Bush, and many others, but do you have the courage to face yourself? Can you remember who you are after so many entrances and exits? ”

    It is a tragic tale of hubristic madness, that a man supported by so many, should become the very monster he fought against.

    I remember Paul coming into a class at Glasgow University before a lecture started and passionately telling an apathetic audience of the horrors unfolding in Nicaragua and what ‘we’ could do about it. Most of the audience sighed, disinterested beyond the prospect of their lecture and what they might have for lunch. My thoughts at the time, were we do not know how lucky we are, that our worries of economic decline and state sanctioned drive to poverty were nothing compared to death squads, backed by ‘Uncle’. I think in life we look at these major disasters elsewhere, war, famine, natural disasters like the tsunami and silently thank our blessings that it’s better ‘them’ than ‘us’.

    It is my hope that Paul’s excellent article is picked up in Nicaragua and lands on the desk of an Ortega family controlled media and prompts them to question the morality of what they have become.

    Maybe it’s time for Mike and Bella to play Lucinda Broadbent’s incredibly moving ‘Macho’ documentary which IIRC focused on the men’s group that grew out of the injustice of Ortega being acquitted on the charges of raping his step daughter on the grounds that granted as a member of the legislature he had immunity from prosecution.

  7. Jim Bennett says:

    Outstanding article. Thank you.

  8. Sara says:

    Un buen intento, pero tiene muchas impresiciones; El voto contra Ortega no fue un pedido del imperialismo al pueblo de Nicaragua, fue la voluntad del pueblo. Cierto, lo de la contra, pero ahora tenemos más claro que los dos bandos tenían sus claros y oscuros. Es como seguir diciendo que ahora el imperialismo nos pide el voto contra Ortega-Murillo, tremenda falacia del fanatismo, que justifica los errores y los crímenes de Lesa Humanidad cometidos por supuestos “revolucionarias/os”.
    Habla de las tres victorias de Ortega, no es la realidad; 2006, 2011, 2016. Fuero FRAUDES electorales.
    Mucha emoción y apego a Daniel Ortega, “hombre de letras”, jamás lo fue, siempre fue bestia política, iletrado, enfermo de poder.
    Agradezco el amor por Nicaragua, y se le nota el desencanto y aprecio que les tuvo.

  9. Sofía Montenegro says:

    Muchas gracias por su voz, Paul. The horror continues three years after.

  10. Helen Yuill says:

    By accepting all accusations made by Nicaraguan opposition groups as the only truth this article grossly oversimplies the very complex reality that Nicaragua faces. Why not include information on government programmes that support campesinxs farmers developing agroecology, food sovereignty, and resilience to confront the climate crisis ? Or how well integrated government free health care has benefited the population? These are also truths.

  11. Nan McCurdy says:

    My name is Nan McCurdy, I work for the United Methodist church of the US and have held residency in Nicaragua since 1985.

    I think you are very wrong about Nicaragua. The MRS members have spread many lies about Nicaragua, focusing on Daniel Ortega, since 1994. The US government has funded them since then. Just since 2017 the US, openly through its funding organizations like USADI, NED and others have provided the MRS, their nongovernmental organizations and media, and related opposition with over US$200 million to destabilize Nicaragua and in 2018 attempt a coup. Who knows how much money the US has provided under the table and how many paid agents it has in Nicaragua or working on Nicaragua from neighboring countries and the US.

    In August 2020 a USAID document called Responsive Action in Nicaragua (RAIN) was leaked from the US Embassy in Managua. It is a playbook for a multi-faceted destabilization campaign in Nicaragua.

    There is no way a dictatorship could be so loved by 66% or more of the population. And there’s no way a dictatorship could bring about all of the good outlined below like universal health care and education (I really only included a few things).

    And there’s no way a dictatorship could accomplish so much, without corruption, with remarkable transparency, not according to me, but according to the IMF, the World Bank, the Bank of International Development, The Central American Bank for Economic Integration and many others.

    – 5th in the world in gender equity behind Sweden (UN Women)
    – 1st in the world in women in Ministerial positions (UN Women)
    – On Aug. 14, 2020 the Inter-American Development Bank presented a report titled “Public Administration Panorama: Latin America and the Caribbean 2020” which found that the Nicaragua government is one of the most respectful of the rule of law and among the most transparent in administration and management of public entities.
    – Nicaragua has very high transparency in public debt with full data on each Institution’s website about execution of loans (July, 2020, World Bank).
    – Nicaragua is praised by banks for its excellent project execution. (Central America Bank for Economic Integration, Aug. 2020)
    – “The quality, planning, dynamism and effectiveness of Nicaragua’s project management is excellent, and the Finance Ministry is extremely organized and transparent, allowing CABEI to plan projects in an easy manner and without concerns.” (Central America Bank for Economic Integration, Oct. 7, 2020)
    – The Inter-American Development Bank ranked Nicaragua second in Central America and fourth in all of Latin America in health investment.
    -Extreme poverty, maternal and infant mortality and chronic malnutrition have been cut by more than half since 2007 with the Sandinista government.
    -Nicaragua has achieved 90% food sovereignty.
    – The World Food Program says Nicaragua prioritizes the guarantee of food security, and it praises the school meal program that reaches at least 1.2 million children of preschool age and upward.
    – In August 2020 the IMF praised Nicaragua’s programs that strengthen the social safety net with food packages for vulnerable families.
    A 2020 World Bank report says that a child in Nicaragua has a 98% chance of living to age 5, one of the highest in Latin America.
    -99% of the population now have electricity powered with 76% energy from renewable sources.
    -The government subsidizes basic grains, public transportation, water and electricity for the vulnerable population.
    – Nicaragua ranks third in Latin America in drinking water quality, energy, and transportation with a “Huge investment in roads, electricity and water; and the best access to potable water in the region.” (International Development Bank, August, 2020)
    – It ranks 1st in Central America in best roads.
    – In 2021 58% of the budget is for social spending.
    – Nicaragua is the safest country in the region (UNDP).

    Please go to Nicaragua and see for yourself. I suggest that to go around and get your own sense of what is the truth that you not let people know you are going who have been feeding you this disinformation for so many years. Feel Free to contact me!

    [email protected]
    Ciudad Jardin P34, Managua Nicaragua

    1. Cuba Support Group Ireland says:

      Thank you for revealing the hatchet job of Paul Lavery’s article and his mercenary army of well paid imperial click-tavists. Daniel Ortega is held in the highest esteem in Havana, the ultimate anti-imperialist accolade.

      You neglected to mention Nicaragua’s Covid19 response which is both extraordinary and absolutely exemplary with the lowest deaths per 100,000 in Central America. The people – the voters – are with Daniel because they know the truth. The well-paid US propogandists spin their webs of lies in the hope of snaring gullible, English-speaking, white European useful idiots. Yawn.

    2. Cuba Support Group Ireland says:

      Thank you Nan for revealing the hatchet job of Paul Lavery’s article and his mercenary army of well paid imperial click-tavists. Daniel Ortega is held in the highest esteem in Havana, the ultimate anti-imperialist accolade.

      You neglected to mention Nicaragua’s Covid19 response which is both extraordinary and absolutely exemplary with the lowest deaths per 100,000 in Central America. The people – the voters – are with Daniel because they know the truth. The well-paid US propogandists spin their webs of lies in the hope of snaring gullible, English-speaking, white European useful idiots. Yawn.

      1. Chris Ballance says:

        “His mercenary army of well-paid click-activists”. Haud on a second here, let’s keep a grip on reality. I’ve been following this discussion with great interest, but comments like that have the opposite effect from what you intend.

        Whilst it is absolutely the case that US imperial policy causes huge problems in every way – the problems and controversies which have dogged Nicaragua for the past 20 years have not had the same currency in Cuba. It is very clear that whatever difficulties he faces, Ortego is not a Castro.

    3. James Scott says:

      Whilst the original article is by no means bereft of the starry-eyed optimism which permeates so much left wing political analysis from Partick to Pekin, this contribution takes the biscuit.

      It is telling that in a foribund defence of the works of Daniel Ortega and his extended family, both metaphorical and literal, not a single word is wasted on the hundreds of mortal victims of the exceedingly bloody events which began some 3 years ago.

      In the link below from El País in Madrid, the death toll is quoted at 351 on 7th July 2018; very roughly 4 per day for a 3 month period.

      https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/07/18/america/1531921411_489786.html

      Sadly these victims apparently failed to make full use of the stunning highway infrastructure in order to save their endangered life. Notwithstanding, at that, praise from the Inter-American Development Bank for the rule of law in Nicaragua !

      The second link below, from La Prensa in Managua, cites the number of anti-government demonstations in the period April-October 2018 at 2 045 with 776 taking place in June alone i.e. fully 25 per day.

      Is it reasonable to conclude these 776 were all exclusively male events, given the focus here on the stunningly important, position of women in Nicaraguan society?

      https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2019/02/06/politica/2521530-mas-de-2000-marchas-contra-ortega-invalidan-tesis-de-golpe-de-estado-segun-funides

      The time for prohibiting the whitewashing of dictators on account of their professed love for the people is surely long overdue, whether it originates in Nicaragua, in Scotland or indeed in Vatican City.

      Especially in the latter case?

      1. Barbara Moore says:

        And as reported by PBS (public television) on one day the death toll was three hundred and the next it was 450. Meanwhile those of us who live here knew there hadn’t been a single death. Too few recall the propaganda which led to the Iraq invasion. When the hegemon dictates the narrative all follow.

      2. nick velvet says:

        right on to your reply in the Nicaraguan thread. There was the FSLN and its leaders in ’80, and now. Aint the same thing. Orteguistas are that, nothing more.

  12. James Poke says:

    This article starts well, but descends into an angry rant inspired by the writer’s obvious hatred of Daniel Ortega, which leads him to a series of distortions of the truth, such as the claim that Ortega’s government outlawed all abortion: it didn’t, that was the previous neo-liberal government that the writer would seem to favour. Or the often repeated claims that most opposition media outlets have been closed or banned (often made in the very opposition press that has supposedly been supressed) – there are currently 94 media outlets of different types (press, TV, radio) that can be considered as siding with Nicaragua’s opposition.

    It also ignores the extraordinary achievements of Ortega’s government over the last 14 years – free healthcare and education, poverty halved, extreme poverty cut by 60%, renewable energy increased from 23% to 90%, massive programmes of electrification, potable water for most of the population, roads, free internet, food sovereignty, Nicaragua’s extraordinary status as third best in the world for gender equality (World Economic Forum) and the safest country in Central America – except for a very difficult three month period in 2018.

    And the events of that period are again portrayed here as a peaceful populist revolt against the government, when they were nothing of the sort. Rather they were a violent attempted coup, in which claims of police and government brutality were made by dissemination of bought propaganda on Facebook and other social media platforms. During this time much violence was propagated – but almost exclusively by opposition supporters who targeted and attacked Sandinistas.

    I sympathise to some extent with the writer’s ‘wild suggestion’ – I work by the ‘William Pitt the Younger’ rule – if you have been in power for longer than William Pitt the Younger, it is time to retire! That applies to an Angela Merkel as much as a Fidel Castro. So in an ideal world, Ortega would take a well-earned retirement and let a younger Sandinista fight the election instead.

    But in such a febrile atmosphere, with attacks from so many sides, including sections of the international left, NGO’s we used to trust (now often in fact funded by Western governments) and ‘humans rights’ organisations which are right wing political groups who have used the words ‘human rights’ in their name to disguise what they really are, the political acumen of the likes of Daniel Ortega is more necessary than ever.

    1. Mike Phipps says:

      There are indeed many “truths” about Nicaragua, but some of the more hostile comments on this article seem to miss the central point. Who was repsonsible for the killings in the first phase of the protests three years ago? Of course, Nicaragua’s enemies will not miss any opportunity to exploit social unrest in the coutnry for their own purposes. But, whatever role the US played in later events, it is undeniable that the Nicaraguan state and forces allied to it, under the control of the Ortega regime, used deadly force against the protesters. This was a shock, but it should not have been to those who follow closely developments in the country. Many of the older generation of Sandinistas have been not just sidelined but harrassed and demonised by the current rulers, including the great human rights activist Wilma Nunez. It is intolerable that any oposition to the Ortega dynasty is painted as “destabilisation” when it is the antics of the self-interested president himself who is a key threrat to the gains of the Revolution. It is Ortegta and co who have betrayed Nicaragua’s martyrs and endanger the future of the Process by identifying the revolution with their own self-aggrandizement.

      1. barbara moore says:

        As an American living in Nicaragua including during the unrest of 2018 I would like to weigh in. I will respond primarily to the Mike Phipps comment. Did the police open fire on the protesters? Phipps cites the report of Vilma Nunez. Let us begin with the claim of the opposition that one person was killed on the 18th. That was false. Of the three killed on the 19th, one was a police officer, one was a bystander and another was a cashier at Pali who had joined the protest. All were struck in the head neck and chest, a sign that snipers were used. Study the Nunez report of the first 45 deaths and you will find something strange, over one third were hit in the head neck or chest and all were male. Had the police opened fire that would not be the case as the protests were attended by many females. and the point of entry for the bullets would have been random.

        Under further scrutiny the report fares even worse. Hardly any of the victims were both students and shot at the site of a protest. They were shot here and there, defending a Pali from looting or after they came home from work and simply went for a walk. Look for the body which Nunez claimed was shot inside UPOLI, cross check that with local news reports. He was a government employee who had come to Managua for a Drs visit and was at MetroCentro. He called his wife and said, I’m all set, getting on bus now. He too was shot by a sniper. Why did Nunez place the body inside UPOLI– in order to ‘make real’ the What’s Ap call which was received by hundreds of Nicaraguans on Saturday April 20th; “They’re shooting at us.”

        Eventually Amnesty International even acknowledged that snipers were being used. But the charge against the Ortega government was that police opened fire on the students, and because the police report directly to the President the opposition sought to hold Daniel Ortega responsible. So the narrative changed as time went by; it had to in order to accommodate the glaring facts. As time went on the opposition even targeted the police. In all 23 officers were killed.

        In my opinion Nunez played a key role in the coup attempt and any real investigation into the facts reveals the opposition as murderous vilians. But let us judge by the facts and the overwhelming evidence. Look at YouTube and search the name Sixto Henry Vera, the American killed by opposition youth. The video doesn’t lie. The youth return to UPOLI, the technical college which had been converted into a command post by opposition. They joke about blaming the deaths (the companion of Vera remarkably survived) on the Sandinista Juventude. Consider the video of Feliz Maradiaga wielding a gun and the confession of ‘Viper’ (also on YouTube) that details the planning and execution of the coup attempt in those early days. After hearing of the arrest of Viper, Maradiaga tweeted desperate messages to his followers to meet at the prison and demand his release. Later he lied to Hard Talk and claimed to have no knowledge of who Viper was. Who by the way was arrested in the north of the country at the home of an American.

        Returning to UPOLI, (the technical / public university; it was the site where a number of students had been tortured. Kevin Duerte was tortured to death. Students who took part in the intrigue learned he was a Sandinista and they killed him. Others who were tortured were not killed and spoke out. (See YouTube Izquierda Vision interview with Veronica Gutierrez). Over the course of events much of the violence in Managua took place in the environs of UPOLI. See article by Enrique Hernandez, “Why were there 15 days of protests without deaths.” By the end both UPOLI and UNAN (public universities) were heavily vandalized and at UNAN police recovered stolen cars, stolen motos and a large cache of weapons.

        But let us return to the early days and the report issued by Vilma Nunez. Look at the last reported death number forty five, last name Tellez. The death of that young man was used by Amnesty International and is the only point of ‘evidence’ offered as the report leaps from one hypothetical to the next. Tellez was in the hospital for ten days before he died. Amnesty claims that before his death he communicated with his wife and told her that he recognized the shooter as an off duty police officer.
        The claim seems pretty unlikely, impossible even considering Tellez had been shot in the chest and that the injury was so serious he did not survive. Nunez did not make that claim in her report and NONE of the local papers who spoke with family members after he died said as much. He was a taxi driver and most tasistas as I understand are Sandinista supporters as they receive loans on favorable terms, one of the multitude of government programs.

        The details of the Tellez story are yet another example of curiosity. What the family members told Nuevo Dario at the time did not match up with the Vilmez accounting, nor with the OAS report. According to the ND he came home from work ate dinner and went for a walk with a friend. Nunez had him being shot before he reached home and the OAS claimed he was shot while driving.

        That brings me to my last point, who were the victims? In nearly every case they prove to be from humble origins and fail utterly to fit the profile of those who would likely oppose the government. The only two who even seem middle class were the two young men killed in Esteli, both were students and killed in the context of the protests. Many of the victims turn out to be Sandinistas, including the student whose body was found in the Cunn building which was burned in Leon. (Also included in the first Nunez report). He was so badly tortured, family had to identify him by his charred clothing.

        It was all very violent. We who live here are so relieved that time is over. The government proved its willingness to be forgiving through the amnesty which was granted to all those who participated. That is quite forgiving considering the 55 ambulances which were vandalized, schools which were burned, government offices burned and the death toll of Sandinistas and government workers (Government EEs are not necessarily party supporters). Other crimes of the opposition– a female police officer raped and killed, a nine year old girl raped. And let us recall the same student leaders who ran to Washington to meet with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz then posed with a member of the Proud Boys for a photo op.

        They are the same opposition who never yield in their claim of victimhood and never give up in trying to throw a wrench into things. The fact is that Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have been great stewards of a small yet remarkable country and have exercised responsibility at every turn. Consider this, given the virulent opposition, I mean academics like Renee Vargas in those first days on 100% Noticias asked people to rise up and storm El Carmen, even admitting that hundreds of people would die. He was detained for a few days, then claimed repression. He and Sergio Ramirez and Vilma Nunez and Paul Lafferty, well, one commenter got it right– it’s always the same–a never ending chorus of we hate Daniel Ortega. They never talk about the beautiful roads or that 80% of the prison population, all non-violent offenders were released to their families between 2014 and 2016 or that poverty has been cut by more than half.

        The truth is that the police in Nicaragua are a model for Central America in community policing. I’ve never seen any repression here. Just the opposite, the community engages with the police in friendly comraderie. I wrote a few articles about the events of three years ago, find them a Tortilla con Sal and/or LA Progressive, To anyone who cares to be further involved, Nicaragua is now facing a further round of sanctions which is ridiculous. While the migrant crisis at the border continues, the U.S. seeks to destabilize one of the few countries that does not contribute to the exodus. If you have the time contact Dick Durban, Bob Menendez, Chris Murphy, Tim Kaine, and Marco Rubio and speak out against the sanctions. Thank you for reading this comment.

        Another interesting point who were the victims? They turn out

        1. barbara moore says:

          I’m sorry, but I must issue this correction. Where I said, one third of the victims of the first report issued by Vilma Nunez, I intended to say two thirds, if not three quarters.

      2. barbara moore says:

        Moderators this is my amended response. Please post this version. Thank you.

        As an American living in Nicaragua including during the unrest of 2018 I would like to weigh in. I will respond primarily to the Mike Phipps comment. Did the police open fire on the protesters? Phipps cites the report of Vilma Nunez. Let us begin with the claim of the opposition that one person was killed on the 18th. That was false. Of the three killed on the 19th, one was a police officer, one was a bystander and another was a cashier at Pali who had joined the protest. All were struck in the head neck and chest, a sign that snipers were used. Study the Nunez report of the first 45 deaths and you will find something strange, over two thirds were hit in the head neck or chest and all were male. Had the police opened fire that would not be the case as the protests were attended by many females. and the point of entry for the bullets would have been random.

        Under further scrutiny the report fares even worse. Hardly any of the victims were both students and shot at the site of a protest. They were shot here and there, defending a Pali from looting or after they came home from work and simply went for a walk. Look for the body which Nunez claimed was shot inside UPOLI, cross check that with local news reports. He was a government employee who had come to Managua for a Drs visit and was at MetroCentro. He called his wife and said, I’m all set, getting on bus now. He too was shot by a sniper. Why did Nunez place the body inside UPOLI– in order to ‘make real’ the What’s Ap call which was received by hundreds of Nicaraguans on Saturday April 20th; “They’re shooting at us.”

        Eventually Amnesty International even acknowledged that snipers were being used. But the charge against the Ortega government was that police opened fire on the students, and because the police report directly to the President the opposition sought to hold Daniel Ortega responsible. So the narrative changed as time went by; it had to in order to accommodate the glaring facts. As time went on the opposition even targeted the police. In all 23 officers were killed.

        In my opinion Nunez played a key role in the coup attempt and any real investigation into the facts reveals the opposition as murderous villains. But let us judge by the facts and the overwhelming evidence. Look at YouTube and search the name Sixto Henry Vera, the American killed by opposition youth. The video doesn’t lie. The youth return to UPOLI, the technical college which had been converted into a command post by opposition. They joke about blaming the deaths (the companion of Vera remarkably survived) on the Sandinista Juventude. Consider the video of Feliz Maradiaga wielding a gun and the confession of ‘Viper’ (also on YouTube) that details the planning and execution of the coup attempt in those early days. After hearing of the arrest of Viper, Maradiaga tweeted desperate messages to his followers to meet at the prison and demand his release. Later he lied to Hard Talk and claimed to have no knowledge of who Viper was. Who by the way was arrested in the north of the country at the home of an American.

        Returning to UPOLI, (the technical university); was the site where a number of students had been tortured. Kevin Duerte was tortured to death in the very early days of the protests. Others who were tortured were not killed and spoke out. (See YouTube Izquierda Vision interview with Veronica Gutierrez). Over the course of events much of the violence in Managua took place in the environs of UPOLI. See article by Enrique Hernandez, “Why were there 15 days of protests without deaths.” By the end both UPOLI and UNAN (public universities) were heavily vandalized and at UNAN police recovered stolen cars, stolen motos and a large cache of weapons.

        But let us return to the early days and the report issued by Vilma Nunez. Look at the last reported death number forty five, last name Tellez. The death of that young man was used by Amnesty International and is the only point of ‘evidence’ offered as the report leaps from one hypothetical to the next. Tellez was in the hospital for ten days before he died. Amnesty claims that before his death he communicated with his wife and told her that he recognized the shooter as an off duty police officer.
        The claim seems pretty unlikely, impossible even considering Tellez had been shot in the chest and that the injury was so serious he did not survive. Nunez did not make that claim in her report and NONE of the local papers who spoke with family members after he died said as much. He was a taxi driver and most tasistas as I understand are Sandinista supporters as they receive loans on favorable terms, one of the multitude of government programs.

        The details of the Tellez story are yet another example of curiosity. What the family members told Nuevo Dario at the time did not match up with the Vilmez accounting, nor with the OAS report. According to El Nuevo Dario he came home from work ate dinner and went for a walk with a friend. Nunez had him being shot before he reached home and the OAS claimed he was shot while driving.

        That brings me to my last point, who were the victims? In nearly every case they prove to be from humble origins and fail utterly to fit the profile of those who would likely oppose the government. The only two who even seem middle class were the two young men killed in Esteli, both were students and killed in the context of the protests. Many of the victims turn out to be Sandinistas, including the student whose body was found in the Cunn building which was burned in Leon. (Also included in the first Nunez report). He was so badly tortured, family had to identify him by his charred clothing.

        It was all very violent. We who live here are so relieved that time is over. The government proved its willingness to be forgiving through the amnesty which was granted to all those who participated. That is quite forgiving considering the 55 ambulances which were vandalized, schools which were burned, government offices burned and the death toll of Sandinistas and government workers (Government EEs are not necessarily party supporters). Other crimes of the opposition– a female police officer raped and killed, a nine year old girl raped. And let us recall the same student leaders who ran to Washington to meet with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz then posed with a member of the Proud Boys for a photo op.

        They are the same opposition who never yield in their claim of victimhood and never give up in trying to throw a wrench into things. The fact is that Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo have been great stewards of a small yet remarkable country and have exercised responsibility at every turn. Consider this, given the virulent opposition, I mean academics like Renee Vargas in those first days on 100% Noticias asked people to rise up and storm El Carmen, even admitting that hundreds of people would die. He was detained for a few days, then claimed repression. He and Sergio Ramirez and Vilma Nunez and Paul Lafferty, well, one commenter got it right– it’s always the same–a never ending chorus of we hate Daniel Ortega. They never talk about the beautiful roads or that 80% of the prison population, all non-violent offenders were released to their families between 2014 and 2016 or that poverty has been cut by more than half.

        The truth is that the police in Nicaragua are a model for Central America in community policing. I’ve never seen any repression here. Just the opposite, the community engages with the police in friendly comraderie. I wrote a few articles about the events of three years ago, find them a Tortilla con Sal and/or LA Progressive, To anyone who cares to be further involved, Nicaragua is now facing a further round of sanctions which is ridiculous. While the migrant crisis at the border continues, the U.S. seeks to destabilize one of the few countries that does not contribute to the exodus. If you have the time contact Dick Durban, Bob Menendez, Chris Murphy, Tim Kaine, and Marco Rubio and speak out against the sanctions. Thank you for reading this comment.

        1. James Scott says:

          “That brings me to my last point, who were the victims? In nearly every case they prove to be from humble origins and fail utterly to fit the profile of those who would likely oppose the government.”

          ‘No comment.’

          1. Barbara Moore says:

            I understand this thread is highly polarized with each side convinced they have the truth. But what really is the evidence? I was here during the unrest and it was clear from the outset that a coup attempt was underway. Please take the time to investigate, who were the victims? The propaganda was as thick here within Nicaragua as it was internationally. I found an article which claimed four students killed at UPOLI. As it turned out two of the victims were certainly killed by opposition youth and none were university students. One was a high school student who was shot on a street corner by shooters who were driven around in a pick up truck.

            https://www.laprogressive.com/nicaraguan-coup/

  13. Gerry Condon says:

    This cleverly written pseudo psychoanalysis of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega is no substitute for actually visiting Nicaragua and seeing the reality. It is indisputable that the Sandinista government that Ortega leads has dramatically improved the lives of tens of thousands of poor Nicaraguans.

    When I visited Nicaragua in July 2019 with a Veterans For Peace delegation, we learned of the huge and well funded propaganda campaign against the Nicaraguan revolution and its leaders, and the very violent attempted coup of 2018.

    Then we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of an actual brutal dictator, Anastasio Somoza, who enjoyed the full support of the United States. A half million Nicaraguan men, women and children gathered in Managua to joyously celebrate their revolution and its humble leader.

    The attempt to demonize Daniel Ortega is part of a larger western plan to overthrow the Sandinista government and install a government more to imperialism’s liking.

    Please go to Nicaragua and see for yourself. Do not allow your considerable talents to be misused. Stand with the poor and working people of Nicaragua. This is THEIR revolution.

  14. Becca Mohally Renk says:

    I have lived in Nicaragua for 20 years and I have to strongly disagree with your characterization of the current reality in the country, and I question why you as a foreigner – after criticizing U.S. intervention in Nicaragua in the 1980s – would presume to tell President Ortega to “take a well earned break”? Here’s a wild suggestion for you: Why not let the Nicaraguan people decide who should lead their country?

    I’m not sure how you are informing yourself of what’s happening in Nicaragua, but whomever you are talking to certainly does not have their finger on the pulse of life for the majority of Nicaguans. I can’t presume to speak for the Nicaraguan people – I’ll let them do that for themselves when they go to the polls in November. I can, however, speak to what I see with my own eyes. I live in Ciudad Sandino, just outside Managua, working in one of the poorest urban areas of the country as well as in rural areas. Each day I converse with and work side-by-side with regular Nicaraguan citizens, and I have to say that your idea of Nicaragua in 2021 does not ring true with what I see every day. I first came to Nicaragua under neoliberalism in 1999 to work with Hurricane Mitch refugees, and I saw first hand the way the people suffered under structural readjustment – unable to receive even the most basic medical care, unable to send their children to school, unable to eat even two proper meals per day. I saw first-hand the dispicable apathy of the Aleman and Bolanos governments toward their citizens with the most need.

    Since 2007 under the Sandista government, access to not just general but also specialized medical is vastly improved – radiation, chemotherapy, dialysis and specialized surgeries are all available to people around the country now. Access to education has improved so much that the majority of the children from low income households whom I’ve watched grow up have finished high school and then gone on to college or sought a technical degree – all free of charge. I can attest to vast improvements in curriculum and policy because my own two children have studied in the public system preschool through secondary school. We see every day people who are still struggling to get by, and yet now they receive direct support of food packages, loans, and roofing materials from the government.

    Although intellectuals far removed from the masses tend to discount these programs, they are fundamentally changing the lives of millions of Nicaraguans for the better. Most of the people I talk to every day support the Sandinista government, because, in their own words, “They get things done.” Rather than strengthening the opposition, the U.S.-backed coup attempt in 2018 only strengthened support of the government from the base, and these folks are very aware of how the U.S. government is once again attempting to interfere in Nicaragua this election year.

    Rather than condescending to the Nicaraguan people from afar and telling their President what he should do, come to Nicaragua and listen to what the people themselves have to say.

  15. Betty purcell says:

    A great analysis of the many turnings of Daniel Ortega, in his bid to hold onto power. Paul Laverty exposed the human rights infringements of the Contras in Nicaragua in 1986/7. He was an outspoken Scottish human rights lawyer. I was Irish, and working as a journalist for nbc radio. Thanks Paul, for still speaking the truth.

  16. Coleen Littlejohn says:

    I have lived in Nicaragua for the most part of the past 41 years, working in solidarity with the Nicaragua people in whatever position I held in local and international development agencies and the two years I represented the Nicaragua Network here in the mid 80s. I agree with your article right up until the point of your stating: ¨He forged pacts with the corrupt rightwing parties, etc- that´s where your points get a little confused with reality, perhaps because you lost track of what was really going on in this country post 1990, especially you only listen to a few old friends.

    Abortion was made illegal under the Bolaños government, a law supported by the majority of the Nicaragua people. But here you don´t see women arrested or tied to their hospital beds as happens in El Salvador and overall health indicators have greatly improved for all. The MRS lost their legal status as a party because in the last election they participated in they only got 1.8 % of the vote- not even the 3% they would have guaranteed their participation in the next elections. The political agreement made before the 2006 elections allowed any party with 38% of the vote, to win the elections and the FSLN won, and continued to win in the next two elections with even higher percentages- 72% in the last one if I recall correctly.

    Thank goodness, because if the country had had a continuation of more years of presidents such as Chamorro, Aleman and Bolaños, the country would never have started to recover from the economic, physical and phycological devastation of the events of 2018 only to be hit again with more of the same with Covib and two major hurricanes affecting especially the Caribbean Coast. Remember Aleman, Hurricane Mitch and over 30,000 deaths? Nicaragua, with insufficient foreign assistance thanks to the current sanctions, is successfully dealing with these challenges. You only have to look at the situation of her neighboring countries, who have received millions more right from the start of the pandemic and post hurricane, they are a mess.

    I read somewhere recently that President Ortega during the war in the 80´s once said that if Nicaragua were to have the chance of 10 years of peace, we would see a new Nicaragua. And he was right. As was Oxfam back in the days- Nicaragua does pose a threat of a good example, even more so today than before. Best for you and the others who were here in the 80s to come back to see what this country has become.

    You don´t have to come though if you want to see the continued US interference in upcoming elections- they are much more blatant about their intentions than ever before – but it is welcomed by the opposition here in Nicaragua and their good friends in Washington, DC, the likes of Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Reminds me of the first trip the ¨student leaders¨ took after starting their ¨protests¨ in April of 2018- straight to El Salvador to meet with Arena officials and then in DC with the outgoing Cuban American senator, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. With friends like that……

  17. Jane Woodin says:

    Thanks for this article. So terribly sad that so much good work (as the article and some commenters have noted) can be accompanied with the kind of repression and human rights violations. For me these are unforgivable. A line has been crossed. I agree with Paul that we need to keep asking how/ why this can happen. Can we in these times accept that the ends justify the means? I can’t any more, and I thought that was one of the learning points from Sandinista election loss in 1990.

  18. Alberto Perez says:

    More than 300 killed, 100,000 exiled, 1000 wounded, seven human right organizations closed and confiscated, almost 1000 people incarcerated (of which more than 120 remain in jail), a police state that keep opposition leaders jailed in their homes without any judge warrant, without mentioning the tortured and the 30 peasants assassinated after April 2018, are a very high price for the achievements mentioned by the three last comments. And this is not an invention of the MRS. It was certified by international agencies and experts invited by the Nicaraguan government itself to provide an objective perspective of the human rights violations after April 2018. These agencies include the UN Human Rights Commission, led by a prominent left wing leader. And the UN has been a faithful usupporter of the Ortega’s government before 2018.

    I’m a Nicaraguan (sorry for my English) and I’m not member of the MRS. For many years I was an FSLN militant. I am not a traitor either. I believe I continue to be faithful to the ideas and principles of Sandinismo. The traitors are the ones who established a pact with the wealthiest of the wealthy of Nicaragua to establish a system that provides small benefits to the poor, but massive profits to an elite that now include FSLN militants . The thirst for power of Ortega has made him to establish a pact even with the USA. Hundreds of migrants from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America have been able to travel through most Latin American countries with little trouble and have found in Nicaragua a hard and impenetrable wall, where many have lost their lives killed by the Nicaraguan police and army. The Nicaraguan security forces have been the best allies of the US empire to stop illegal migration and drug trafficking. Nicaragua has also offered the best conditions for American companies to do highly profitable business at the expenses of workers rights. The US hardly had conflict with the Nicaraguan government before 2018.

    Some of the achievements mentioned in the three last comments may be true, some are no more true and some others are the result of biased information manipulated by the government with propaganda purposes. I recognize some good things among them. The problem is that they were not based on a real domestic development, but on a bubble created by the Venezuelan cooperation and the agreement of the government with the biggest capitalists of Nicaragua. And this proved to be not very sustainable. The apparent stability and peace proved to be unsustainable either. The Nicaraguan people have witnessed an suffered lots of abuses by the Ortega’s government during the last 14 years, including the loss of independence of the security forces and all the state branches, which now serve the interest of the FSLN and the Ortega’s family; repression and assassination of political opponents; corruption of the government at all levels; loss of professionalism and brutality by the police; political clientelism in the management of social programs and services; abuse and corruption of the legal system, just to mention a few issues. The 66% of support to the government mentioned above has been the result of electoral fraud committed by an electoral authority subordinated to the FSLN and high levels of abstention. The FSLN has not allowed political opponents that represent a risk to participate in the last elections. They have not allowed any international or national observation that could question the results either.

    The April 2018 was not a CIA plot. Maybe they have messed up with this spontaneous process later to get some advantage in a future without Ortega. But all this started with a group of young Sandinistas beating elders for protesting against a social security reform that reduced their humble pensions even more. This was just the last straw. The rage of people led to massive demonstrations that were again repressed not only with clubs but with bullets causing the worst masacre ever in times of peace in Nicaragua.

    Don’t tell me that the NED and the USAID also bought the integrity of the Mejia Godoy brothers, Kathia Cardenal, Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli and so many prominent intellectuals of Nicaragua. And that’s the same for famous left-wing intellectuals in the world. Not even Noam Chomsky or Pepe Mujica has dared to support openly the Ortega’s regime.

    The good a government can do with one hand does not justify the terrible things done with the other hand.

    1. James Poke says:

      To respond briefly to your comments, I obviously respect you as a Nicaraguan (and your English is first rate by the way), but there are some errors in what you say. Without going into details of the last election, the Organisation of American States, an organisation which hardly can be seen as supportive of the FSLN government, stated that the outcome of the 2016 election was legitimate, albeit with reservations. All three of the historical major parties (the PLC, the PLIs and the PC) took part and amongst others, so it is not true to say that political opponents were not allowed to take part.

      Whilst in earlier times the Venezuela oil bubble provided support for the Nicaraguan government, that has not been true for quite a few years now, but the progress in Nicaragua has continued. The enormous achievements and transformation of the country is immediately evident to all who visit and has been catalogued by a wide variety of organisations as detailed above.

      And the suggestion that Asian and African refugees, amongst others, are trying to pass through Central America and are being shot by the Nicaraguan police and army is somewhat fantastical and is not based on any factual information.

      1. Alberto Perez says:

        The OAS General Secretary was very cautious during the 2016 elections. He was a supporter of the Sandinistas Revolution during the 80s. He didn’t want to be openly questioning the elections results to avoid an early radicalization of Ortega. So what he did was to make a list of weaknesses and agree an electoral reform before future elections. His tactic was successful and an agreement was signed. However we, the Nicaraguan people, witnessed many irregularities. Eduardo Montealegre was not allowed to run as candidate as he was showing high numbers in the polls, the abstention was huge (many calculate above 60%) and I personally witnessed empty polling stations); the electoral authority who used to publish real-time results didn’t do it as in the 2006 (they stopped doing that since 2008 elections); independent national observers were banned and only internacional “accompaniment” from left wing bodies was allowed. You mention some tiny political parties whose roll in all the elections is just to provide some legitimacy to the elections. We call them mosquitoes or blood suckers and the do so in exchange of some positions in the parliament and some money provided by the government to reimburse their campaign expenses. They never achieve more than 3% in the surveys, but at the end they keep their legal status a political reward. They don’t even gather enough observers in the polling stations and their position is occupied by FSLN people (source, a friend of mine who work for the FSLN).

        About who killed who. I personally know of a policemen who was killed by the police itself. His name is Faber Lopez and had resigned because he didn’t want to kill his people. His mother is in the exile and has widely denounced this https://youtu.be/mcXMJQKKdKM. I also know of a young person from a Sandinista family who was killed by the police. They beated him until they saw he was going to die and was left in hospital where he died. His uncle, who was member of the militia or paramilitaries used by Ortega to repress people, told me the whole story. He was mourning him, but he remains faithful to the FSLN. Many policemen were imprisoned for the same reason. One of them remain in jail accused of invented crimes. Many of us believe the government killed lots of Sandinistas during the 2018. Maybe half of more of the protesters in the 2018 events were Sandinistas and a lot of them were killed. The FSLN infiltrated the demonstration and cause havoc within, which was used to create the image of volent protests. I have to say that some people among the opposition at the end had to look for some small guns to protect their lives and may have killed some policemen. But something true is that despite the efficiency of the police, they never showed a significant number of weapons. They were mostly home made guns and mortars, slingshots, and a lot of firecrackers. Do you think that a coup with US funding would be so poorly armed?

        About the social programs. You can come and see that zero hunger and the roof project have almost disappeared. The same with the small loans program. The only program that has shown some activity is houses for the people, but this is thanks to the multilateral banks, like the CABEI. This is hugely increasing the national debt. It was around 6 billion in 2006 and now is around 13 billion. We have moved up to be the third poorest country of Latin America, but not for our economic performance, but because Venezuela is a lot poorer and took the second place.

        We live a very hard situation. I had to use a different name in this post because if I disclose my real name, my life would be at risk. We live in a police state that is cruel with people who think differently. Yesterday, a family wanted to get together with some friends to pray for Franco Valdivia, a young student killed in Estelí. The police surrounded the house and arrested three people, including her sister. Today the father of a baby assassinated, was also arrested and is being charged with common crimes. Sorry, James, but a few programs, free but bad quality health care don’t justify this. There is no way to number the atrocities happening in Nicaragua now.

  19. Justin Kenrick says:

    I know next to nothing of Nicaragua. But this is unbelievably good writing.

    And it asks the same question of all of us: which part are we playing, which part could we play instead, in the unfolding horror of what is happening to our beautiful world?

  20. Hilary Francis says:

    Great article Paul, and wonderful that more people will be aware of what’s happening in Nicaragua because of it.

    It’s pretty easy to do well in gender equality indexes that only measure the number of postholders but don’t ask who holds the power. It’s easy to do well in rigged surveys run by fraudulent polling companies. It’s also not that hard to win the approval of International Financial Institutions as long as you’re prepared to subscribe to their recipes for economic management.

    It’s a lot harder to build a genuinely grassroots revolution. Certain commenters here are determined to believe in Ortega and the FSLN in spite of the violent repression of the last three years. That stance leads them to attack Amnesty International and other NGOs as US-funded coup mongerers, even as they rely on quotes from the World Bank to defend the current Nicaraguan government.

    I’m biased because Ortega’s supporters in the UK have also accused me of ‘advocating violent regime change’. As a white university lecturer in Tyneside it’s pretty easy to shake that off. For the hundreds of thousands of young Nicaraguans who protested against the Ortega regime in 2018 and have been forced into exile, it’s a label that keeps them from their homes, families and livelihoods. Shame on Mr Poke, Ms McCurdy and Ms Yuill for spreading these lies, you really should know better.

  21. Joseph McAleer says:

    The 20th of April 2018, three years ago today, was one of the bloodiest and most lethal, with 25 protesters killed in Managua, Estelí, Leon, Masaya and Matagalpa, most of them brutally shot dead by Police and parapolice units. By the end of May the total had risen to 109 and by mid-2018 to over 300.

    Very few of the out of the 300+ deaths have been judicially prosecuted, and the majority remain in impunity, as a result of collusion between the Police, the Judicial system and the government.

    James Poke, Chair of the stanchly pro-Ortega Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign based in London, makes a preposterous allegation when he claims that the violence propagated in April 2018 was “… almost exclusively by opposition supporters who targeted and attacked Sandinistas”. This is a shameful misrepresentation of the truth, a deliberate attempt to misinform and mislead, and shows a shocking disrespect for the families, friends and loved ones of the dead.

    An exhaustive investigation into the violence that occurred between the 18th and 30th May 2018, by the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), verified the State’s use of “abusive and indiscriminate use of force to repress peaceful demonstrations of protest”, through “the use of firearms, including weapons of war, directly against the protesters”. The GIEI was also able to determine that “most murders and serious injuries were caused by the National Police, whose agents acted directly and also in coordination with armed parapolice groups”.

    The stories of how the first 109 victims were killed and photographs of many of them are included in pages 363-420 of the GIEI report. Read the full 493-page report here: https://gieinicaragua.org/giei-content/uploads/2019/05/GIEI_REPORT_ENGLISH_72dpi.pdf, and decide for yourself who perpetrated the violence.

    1. John Perry says:

      Please be aware that the work of the so-called Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) is totally unreliable. They did a supposed detailed study of one of the main incidents in which protesters were killed, the May 30 march in Managua, which had basic inaccuracies and ignored even the findings of their own ballistics expert. You can read about it here: https://www.coha.org/revisiting-2018-mothers-march-in-nicaragua-new-report-repeats-old-bias/

      Even worse than this, neither the GIEI, nor the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights which paid for this research, nor the Organisation of American States, which supervises the commission, responded to detailed criticisms of the GIEI work.

      The pattern is the same with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc: criticise their work, with detailed evidence of mistakes, and you will be ignored; ask them for the evidence behind the incidents they cover, and you will get no response.

    2. James Poke says:

      Given comments elsewhere, I am happy to state that I am indeed chair of the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, an organisation which is, however, not “staunchly pro-Ortega” as you put it, but politically neutral and supportive of any policies which alleviate poverty and improve the circumstances of people in Nicaragua in general. I am a volunteer, and I give my time and energy willingly out of long-standing solidarity with the Nicaraguan people. Views expressed here, however, are my own, and should not be taken as representative of NSC.

      It is, however, a little strange that those people who are associated with organisations specialising in Nicaragua and those who live in Nicaragua and actually personally experienced the events of 2018 are being dismissed (at least by implication) as biased, whilst those who seem so certain of the violent actions of the Nicaraguan government seem to have no such specialist knowledge (an exception is Mr Perez, who I will answer separately).

      It is of course very hard to know now who to trust, in these days of unreliable news and the compromise of previously reliable sources of information (such as The Guardian). However, what you can do is look at the detailed analysis of events from both sides and make up your own mind. So I would say to everybody, by all means go and read the AI report ‘Instilling Terror’ – but then go and read the detailed 50-page analysis of it ‘Dismissing the Truth’ https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.161/jwp.e46.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dismissing-the-Truth-with-links.pdf.

      This may not change your mind, but at least you will have seen the full debate, rather than only the version provided to AI by opposition parties and ‘human rights’ groups funded by the United States, and can make up your own mind. For more detailed analysis of the events of 2018 you could also read ‘Live from Nicaragua- Uprising or Coup?’ at https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.161/jwp.e46.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/live_from_nicaragua_june_2019.pdf, from which it should be clear that it is not at all preposterous to state that Sandinistas were specifically targeted for attack – many were killed and specifically targeted for violence, their houses daubed with paint to mark them out, many of which were burnt to the ground.

      It also might serve to ask this: what government would be perceived to be best for Nicaragua? I am presuming most people posting here are sympathetic to left wing positions (my apologies to any Conservative voters), so the obvious answer would be: NOT a neoliberal one. But you might change your position if you thought that the left wing party was shooting its own population: only something as extreme as that would be likely to change your mind. If you are the Nicaraguan opposition, you cannot win an election because the population don’t want to vote for you, you can’t stage a military coup because the army is staunchly independent, you can’t overthrow the government by ‘lawfare’ (like in Brazil) because the FSLN have an overall majority in parliament, so what international pressure can you bring to bear for regime change?

      The events of 2018 are a profound tragedy and every one of the people who died is to be mourned, including the 31 known members of the opposition who died (alongside 222 others, which included 48 Sandinistas and 22 police officers). But these events have been manipulated in a disinformation campaign by the opposition in Nicaragua and various Western organisations who are virulently opposed to all independent left wing governments and will find any undemocratic method to ensure their overthrow.

  22. Louise Richards says:

    The writer’s portrayal of Nicaragua as a repressive dictatorship which inflicts violence on its own people is a complete distortion of reality. This is a country where 58% of the national budget goes towards social spending; the government of Daniel Ortega and the FSLN have implemented a raft of programmes designed to benefit the poorest and most vulnerable in society, with priority given to health, education and affordable housing. It retains around 69% of popular support, as opposed to around 10% or less for the opposition. Hardly the signs of a repressive dictatorship.

    Regarding the events of 2018, the writer conveniently fails to mention that this was an attempted coup, inspired and funded by the US. He fails to mention the wanton violence and destruction wrought by so-called peaceful protesters – the destruction of radio stations, public buildings, schools and clinics, ambulances and police vehicles,Sandinista offices and many private homes. The kidnapping and torture by opposition groups of police and Sandinista officials, including teachers. The extortion and threats meted out by those manning the roadblocks set up by the opposition, with many people terrified to leave their homes for fear of reprisals.

    As for Amnesty International, the writer will be aware that AI has a history of producing controversial and unbalanced reports about Nicaragua that began soon after the Sandinista revolution defeated the Somoza dictatorship in 1979. Amnesty’s reporting over the past few years has been flawed and biased, repeating unsubstantiated claims by Nicaragua’s opposition largely based on hearsay rather than concrete evidence.

    Latest US moves designed to sabotage Nicaragua’s November elections are a repeat of the 1990 playbook referred to in the article. Misrepresentation of the sort included in this article could well allow the US to succeed as it did then and install a puppet government which it can control. Is that really what Mr Laverty would like to see?

    1. James Scott says:

      After reading the above I did a Google search with the 3 words:

      “Louise Richards Nicaragua”

      and immediately discovered that a person of that name occupies the, presumably paid, post of “Trade Union and Communications Co-ordinator at Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign”

      Am I especially naive in regretting that this information was not supplied by the writer of the above whom I presume to be that same person?

      (Likewise I would wish it of any and every other person contributing; to this thread or to any other.)

      For anyone who adopts the same strategy, I am happy to make clear that I have never worked for Coca Cola Inc. Nor, to the best of my knowledge have any of my family.

      1. Louise Richards says:

        I am the same person and there was no attempt on my part to hide that – however, contributors were not asked to leave name of organisation. I would gladly have included that information had it been requested. Could I ask whether you have googled everyone else in order to ascertain their organisational affiliations, if any?

        1. James Scott says:

          Thank you for the confirmation of, I presume from your reply, all points in my previous post.

          (I was frankly afraid that my observation there “presumably paid” would be refuted and it might have been better at that stage had I written “perhaps paid.”

          Does it make any difference if anyone is an employee as opposed to a supporter of an ONG? I think, on balance, that it does.

          Ditto: socio-political pressure group.)

          Did I Google anyone else?

          No I did not; though I have done so with one subsequent poster, John perry, who also seems to be “professionally involved” in Nicaragua .

          Why did you get the original special treatment?

          Perhaps, though I cannot be certain, due to the vehemence of your assertion:

          “The writer’s portrayal of Nicaragua as a repressive dictatorship which inflicts violence on its own people is a complete distortion of reality.” An assertion which, as outlined in the 2 press links I furnished, bears no resemblence whatsoever to the truth. By which latter I do not mean either my truth or your truth but the truth.

          No doubt I was also influenced by the comment in one previous post which identified another poster as being similarly parti-pris on these important matters

          In closing, all here who have contributed to this site will know as you have stated clearly, that ‘statements of interest’ are not required of contributors.

          But that does not in any way preclude voluntary revelation of such interests. As has been done above by an Irish source as well as, to some limited extent, by a few other posters to date.

          1. John Perry says:

            James, I am happy to identify as a resident of Nicaragua who writes extensively about Central America (as you can see here: https://twoworlds.me/).
            For the avoidance of doubt, I am not in any way paid by the Nicaraguan government and the views expressed are my own. I reached my opinions about the events of 2018 from direct experience of the violent occupation of Masaya by opposition groups.

  23. John Perry says:

    One of the comments asks, ‘who was responsible for the killings in the first phase of the protests three years ago?’ The protests began on April 18, when there were no deaths but facebook was already full of posts saying that students had been killed. These were amplified on April 19 when there were three deaths – a police officer, a Sandinista supporter defending a municipal building, and a passerby not involved in the demonstrations. So who fired those first bullets? Even Amnesty International, wrong on so many issues relating to Nicaragua, acknowledges that there were only three deaths on April 19. Yes, on April 20 there were a lot more, on both sides. But in which country would the police not defend themseves when 22 officers died, over 400 were injured (many with life-changing injuries) and some were badly tortured? I can take you to the place in Masaya, where I live, and show you where an off-duty police officer, Gabriel Vado, who was unarmed, was kidnapped, tortured, dragged behind a motorcyle by a rope tied to his feet and finally set on fire at one of the opposition roadblocks. Subsequently a catholic priest and one of the ‘human rights’ organisations called ANPDH arrived with plastic bags to take away the remains and try to hide what had happened. Is it surprising that most Nicaraguans don’t want ‘peaceful protesters’ like this to be in charge of the country?

    1. James Scott says:

      Thank you for your clarification to the effect that you are not paid directly by the Ortega government.

      (I write “here” rather than directly following that post due to the vagaries of the site and the ‘Reply’ function)

      Given your residence and your narrow concentration on the events of the first few days in April ’18, I am interested in your take on the many hundreds of dead protesters and on the thousands of protest marches over the following months as mentioned by my 2 newspaper sources.

      Likewise your considered observations on the long and detailed post above by a Nicaraguan who apologises for his (excellent) English would be appreciated.

      1. John Perry says:

        Alberto Perez says that 300 people were killed in the violence of 2018. The question is, who did the killing? No one has ever denied that some protesters were killed by police, but this was for the simple reason that they were frequently under attack by armed groups. This is why it is important to remember that a police officer was killed before any protesters died. As to who killed whom, in response to the press reports and (for example) those from Amnesty International, I recommend reading the report ‘Dismissing the Truth’ (https://afgj.org/dismissing-the-truth-why-amnesty-international-is-wrong-about-nicaragua). This analyses in detail many of the violent incidents and shows who was to blame.

        1. James Scott says:

          Sorry, but this reply doesn’t cut the mustard.

          Not in the least.

          Leaving aside your decision not to engage in any way at all with 2 of the 3 issues on which I asked your opinion, specifically the press report from Madrid quoting 351 deaths as of 7th July 2018 and also the much later press report from Managua itself alluding to a total of 2 045 anti-government demonstrations in the period April-October 2018, you choose to insouciantly if not malisciously undermine both the bona fides of the poster in question as well as the ignored Madrid news report by writing “Albert Perez says that 300 people were killed…” as though the figures themselves were in doubt.

          Yet, when specifically asked by me to discuss these figures, you refused point blank so to do !

          This debating tactic may well work in government controlled Nicaragua but here it is unacceptable.

          Later you write that “… it is important to remember that a police officer was killed before any protesters died.”

          Accepting, only for the sake of argument, that you are correct in the latter point and likewise in your assertion that a further 21 police officers died, the basic arithmetic tells us that 329 civilians had been killed by 7th July 2018.

          Despite your having been resident full time in the country for the best part of 2 decades, despite your having provided full details of the quite horrific death one specific police officer, despite your being a person who tells us that he “writes extensively about Central America,” you evidently see no need to address in any way whatsoever this shocking bloodbath.

          No further comment from me is required.

          1. John Perry says:

            James, we can argue about the total number of deaths unproductively if you wish. The official count by the commission set up to analyse all the figures concluded that 253 were killed in total: 31 known supporters of the opposition, 48 Sandinista supporters, 22 police and 152 bystanders, passers by and others. Other figures put the total as 350 and one local human rights body said it was 561, but that body has since split in two with one side accusing the other of making up the figures. In the report ‘Dismissing the Truth’, a detailed analysis was carried out of all the deaths in the central region of Nicaragua and concluded that only one could be attributed to state forces.

            What I am trying to convey, and which is totally missing in the original article, is that there was a period of almost three months when armed groups controlled much of the country, because the government had agreed with the Catholic church to confine the police to their quarters, in return for which the opposition was supposed to dismantle its road blocks. The latter didn’t happen until they were eventually removed by force between mid-June and mid-July.

            Masaya, where I live, was one of the worst affected places, with public buildings destroyed, Sandinista houses ransacked or burned down, and the police under siege in their police station. I referred to the worst incident, the torture of the police officer, but there were many more incidents of violence by the opposition. For example, when the municipal depot was ransacked, 11 people were kidnapped and beaten up and one so badly tortured that his arm had to be amputated. Most residents of Masaya were very relieved when the police recaptured the city. Of course there were some deaths when this happened, as the opposition had AK47 rifles and other weapons. In fact (as I recall) nine people died, of whom one was yet another police officer.

            There is a danger that the debate on this page loses touch with reality. I assure you that the majority of Nicaraguans were very distressed by the opposition violence of 2018, and it is for this reason that – after a peak of support around May 2018 – they rapidly lost the battle for public opinion. Most people now – even those who are not Sandinista supporters – simply want the stability and peace which returned in July-August 2018 and which has held since then. You are very welcome to come and find out for yourself, and you will find that despite the so-called repressive dictatorship that people will be very happy to express their views.

  24. Robert Navan says:

    As chairperson of the Irish Nicaragua Support Group from 1987 to 1997 I have had the pleasure of meeting President Daniel Ortega and Paul Laverty. I have tremendous admiration for both these people and Paul’s article saddens me but I have two major reservations about it.

    The first is in the form of a question and that is “what do the Nicaraguan people want?”. In other words, who are they going to vote for in the upcoming elections. The few opinion polls that I have seen have President Ortega and the FSLN ahead of the opposition by a reasonable margin. If this is to be the outcome of the elections surely it is not for us outsiders to impose our choices on the Nicaraguan people? To paraphrase a well known maxim “I might disapprove of who you vote for but I will defend with my life your right to vote for them”.

    My second reservation is about Paul’s sources for his claims. “Human rights groups” are mentioned but he fails to name even one of them. During Trump’s presidency his Secretary of State is reported to have stated that his actions against Nicaragua, had, he thought softened up the country for regime change. This time well-armed Contra groups are not the weapon of choice. The new Contras are well financed “human rights” groups.

    I’m puzzled about the reference to the UN report on “The Foreign Agents Regulation Law and the Special Law on Cybercrime” What exactly has this got to do with the human rights issues that Paul has brought up?

    The main source of Paul’s information seems to come from the highly discredited Amnesty report – highly discredited, as only opposition supporters seem to have been interviewed. As stated by a previous correspondent, Amnesty has “form” as far as Nicaragua is concerned. I have recently read and listened to reports from a different perspective. These reports and recordings run to hundreds of pages and many hours and they contain interviews with victims of the 2018 violence. They make harrowing reading and listening but, this time armed and violent groups identified with the opposition are identified as the culprits.

  25. Tom Ultuous says:

    There have been some great posts on this thread but I’m none the wiser. What side does the US support as they will usually be the baddies? Or is that too simplistic?

    1. James Scott says:

      Sorry, but you’ll have to investigate for yourself and then make up your own mind.

      Two clues:

      1) Earlier this year I was involved in a local project here in Catalonia whereby all the NGO’s in town combined to raise funds for the relief of hurrican hit communities in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. (My own involvement was closer to non-existent than to minimal.) The monies raised were split 3 ways between the 3 countries.

      But…. though transmission to Guatemala and to Honduras was straight forward, the monies for Nicaragua had to be forwarded in a semi-clandestine way.

      Why?

      Because the Ortega government has imposed draconian controls on foreign NGOs operating in Nicaragua,.

      https://apnews.com/article/media-television-nicaragua-daniel-ortega-51a468e27305779268d902daf42fc1a6

      2) In March of 2020, the priest-poet Ernesto Cardenal who was Nicaraguan culture minister for 11 years and who was one of 3 Catholic priests who served in the initial Sandanista government under Ortega died.

      As the enclosed Spanish language press report makes clear, even in death he was hounded by Ortega’s thugs.

      The reason? He had previously denounced Ortega.

      I hope/ presume that your computer will give you an English language translation but I offer my own of the final paragraph.

      In Spanish:

      El poeta, que participó en la lucha contra la dictadura de la familia Somoza desde muy joven y fue militante hasta 1995 del FSLN, en el poder desde enero de 2007, sostenía que el Gobierno de Ortega «no es de izquierda, ni sandinista, ni revolucionario, sino simplemente es una dictadura familiar», como la que derrocaron.

      My rendition [with my additions for clarity]:

      The poet, who from his early youth took part in the struggle against the Samoza dictatorship and who till 1995 was a member of the FSLN which has been in power [for a second time] since 2007 asserted that the [current] Ortega government “isn’t left-wing, isn’t Sandanista, isn’t revolutionary but is just a family dictatorship” like the one they had overthrown

      1. James Scott says:

        Apologies, I failed to post the original, slightly random from the internet, link. And I cannot retrace it.

        Mea culpa !

        Here is a rough equivalent which includes the essence of his words as in the previous

        https://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20200303/473961953369/misa-en-honor-a-ernesto-cardenal-enfrenta-a-sandinistas-y-a-disidentes.html

      2. Tom Ultuous says:

        Thanks for the reply James. There’s a lot to get through.

  26. Paul Peuleve Baker says:

    During the 2018 violence, I lived very close to one of its prinicipal centres, the UPOLI university in Managua. I took photos of the appalling violence with which we were surrounded. They include the ruins of our local municipal offices, the burned-out shell of the Sandinista Party meeting house, the remnants of a pro-government radio station, set on fire with more than twenty workers trapped inside. And a police office, incinerated in broad daylight, in plain view. Add to that a compilation of videos taken by members of the opposition themselves while they were stripping, whipping, crowning with nails, murdering and cremating government police and supporters. No material of this type seems to have ever been presented to the general public by the self-proclaimed news media, Amnesty, and so on. Unfortunately, this comment section doesn’t seem to allow images. Perhaps just as well, given their horrific content in this instance. If anyone has the stomach for a taste of the reality of opposition ‘peaceful protest’, please reply with your email. Thank you. {I’m an independent singer and environmental activist, originally from London and Edinburgh. First came to Nicaragua in 1985 at the height of Reagan’s war. Lived in Managua for 30 plus years. Served as representative for both the British and US Nicaragua solidarity campaigns back in the 1990s. Independent since early 2000s. No government connection or funding. All proferred material based on own experience/opposition own testimony]

    1. Chris Ballance says:

      Hi Paul, Greetings! Accepting your eye witness account of the events of 2018 – which I do – what is your response to the claim that Ortega has given highly important and influential jobs to almost all his family, evaded the charges of rape solely by claiming presidential immunity and lives in some degree of luxury, while squashing or expelling anyone in the FSLN who questions him? I’m asking because I genuinely want to hear your answer. I would love to believe in the integrity of the man – but I find it very difficult to do so.

    2. Alberto Perez says:

      The students at UNAN Managua, before being expelled at gunpoint from the University, they denounced that the first think the paramilitaries did was to burn university facilities. The important files of the municipal office that you say was burned by demonstrators were evacuated the night before. Neighbors denounced this and warned that it was going to be burned by the Sandinistas. This was a very common strategy of the FSLN during that time. They also infiltrated armed people in marches to be pictured as violent demonstrators.

      No government connection or funding? Are you sure?

      1. Paul Peuleve Baker says:

        Alberto. You write: “The important files of the municipal office that you say was burned by demonstrators were evacuated the night before. Neighbors denounced this and warned that it was going to be burned by the Sandinistas. This was a very common strategy of the FSLN during that time..They also infiltrated armed people in marches to be pictured as violent demonstrators.” I ask: “Which neighbors? ” And, “What is your evidence for the FSLN’s ‘very common strategy’, and ‘infiltration’?” I ask because, as you must know, rumors and counter-rumors were rampant during those dreadful months, both by word of mouth and, overwhelmingly, on social media. How could anyone be sure who was doing what, or even what was actually happening? Neighbor spoke against neighbor, family member aganst family member. Colleague against colleague. As regards ‘infiltration’, however, I can personally attest to one fact: young people in our barrio were indeed being offered cash by known opposition sympathisers to put on Juventud Sandinista shirts, and ‘go cause mayhem’. No recorded proof, unfortunately. Sickeningly though, we do have exactly such proof of opposition members torturing/burning police: the blatantly self-incriminating video I cited previously, taken and publicly posted – with obvious glee – by the torturers themselves. Please contact me on paulbaker2004 [at] yahoo.com if you (and/or anyone reading this) want a copy.

        Puzzled – to say the least – by your concluding, “No government connection or funding? Are you sure?”

        1. James Scott says:

          “Puzzled – to say the least – by your concluding, “No government connection or funding? Are you sure?” ”

          How faux-naïf can you get?

          He is hinting/ suggesting/ intimating that you are possibly in the pay of the Nicaraguan government; either directly or indirectly.

          But you, almost immediately after writing an apparently candid opinion of near total social turmoil within and presumably throughout Nicaragua 3 years ago, viz:

          “How could anyone be sure who was doing what, or even what was actually happening? Neighbor spoke against neighbor, family member aganst family member. Colleague against colleague….”

          now suddenly come on all butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth-coy as though, with hundreds of locals dead, the accusation that you might be a government stooge is
          such an earth shatteringly unlikely concept that you cannot even comprehend it; no matter how explicitly set out.

          Do I know if you are such?

          How can I? (Though I do plan to add a few words later to the end of this debate about my observations on the number and [geographical] variety of posters who have contributed.)

          Am I convinced by your air of injured innocence?

          Anything but.

          1. Paul Peuleve Baker says:

            James. Surprised, and indeed saddened, that you dedicate so many words to my ‘faux’ naiveté, but not one single word to my offer to furnish people with the opposition’s own posted videos of their gleeful brutalising, torture and murder of police. Worth a few words surely? “Please send me a copy” would’ve done fine. Your response compounds the disturbing fact that not one single person of those who commented favorably on this article has so far asked for a copy either. Even that which I sent directly to Paul Laverty himself remains unanswered. Given that, the seriousness of the matter we’re discussing, and the hard concrete ‘horse’s own mouth’ evidence the videos provide, are surely rather more important than any question about my personal integrity. These opposition ‘selfies’ have no need of any ‘governmment stooge’, real or imagined: they speak, disgustingly and blatantly, for themselves. I therefore offer the compilation video for yet a third time, with enhanced interest in the result. Anyone who wants a copy, please write to me here: paulbaker2004 [at] yahoo.com.
            As for your ‘false naiveté’/’air of injured innocence’ claptrap, I was actually trying – clumsily, I do admit – to afford Alberto a chance to expand on his final questions, since at first blush they appear quite insulting to a native English speaker ( “No government connection or funding? Are you sure?”) In standing firmly beside my original perfectly plain statement of independence from the Nicaraguan government, I extend no such consideration to you, ‘faux’ or otherwise.

  27. Larry Boyd says:

    Thanks for that ,Paul. You reflect my thinking.

  28. James Scott says:

    In reply to John Perry (since this site/ my computer does not offer an integrated “Reply” button at source):

    There you go. Yet again……..

    By turns, issues relating to the precise details of the massive civilian death toll in Nicaragua exactly 3 years ago are at times exceedingly vague, sometimes statistically razor sharp, sometimes summarised by tendentious bodies whose bona fides are by no means established, sometimes summarised by bodies whose independence is beyond reproach.

    Consistently in this narrative, the Ortega faction is misunderstood and/ or hard done by whilst the anti-Ortega faction is too readily believed by credulous outsiders.

    Yet even above these tendencies, two further traits stand out:

    There is little or no personal comment by you on the political environment in Nicaragua during those terrible months, now years, even although you had lived there for a decade and a half before the fighting broke out. Specifically there is no comment whatsoever on the thinking of the protestors which led 350+ of them to die in a handful of months in 2018.

    Just for comparison, I checked on line and the worst year of the fairly recent and fairly local NI troubles was 1972 with a death toll of 479 victims. Allowing for the fact that NI is roughly 1/3 the size of Nicaragua by population and allowing for the issue of 12 months vs 3 months, the death rates there and then are very similar to those in Nicaragua in 2018.

    Hence the lethality of Nicaragua in early 2018 was on a par with NI at the very worst of times. Yet the political circumstances and the motivation of those Nicaraguans who, to some considerable extent it might seem, ‘voluntarily’ went to their death at the hands of the Ortega dictatorship is, from your repeated failure to address it, a complete mystery to you.

    1. John Perry says:

      James, if you think I can live in Nicaragua and interact daily with people who are both government supporters and opponents, including people in my own extended family who were on the opposition side, you are wrong. But this is hardly the place to try to describe the various https://www.coha.org/the-other-nicaragua-empire-and-resistance/motivations of those opposed to Daniel Ortega, or how many of them may have changed their minds since mid-2018. If you want to read about how thousands of young people were trained by US-funded NGOs to prepare them for insurrection, there is both an article from the funder’s perspective here [https://theglobalamericans.org/2018/05/laying-groundwork-insurrection-closer-look-u-s-role-nicaraguas-social-unrest/] and if you want to read how this was done, my friend Gabriela Luna has written about it here [https://www.coha.org/the-other-nicaragua-empire-and-resistance/].

      If you would like to read about what the violence in Masaya was like before our side of the city was reopened on July 17 2018, you can read a diary here: https://twoworlds.me/latin-america/a-masaya-diary-may-july-2018/#more-2490

      I hope that helps.

    2. Joseph McAleer says:

      I really appreciate your concern for the victims James. Truth is the Nicaraguan government has not followed any of the recommendations to bring to justice the perpetrators of the heinous crimes committed against the civilian population. The “commission”, mentioned in another comment, refers to the government’s own “Truth Commission” that consisted of key Ortega government officials and supporters. So yes, the government formed its own commission to investigate the crimes it was accused of committing.

      I previously referred to the extensive investigation of the GIEI, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, made up of specialists with vast experience in international law, human rights, criminal justice, peacekeeping, etc. These short videos below, included as part of the GIEI report, give some background to the protests in 2018 and their magnitude, both in numbers and their heterogeneity; and their violent repression by the police in collusion with parapolice mobs armed with weapons of war. They were produced by the GIEI from the more than ten thousand pieces of audio-visual material (including videos, photographs, news articles and material from social media), many of which were provided by participants in the protests.

      https://gieinicaragua.org/en/#documental-5 – Citizen Demonstrations
      https://gieinicaragua.org/en/#documental-7 – Armed Groups
      https://gieinicaragua.org/en/#documental-9 – Firearms

      There’s plenty more, stark video evidence (mostly in Spanish) of the atrocities here on the GIEI’s YouTube page:
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1R8UhU6hb2Mm9ig8z0iLCA/videos

      The 493-page report puts the victims and their families at the centre of its analysis and is a harrowing read:
      https://gieinicaragua.org/giei-content/uploads/2019/05/GIEI_REPORT_ENGLISH_72dpi.pdf.

      Hopefully one day ALL victims will see justice and get reparation.

      Incidentally, the GIEI’s mission was blocked by the Nicaraguan government in violation of the terms of the agreement signed on May 30th, 2018 between the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Nicaraguan government for the investigation of the violent events that took place in Nicaragua between April 18th and May 30th, 2018. The Nicaraguan authorities systematically failed to deliver the information that was requested, such as access to the files of the investigations that were being conducted by national institutions, forensic reports, lists of detainees, information regarding the plan for reparations; the GIEI was also denied entry into public hearings regarding the ongoing criminal proceedings.

      The GIEI acknowledges its shortcomings, in part due to the government’s boycott, and its work was carried out while the violent government repression was still ongoing. Despite that, they were able to interview victims and family members of the dead in different parts of the country and document their testimonies. Their attempts to interview family members of Sandinistas who had been killed were blocked by the State. The GIEI also made visits in Managua and other cities in Nicaragua where the violent events took place, held meetings with national journalists and foreign correspondents, social communicators, and national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

  29. Erik Mar says:

    I worked as a volunteer architect in Matagalpa from 1989-1993, first for the Delegación de la Presidencia (ex-MINVAH section) and then for a NGO closely tied to the Asamblea Sandinista that’s still operating. My co-workers in both institutions were, at least outwardly, supposed to be among the most committed Sandinistas. Many had relocated to Matagalpa from other areas of the country. During the course of my 4 years there, I got to know many others, both formally within the party and outside the party itself, but who still considered themselves revolutionaries. 30+ years later, not a single one that I know of has formally joined any of the many non-FSLN political parties, although many more have left (or been expelled from) the FSLN itself. The overwhelming majority are still with the FSLN, some with reservations, and some openly willing to sardonically criticize what it’s become. I cannot, in honesty, describe any of them (even those who regained their jobs in the public sector) as “opportunist” since they all stayed with the FSLN during the difficult years of 1990-2006, when 100% of them lost their former government positions. I cannot, in honesty, describe any of them as “corrupt”. Many of them work for the current Alcaldia de Matagalpa, which even the opposition recognizes as competent, efficient, and relatively free of corruption (although they do claim that it is guilty of firing on the April protesters). I cannot, in honesty, describe any of them as “morally bankrupt”. When I talk to them, they almost all hold exactly the same ideals they had 30+ years ago. Yes, tempered by age and disappointment, but the vision is almost identical.
    I don’t claim to “know” exactly who’s guilty of what after April 2018, and I don’t claim to know any “truth” about Daniel or the FSLN. I can only state what I observe amongst my ex-compañeros de trabajo and my friends and trust their political instincts about their own country. They were the ones who won and defended their revolution. I didn’t, and I don’t have a problem with continuing to trust what they think is the best direction for their country.

    1. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

      Erik. Sorry for delayed comment, but one of our extended family grandmas died, so last few days dedicated to helping her on her way. Just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful remarks. You echo my own experience of living for more than thirty years in one of Managua’s most impoverished barrios. During this time I’ve also worked with local communities all over Nicaragua: Sandino’s sombrero certainly still shades the land.

      Our ‘original sin’, as self-proclaimed ‘developed’ White peoples, is that we refuse point-blank to live within the carrying capacity of our one common planet. We’re therefore ‘forced’ to sustain the otherwise unsustainable by extorting the magnificent resources of countries such as Nicaragua. In so doing, we inflict poverty, proxy war and searing climate injustice on whole populations. Almost unbearable pressures that, in their turn, lay the mines of violence that we then use to condemn the victims of our greed via thousands-of-miles-distant commentaries. Nicaraguans are not ‘poor’ by act of God – we, proud denizens of the MeFirst World, are actively making them so, day in, year out. They, and so many of their ‘poor’ sisters and brothers in the Majority World, are, in reality often truly wealthy. But constantly ‘being-made-poor’. By us.

      Justice surely demands that we get our collective knee off Nicaragua’s neck. The White Male system is throttling Earth. What’s needed is 24/7/365 emergency action in our own White world, not cutesy articles echoing Kissinger’s infamous, ‘The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves’’ about dimly-understood distant cultures and peoples. Respect Nicaraguans. Stop illegal sanctions. Pay just prices for their wonderful coffee, timber, gold, labor, etc., and leave ‘the issues’ to them. They’re more than capable of handling their own affairs.

      1. Erik Mar says:

        Paul,
        Thanks for the reply and the political sentiments. I agree with them, and would only add that, from the perspective of someone who is not white, ideology crosses all nominal identity borders. Europe and its offshoots have dominated not only the global economy and global political systems, but, more subtly, the filters through which we all perceive and interpret lived experience. Those filters apply to all of us, regardless of race, gender, and class, and it takes effort to replace them with other filters.
        I would also add, specific to the April 2018 uprising, that my friends and ex compañeros de trabajo tend to agree that the uprising started as legitimate mass social protests, but that they quickly became something else. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the older Sandinistas I know tended to view things, rightly or wrongly, through the lens of their experiences in the 80s. They admit that their side (as I said before, they’re almost all still with the FSLN) did commit atrocities and acts of revenge, just as they did in the 80s. None of them are pacifists, and they’re all very clear that political violence and force are sometimes necessary. None of them are immune from getting caught into the patterns of escalation of violence that occurred throughout the 80s, and again in 2018-9. The majority of them are clear that at that point, it was a question of force and who would prevail, just as it was in the 80s. The younger ones, that I know are the kids of my friends, and they therefore consider themselves Sandinistas mostly because their parents, aunts, and uncles all were or are. They weren’t of age during the 80’s, and, interestingly, I think they have a bit more of a polarized viewpoint. Many of them just saw the tranquistas as terrorists, and they focus on the atrocities of the other side while casting doubt on the accusations made against their side, echoing the extreme polarization that we can see in the responses on this forum. This all is a generalization, but I think I did see somewhat of a pattern there. Several of the younger generation have also told me that the majority of their classmates (most are by now university-age) are Azul y Blanco, and that there are few Rojinegros amongst them. Many from both generations have commented to me in various ways about the lack of transparency, suppression of viewpoints, verticals, and general lack of critical thinking within many Sandinista institutions, including the Alcaldia, the various barrio level organizations, the Juventud Sandinista, etc. They all seem pretty clear that things are not perfect, that they and their compas are not saints, but it’s also pretty clear at least to them that the alternative is worse.
        The world is complex, and we all make judgement calls based on sources we trust. Given how “tight” Nicaraguan society is, especially outside of Managua, in the sense that people know firsthand about so much that we as outsiders receive only as reports, I think it’s safe to go with the judgement calls of people I trust rather than what can seem like overwhelming second and third hand evidence to the contrary. Anecdotal evidence obviously is not the best in all political circumstances, but in the Nicaraguan context, it’s the type that I trust more than others.

      2. James Scott says:

        These commentss are almost wholly generic and, apart from the most passing of allusions to Nicargua such as a vague reference to the shadow of Samoza, resolutely fail to address the article above which says, quite simply, that Ortega is a dictator with the blood of many hundreds of Nicaraguans on his hands; yet continues to pose as ‘a socialist president.’

        1. James Scott says:

          The previous post was meant to be in reply specifically to the post of: Paul Peulevé Baker dated 26th April

          1. Michael Boudreau says:

            Have you had a chance to see this video https://youtu.be/ZNQ-ag3WYBA or my comment about it at the very bottom of this conversation?

          1. John Perry says:

            So, Daniel Ortega is a dictator… yet he was elected in 2016 in elections that the Organisation of American States judged to be fair, and he’s submitting himself to election again on the appointed date of November 7, 2021.
            He’s got ‘the blood of many hundreds of Nicaraguans on his hands’ but as various posts have explained, any detailed examination of the evidence shows that there was violence on both sides and that the majority was by the opposition. Whenever detailed reports by Amnesty International, the GIEi etc have been scrutinised in detail thay have been found to be riddled with errors and omissions (see for example ‘Dismissing the Truth’ https://afgj.org/dismissing-the-truth-why-amnesty-international-is-wrong-about-nicaragua). More importantly, talk to most ordinary Nicaraguans and they don’t believe these allegations, because they are well aware of the tsunami of false social media posts that others have already referred to.

          2. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

            Dear Editor. Thank you for your ‘Yeah …’ – a most illuminating contribution to the conversation. Does it refer to Mr Scott’s replacing my remark about Sandino’s sombrero with his mystifying ‘shadow of Samoza (sic)’? If so, shouldn’t a half-decent editor have spotted that grotesque misrepresentation? (‘Grotesque’, assuming he meant ‘Somoza’, Nicaragua’s actual dictator who, of course, actually had Sandino slaughtered.)

            If it refers to my ‘resolutely fail[ing] to address the article above which says, quite simply, that Ortega is a dictator with the blood of many hundreds of Nicaraguans on his hands’, please re-read the recent posts of Messrs Boudreau and Perry. They both actually lived through the violence here (as did I). Their measured, carefully-researched, information echoes my own experience and understanding, seriously undermining any, ‘blood of many hundreds’ accusation.

            The hard ‘horse’s-mouth’ evidence of opposition atrocities contained in the video I’ve offered over and again also gives that accusation the lie. This is precisely why I’ve been so insistent in the face of Mr Scott’s and others’ ‘resolute’ refusal to examine it. In your case, surely any editor worth her/his salt would have felt obligated to at least review it, since (1) its unspeakable content – gleefully recorded and posted by members of the opposition themselves – completely shatters the ‘peaceful opposition’ myth promulgated by Mr Laverty and others; while (2) it shows, with appalling clarity, why the police had to resort to force to free ordinary citizens from the violence. If this is ‘dictatorship’, we were certainly glad of it in our battered barrio.
            I therefore challenge you – as editor – to watch it, and then tell us what other option the government had. As Mr Erik Mar observed earlier in this conversation, Nicaraguans know from bitter Contra war experience that force sometimes simply has to be met with counter-force.

            As for my ‘generalities’, this scornful perception is the very root of global injustice. Nicaraguans – already seriously overheated – facing further 3-6C temperature rises caused by the MeFirst World’s profligacy is no generality. Nor is the worker in some of the world’s finest coffee subsisting on the price of a couple of Mocha Javas per 12-hour day. Nor indeed is my own direct experience: the collapse of the free government heart care programme – that treated hundreds of real Nicaraguans besides myself – cancelled due to the effects of illegal international sanctions. If you must publish articles pontificating about far-distant, marginally-understood, countries and cultures, please have the editorial integrity to examine all sides with due and equal rigour.

          3. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

            Dear Editor. I hope that you’ve had time to review the video I sent you. And, hopefully, to discuss its content with Mr Laverty. As editor, I expect you’ll also find this further video of interest. It records some examples of peaceful opposition activity close to our home in Managua, including several photos I took myself. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TKYhx-WNG9uElsuAFVjMnm-y7TjxxZUW/view?usp=sharing

            In the spirit of objectivity and truth, I’m somewhat surprised that neither yourself nor Mr Laverty has responded to the – to repeat – gleefully self-recorded neo-Contra torture and mayhem perpetrated against the police and FSLN sympathisers contained in the first video. Other commentators one may perhaps excuse, given the overwhelming flood of false information polluting the ‘social media’ (and indeed the once-reputable international press) concerning the actual events of 2018. Professionals, never.

            Far from incidentally, I use the term ‘neo-Contra’ advisedly. I was in Nicaragua during the worst of the Contra war. As indeed was Mr Laverty. I invite him to compare the violence self-recorded in these videos with the Contra atrocities of those appalling times. Tragically, there is no discernable difference,

        2. barbara moore says:

          What I find terribly generic is the gang of Ortega haters who seem blind to what is clearly a U.S. state sponsored propaganda campaign. Even worse you seem quite insincere in your concern for the Nicaraguan people. Is it not up to them to choose their leader? Can any of you explain the throngs who turned out in 2019 for the anniversary of the revolution- and that without bussing anyone in.

          There is hard evidence of opposition violence and a coordinated coup attempt. But none of you care about the evidence. You still want to bring up rape. Cross reference Zoila America with WikiLeaks and find out who’s on the State department payroll and has been for decades. Shambolic to the extreme.

          Attack on Police Jinotepe
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEnY7Gag1ao&feature=youtu.be

          Leaked audio of Silvio Baez (Archbishop Managua) and opposition member is caught on tape talking about the ‘tranques of death’ and how he, made the civic alliance
          https://afgj.org/nicanotes-smoking-gun-shows-catholic-hierarchy-coup-involvement

          opposition with weapons
          https://twitter.com/MaxBlumenthal/status/1027271074545913857

          Regarding the Silvio Baez situation, the leaked audio was cause for the Pope — who still backs both of the Ortegas–to recall the Archbishop to the Vatican.

          1. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

            To add to these photos of armed ‘peaceful’ opposition members, here, finally, is a link to the auto-recorded and posted hard evidence video of opposition atrocities. Loath to post its disgusting content, but since not one single person agreeing with Mr Laverty’s position has asked for a copy – including the Bella Caledonia editor her/himself – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1z6YZx0I6me2SYC_hbi9uPjYP7TW6Vec7/view?usp=sharing

          2. James Scott says:

            Regarding the Silvio Baez situation, the leaked audio was cause for the Pope — who still backs both of the Ortegas–to recall the Archbishop to the Vatican.

            ¡ Caramba !

            or

            Oh, the irony !

            Now we must accept the word of Pope Francis hi’self on the bona fides of Daniel & Rosario

            A man, Pope Francis, who has had more run-ins with the integrity police [from Bajo Flores, to the Plaza de Mayo; from the Gesù to Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei; from the Diocese of Osorno to that of Orán. All without even mentioning the unsavoury characters who congregate like flies around him in the Casa Sta Marta] than………, well than even Tommy Sheridan.

            It wasn’t Shakespeare but Chaucer who warned of the danger presented by such prelates, no matter how high they rise:

            “….A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.”

          3. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

            What did you think of the ‘peaceful opposition’s video?

          4. Erik Mar says:

            Paul Baker,
            Thanks for uploading the video. I remember seeing some of those same snippets two years ago, sent to me by friends and ex-colleagues. As you’re witnessing, though, hard contrary evidence is not sufficient to change opinions; to the contrary, it probably reinforces those opinions and results in further polarization and escalation of accusations and counter-accusations. Instead, I would like to appeal to the original political sentiments of those who are now against the current incarnation of the FSLN (which, as we can all see, is _not_ the same as the 1980s incarnation, regardless of the number of original militants still in its ranks). Back then, we all went to Nicaragua knowing something about it from the outside, which made us initially sympathetic, but we went specifically to directly experience what had been reported third-hand. I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that the overwhelming majority of us, regardless of where we currently stand politically, count those weeks, months, or years as among the most transformative of our lives, due to the depth and breadth of the social transformations we witnessed. I also don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that the majority of us might have been uncomfortable with some or another aspects of what we saw – “Dirección Nacional, Ordene” perhaps being a salient and commonly cited example. I would then ask why so few of us made a big deal of those imperfections publicly, when we gave reports or testimony to what we experienced once back in our home countries. Why not? I would argue that it was because we implicitly recognized the crucial fact that the Revolution needed, more than anything else, breathing space, and a de-escalation of animosity. If the level of external hostility towards the FSLN decreased, I think we all recognized that its more appealing aspects would have the space and room to come to the fore. If external hostility increased, however, the more authoritarian and militaristic tendencies (of which there were certainly many) would tend to predominate. We owe it to those who enriched our lives, and indeed global society as a whole, to such a degree the space to make their own decisions and the freedom to make their own mistakes.

  30. John Perry says:

    Alberto, you say that you personally know a policemen who was killed by the police itself. His name is Faber Lopez. I would be interested to know the basis on which you say this, other than the claims made by his mother who was more than 100km away when it happened and made conflicting claims on different dates. Faber Lopez’s partner, also a police officer, has explained that the mother was obsessed with persuading him to leave the police because she was a keen member of the opposition. Lopez’s partner was in touch with him by text until shortly before he left Managua in the small hours of the morning of July 8 2018, for Jinotepe, where he was shot by a sniper (along with another police officer). The story is disentangled in the report ‘Dismissing the Truth’ and the interview with his partner is here: http://www.tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/6141

  31. James Scott says:

    In reply to: Paul Peuleve Baker

    [Yet again, I find that this site/ my computer does not offer a ‘Reply’ button at the appropriate point.]

    My quiver of Shakespeare quotes is thin, but roughly 21 years before Daniel Ortega’s visit to St Aloyious, Garnethill, and only a few hundred yards away, at the bottom of Scott St to be precise, I watched in awe as Bob Dylan rasped from a makeshift cinema screen that “The truth is just a plain picture.” Much less than a decade previously though the memory is not nearly so sharp, when fleetingly introduced to the epic poems of Sir Walter Scott where The Lady of the Lake was followed by Marmion; a tale of Flodden Field, I presume that the lines ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive,’ were given due prominence.

    In light of the above, what are we to make of this on line imbroglio over Ortega and Nicaragua?

    At least there are no shades of grey. None of his defenders have told us that he is a well meaning but flawed leader. Their praise for him and his works remains of epic proportions. They continue to zoom in relentlessly on the small, but for them highly significant, details of the picture whilst resolutely refusing to even glance at the whole canvas.

    As though a guide to Kelvingrove Museum were to invite the visitors to concentrate exclusively on the still visible repairs to the long cuts inflicted on Dali’s masterpiece without even commenting on the fishermen with their boats on the shore. Still less the figure on the cross. Or that light!

    You tell me that “Your response compounds the disturbing fact that not one single person of those who commented favorably on this article has so far asked for a copy either. Even that which I sent directly to Paul Laverty himself remains unanswered. Given that, the seriousness of the matter we’re discussing, and the hard concrete ‘horse’s own mouth’ evidence the videos provide, are surely rather more important than any question about my personal integrity.”

    So, leaving aside at least for the interim your own personal integrity, how do the videos on offer for specific, vile, unacceptable instances of violence by Ortega opponents compare to the following analysis of the current situation throughout Nicaragua and the lead up to elections, both presidential and general, due late this year:

    ‘As Nicaragua approaches general elections on 7 November 2021, the rule of law continues to deteriorate. The recent adoption of several laws contrary to the rights to freedom of association, expression, political participation and due process is a clear example of the continued restriction of civic and democratic space. Earlier this month [February 2021], two prominent organisations that advocate for freedom of expression were forced to suspend their activities due to the requirements and controls introduced by the “Foreign Agents Law” (Ley de Regulación de Agentes Extranjeros).’

    Doesn’t sound remotely like the picture painted here by yourself and many other Ortega apologists here, does it?

    Not my analysis. Not the analysis of Ronald Reagan, of Donald Trump, of Joe Biden or even of Oliver North. The analyst is Michelle Bachelet; two-time President of the Chilean Republic. First woman to hold that post. Elected on the Socialist Party of Chile ticket both times, as Salvador Allende had previously been.

    https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26796&LangID=E

    Only those who have either perpetrated or connived in the situation of pseudo-democracy she so tellingly describes will feel insulted by her words.

    Though ‘chastened” would surely be a better emotion. Far better.

    1. Paul Peuleve Baker says:

      Would you like to order a copy of the video?

  32. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

    James. Thank you for your Michelle Bachelet piece. Here’s another. It takes rather a different view of her work. “UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela.” https://bit.ly/3tOOKcC

    I don’t cite this to be clever, merely to emphasize that, even with a person of her standing, there can be conflicting analyses. This is precisely why the opposition atrocities video is so valuable. It is no-one’s opinion, pro or con, but direct, unfiltered fact – clear and irrefutable evidence of unspeakable acts, recorded and posted by the perpetrators themselves. Thus it gives the absolute lie to the ‘peaceful protest’ narrative. It’s noteworthy, that, just as in these comments no-one repeating that myth has asked for a copy, so too the international ‘news’ media have shown no interest in it whatsoever. So much for objectivity.

  33. Charles Gutierrez says:

    Please do not forget all of the foreign investors who bought or made an investment in land in Nicaragua. The country continues to be one of the most, if not the most, corrupt countries in the world. Most investors have lost what they built and the others lost most of the value in the asset. It continues to get worse and see no light at the end of the tunnel.

  34. Michael Boudreau says:

    One thing that seems to be left out of this discussion is what was the source of the protesting? The Sandinista government had reduced poverty by 50 percent and had strong popular support. Not to say that there wasn’t an opposition, but the majority were supportive of the government. So what brought people to take to the streets? The protests began on April 18th supposedly in response to government reforms to INSS, the Nicaragua Social Security Institute. The protests were actually called for by COSEP (Private Business Council), who had pulled out of social security reform negotiations with the government. There was a very swift and coordinated social media response, with thousands of posts, which described the social security proposal as drastic cuts to services and increases in worker’s contribution. However, the government proposal, which did include modest increases in contributions, actually maintained all of the worker benefits and also required large businesses to contribute more and was less damaging to workers than the IMF/COSEP proposals which would have raised the retirement age, doubled the number of work weeks to qualify for social security, and eliminated the partial pensions.

    The April 18th protests were relatively small and mostly made up of students. However, in the afternoon and evening, there again were thousands of coordinated social media reports [including WhatsApp messages] of a student protester who was killed at the UCA [Central American University]. It was later confirmed that this wasn’t true. The next day, on April 19th, there were more reports of student protesters being injured and of a massacre of students. Three people did die that day, all by gunshot, however, none of them were students. One was a police officer, one was a member of the Sandinista Youth Organization, who was defending the Tipitapa government offices from opposition protesters who were attempting to burn it down, and one was a passerby, who was not involved in the protests. So, no students were killed and there was no ‘student massacre’. What was also reported that day was that there were orders not to attend to injured protesters at the public hospitals. In fact, there were videos on the opposition television channel 100% Noticias of medical students caring for injured student protesters at the Catholic Cathedral of Managua.

    Here is a video [ https://youtu.be/ZNQ-ag3WYBA ] which includes screen shots of some of the social media posts as well as two videos from opposition media of student protesters being attended to at the Catholic Cathedral and a local university. Notice on the very first day of protesting, April 18th, they were already using the hashtag SOS INSS and Nicaragua SOS. Also, notice the pictures of the Nicaragua flag in blood and one with the words, ‘they are killing us.’ There was always a great emphasis on calling the student protesters, ‘auto-convocados’, or self-organized. However. it seems a bit early when on the very first day of a supposedly organic protest with ‘self-organized’ students, to already have hashtags, a SOS INSS Facebook page, and created images of bloody Nicaragua flags.

    In the first video from the Cathedral, which took place on April 20th, you can see young people wearing helmets, gloves and face masks. The women filming says that there are doctors and students attending to another injured person. They take him inside the Cathedral where one young person seems to be trying to cut one of his shirt sleeves open, another one is holding his neck and chest, a young women is sort of putting her hand on his stomach and another one is holding some kind of liquid and a gauze pad. No one seems to be extremely nervous or worried about the situation or have any idea what they are doing. The woman with the camera at one point says, ‘we don’t’ know what happened to him,’ but then later says, ‘he was injured by police.’ So, she doesn’t know what happened to him, but she does know that it was the police. Then she also says, ‘we are here in the Cathedral where we will be attending to many more injured.’ How could she possible know that there were going to be many more injured?

    In the second video at the Upoli University, there are young people attending to an injured protester on a table. They are holding a gauze pad on his side, yet there is no blood on the pad, on the table, or on the floor. The person filming seems to be a bit worked up, but those attending to the injured student don’t seem particularly nervous or worried.

    What is true with both of these videos is that these young people were obviously prepared to care for any injured protesters. Maybe they had heard the reports on opposition television or seen the posts on social media that the public hospitals were denying medical attention to protesters. However, if it were my daughter, or my classmate, I am not sure I would put their life in the hands of a medical student, without any proper medical equipment, attending to injured protesters on a wooden bench at the Catholic Cathedral or on a table at the university. I would think that I would rather have taken my injured classmate to the public hospital and demand that they receive medical attention.

    I shared two of the videos of injured student protesters being attended to, but there were several more. However, what there are no videos of whatsoever are of actual injured students being denied access to medical attention outside of hospitals. The reason that there are no videos of this is because injured protesters were never denied medical attention. If anyone had been denied medical attention, you can be sure someone would have taken a video of it. They also would have called the media and they would also have filmed it. However, these videos don’t exist because it didn’t happen.

    There is more proof at the end of the video I share, when opposition doctors are being interviewed by opposition journalist, Fernando Chamorro, and he asks them if it were true that they were given orders not to attend to injured protesters. To his surprise, the doctors state unequivocally that they were never given such orders.

    If you look at these injured protester videos critically, you can tell that they are staged and if you speak to any medical professional, they can tell you that these young people/medical students had no idea what they were doing. However, in the heat of the moment, when there are thousands of social media posts being shared and the 24/7 news channel 100% Noticias is showing videos of injured students, it is easy to be fooled. And people were fooled and many of them took to the streets—not because of the social security reform, or government corruption, or for stolen elections, but because they actually thought that student protesters were being injured and were not being attended to at the hospital.

    It is clear that from the very beginning this was a coordinated, organized effort [coup attempt] to get people to turn on the government by misrepresenting the INSS reforms, and using false reports of dead students, and staged videos of injured protesters being cared for by medical students because hospitals were refusing to give them medical attention. Can you imagine what might happen to media outlets, NGO’S, and student groups in the US who were involved in staging videos in order to get the population to turn on the government?

    1. Tim S. says:

      Very interesting! And it sounds all too familiar to anyone who has watched some of the videos from the White Helmets in Syria showing them supposedly aiding injured victims of government attacks…

      1. Michael Boudreau says:

        Thanks, Tim. Yes, you are absolutely correct about the white helmets. And this same strategy is used over and over again in corporate media not just in Syria or Nicaragua, but all over the world where the U.S. wants regime change. It is used domestically as well. So there is a pattern that is pretty easy to see once your eyes have been opened. Very interesting also that no one who supports the author’s view has commented on my post. There is just no way to argue that these videos were not staged.

        1. Paul Peulevé Baker says:

          Exactly., thanks. And I’m still waiting for the Author, the Editor, and those who take their position, to explain away the ‘Selfie’ video I shared over and again, posted by ‘peaceful opposition’ members themselves, stripping, daubing, whipping, crowning with nails, and burning murdered police officers/FSLN supporters. Not to mention the photos I took myself of the same folks’ trail of burned out radio stations and devastated municipal offices, etc. I wish these distant pontificators would realise the terrible damage they do to Nicaraguans on the ground by writing their inadequate and ill-informed analyses from thousands of miles away. However, beyond even the devastating and illegal sanctions that Bella Caledonia and others’ distorted opinions help foster – with catastrophic effects on thousands of those far-distant innocents – Nicaraguans’ greatest problem by far is the grim reality that their country, already way up in the 90Fs, is facing further temperature rises of 5.5 -11F. This overwhelming catastrophe is caused quite simply by our ‘developed’ world’s refusal to live within the carrying capacity of the planet. Authors, editors, supporters in Scotland, all of us MeFirst Worlders, are profoundly complicit in the ongoing ransacking of Nicaragua and her sisters, ‘necessary’ to sustain our otherwise unsustainable way of life. Dear Editor, please leave Nicaragua to Nicaraguans, and call for getting our hypocritical and cataclysmic collective knee off their being-made-poor necks, why don’t you?!

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