Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 311 | Junio 2007



The Sound of Silence and The Noise of Tola

“Silence gives consent,” goes the saying. What consent, then, is the Ortega government’s silence giving, and to whom? What does that silence say about “Tolagate”? We’ll try to put words to some of this muteness.

Nitlápan-Envío team

The political and economic project of the government of “unity and reconciliation,” as the Ortega-Murillo government has labeled itself, has been taking shape in its first five months with so many contradictions that we still can’t see its features very clearly. Abetting these confusing contours are the silences and/or confidentiality accompanying the government’s appointments and dismissals, its plans and projects… not to mention the denunciations to which it is occasionally subjected.

The Councils are on

The government has announced that the Community Councils of Citizen Power, which form part of the “concept of People-President,” in the words of the official document “Organizational Scheme of Citizen Power,” will be installed by the July 19 celebration of the 28th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution. These councils will function in urban neighborhoods and rural districts throughout the country and will be headed by 15 people responsible for the different areas, but will be coordinated directly from the executive branch by the President’s wife, Rosario Murillo.

Controversial from the moment of their announcement, these and the other councils also created triggered the first legislative battle regarding their functions, the possible salary of their members and whether or not they would be financed by the budget. The controversy is still raging as their installation draws near and what was most feared is clear: they will be headed by FSLN political secretaries or other party leaders. It is of particular concern that legislator Elías Chévez, strongly criticized by even the Sandi-nista grass roots, will head the Managua councils. Moreover, they will function in the FSLN offices, and are being organized by the FSLN structures. According to Civil Coordinator National Liaison Georgina Muñoz in her “Speaking Out” article in this issue, some Sandinista leaders issuing the call have at the same time announced that these new councils will replace the existing Municipal Development Committees.

A number of civil organizations fought for approval of the Law of Civic Participation in 2003 and later put a great deal of effort into creating local and departmental arenas in which to develop such participation, overcoming numerous obstacles. Ever since Ortega took office these organizations have been questioning government officials about the role of the councils and the future of both what has already been constructed under protection of law, particularly the 2003 law itself: whether it will be reformed or even possibly repealed. They have urged the strengthening of what already exists instead of organizing parallel structures. People who have learned to participate in the existing legal spaces around the country, working with neighbors of all ideologies, have been asking similar questions. Everybody wants to know, but the response has been either silence or an ambiguous message that explains nothing.

“We are the law”

It remains to be seen how effective the Councils of Citizen Power will be, what problems they will generate and what solutions they will provide. But one thing’s certain: the government is going ahead with them despite the existing law and the growing opposition. This is a country full of lawyers and other legal professionals who have little respect for or interest in knowing established laws and legalities, and the Ortega-Murillo government is taking full advantage to develop a style of government in which legality is rhetorically alluded to when need be, but the powers that be twist the laws at their own whim. The government feels no need to provide explanations, knowing that the majority of people won’t ask for them, and those who do—the most organized, most conscientious, most informed, most civic—can be either discredited or brushed off with the argument that the previous governments did the same thing or worse.

The idea behind all of this is that now is the moment for “justice” rather than “democracy.” Rosario Murillo doesn’t use the word revolution to describe this “righteous” time. She prefers the term evolution: “the government is the government of the people and if the people fill themselves with light, love and strength… there is nothing that can detain this evolutionary process!” Chévez explains the councils as vehicles for evolución, while Daniel Ortega praises direct democracy and Edwin Castro announces that we will soon have participatory parliamen-tarism, all elastic concepts that can be filled with any content.

In its first five months the government has disrespected and violated several laws, greeting any demands to respect the legal framework with a deafening silence. Exactly what is being consented to by this silence or the silence greeting legal questioning of the councils, spurred by a fear that they will simply be a re-edition of the old State-Party structures rather than structures of public service? The sound of these silences is yet another warning that the government project could turn out to be both authoritarian (“we are the law”) and paternalistic (“we know what the people need”).

Outside the budget

But the Councils of Citizen Power aren’t the only parallel mechanism in the works that is blatantly ignoring prevailing laws. The budget law and the public debt law are also being ignored to develop a parallel budget for the generous Venezuelan fuel aid.

Francisco López, president of the state oil derivatives distribution company Petronic and also coincidentally the FSLN treasurer, announced in early May that the resources left to the country by the beneficial oil agreement between Venezuela and Nicaragua will be managed outside the national budget because it is a commercial transaction “between private entities” (Petronic and Venezuela’s PDVSA, both of which are in fact state owned). These declarations provoked alarm because they imply that the FSLN treasurer would end up managing over US$300 million dollars a year as head of a public enterprise but without any public control. What or who would be the beneficiary of that amount, which is equivalent to a full quarter of the national budget? Who or what will be responsible for paying the debt derived from the oil credit? Would the party benefit while the nation pays the debt?

The debate among legislators and economists dominated the media. The Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) tried to give the alarm a more constructive spin by drafting a bill to regulate the use of the fund originating from the acquisition of petroleum and its derivatives from Venezuela. The bill earmarks seven specific social sectors that should benefit from the funds from the oil agreement, with all transactions reflected in the budget. But the FSLN bench rejected it out of hand as “very poorly proposed.” The government stuck to its position with an impenetrable silence on the issue or else using a bunch of “legal” phrases and words that sought to cloud the lack of transparency.

“Blood and fire,
but no transparency”

Certainly the omissions, confidentiality and secretiveness with which the Ortega-Murillo government has handled both the oil agreement and Nicaragua’s membership in ALBA—in which Nicaragua only contributes rhetoric and receives aid, promises of aid and a tribune to project Ortega’s eroded leadership on the world level—have led the Nicaraguan Right to view the Venezuelan initiative with ideologized prejudice and Nicaraguan society to divide ideologically in a setting of growing media polarization. Some allow thoughts of Venezuelan aid to feed their illusions while others reject out of hand all ALBA projects—some of which are admittedly still confusing—out of fear or ignorance.

The government’s lack of transparency and the secretiveness and silence surrounding everything related to the ALBA petrodollars speak volumes. Civil Coordinator economist Adolfo Acevedo commented that “the government has evidently decided, by blood and fire, to manage the credit from Venezuela completely outside the budget, with no transparency and without any possibility of the most minimum national process to deliberate about its use. Venezuela’s cooperation, which could make a fundamental contribution to resolving the huge unfinanced gaps in the budget, will instead be unjustifiably channeled outside of the budget, which will thus remain unfi-nanced and subjected to the International Monetary Fund’s conditionality.”

Negotiations with the IMF

Despite President Ortega’s anti-neoliberal rhetoric, the IMF is finding opportunities in his government to impose conditions. In May an IMF mission came to the country to initiate negotiations with the government, which must conclude with the signing of a new agreement for the next three years.

The conversations were conducted in absolute secrecy and ended without the appearance of any white smoke. The government then announced that Central Bank president Antenor Rosales would go to Washington to continue the talks and reach the agreement soon.

“Responding” to complaints about the secretiveness of these negotiations, the government called a meeting with different social sectors on May 31 to finally “break the silence” and present the Financial Economic Program it had submitted to the IMF. But what Rosales and Ortega’s other top economic officials presented that day was the same thing they had already presented to the National Assembly and the 16 Sandinista directors of the consultative Economic and Social Planning Council (CONPES) named by President Ortega: none other than the proposal drawn up by the Bolaños government and tweaked by the same technical team that worked for the former President.

Independent economists insist that none of it constitutes a “program,” since it features no details or projections of fiscal, budgetary, tax, investment, public debt service or other policies.

A hidden program

At that May 31 meeting, Rosales and Bayardo Arce, Ortega’s economic advisor, contradicted each other responding to a question by economist Acevedo about the “sound of these silences” and the haste in negotiating an agreement with the IMF without first having achieved national consensus about what to negotiate. “No one understands,” commented Acevedo afterwards, “how they could have invited us to obtain our backing for a program that the government is determined to keep hidden.”

According to Acevedo, the social investments Nicaragua urgently needs require three political decisions: an in-depth restructuring of the internal debt, a tax reform centered on progressive taxation and transparent detailing of the resources from Venezuelan cooperation in the national budget.

But none of these decisions appear in the offing. “Just as I imagined,” concluded Acevedo, “the reason for the secrecy is that the government is backing the Law of Fiscal Responsibility that Bolaños accepted, as well as other things that aren’t yet known. Only the IMF won’t impose them. As one official told me, ‘We’ve decided to introduce them; no one is going to impose them on us.’”

Our ambassadors

The government has slowly been naming new ambassadors, and some of the appointments have been particularly questioned. One such is the new ambassador to Honduras, Álvaro Chamorro Mora, the former Sandinista mayor of Granada who was rejected by most of that city’s population. Mora became mayor after an alleged fraud in the 2004 municipal elections only to be dismissed this year following accusations of corruption, which are currently being investigated.

Another is the ambassador to Italy, Piero Cohen Montealegre, a wealthy businessman who has been busy purchasing lands from poor peasants in the western part of the country. He has also been accused of benefiting from the much questioned bonds resulting from the fraudulent bank collapses several years ago. A source close to the investigation into the bonds told envío, ”that gentleman should be in jail, not in Italy.” His son, Piero Paolo Cohen Ubilla, was named ambassador to Great Britain. The only governmental response to the criticisms of these appointments has been silence. Foreign Minister Samuel Santos’ only comment on the Chamorro Mora appointment has been that we are all innocent until proven guilty.

But the official silence has reached a deafening roar regarding Álvaro Robelo, an obscure Nicaraguan “businessman” who returned to Nicaragua from Italy in 1994 to found a bank and Arriba Nicaragua, a political party established as a vehicle for his presidential campaign in 1996. Robelo appeared to be having some kind of impact, but was quickly disqualified from running and his party fell apart. He later became an FSLN ally and is one of the few personalities left in the National Convergence. His bank was intervened in 1996 following accusations of serious irregularities and Robelo has been demanding compensation ever since. In 2004 the Supreme Court awarded him US$60 million at the state’s expense.

Two of Robelo’s children, Carlos and Mónica, were given diplomatic posts by the Ortega government. The former will be a permanent alternate representative with the rank of ambassador to the UN and other international institutions based in Geneva, Switzerland. The latter will also have ambassadorial rank as full governor in the International Agricultural Development Fund’s Council of Governors.

Robelo against
the papal nuncio

Álvaro Robelo himself was named ambassador to the Vatican. After four months without receiving the official nod from the Holy Seat, the frustrated would-be ambassador made extremely serious accusations against Jean Paul Gobel, the papal representative in Nicaragua, holding him personally responsible for the Vatican’s rejection.

With all the cameras of Nicaragua’s TV channels trained on him, Robelo called the nuncio the “head of an evil and criminal conspiracy against the Nicaraguan state and against Cardinal Obando.” He called Gobel a “criminal,” charging that in meetings with him the nuncio had “sworn revenge” against Robelo. He also stated that in a recent meeting he had been frightened by the pope’s representative: “He got so angry he jumped around like a spring, shrieking like a madwoman.”

Robelo further added that the nuncio’s “personal behavior is quite murky.” Declaring himself a specialist in theology and one of only four graduates from the Congregation of the Divine Cult, Robelo claimed that the nuncio “knows nothing about theology or anything else.”

It is impossible to imagine more offensive declarations against a diplomat and a priest. Even more incredible is the fact that they came from a man named to represent Nicaragua in the state represented by the person offended.

Legitimizing rudeness

Although Álvaro Robelo has always been extremely vulgar towards those he chooses as his adversaries, it shocked many not only that he could speak so rudely without paying a price in a country with such traditional religious respect, but also that he would do it as the aspiring representative to the Vatican of a government strategically allied to the Catholic hierarchy that never lets a speech go by without mentioning God and Pope John Paul II.

When journalists naturally asked Foreign Minister Santos for an explanation, he, too, opted for silence. “I’m not going to refer to the issue.” Neither he nor anyone else in the government publicly apologized to the nuncio, who responded evasively and 48 hours later was seated alongside Ortega in the official inauguration of Cardinal Obando’s new Commission of Verification, Reconciliation, Peace and Justice.

If the nuncio’s silence could be interpreted within the bounds of diplomacy, the government’s silence regarding the invective unleashed by Robelo—who threatened to continue talking about the nuncio yet said he still aspired to the post—clearly “consents” to legitimize this hardly diplomatic behavior.

What diplomacy?

What factions do the new government’s team of ambassadors belong to? In the eighties, Sandinista diplomacy was clearly geared to representing a small country seeking the solidarity of the world’s governments and peoples for a project of national sovereignty and social justice. Despite not being led by professionals in international relations, that diplomacy was definitely up to the challenge. The diplomacy of the Bolaños government, in contrast, was geared to “selling” Nicaragua abroad, attracting investments. It attracted some and did indeed sell us—at liquidation prices to the United States.

What is today’s Sandinista diplomacy about? To echo the Venezuelan project of President Chávez? To tout the presidential couple’s own project? To selectively attract a certain kind of investor?

The weaknesses and ambiguities of this government’s foreign service so far make it hard to think that Nicaragua currently has a policy to deal with the challenge of establishing relations with an ever more complex and uncertain world. Do the Foreign Relations Ministry and the presidential couple actually know what they’re doing?

Could ignorance, inability and arrogance lead the Ortega government to enmesh Nicaragua in a tangle of international conflicts that do not concern us? Iran is the most dangerous knot in this tangle. What shared positions are pushing us closer to Iran at the very moment when it is entrenching itself in a nuclear stand-off against the world powers? What is Nicaragua’s position on the growing tensions between Israel and Iran or Iran’s refusal to recognize the Jewish Holocaust? How can we believe that one of the most vacillating governments in our country’s recent history is in a position to deal with such questions?

Then came “Tolagate”

Of all the events shrouded in official silence, the most significant one this month was the accusation presented on May 27 in a special report by Esta Semana, a Sunday evening news magazine program headed by former director of the Sandinista newspaper Barricada, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and broadcast on Channel 8 .

The program documented what it alleged was a case of extortion against European and US investors in tourism carried out by Gerardo Miranda, a former Sandinista mayor and National Assembly representative, who is currently Nicaragua’s consul in Liberia, Costa Rica. Miranda was previously accused of corruption during his municipal administration and famously changed political horses upon finishing his term in office.

Through an intermediary, Miranda reportedly proposed that the investors provide “the boss” with $4 million to resolve property problems related to coastlands in the municipality of Tola, in the department of Rivas, where they planned to make their investments, and to put an end to the judicial problems affecting the intermediary.

Moreover, Miranda allegedly took the intermediary—an individual with a murky past—to the FSLN Secretariat building, which also doubles as President Ortega’s presidential offices, where the intermediary supposedly discussed this multimillion dollar deal with Vicente Chávez, a political operator in whom Ortega has complete confidence and who was promoted by the FSLN to the post of alternate comptroller.

The intermediary denounced this whole scheme, which suggested a well-organized mafia, on the TV program. Although his own background is hardly transparent, the evidence he provided of the Miranda-Chávez-boss trio’s lack of transparency was forceful.

The great and very positive novelty was the revelation of a concrete case. It has been an open secret for some years that this is a common way to “work out” property or judicial problems in Nicaragua. The FSLN-PLC control of the judicial branch, which started with the pact between the two parties in 1998, has led to accusations of total judicial insecurity, in which influence peddling and bribery are the legal fabric of many cases “resolved” in the judicial bodies.

Nothing will be untouchable

The Ortega-Murillo government’s first recourse, not surprisingly, was silence. The day after the program, Samuel Santos played the anticipated card of blaming the intermediary who had spoken out for the corruption, an argument he justified by citing the intermediary’s dicey reputation. The foreign minister discredited him but referred to Vicente Chávez as a “supremely honorable” person and said that there was no reason to suspend Miranda from his post as consul to Liberia.

That same day a campaign to discredit the intermediary, his father-in-law (an ALN legislator and nephew of former President Bolaños) and Carlos Fernando Chamorro himself began to appear on Channel 4, which broadcasts the government’s official propaganda. The three were singled out repeatedly as members of a “land-grabbing mafia,” with their faces displayed as if on a “Wanted” poster. They were charged with eight criminal activities, including slander and libel, falsification of documents, association to commit a crime and land theft.

The FSLN’s only mass medium with a captive audience is Radio Ya, and it has been at the center of a campaign against the other media begun by Ortega and Murillo almost as soon as they took office. On this occasion the campaign was directed against the country’s investigative journlism, which has played a crucial role in the war on corruption in recent years. For the first time it went after a concrete person, who is Nicaragua’s most emblematic journalist for his proven professionalism and because he comes from a long line of journalists—his father was the martyred journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. It was a way of saying: If we can go after him then nobody’s safe.

Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s courageous and coherent position, promising that he will not be intimidated and calling on other victims of extortion to press charges and put a halt to the impunity with which this institutionalized mafia is acting, was exemplary. Nonetheless, none of the several other investors who assured him they would speak out has done so. Intimidation functions very effectively in Nicaragua.

Miranda’s “revelation”

While Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo—the latter responsible for government communication—remained silent for eight consecutive days, avoiding their responsibility, after 48 hours Miranda had no other choice but to speak. He claimed that he barely knew the intermediary, that the voice on the tape was not his and that his only “boss” is God. Most importantly, he tried to change the rules of “Tolagate” by “revealing that the disputed properties had contained speedboats and an airstrip for drug runs.

Five days after the scandal broke, Attorney General Hernán Estrada, who is very close to the presidential couple, reported that the government would order an investigation. But the issue that most concerned him was the links between the tourism investors on the Pacific coast and drug trafficking. “It’s no coincidence,” he said, referring to the spectacular drug busts the police had made recently in those same beach areas.

President Ortega finally legitimized this interpretation on Sunday, June 3, just before boarding a plane for Venezuela, Cuba and several Arab countries. Somewhat cynically, he said that the investigation would have to get to “the bottom” of things, he “wouldn’t put his hands in the fire for anybody” and, more worryingly, he emphasized the two focal points of the intimidating campaign by Channel 4 and Radio Ya: a mafia had been dispossessing peasants of their land and there were investors linked to drug activity. This was what really needed to be investigated, not Miranda, Vicente Chávez and “the boss.”

“Not a single stain”

In her Communication Strategy, written and then leaked just after her husband took office, Rosario Murillo wrote: “In terms of image, we must position ourselves nationally and internationally as a new transparent and clean ethical system. One single emblematic case would cause a stain that would be very, very difficult to erase. It could relegate any effort related to social issues to a second plane… With respect to corruption, that [magnifying glass that will be trained on Nicaragua] obliges us to be inflexible and extremely cautious, in terms of cutting it at the root and as soon as any outbreak of corruption occurs, thus avoiding having to later give explanations about any knowledge we might or might not have about the phenomenon.

“Any effort made to inspect and control pales in comparison to the high cost in image terms of being branded as corrupt. An exemplary punishment produced in a certain case will send out the signals we want.”

The real response to
an emblematic case

As with another emblematic case detailed in last September’s issue of envío, property problems and judicial problems converge in Tolagate. But this new case also includes figures with high public posts and, to top it off, the scene of the alleged crime is none other than the presidential offices. In addition, the case is linked to tourist development in the country’s southern Pacific beaches, the most attractive area for foreign investment in recent years, where relatively virgin beaches have been highly promoted to tourists and retiring home buyers from the North. Just 15 days before the explosive denunciation, Rosario Murillo declared that Nicaragua aspires to tourism “with a perspective based on ethical, sensible and fair sustainable development.” What could make this case more emblematic and deserving of exemplary punishment?

Nonetheless, 10 days later there were still no signs of any exemplary punishment. Miranda was still Nicaraguan consul, Chávez remained “supremely honorable” and governmental efforts to inspect and control had been rerouted from the accused to the accusers. The muddied retaliated by throwing mud, in a repeat of the classic strategies employed in the seventies by the Somoza government against Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s father, quoted in Andrés Pérez Baltodano’s article “Gerardo Mirando and We the Thieves” in this month’s edition.

Perhaps the government is incapable of acting in any other way and these silences only reflect the increasing decomposition of the leadership that has controlled the governing party since 1990. Perhaps this recently visible loose thread leads back to a tangle that has been densely knotted for some time. Who will dare attempt to untangle it without getting snarled up?

An image in smithereens

To what degree will Tolagate affect the Ortega-Murillo government? And the economy? Can the stain be erased? This very concrete and publicized charge of extortion—which is presumably the tip of an iceberg in whose hidden depths other perhaps older and more serious cases may have crystallized, only to be silenced through fear or unconfessable complicities—has shattered the image Daniel Ortega has worked so hard to project of a government concerned about attracting foreign investment.

In fact, beyond the courtroom rhetoric Ortega periodically employs, the government has recently made a number of successful efforts to improve its relationship with foreign investors. His recent conflict with the Canadian transnational corporation Polaris over a concession to exploit geothermal energy was favorably resolved, while a preliminary agreement was also reached this month with Glencore, the Swiss transnational that has a concession from Petronic. Meanwhile, the President has backed off his threats to expropriate Unión Fenosa, the Spanish transnational that distributes electrical energy around the country, recognizing that it was not viable, and instead announced the government’s desire to buy it back at a future date. Finally, Ortega welcomed investment by a Guatemalan group called Pantaleón for the production of ethanol, thus radically modifying his original resistance to this type of investment on the grounds that it endangered the coun-try’s food security.

Too much optimism

In this context of efforts to reach understandings with foreign capital, it will be difficult to dodge the negative repercussions of this serious charge of extortion on present and future flows of both foreign investment and foreign aid. This contrasts with the optimism of the economic and financial projections that the government presented to the International Monetary Fund when the two entered into negotiations. According to the government, the country’s economic growth and generation of jobs will be greater than originally estimated in the budgetary framework prepared by the Bolaños government for 2007-2009.

The official expectations are based on the Venezuelan aid generating a substantial increase in public investment for social and productive infrastructure and on the good prices currently being fetched in the international markets by our main export products, which should stimulate export growth.

The government also anticipates the maintenance of recent levels of foreign and national private investment and of foreign aid from the multilateral banks and the European, US and Asian donors. This would be the ideal backdrop for a Sandinista victory in the 2008 municipal elections and beyond and for Daniel Ortega’s own reelection as President, assuming that a constitutional change permitting immediate reelection can be pushed through the National Assembly.

Shadows and worse

The significant drops in foreign and national private investment, particularly in construction and tourism, had been casting a worrying shadow on this scenario even before Tolagate. Moreover, the volumes of foreign aid initially promised during the Bolaños government for the coming years are tending to drop because the government doesn’t have enough new investment projects available. For example, many of the Rural Development Institute and Natural Resource Ministry projects financed by international cooperation are in their final phase of implementation, but the government hasn’t yet defined its policies or projects for rural development or natural resource management. Serious levels of improvisation are currently being observed.

In addition, countries that directly support the national budget are conditioning their aid on the government reaching an agreement with the IMF, which won’t be signed until the last quarter at the earliest.

The domestic debt
will not be restructured

In this setting, the reduction of resources from foreign aid cannot be compensated for by reducing the service payment on the domestic debt. Furthermore, the government seems to have backed off its commitment to restructure that debt and is now even planning to pay off the bulk of it during its term.

This backpedaling could be one of the concessions the government has had to make to the IMF in the reportedly tense negotiations. It could also express a consolidation of the control that the group of Sandinista businesspeople headed by Ortega’s economic adviser Bayardo Arce is exercising over the government’s economic policy—up to now a neoliberal policy with social compensation provided by Venezuelan funds.

The Arce hypothesis is underpinned, for example, by the reaction of the 16 Sandinista union members that Ortega imposed on CONPES when the government presented them with the economic and financial “program” he is negotiating with the IMF, which was directly lifted from Bolaños. All 16 endorsed it, even though the current overall director of CONPES, National Assembly representative Gustavo Porras, is known for his strident anti-IMF rhetoric and his constant dismissal of the government’s opposition as “neoliberal oligarchs.”

The Ortega-Murillo government will therefore be unable to deal with its budgetary crisis unless it makes a profound and truly “top down” tax reform—in which those who earn more pay more—and gets additional foreign aid. Any budgetary reform is still far on the horizon. So far the government has only announced its intention to increase tax collection by eliminating a quota of the many fiscal exonerations enjoyed by the privileged sectors. The only other option is to look for more foreign resources, which explains why President Ortega has been traveling far and wide.

On June 3, he and his wife, accompanied by children and grandchildren, set off on their first official junket beyond the American continent. Traveling in a Boeing 707 provided by Libyan President Muammar al-Qaddafi, they visited Venezuela, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Italy and Cuba to establish links of political, economic, trade and even military cooperation, according to Ortega. In Venezuela, Ortega sided with the Chávez government regarding the canceling of the RCTV television station’s license. In a speech broadcast nationwide, he explained that the Venezuelan government had been “tolerant” and “permissive,” since it should have closed the station, confiscated its equipment and tried its owners.

Hello darkness, my old friend

Until Ortega and Murillo return to either speak or remain silent, we are reminded of that unforgettable song, “Sounds of Silence,” which echoes the emotional-political situation of uncertain darkness in which many of us are groping our way through Nicaragua’s current “evolution.”

Maybe the darkness and silence will provide the right conditions to germinate a new vision that may just take root in time.

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk to you again,
because a vision softly creeping
left its seeds while I was sleeping,
and the vision that was
planted in my brain
still remains,
within the sound of silence…

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