Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 442 | Mayo 2018



April 2018: An insurrection of the nation’s consciousness

No one expected such a flare-up. It started when pensioners protested social security reforms. Once the student-supported protest was met by violence, it was surprisingly joined by even more, not fewer, people. Rural areas have lived with terror and deaths for years while Managua just seemed to slumber through it all. But once awake, the entire country came together. This spontaneous and unexpected explosion wasn’t the product of an outside conspiracy, but the eruption of pent-up grievances Volcanoes don’t forewarn.

Envío team

Nicaragua hasn’t been front-page news in the international media for years, but we returned to the headlines this historic April and the media will surely keep an eye on us for some time to come. The spontaneous and unanticipated flare-up, which produced four straight days of violent repression that shocked everyone, began in Managua and spread to several other towns and cities across the country. Its dimensions surprised the entire country, not least the students who made up the ranks of the protestors with unexpectedly increasing support by a population that had simply had enough. But it was the government that was caught most off guard.

It started with a protest against new social security reforms, particularly one that would have affected pensioners. But its continuing expressions since the government’s violent response, with a still-mounting death toll, have virtually sealed the fate of the Ortega-Murillo government. The social security reforms are all but forgotten relative to the increasingly widespread call for the government’s departure.

What follows is data on the violence, particularly of those four days, the key events leading up to the protest, a description of the days of protest themselves and the early responses of the most important players, both domestically and internationally as of May 8, the closing date of envío’s Spanish-language edition. As the English-language edition took another 10 days, we are including a very brief update on events since then and possible scenarios on the horizon, all of which will be covered in greater depth in the coming edition ofenvío.

The fatal bottom line:
“They were executed”

Although we may never know the exact figures, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) released a report on May 4 of what it called “systematic violations of the human rights of Nicaraguans by the dictatorial regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.”

CENIDH stated the following with respect to the violation of the right to life: “The violence exercised by the Police and government shock forces, incomparable in Nicaragua’s recent history, has resulted in the violent death of at least 45 people during the legitimate exercise of a social protest. Of them, 4 were under 18 years old, 24 were young students, 18 were civilians with different occupational profiles who were supporting the student protest, 2 were police agents and 1 was a journalist covering the acts of violence in Bluefields.

“All the deaths occurred in the context of repression and state violence. The majority of the victims were hit by a bullet in the head, neck, chest or abdomen, so we can state that they were executed, with the authorities and shock forces enjoying a clear advantage with respect to the means available to the demonstrators. This shows that the order was to kill.”

All who died were male except one of the police officers—a 19-year-old woman—and 28 of the deaths occurred during the protests in the capital city of Managua, with the other 17 in the context of protests in Tipitapa, Mata¬galpa, Estelí, Masaya, Ciudad Sandino, León, Masaya, Ticuantepe, Bluefields and Mateare. All but 9 died of gunshot wounds. CENIDH was unable to provide specific details for 5 of those 9, while 2 of the remaining 4 were Sandinista activists who died when Radio Darío was torched in León, allegedly by government supporters; 1 died reportedly defending the University Center of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, also set fire to in León; and 1 was stabbed and beaten by youths identified as members of the Sandinista Youth (JS). CENIDH also reported that at least 400 people had been hurt or wounded during the protests. A number of youths were still reported disappeared at the close of this issue.

Accumulated grievances

University student protests earlier in April against the government’s inadequate response to a forest fire in the Indio-Maíz Reserve were relatively uneventful. But everything changed the evening of April 18, when a number of students came out to support a group of pensioners peacefully protesting the newly-announced social security measures. A disproportionate response that night by what were reported to be pro-government thugs provided the spark, and the shocking repression by anti-riot police over the following days fanned the flame. But it was a decade of unrestrained authoritarianism that converted it into a blaze, an authentic insurrection of the nation’s consciousness.

It would be impossible to list here the accumulated grievances that helped turn a relatively small, peaceful civic protest into a revolt unseen for years and unexpected any time soon, but envoi has been analyzing them in detail month after month. We’ve talked a lot about authoritarianism, abuse of power, absolute control over state institutions and unpunished corruption and crimes of all kinds. In other words, the kinds of issues politicians rail about in the abstract and the educated middle and upper classes take more seriously because they aren’t busy struggling to put food on the table every day.

But, in retrospect, perhaps we haven’t been so clear about the human effect, the accumulated indignation of ordinary people in the face of everyday humiliations, disrespect, arbitrariness, abuses of authority and small injustices by local government officials and governing party cadres, and being summarily overlooked for government social programs if they are from a traditionally opposition family. This ever more insulting arrogance of power appears to have finally lit their fuse. The speed with which the initial protest was replaced by angry end-game demands for the departure of the governing couple revealed just how fed up many people are with the status quo.

The first trigger:
Control of the social networks

The April insurrection was immediately preceded by three government provocations. Accustomed to being able to abuse its power with no reaction for the past decade, the regime became the main destabilizer of its own model.

The first provocation came on March 12, when Vice President Rosario Murillo announced she was considering “reviewing” the social media because she believed they were “negatively influencing families and communities.” Since they were one of the few important spaces of power not already controlled by the government, many heard “review” as “control.” The youth, who by their own definition “live” on those media, felt under attack, but not enough to protest in the streets, perhaps because the days passed and nobody in government said any more about it.

Ironically, the government itself has fed the addiction to the social media. In 2014, it invested millions in installing free and unsecured Wi-Fi in parks all over the country. University students with fancy smart phones and many barrio youths with cheaper versions are now hooked up to social networks that are spreading news of the continuing repression and the rebellious response to it in real time all over the country.

The second trigger:
The fire in the reserve

The second event immediately preceding the April insurrection was a forest fire that began on April 3 and burned for 10 days in the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve along the South Caribbean border with Costa Rica, a biological treasure of immense intangible value to Nicaragua and Central America. (See more on the fire and how it started in this issue’s Briefs section.) Accustomed to managing any problematic event by acting as if it isn’t happening, Vice President Murillo, the government’s official spokesperson, at first minimized the blaze.

The government only reacted three days later and even then didn’t request international aid and actually rejected help offered by Costa Rican firefighters. It militarized the zone, prevented independent journalists and environmentalists from getting there and threatened to withdraw the legal status of Fundación del Río, the national organization that sounded the alarm the first day with information received from the Rama and Kriol communities that inhabit the area.

Nicaragua’s natural reserves have been suffering deforestation for years. Alba Forestal, one of the companies of the Albanisa consortium run by the group in power, based its operations until at least two years ago on lumber from those same forests, until the evidence became undeniable. The reserves’ buffer zones are also being invaded by impoverished peasants who cut down trees to plant basic crops, then once the unapt soil is depleted sell out to unscrupulous cattle ranchers who cut down even more trees to create pasture land with the complicity or indifference of local authorities.

Last year the Alliance of Indigenous and Afro-descendent Peoples of Nicaragua warned that the rapidly advancing deforestation of the Indio-Maíz Reserve by mestizo settlers from the Pacific invading territory legally belonging to those two peoples had intensified since 2013. That was the same year the government announced the interoceanic canal project, which would have cut through part of the Indio-Maíz Reserve in their territory. And in an article published in envoi in March, the authors reported that peasant farmers in Nueva Guinea and El Castillo were moving further into the Indio-Maíz buffer zone as companies were buying up their land for mono-cropping.

An ecological catastrophe
and the power of emotion

In Nicaragua as in the rest of the world, it is the youth who are the most conscious of environmental responsibility, intuiting that the world they will inherit is in grave danger. It was thus they who took to the streets in their concern for the reserve.

April 6 saw the first of daily student protests at the entrance to the Central American University (UCA) campus in the middle of Managua. They were small at first, but as the fire continued to rage, more people joined. By April 11 more than 300 youths from various universities responded to #SOSIndioMaíz on the networks and demonstrated for several hours in front of the UCA. “Ortega is negligent” read one placard.

The FSLN’s predictable response to any mobilization, be it by the women’s movement on International Women’s Day or pensioners three years ago, is “Don’t lose the streets.” Thus, at another point in mid-Mana¬gua that same day, about a thousand JS members gathered to praise the government’s efforts to put out the fire.

But everything was peaceful until the next day, by which time the number of youths in front of the UCA had grown even larger. When they tried to march through the main streets of Managua demanding truthful information about the forest fire, anti-riot police appeared for the first time to stop them. They beat several marchers, while other police protected the JS counter-march, also flanked by what CENIDH and others call the government’s “shock troops”: men on motorcycles armed with clubs and firearms, their face hidden behind tinted helmet visors.

The provocations went no further because the fire had finally burnt out by the next day, April 13. The Nicaraguan Army and firefighting planes provided by Mexico, the United States and El Salvador had done what they could and a fortuitous rainstorm did the rest.

On one of the regime’s four TV channels, a “specialist” said he felt “very optimistic” because less than 2% of the forest had been lost. But Víctor Campos, director of the environmentalist Humboldt Center, called the damage “irreversible” since the burned area was in the reserve’s nucleus. The fire had burned 5,500 hectares and destroyed 7% of the San Juan River’s 447-square-kilometer Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for endangered species such as jaguars and tapirs. Nicaragua’s well-known environmental scientist Jaime Incer Barquero called it “the greatest ecological catastrophe in our country’s history.”

The third and final trigger:
The Social Security reforms

Government leaders relaxed, surely thinking that, like the flames, the youth’s ardor had burned itself out. Perhaps they didn’t realize what neuroscience has taught us: that the major decisions we human beings make always begin with an emotion, never with rational analysis. The environmental protests had left an accumulation of new emotions in a critical mass of Managua’s university students.

Roberto López, president of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS), was so sure everything was back under control that on the afternoon of Monday, April 16, barely three days after the protestors had returned to class, he announced the government’s reforms to save his institution from financial collapse, as INSS would have ended the year unable to pay pensions and cover health care benefits. It was known that the reforms had been negotiated, as always behind closed doors, only with the business elite in the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) and nominally with the compliant pro-government unions.

A 10-year breather?

The first and most unexpected surprise in López’s announcement was that the government had been unable to hammer out consensus with its business allies. He even spoke of “blackmail” attempts.

He then proceeded to detail the figures for the unilaterally decided reforms he assured would “give a breather” to INSS’ near-bankruptcy for the coming 10 years. The changes to eight articles of the INSS regulations determined that by 2020 insured workers would gradually increase their contribution from 6.25% to 7% of their salaries and the employers’ contribution would increase from 19% to 22.5%; existing retirees, who receive 80% of their former salary as a pension, would have a 5% tax deducted, reportedly to help defray the costs of new health benefits including such things as dialysis. Future retirees would receive only 70% of their salaries as pensions. The State would also contribute minimally by upping its payment 1.25% for public sector workers.

It was the easiest way out for the government: make everybody pay a part and avoid any structural reforms, or even any discussion of them. It wasn’t even a short-term solution, much less a 10-year breather. It was a desperate measure motivated by a government that doesn’t listen to or discuss anything with those most affected. In this case the most affected are the pensioners, most of whom had small salaries to begin with, and the 18,500 micro, small and medium businesses registered in the country and their workers, which make up 88% of INSS contributors.

Why is INSS bordering bankruptcy?

Independent social security experts have urged that the government self-critically explain to the population all the structural problems underlying the crisis that has asphyxiated INSS, which it has so far failed to do. The structural issues include those facing countries around the world, particularly the population’s longer life expectancy and dropping population growth.

Added to that in Nicaragua is the massive informal economy of self-employed individuals and tiny businesses with few workers that don’t pay into the system. Only 24% of the economically active population is insured by INSS, and 73% of them receive less than 10,000 córdobas (under US$300) a month. Late last year, the government promoted two INSS packages for self-employed and informal-sector workers, one with family health benefits and another lower-cost one with only retirement benefits. López offered no information about the efficacy of that proposal in increasing the number of contributors.

And of course he also didn’t mention the regime’s secretive and bad investments with INSS funds in luxury condominiums in Managua starting in 2013. Most of those buildings stand empty today.

contributing beneficiaries

The country’s social security experts, most of whom have insisted for some time on longer-term, fairer and more structural options, argue that INSS is suffering both a financial and a management crisis and needs to improve its efficiency. The institute’s regulations, for example, establish that its administrative expenses must not exceed 6.5% of its budget, but for years they have topped 14% due to increased personnel, salary raises, the purchase of vehicles, a double Christmas bonus and the like, as well as more expansive, although not necessarily more efficient, health care coverage. The experts add that INSS must recover confidence by becoming an autonomous and transparent institution rather than a preserve of employees well paid for their loyalty to the governing party.

INSS resources are also being bled by the pensions INSS has been saddled with granting to war victims and the partial pensions Ortega conceded in 2013 to some 50,000 retirees who never paid the full quota of contributions, largely net outlays not connected to earlier contributions. The experts believe the government should transfer the financing, though not necessarily the administration, of these payments to the national budget, arguing that the State is responsible for protecting those beneficiaries through taxes, not by tapping into INSS contributor funds. One proposed source would be new taxes resulting from a reduction or elimination of no longer justifiable tax exonerations granted to big business sectors years ago.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been fretting about the INSS shortfall for some time, largely because simply transferring revenues to cover it affects the government’s ability to service its debt payments, particularly after Venezuela’s generous oil cooperation began to decline two years ago. INSS is already in debt to the State to the tune of US$500 million. Even the IMF has urged that many of the tax exonerations be annulled.

Big business’ response

According to an article published by the Washington-based Quixote Center, the IMF suggested four alternative reform packages, all of which reportedly fell exclusively on workers, including 20-30% reductions in benefit payments, while three of them involved raising the retirement age and several proposed increasing the size of worker contributions and/or number of their contributions. The article said COSEP left the table when its proposed reforms, based largely on the most regressive IMF recommendations, were rejected. COSEP had also suggested transferring funds from INATEC, the workers’ technical education institute, to cover the shortfall.

As is capital’s standard saber-rattling response, COSEP warned that the government’s proposal, which would not have exempted business from sharing the burden, would undermine the country’s investment climate, damage the formal economy and eliminate the possibility of wage increases. Presumably that’s what the government meant by blackmail. The Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) calculated that the reform package decreed by the government would take some US$200 million out of circulation in the economy.

Even some independent economists warned that the reforms would provoke unemployment, a growth in the informal economy and a drop in consumption. Others worried that it would increase the outsourcing of employment with increased subcontracting. As Erik Loomis described in his book Out of Sight, the Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations’ Outsourcing Catastrophe, subcontractors are even less interested in the well¬being of workers than direct employers.

A faulty calculation

But the government didn’t consult the specialists. When COSEP and the government ended up at loggerheads after several days, COSEP walked out. The government, instead of thinking things through further, unilaterally opted to present these inadequate measures in the best light it could: the “revolutionary” government had defended the workers by not caving in to the IMF or the business elite.

It calculated that its party activists would be able to sell the fact that the government hadn’t raised the retirement age from 60 or increased the 750 weeks of contributions or eliminated the Christmas bonus for pensioners. It reasoned that everyone would swallow the pill because it wasn’t as bitter as it might have been.

The government also figured that while the business class might complain, it would end up cutting a deal. It trusted that the rift would be fleeting and manageable after a decade of corporative government in which top-level businesspeople have occupied more than 40 seats in state institutions and co-authored dozens of economic laws and programs, and in which corporativism itself, defined as a tripartite government/business/labor “model of dialogue and consensus” had been consecrated in the Constitution.

Pensioners and university
students in the front line

The government failed to contemplate the reaction of society itself… those who stood to feel the pinch of the new measures much more immediately and harshly than big business. At 5 pm on April 18, two days after the announcement, a group of pensioners, who would be pinched by nearly twice the percentage points of employers, began to protest in a center-city mall called Camino de Oriente. Students responding to the #SOSINSS sent out on the social networks, quickly joined them, carrying placards opposing the new measures. In no time at all, youths wearing JS tee-shirts also showed up, but they were carrying metal tubes and clubs. In addition to beating both young and old protestors, they also stole cameras from independent journalists, who by then were also on the scene.

By 5:40 p.m. it was seemingly all over. More students had arrived, joined by pedestrians and others in the mall, reportedly outnumbering the roughly 150 attackers by nearly 2 to 1. But at 6 pm everything changed, when some 200 anti-riot police showed up in full gear. According to journalists of the daily e-bulletin Confi¬dencial, they mainly intimidated the protestors, who then retreated toward a larger and more upscale shopping mall called Galerías some blocks south along the main highway. There the JS-shirted youths rejoined the fray, using their clubs and tubes with impunity. After an hour the demonstrators had been dispersed, but not before many rocks had been thrown, and dozens of protestors and both national and international journalists had been clubbed and robbed.

Meanwhile, other students from the UCA and the American University (UAM), whose majority stockholder is Nicaragua’s Army, had gathered in front of the UCA gates, also to protest the INSS measures. There too they were met by JS-shirted youths and motorcycle thugs, bullying and throwing rocks, lightly injuring several students and damaging the brand new gate. Unlike the Galerías mall, which closed its gates to the students seeking safety, the UCA opened its to protect the students. The motorcyclists remained parked there, clubs and tubes at the ready, until about 8:30, in case any students came out from that side.

Five years ago, this same method of aggression had been very effective in an eerily similar situation. Mana¬gua students on that occasion had responded to #OcupaINSS to support elderly protestors claiming their legal right to a partial pension. Hooded thugs reportedly transported in trucks belonging to the Managua mayor’s office threatened, beat and robbed the peaceful demonstrators, bringing the protest to an end. The difference is that this time the tactic didn’t quell the protest.

The evening’s repression was documented in real time on cell phone cameras, as well as by the independent radio stations and TV channels still operating in the country, and the next day by Confidencial and the national newspapers. The government respsonded by cutting the transmissions of four of the TV channels for several days, leaving access only to those with Internet service.

The morning of the 19th, it was reported that leaders of the pro-FSLN National Student Union (UNEN) were obliging students in university campuses in León and other main cities to set aside their studies for a march planned in various points of the country. But while students did indeed come out in force, it was far less to support the government than to oppose not only the reforms, but also years of intimidation, and the suddenly no longer tolerable yoke of unconstrained authoritarianism.

The public university students had awakened, first those of the National Autonomous University (UNAN) campus in León and then those of Managua’s Engineering University (UNI), Baptist-founded Polytechnic University (UPOLI) and Agrarian University (UNA), all considered bastions of the Sandinista Youth controlled via UNEN. Next, students of UNAN Managua rebelled, and there were also echoes in Rivas and other cities and towns.

The government hadn’t calculated that in five years of massive Wi-Fi access all over the country, five more years of accumulated grievances had created the embryo of a new social reality. In addition to sending anti-riot police marksmen to put down the April rebellion, the government quickly cancelled the Wi-Fi service it had installed in the previously bustling and now empty public parks.

A whole country in rebellion

Already by that first full day of protests, the angry youths were joined by people from Managua barrios and other municipalities. There were also spontaneous protest marches and rallies all over the country. The issue was no longer just the social security measures. It was also about 10 years of abusing the sacred principle of university autonomy, the step-by-step dismantling of municipal autonomy and the negation of democracy and human rights, especially but not only civil and political rights. The government’s response to this unexpected and unplanned but rapidly growing insurrection was both stupid and cruel.

The day began with confrontations with anti-riot police at the UNA, north of the international airport, where hundreds of youths protested peacefully, but detained traffic. The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. One student told a journalist that “no student was carrying rocks, and none had [homemade] mortars in their hands until the moment they began to attack us.” By the end of the day, which saw hours-long confrontations between anti-riot police and students in several Managua universities and in an increasing number of other cities, dozens more people had been wounded or injured and the first three were dead: a university student, a policeman and an FSLN activist.

By Friday, April 20, all schools and most universities were closed across the country. Managua’s Cathedral became a refuge for some 2,000 students, many of them injured, who were fleeing the generalized repression in the center of the capital. They were protected there for hours by Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, Managua’s archbishop since 2005; his auxiliary bishop, Silvio Báez; and other clergy, who prevented the police from entering. Police confrontations with the demonstrators continued throughout the day and night, becoming increasingly violent, with reports that the police were using real bullets. By the end of that second day, Vice President Rosario Murillo was reporting ten deaths, not all of them in Managua.

On Saturday, as the rebellion spread to even more areas of the country, barricades were erected in the emblematic indigenous community of Monimbó, Masaya, the first place to rise up against the Somoza regime in early 1978. That evening, Ángel Gahona, a journalist for the Channel 6 news program El Meridiano, was shot to death in the city of Bluefields while covering the protests there.

More deaths by real bullets were reported between April 20 and 22. There were also increasing stories of residents of all ages in numerous places collaborating with the protestors, taking them food and water, treating their wounds, protecting and hiding them… Neighbors and friends shared their shock and horror at the previously unthinkable brutality and cruelty by members of the National Police. It has not yet been verified, but both the newspaper La Prensa and TV’s 100% Noticias reported that a number of police were jailed for refusing to join in the repression.

The Army was deployed in Estelí and other parts of the country in those days, but only to protect buildings and other infrastructure; it did not participate in the violence. All the repressive machinery was employed by the highly-trained anti-riot police, accompanied by civilian-dressed shock forces and snipers the population has no trouble believing were organized by the governing party either for this occasion or previous ones.

Vice President Rosario Murillo’s epithet against the protestors in the peak days of the rebellion (“toxic little souls full of hate, vampires thirsty for blood, minuscule groups”), intoned in a chillingly incongruous soft angelic voice, only stoked people’s indignation. The unfolding events and the President’s untruthful interpretation of them—they’re “just gangs killing each other”—shattered the image the government and its business allies have been selling for the past decade that “Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America.”

Reasonable suspicions
about the looting

Some 30 stores in Managua were vandalized the night of Saturday, April 21, and during the next day, with a particular but not exclusive targeting of the Walmart-owned Palí and La Unión supermarkets. Some videos showed police officers chatting idly as people made off with goods, and others even showed police patrol cars helping transport what had been stolen.

In its May 4 report of the events, CENIDH referred to the “organized way” in which the looting appeared to have taken place, in that “the police did not repel it, or make any effort to prevent it.” The report added that “the government blamed these robberies on the student movement to justify the repression, leading indignant residents, who believed those responsible were groups close to the government, to organize their own vigilance and protection actions outside of the establishments….” In a few cases chagrined local residents who had taken advantage of the moment to join in the pillaging returned items they had stolen to their local Palí.

It was the image of the police being complacent with the looters and brutal with the students that raised this suspicion among the residents, who were also disgruntled because their local stores remained closed. By Sunday night the images were no longer of pillaging but of burly men with long machetes protecting closed market stalls and other shops.

Given all this, the increasingly indignant population was quick to assume that gangs organized by local government authorities were also responsible for vandalism in other cities. In León, Masaya and Chinandega, government or governing party buildings were torched and the protesting students blamed.

The dialogue on the horizon

Saturday afternoon, President Ortega, reportedly just back from a trip to Cuba initiated before the outbreak, made a first public appearance since the repression was ordered. He was flanked as usual by his wife, but also by General Julio César Áviles, head of the Army, and a beleaguered-looking First Commissioner Aminta Granera, head of the Police. In a live hookup on all channels, Ortega delivered a classic rambling speech attributing the protests to a conspiracy of “pro-imperialist groups” whose grassroots bases don’t recognize their destabilizing objectives. He made no real effort to cool things down.

That same night and the next day dozens of Vice President Murillo’s beloved 140 iron “trees of life” erected all over Managua were either set fire to and crashed to the ground or were otherwise disabled. The 14-ton silhouette trees in the style of Gustav Klimt, with their thousands of tiny light¬bulbs at a cost of some $35,000 per tree, symbolized to many the squandering of government resources. The following day a small group of young people gathered to plant a little forest of real saplings in one traffic circle in place of the one no longer there. One young woman explained that “we want real trees that give people oxygen, not those metal ones that consume so much expensive, oil-driven electricity.”

On Sunday, President Ortega appeared again in another national TV hook-up at a staged meeting with representatives of the free-trade-zone businesses (an attempt to show he was still on good terms with some important business sectors even if the alliance with COSEP was now a dead letter?). In a much briefer and more focused speech, he agreed to sit down again with COSEP and workers’ representatives to discuss the INSS reforms, and requested that the Catholic Bishop’s Conference mediate the dialogue, which Archbishop Brenes was quick to formally accept. Although the social security reforms were already published in the official daily La Gaceta, Ortega also announced that INSS was revoking them so that solutions to the institution’s financial crisis could be newly discussed at the negotiating table.

The previous day COSEP had conditioned its participation in any dialogue on a cessation of the repression and permission for the citizenry to demonstrate freely. In his speech, Ortega insisted that he would accept no preconditions, but he was ignored and never mentioned it again.

His withdrawal of the INSS reforms and his agreement to participate in what was soon redefined as a “national dialogue” at least briefly put a stop to the confrontations, and the anti-riot police retreated at least briefly to their barracks. But the country did not return to the status quo ante. The protests continued in a series of increasingly sizable marches. Now they were no longer spontaneous, no longer just of students and no longer with the INSS measures on the front burner. The least of the new demands was justice for all the deaths, and the strongest was for a change in the country’s government, sooner rather than later.

COSEP’s mega-march

The COSEP leaders, surely smelling blood in the water, invited the business chambers in that umbrella organization and their employees as well as the public at large to a “March for peace and dialogue” in Managua the next afternoon, Monday, April 23. The march, promoted on the social networks, began at 3 pm. It started at the Rubén Darío roundabout at the Metrocentro mall and ended three hours later at UPOLI, which had become the symbol of the repression, with two dead and many students still harbored inside due to the camp-out of an anti-riot squad in a nearby park. Thousands of people of all social classes and ages joined the 5-mile walk or stood on the sidewalk along the way, many waving small blue and white national flags. Some wore white for peace and others black in honor of those who had been killed. Companion marches were also held in several other departments of the country.

Two generations of Managuans had never seen such a huge, fully civic and peaceful demonstration of force. The government wisely kept the police out of sight. One of the most oft-repeated slogans was “They weren’t delinquents; they were students!” although a different one was gaining prominence: “They must go!” referring to the governing couple.

Early estimates of the economic losses since the crisis erupted were already in the millions of dollars. Those estimates and the size of the march changed the perception of a good part of the country’s business class. Clearly concerned by the economic consequences of a revolt that had already become national and showed no signs of abating, COSEP moved ably and opportunistically to gain the political upper hand in response to the government’s apparent loss of control of the situation. It requested that the dialogue be expanded to include the students and other civil society sectors and other issues, a demand previously put forward by the new student movement itself and ignored.

The “national” dialogue the bishops had asked for with no response four years earlier now appeared on the horizon as a possible way out of the crisis.

The bishops’ mega-march

The day after the COSEP march, the bishops, having already agreed to “mediate and be witness to” the dialogue, called for a “Pilgrimage for Peace” for the following Saturday, April 28. It would turn out to be the same day police chief Aminta Granera was rumered to have resigned, a report as yet not officially confirmed. Once the most popular public official in all opinion polls, she was now indelibly associated with the violence by the anti-riot police, although it was also rumored that she had been a figurehead for the past two years, with the real decisions being made by her immediate subordinate.

Again, the participation in the religious demonstration was massive, again it included people of all social classes and ages, some Catholic and some not, and again the police were conspicuous by their absence. For the first time since the protests began, people came to Managua in buses and trucks from Masaya and Carazo, both of them parishes of the Managua archdiocese. Parallel pilgrimages were also held in different departmental capitals; the one in Matagalpa reportedly the largest with an estimated 50,000 people. Also for the first time, several thousand peasants from the anti-canal movement, who stood crammed into private trucks for more than 12 hours on the road to join the pilgrimage, were not stopped by the police, as they had been on other occasions for marches they had called over the previous five years to oppose the canal.

The participants gathered at three points in the east, west and central parts of the capital. They met up at the Metrocentro traffic circle, where a national flag stood at half-mast out of respect for the dead, whose number had by then reached 38. From there the multitude walked the short additional stretch to the Cathedral, a river of small blue and white flags. And as with the business march five days earlier, it was peaceful.

The bishops’ leadership

The Catholic hierarchy’s leadership has emerged with the greatest strength in this crisis, given the country’s intense grassroots religiosity. Together with the Bishops’ Conference at a national level, courageous parish priests who have managed to halt the repressive fury and defend their people have been indispensable referents of security and credibility for a good part of society.

Despite the fact that some 40% of the Nicaraguan population has now shifted to Evangelical churches, the pastors of those denominations didn’t present a unified bloc. It is the Catholic Church that has moved the nation toward a dialogue that seemed impossible given the continuing repression and even deaths after the April massacre ended.

“Mr. President,
no one is eternal”

The bishops had first proposed a national dialogue and free elections to Ortega in 2014, presenting him with a document listing some of the grave problems requiring solutions. They never even received a response.

“Mr. President,” they said back then, “you have the capacity to not defraud the hope many Nicaraguans deposited in you when initiating your first presidential term in 2007 and to leave the nation a historical legacy worthy of being remembered by future generations. The years pass and no one is eternal. You still have the possibility of demonstrating your willingness to favor an authentic opening to political pluralism in the nation; to actively collaborate in redesigning the integral function of the political system and to seek national paths of concertation, reestablishing the political normality of an authentic democratic State.”

Four years later, history seems to be repeating itself. Their message today seeks the very same thing. The only difference is that now the country is listening to it, outraged that so much blood has been spilled unnecessarily and sensing that the correlation of forces has shifted drastically.

We will wage
“a battle for peace”

Only days after the second mega-march, May 1, International Worker’s Day commemorating the 1886 “Haymarket massacre” in Chicago, was upon us. It’s always observed with labor marches throughout much of the world—except in the United States, the very country where that repression of workers occurred. As in other years, the Ortega government called it for April 30 so workers could enjoy their holiday the next day. To ensure the attendance of state employees, government offices closed early on April 30, and the employees by now knew their jobs were on the line if they didn’t show up.

This time the Vice President “invited” those employees as well as genuine governing party sympathizers—whose numbers have dwindled even further after the inexplicable violence of the previous two weeks—and Sandinista Youth members to express “the love and affection we have for our indisputable leader . . . The Comandante President has to feel accompanied by a sea of people and thus give a resounding reverse to the political-religious march of the Church-Right.”

As always, the collective buses that normally transport the public both within Managua and between cities were sent out to collect local public employees and party sympathizers in neighborhoods and rural districts all over the country, reportedly even from as far away as Bilwi on the North Caribbean Coast. But unlike always, social network messages claimed they had never carried fewer people. That led to the circulation of a rumor that the TV footage of the march was all smoke and mirrors, the video equivalent of photoshopping.

Ortega’s speech to the crowd was brief and provocative. He assumed no responsibility for what had happened and let it be understood that he had no intention of ceding anything. His reference to the dialogue limited it to issues of “social and economic justice and security” (social security, perhaps?), excluding from the agenda justice for the crimes or any of the political issues the population was clamoring for.

He stated that he would wage “a battle for peace” and offended many by giving a special greeting to the “noble, profoundly noble” Sandinista Youth, represented on the stage by two young men and a young woman with the same colorful JS tee-shirts worn by those who had so ignobly beaten students and journalists only days before.

Upon leaving the stage where she had accompanied Ortega as always, Rosario Murillo made a statement to the pro-government media waiting for her: “We know God will be seated at the dialogue table. What we want is for the country to take up again the good path it was on until a few days ago.”

Impossible. The correlation of forces in the country is no longer what it was and the government cannot hope to recover what it has lost.

Playing with very high stakes

This concludes the abbreviated chronicle of the first two weeks of a crisis that has deeply shocked the entire country. Can we make sense of what it may portend?

Despite the killing of so many, most of them young, some of them in rebellion and others mere “collateral damage,” and despite so many more wounded in both body and soul, people have not retreated cowering. To the contrary, truly uncountable numbers—surely hundreds of thousands—participated in yet another march in Managua on May 9, by which time the Spanish-language edition of envoi was already at the printer. We will surely report on that third historically mammoth outpouring of people in greater detail in the upcoming issue, but suffice it to say here that the perception that most people seem to have lost their fear had become a slogan by the time of that march: “The people lost their fear and Ortega lost the people.”

The government hasn’t just lost the people. It’s also highly unlikely that it can recover its alliance with big business, which some considered so beneficial as to be indestructible and others from one side or the other criticized as spurious. The business elite know the Ortega-Murillo government can no longer guarantee economic and social stability for their investments. It also can’t guarantee the political institutionality those same business leaders gave too little importance to when the country was “stable,” at least for them and their companies.

Some of those elite have reacted by making very clear declarations. Mario Arana, president of the Central Bank during the Bolaños government and now director of the Association of Producers and Exporters (APEN), said in a TV interview during the tense calm at the end of April: “We’re all playing with very high stakes in this country . . . The private sector reached the conclusion that the model was foundering . . . We need to be independent right now, with all the cost this is having in our country.”

What the opposition will
bring to the dialogue table

COSEP has already announced it will send five of its member representatives to the dialogue with four agenda points that reflect its distancing from Ortega: 1) an investigation into the murders “with human rights bodies of a recognized trajectory” (it did not say “international” bodies as the students and other citizens have done by insisting on the IACHR); 2) “immediate” reforms to the electoral system to guarantee free and transparent elections (it did not suggest that the elections be moved up, as others have done), 3) institutional reforms that guarantee the rule of law and the elimination of corruption, and 4) resolution of the INSS crisis, adding the proposal that the institution be audited and its authorities changed.

Meanwhile the students are faced with the arduous task of hammering out their own agenda points and collective arguments, and determining who will represent them given a student population in universities all over the country that was previously wary of organizing, and had no taste for going up against the hegemony exercised by UNEN. With an incipient and highly decentralized identity that began by the students calling themselves simply the “auto-convocados” (self-summoned), they are trying to use different methodologies from the top-down ones of previous generations, at the same time protecting themselves insofar as possible from provocateurs and infiltrators, and from potential moves for individual power that could fracture them.

It was agreed that representatives of other civil society sectors would also have a seat at the table, although how many will be represented, who will represent them and what agenda points they will bring have not yet been firmed up. Many doubt that the dialogue, scheduled to start on Wednesday, May 16, will even happen given that more selective violence has continued, with a still-mounting death toll.

Was it all a surprise . . .

In a style consolidated by over a decade of the Ortega-Murillo administration, no high-ranking government official made any public statement during the bloodiest days of the revolt. The governing couple are the only two who speak about important issues, she on a daily basis.

The only one to break ranks was Bayardo Arce, a comandante and a member of the FSLN National Directorate as long as there was one. In an interview on the Miami-based Telemundo network, he recognized that the social security reforms announced by the government had been “a mistake.” Given that Arce is currently Ortega’s economic adviser, his remark suggests he hadn’t been taken into account.

Asked whether the students’ reaction had surprised the government, Arce, once a journalist himself, said “Of course it did. It surprised us all. I think it surprised the business¬people, the unions, everyone, because it came from a sector that’s not directly linked to the social security problem. The university students were the ones protesting, but they aren’t yet employed, don’t yet pay in to social security and aren’t yet pensioners.”

Jacinto Suárez, the governing party’s international relations secretary, member of its legislative bench and prison-mate of Ortega in the seventies, also made an unusual admission those days. Interviewed by ACAN-EFE, Suárez said, “We Sandinistas are going to have to do a critical assessment and find where we went wrong.”

Both considerations coming from the core of power demonstrated how spontaneous the crisis was, how much it caught everyone off base, and how inept the government’s repressive response was. Or, as Arce himself said, “It often happens in these social phenomena that a moment comes in which you lose control. The Police itself lost control and the news helped make it lose control.” Are we to believe, then, that the phalanxes of highly-trained anti-riot police did not have orders to shoot; that they just lost control against rock-throwing students and fired with deadly aim… some just accidentally using live ammunition?

. . . or a known conspiracy?

While the surprise admitted by Arce and Suárez suggests that the government had no intel that the uprising was organized or planned, either inside Nicaragua or from abroad, that admission was very quickly transmuted into a charge of outside interference and aggression. Jacinto Suárez himself changed tack only days later in his response to a BBC reporter, who asked him to explain how it had all happened.

“We’re looking at a conspiracy sponsored and financed by the government of the United States,” he responded in lockstep with Ortega. “We aren’t seeing ghosts or inventing anything. It’s the same style as Venezuela: tumults by vandals, demonstrations, a lot of deaths. Obviously it had an effect on us because we weren’t prepared. To be sincere, they surprised us. But now we know the score. We’re more alert to understand this phenomenon and figure out how to get control of it.”

It’s hard to imagine that a government with such long life-or-death experience in intelligence gathering could be caught off guard by US imperialism’s meddling. It’s more likely that it was so confident of its intimidation and repression tactics and its authoritarian rule in general that it didn’t bother to check the population’s pulse, just as it failed to do prior to the 1990 elections.

The international Left
was also caught flatfooted

The traditional Left and what remains of the international solidarity movement with Nicaragua after a record 40 years of activism despite many ups and downs was quick to buy the outside conspiracy explanation. It isn’t only the fault of a knee-jerk anti-imperialism, more than justified by the long and ongoing history of destructive US meddling in countries and movements that don’t bow to its interests (viz. Nicaragua itself in the 1980s).

It’s also an aversion to self-criticism, at least publicly. That posture was clearly revealed in a debate published in the progressive US weekly magazine The Nation in the 1980s on whether or not it was correct for supporters of the Sandinista revolution to criticize it for its errors. While some made the anti-internationalist argument that they have no right to criticize, most responses broke down into two clearly delineated positions: a judgmental one in which criticism is a moral obligation and a defensive one in which it only feeds the Right. No one considered the possibility that criticism can be constructively explanatory and hence educational to the Left as a whole, and if engaged in with that spirit does not easily provide ammunition to the Right.

Nicaragua itself has contributed to this dichotomous approach with our own polarization from virtually day one of the FSLN’s return to government in 2007: one side unwilling to criticize constructively, and the other unwilling to criticize at all as well as blindly prejudiced against those who do. Neither posture has been constructive or educational, because neither has caused the government to re-examine and readjust its policies and comportment. Nor have foreign supporters bent on seeing the FSLN as the same idealized revolutionary movement it was originally portrayed as been given cause to listen to the criticisms.

Fortunately most of the people who have lost their fear and are risking a bullet in the neck by participating in a march like the one on May 9 are unaware that the international solidarity movement dismisses them as the pawns of a conspiracy by the “empire” to “destabilize the revolution,” just as the government does.

Irreparable fissures
in the FSLN

The aspect that’s hardest for “conspiracy theorists” to respond to is that the current crisis isn’t just between the government and what appears to be the majority of the general populace. Hundreds of historical Sandinista combatants, militants and collaborators are also now finally breaking with the party they have stuck with despite being ignored for years by Murillo. So are increasing numbers of life-long grassroots Sandinista family sympathizers, loyal at least to Daniel, if not his wife. They have been incredulous at the massacre perpetrated by their party’s government

The distinction between “Sandinismo” and “Danielismo,” made only among friends for years by those who still uphold the revolutionary values that attracted them to the FSLN in the first place, is becoming increasingly public. Even in FSLN bastions like León, Estelí and Masaya, particularly but not only Monimbó, these fissures in the party have become evident with surprising force. No conspiracy, either internal or external, could have produced them with such speed.

This aspect of the outburst is the weakest part of Ortega’s apparent belief that he can emerge triumphant from the mire he created by ordering—or, at the very least, not ordering a stop to—the April massacre. Lacking tactics and a strategy to prevent even more of what remains of his supporters from abandoning him, he’ll have to turn to still more repression to defend his power, in turn undermining his dwindling support even more because that repression is precisely what has splintered what remains of the FSLN’s principled social base. The bottom line of all of them is the decision that “this is as far as we go.”

“I was a Danielista and
a Chayista to the death”

One such disillusioned loyalist who has lost her faith is the teacher Socorro Corrales, whose son Orlando Pérez was killed in Estelí by snipers employed by the police. She confessed that she was a “Danielista and Chayista to the death,” but is no more.

Some governing party sympathizers were killed just because they were in the “wrong place” when the special police forces started shooting to kill. Behind each of the hundreds who were killed, wounded, imprisoned, tortured, or disappeared are hundreds more who are relatives, neighbors and friends. And of those, many were Ortega sympathizers, people who voted for him when push came to shove because there were no other appealing choices, even if they were increasingly disenchanted with the abusive behavior of government officials and party activists at all levels.

It is incomprehensible to most Nicaraguans, and even to many of those once-loyal Sandinistas, that a government going by that name could murder university students, particularly because the dream of so many Nicaraguan families, especially poor ones, is to send their sons and daughters to university so they will “be somebody.” It is perhaps the height of irony that it is the FSLN government that has fought more than any other to assure scholarships, not only in Nicaragua but also abroad, so children of the poor can have access to advanced education.

In how many barrios of Managua and other cities, including FSLN strongholds, did Ortega sympathizers join the rebellion against the “forces of order” alongside others in this insurrection of consciousness? Is Danielismo now actually a minority among Sandinistas? It seems it might be. It isn’t based on economic interests or ideology, but on humanist principles and a lot of pain. The families now crying for their unjustly killed children who were engaged in a righteous cause are a symbol of immeasurable strength in Nicaragua.

The government’s game plan

So what is the regime’s game plan now? Its absolute power is at stake, and the more power one has the less likely it is to give up any. It’s much the same dynamic as can be seen in increasingly powerful globalized capital over the years: the more they accumulate, the more they want and the less likely they are to give up any.

The government’s tried and true approach is to buy time, conceding as little as possible and only on minor issues. In this case it is surely also busy trying to divide the incipiently organized youth, wear down the population and maintain a selective and less visible repression, mainly in the form of threats, intimidations and other actions aimed at the revolt’s apparent leaders.

The plan for
investigating the deaths

The new game plan also includes institutional moves to recover the initiative. National Assembly President Gustavo Porras quickly announced the creation of a “Truth Commission” made up of five “notables” to investigate the deaths. Both he and his notables lack credibility with the population, as does the legislative branch itself given that the governing party’s absolute majority was allegedly gained fraudulently and has been used with abandon for the governing couple’s own ends.

But lack of credibility doesn’t really matter. During its three months of functioning, the legislative Truth Commission gives Ortega a perfect excuse to refuse the widespread demand for international scrutiny. When the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) responded to the population’s call that it be included in any investigation by “urgently” requesting permission to visit Nicaragua, the government refused, saying “we need to wait for the national advances.”

The institutional plan also involves the Public Ministry, another institution that has lost credibility. It is officially responsible for receiving the denunciations by relatives of those killed, but has never even finished investigating other cases implicating high-level government officials. Some families, however, have gone through the motions of submitting their charges, even though they have no confidence they will receive reliable results.

The case of Ángel Gahona, the Channel 6 journalist who died of a through-and-through gunshot to the head in Bluefields while covering the April events, was one of those filed with the Public Ministry. The early stages of its “investigation” showed what may turn out to be another tactic in addition to indefinitely dragging its feet. The ministry is suggesting he was shot not by the police, but by civilians. So far, the only footage is focused on him, not on the direction of the bullets. If indeed the police were given explicit permission to shoot to kill, as suggested by the marksmanship of so many of the fatal shots, the government will feel obliged to keep that fact quiet by maintaining the shooters’ impunity and blaming scapegoats.

What will the OAS do?

The government’s game plan is already involving the Organization of American States (OAS). Wilfredo Penco, who headed the OAS electoral observation mission for last year’s municipal elections and other earlier ones, flew to Nicaragua on April 26 at Ortega’s request. Many people felt his mission’s report was way too soft in its criticism of elections marked for the second year in a row by the massive abstention of voters convinced the elections are totally rigged.

“Our objective,” said Penco, “is to get started on the electoral reforms.” The plan is for the OAS to pursue that path until the 2021 presidential elections, a date the families of the dead and many others consider way too long given everything that has happened.

In his calculations, Ortega surely envisions paralleling the national dialogue with the initiation of a bilateral one with the OAS. Should the former fail, the latter will cushion the negative fallout. But Ortega still seems to be living in March, before the April uprising. His objective with the national dialogue is to discuss only social issues (the INSS reforms) and economic aspects that interest his erstwhile business allies. With the OAS now represented in Nicaragua, he can argue that discussion of the transformation of an electoral system that has guaranteed him four consecutive increasingly favorable electoral frauds properly belongs in the direct talks with Penco and his team rather than in the national dialogue.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has surely taken note of what happened in Nicaragua in April. But just in case he needed reminding of how much things have changed since then, Cristiana Chamorro, who now directs the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation founded by her mother after her 1990-1997 presidential term, paid Almagro a visit in Washington on May 4.

One of several names already being floated as a possible opposition presidential candidate, Chamorro asked Almagro to stand with the demand for justice in the April massacre and expressed concern about the OAS’ silence regarding the crisis: “We don’t want more deaths; what’s the OAS going to do?” She pointed out that the OAS has suffered a loss of credibility among Nicaraguans and that the memorandum of understanding Almagro signed with Ortega in February 2017 is now “outdated.” She also openly stated that Penco needed to be replaced as the OAS representative in our country.

Chamorro outlined for Almagro the two basic options that exist in Nicaragua today. Either holding free and transparent elections that permit a peaceful transition, as Ortega agreed to under duress in the Esquipulas peace talks in 1989, or the choice Somoza made in 1978: a bloody and destructive defense of his rule against a population that had had enough and suddenly saw light at the end of the tunnel. “Regrettably,” concluded Chamorro, “Ortega seems to have chosen the latter.”

Washington speaks

On April 24, the White House press secretary issued a brief statement that began with this sentence: “The repugnant political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, has shocked the democratic international community.”

Then on May 2, US Vice President Mike Pence referred to Nicaragua’s crisis in his speech at the swearing-in ceremony for the new US ambassador to the OAS. After stating that “the dark cloud of tyranny still hangs heavy over too many of our neighbors in this hemisphere,” he proceeded to lambaste Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Once through with Cuba, he said “the seeds of Cuban tyranny are bearing fruit in Nicaragua and Venezuela.” He spent much longer on Venezuela, concluding that “President Trump has made it clear: The United States will not idly stand by as Venezuela crumbles.”

Turning to Nicaragua, he described what he called “hundreds of thousands” who took to the streets in Nicaragua to “show their anger at their aging socialist leader,” condemned the government’s brutal actions, called on the Ortega government to allow the IACHR into Nicaragua and demanded that it respond to the demands for democratic reform and hold accountable those responsible for violence. It was the first time the White House has thrown Nicaragua into the same sack as Venezuela and Cuba, but not the last. Only days later Pence railed against the three again in the OAS Permanent Council meeting.

Whatever problems Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Cubans may have with their respective governments, it is the pinnacle of hypocrisy for the US government, whose President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt once called Somoza “an S.O.B., but our S.O.B.” to claim, as Pence did, that it has a “long-standing commitment to democracy and freedom.” The US history of not only tolerating but supporting the worst of Latin America’s long history of dictators and of destabilizing and even directly bringing down some of the best democratic hopes of the people in Guatemala and Chile, to name only two, is well known.

Further evidence of Washington’s hypocrisy in selectively criticizing governments based not on principles but on its own self-interest is that first Obama and more recently Trump were tolerant of Ortega as long as he opened the country to US investments, prevented migrants from crossing it on their way to the US, and largely cooperated with the DEA in controlling international drug-trafficking.

Two Nicaraguas

Two Nicaraguas now stand opposed to each other to a degree unimaginable only a month ago.

One continues to support the Ortega-Murillo government despite everything. The reasons include common economic interests on the one hand, and an impenetrable ideology on the other. Those in that Nicaragua believe the government, which still holds all the levers of power, will be able to recover its hegemony by force and reglue its alliance with big business, thus recovering the stability shattered in April. They also believe that by accepting a few electoral reforms to somewhat shore up the collapsed electoral system, they will be able to make it to the next presidential elections in 2021. Some of them even think the FSLN can win again at the polls.

The other one, the Nicaragua of the insurrection of consciousness, can’t forget or forgive the spilling of so much unnecessary blood or the continuation of a regime that went way beyond the nation’s patience and tolerance. That other Nicaragua is demanding not only justice but a change of government. Some, particularly students, intellectuals, peasants, owners of various-sized business and much of the population in general want that change now. Others, above all the powerful economic groups, want a smooth and ordered change, step by step, even if it takes until 2021, very likely because they have a clearer idea of what it would cost to unseat this government, and prefer to protect their interests. Whatever the timeline, those who want a real change are inspired by that still-growing insurrection of consciousness.

There are also two Nicaraguas in a chronological sense, with a clear dividing line between them: the Nicaragua of before those unexpected days of rebellion and the Nicaragua of today. There’s no way to know yet how or when the new country born of that insurrection will take shape, but virtually no one believes anything will remain as it was before. On Tuesday, May 8, the day the Spanish edition of this issue went to press, the discontent was just as strong and the expectation that the current government will have to leave was, if anything, more widespread.

Dynastic succession
is a shattered dream

Perhaps the governing couple’s own first “casualty” is the dynastic rule they’ve been paving the way for. There’s no longer any chance that a member of that family could succeed Ortega in office. That opens yet another crisis for the FSLN: a crisis of succession in a party that has made no plans or preparations to pass the baton.

In barely a week, the Ortega-Murillo government saw its alliance with COSEP morph into opposition and saw its forces lose their monopoly of the streets. The shocking events of that week are an irreversible disgrace to many good people who still believed in that government. It would appear that the supporters of the governing couple have become a social minority, while the majority now considers they have lost all moral authority to continue exercising power.

Even retired General Humberto Ortega, the President’s own brother, didn’t mince words on the subject: “This government cannot return to the way it was before this crisis, to such a monopolistic and authoritarian form of government as it has been exercising. The presidential couple has no perspectives.” It’s not the first time he has publicly warned of such governmental errors.

Thanks to our millennials

Thanks to the courage and decisiveness of our country’s millennial youths, a consensus exists among most Nicaraguans that justice must be done for so many deaths by sanctioning those responsible. Many also believe the moment has come to democratize the country, and that this opportunity cannot be lost.

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April 2018: An insurrection of the nation’s consciousness

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Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America