By CLAUDIO KATZ
Writing about Nicaragua is as painful and sad as it is absolutely necessary. Memories of the Sandinista revolution are still alive among the generation who knew this feat. Remaining silent would be an affront to those who participated in that memorable insurrection against Somoza.
The events of recent months offer little doubt: A succession of social protests was brutally repressed. There are 350 dead on one side due to the action of police or paramilitary forces. In every case, shots were fired at unarmed protesters, who responded or escaped as best as they could from the hunt.
Information from numerous sources coincides in that description. They recorded an escalating growth of shootings without warning, which began with a few deaths and climbed to 60 killed by the end of April. That tragedy was not interrupted when talks began. On the contrary, the dialogue was crowned with 225 other crimes.There is no justification for that savagery. The official parties (and the voices of support that they receive) fail to exhibit any proof of the “terrorist action” that they foist upon the victims. There are also no significant casualties in the government field, and no accounts of the use of firearms by opponents.
These events have not only been denounced by relatives of the casualties. Countless witnesses and a wide variety of journalists corroborate these events. But most important are the authoritative voices of former commanders and Sandinista leaders, who have verified what happened in the same place of events. Their denunciations have a very high credibility and are consistent with the view of former foreign participants in the revolution. These opinions matter because of their great understanding of the actors in dispute.
The bloodletting that the Ortega government unleashed resembles the reaction of any right-wing president. It was typical state violence against a discontented people. Faced with this atrocious behavior, the movement based on basic demands assumed a democratic character of resistance to repression. The original demand against the Social Security reform lost its standing in the face of the Dante-like scene of hundreds of deaths in the gendarmes’ shootout.
The first determination in light of what happened is to speak out loudly about this crime, and demand an immediate end to the repression and the prosecution of the culprits.
Involution without return
The protests against the increase of Social Security contributions found a great echo among the population. That sympathy revealed the malaise that exists in wide sectors. There is annoyance with official policies that are divorced from the government’s revolutionary past.
Orteguismo does not retain the least kinship with its Sandinista origins. It has established strategic alliances with big business, adopted measures demanded by the IMF, and strengthened ties with the Church after prohibiting abortion. It has consolidated the privileged business bureaucracy that made its debut with the appropriation of public property.
Under the leadership of Ortega, a clientary system rules the electoral machinery. The persistence of the old Sandinista symbology conceals this substantial change, which reproduces the reversals suffered by other progressive developments.Long before becoming a simple network of mobsters, the Mexican PRI had buried its legacy of agrarian transformation and nationalist traditions. The same happened with the MNR of Bolivia, which acted for several years as a reactionary party opposed to its origin. The examples of political regression—which Ortega recreates—extend to other Latin American parties, which completely detached themselves from their old socialist or anti-imperialist aspirations.But repression incorporates a more irreversible turn. It converts a bourgeoisified formation into an organization that is antagonistic toward the left. When the police apparatuses murder without warning, the last link of contact is broken with a progressive future. This regression without return occurred in Nicaragua in recent months.
The substantial differences with Venezuela do not lie only in the permanence of the Bolivarian process, which confronts the right wing and defends its sovereignty in the context of unprecedented adversity. In the endless succession of guarimbas [anti-Chavista groupings on the barricades], Chavismo has battled coup attempts, paramilitary incursions, and provocations by groups trained by the CIA. It has committed many injustices and harassed several popular fighters, but its central dispute has been with the destabilization promoted and financed by imperialism.
What happened in Nicaragua is very different. The protests were not remotely controlled from Washington. They emerged from below against reforms recommended by the IMF, and subsequently evolved spontaneously to defend violated rights. Nor have the main figures of the conservatives—who have formed countless pacts with the government—led to the revolt. The demonstrations brought together a heterogeneous conglomerate of discontented people, who act under the helm of the church and the student body. The different ecclesiastical slopes do not follow a uniform script, and the students are grouped in several internal currents with left and right leaders.
This movement with a low level of initial politicization began to adopt clearer positions in the face of repressive harassment. Its positioning was strengthened by the failure of the dialogue roundtables, which the government accepted verbally but boycotted in practice.
A comprehensive look
Of all the pronouncements issued in recent weeks, the position adopted by a recognized Chilean revolutionary leader [Manuel Cabieses Donoso, editor of Punto Final, https://www.nodal.am/2018/07/la-leccion-de-nicaragua-por-manuel-cabieses-donoso/%5D, contains merits that are absent in other points of view. That statement highlights the legitimacy of the protests, denounces the betrayal of Ortega, and questions the complicit silence of many progressive currents in the face of repression. But it also warns against the right-wing use of the protests and points out that the United States will take advantage of the conflict to undermine the government.
It also notes that the support for the government by a part of the population persists, and calls for a peaceful solution, so that the local bourgeoisie and its imperial commander do not become the beneficiaries of the eventual hecatombe [sacrifice to the gods] of the ruling party.
This view summarizes very well the moral repudiation of the massacres with the recognition of the complex situation created in the country. Although Ortega, wihtout any scruples, makes pacts with all the exponents of reaction, the United States seeks his displacement. It does not tolerate the autonomy that Nicaragua has preserved in its foreign policy. The country is not only part of ALBA but it maintains close ties with the Venezuelan government. It also aims to build an inter-oceanic canal with Chinese funding, in the hottest region of the “backyard” of the major power.
As demonstrated during the coup against Zelaya in Honduras (and more recently in Guatemala), the United States treats the small Central American countries as colonies of the second-order. It does not accept the least indiscipline of those nations. For that reason it has already put all of its tentacles into action to co-opt the leaders of the protest, in order to align them with the future installation of a puppet of the empire in replacement of Ortega.
The meeting of several student leaders in Washington with congressmen from the anti-Castro ultra-right (and the same type of meetings in El Salvador) are the most visible episodes of the operation that Trump is testing out.
Not recognizing the preparations for this aggression would be an inadmissible naivety. The same Ortega who brutally tramples over the people is seen by the Department of State as an adversary to be buried. This type of contradiction has been seen very frequently in history and must be seriously evaluated in the left when determining its position. It is vital not to join the OAS campaigns and the screaming of Vargas Llosa that weave through the Southern Command.
Dangers and definitions
To note that Sandinismo retains the allegiance of a portion of the population is compatible with the results of the last election. But Cabieses [Manuel Cabieses Donoso, “La lección de Nicaragua] not only departs from this data to call for a peaceful solution. Negotiations would prevent the transformation of the current revolt into a greater confrontation, with a terrible sequel of victims and disastrous consequences at the geopolitical and national levels.
What happened in two places in the Middle East offers precedents to fear these consequences. In both Libya and Syria, governments of progressive origin predominated, but regressed to the point of resorting to repression against the militants and the people. Gadhafi imprisoned Palestinians, and Assad unleashed indiscriminate massacres on the people. In both cases, glimpses of the extension of the Arab Spring ended in capital tragedies. The Libyan state practically disappeared in the midst of greedy disputes between rival clans. Syria had a more dramatic ending. It first witnessed the takeover of the protests by the jihadists, and then suffered the worst humanitarian disaster of recent decades.
The historical realities and political scenario of the Middle East and Central America are very different. But imperialism acts with the same purposes of domination in both regions. Destroy societies and demolish countries without any regard! If they had won the game in Venezuela, the country would be a cemetery similar to Iraq, with oil in the hands of large U.S. companies.
For these reasons, it is important to never forget who the main enemy is. A peaceful solution in Nicaragua is the best way to avoid the dangerous imperialist utilization of the conflict. The mechanism of this way out was very present in the demand for dialogue to negotiate early elections. This demand differs from likening the government to a dictatorship and demanding its fall.
Apparently, in the last weeks the tension has receded, not because of advances in the negotiations but because the repression has been intensified. Ortega has achieved a respite through the whip. But his behavior has created an insurmountable abyss with the rebellious youth. His divorce with the left is final. The revolutionary tradition of Sandinismo will reappear, but on the opposite path from Orteguismo.