Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 324 | Julio 2008



Where Are We After 29 Years, And After 290 Hours?

This month marks 29 years since Somoza was toppled and the Sandinista revolutionary decade got underway. Nicaragua has changed in so many ways since then. As the memory of those feats and that decade yet again touched off both pride and pain this year, Dora María Téllez, one of the heroines of the insurrection, lasted 290 hours on a hunger strike for democracy and against hunger. What, if anything, has that gesture changed in the national setting?

Nitlápan-Envío team

When the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) magistrates announced on May 23 that they were canceling the legal status of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), the Conservative Party (PC) and two regional Caribbean Coast parties, thus eliminating them from November’s municipal elections, did they envision the repercussions their decision would have? One can only assume they did not.

The arbitrary, discretionary measures of the CSE authorities election after election as they administer the profoundly exclusionary Electoral Law born of the Ortega-Alemán pact seldom trigger more on the Pacific side of the country than critical media commentaries and analyses. This time was different. For starters, both the MRS and the PC presented ample documentation to the CSE and public opinion contradicting the “reasons” proffered by the CSE. They also pointed out that the CSE had exceeded the legal time frame for its decision as it had already certified both parties and published their candidate lists a month earlier.

Why such an unexpected, extemporaneous decision?

The MRS contends that the decision to give it the axe had been made months earlier and that the CSE magistrates had assumed it wouldn’t be able to meet the Electoral Law’s tougher requirements. It also expected that many of its candidates would fold under the threats and offers by FSLN operatives in the municipalities. The fact that the MRS presented candidates for 92% of the municipal mayoral posts caught the CSE off guard, leaving it no choice but to certify the party at the time, then look for other excuses.

Events closer to the time of the CSE decision also have to be factored in. A national transport strike that paralyzed the country for 12 days had ended only two weeks earlier. For the first time in recent memory strikers had taken over the streets without being led by the FSLN. Furthermore, the Ortega government had revealed a lack of both capacity and sensitivity to respond to the complex problems of constantly rising oil prices and the consequent drastic rise in the cost of living.

The errors the government committed before resolving that strike increased people’s frustration and further disenchanted those who had voted for Ortega trusting he could run the country better than the other candidates. An M&R poll taken early into the strike, before the government’s image had deteriorated so much, showed support for Ortega and his government hovering in the low twenties. That figure had dropped to 18% by the most recent CID-Gallup poll, taken on June 5-11.

Neither opposition
nor conspiracy

That perilous drop from the already low 38% with which Ortega won the 2006 presidential elections is not due to arduous organizing work by any of the opposition parties or groups, much less to a US-financed conspiracy to destabilize the government, as President Ortega charges.

The main responsibility lies with the economic situation, which is critical for Nicaragua’s poor majority. The country’s fragile economy is particularly vulnerable to the daily external battering of the interminably rising oil prices. To this main cause, however, must be added Ortega’s own errors in managing the crisis. At a time when we need a statesman who can persuade us all to pull together, what we have is a party activist who excludes and threatens any who dare criticize him.

With the municipal elections only six months away, there was a good risk that people’s frustrations would lend appeal to a Sandinista alternative to the FSLN or to an opposition alternative to the PLC, now in league with the governing party in so many ways. In short, the MRS and PC would have to be eliminated, and this was a task for the CSE, whose prime objective for the past ten years has been to squeeze Nicaragua into the bipartite corset desired by the Ortega-Alemán pact.

She jumped
without a parachute

On the morning of June 4, with the CSE’s final response to the appeals filed by the affected parties still pending, Dora María Téllez made a decision. This former guerrilla commander, who participated in two of the most spectacular feats of the anti-Somocista struggle, was health minister during the eighties, legislative representative on the post-1990 FSLN bench and is now a leader of the MRS, declared herself on a hunger strike.

On the empty land edging the Rubén Darío traffic circle in mid-Managua, she slung a hammock between two trees, threw a few yards of black plastic over a rope to protect her from the sun and rain, and erected a field tent nearby where she would sleep. For how long would she refuse to eat? She didn’t say. To what end? From the outset she made clear that she had no illusions about convincing the CSE magistrates to change their decision to liquidate the MRS. The change she was hoping for was in the population’s consciousness.

Dora María seemed to be putting society, herself, her party and all the dissatisfied but lethargic Sandinistas to the test. Twenty-four hours later she was joined on her hunger strike by university student Roger Arias, the son of an Eastern Market vender and MRS candidate for the Managua Municipal Council.

Did they know what repercussions their gesture would have? How could they? A hunger strike is an extreme and always risky peaceful act, both for the damage it can do to the body and for the political results sought. The bottom line is always unknown and the decision a leap into the void. A few hours after she initiated her strike, a close friend remarked that “Dora jumped without a parachute.” Her body withstood 13 days of only water, despite the heat, dust, traffic contamination and continual visits, which her doctor said doubled the physical dangers. After 290 hours, the political results are still an open question, although there are some first clues.

“We’re with you”

It’s hard to calculate how many people stopped to visit Dora María during those 290 hours. The media reported only on some of the best-known visitors, including politicians, poets and civil society leaders. But there was also a stream of anonymous people of every age and social class. The most common greeting of all those who shook her hand was, “I’m with you.” Afterward came the explanation, the “analysis” of why they were there.

Sandino would never have been a Danielista read a placard carried by a group of young people on Saturday, June 7, when perhaps the largest crowd—nearly 2,000 people—accompanied the strikers in the street. In 1995, when Sergio Ramírez and Dora María Téllez founded the MRS, they wanted to establish clear lines between Sandinismo and what was already starting to be known as Danielismo, but they only did it institutionally, and perhaps prematurely, providing little clear definition of what they meant by “renovating” Sandinismo. The MRS spent more energy opposing the erosion of Sandinista values than hammering out a new and viable project for these times. Dora María seemed to want to draw a new line with her deed, this time a symbolic one.

An “institutional” dictatorship?

During the strike, the word “dictatorship” was increasingly established as a way to describe—and challenge—the current government. It’s a word that still causes shivers in Nicaragua, after nearly a half century of the Somoza family’s military dictatorship.

The Ortega government is banking on becoming an institutional rather than military dictatorship. That concept appeared for the first time in December 2007, when jurist and human rights expert Vilma Núñez, president of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), used it in referring to the muddled charges filed against nine women from different nongovernmental organizations defending women’s rights and accepted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“We’re entering into an institutional dictatorship in Nicaragua,” she said. “This dictatorship is going to be installed in the country through the instrumentalizing of governmental entities… if the people permit it.”

Presenting CENIDH’s Annual Report in mid-February 2008, Núñez returned to the concept, which she again reiterated a few days before the strike: “At this moment the human rights situation is worse than in 2007 and worse than in 2006. It has worsened with respect to the violations of civil and political rights, exclusion, lack of citizen participation and the persecution of civic organizations. It’s impressive how the country is being led to destroy democracy and implant a bipartite system… to see how the incipient democracy that has cost us so much is being reduced…. I know it annoys them to hear it said that we have an institutional dictatorship in Nicaragua, because everyone imagines the National Guard in the streets when they hear the term dictatorship—and I hope that despite the problems the Army is now having, we’ll never see that again. But the institutional dictatorship is being exercised through the stacked, inappropriate functioning of the state institutions, fundamentally the judicial branch, an electoral branch that works to assure who’s supposed to win or lose the elections, a Comptroller General’s Office that feigns ignorance or offers delayed responses…”

The institutional dictatorship is a consequence of 10 years of the Ortega-Alemán pact, which Ortega’s spokes-people and sympathizers have always referred to as agreements and now defend as the only way the FSLN could return to government. Dora María’s hunger strike opened mental spaces and perhaps even organizational ones to encourage reflections on the concept dictatorship in its real contemporary sense and think about actions that can challenge its diverse expressions.

On what grounds?

Some thought the electoral magistrates would change their mind, because their original decision was beginning to boomerang. Sympathy for Dora María was growing and the strike was headline news day after day. But on June 11, a week into the hunger strike, the CSE ratified its cancellation of the two national parties’ legal status. They will only be able to reapply again in four years’ time, conveniently the year after the next presidential elections.

In the case of the MRS, CSE president Roberto Rivas listed a number of minor infractions of both the Electoral Law and the party’s own statutes, the most important sounding of which is article 74 of the Electoral Law referring “to the self-dissolution of the party or merger with another.” But it’s not clear what that refers to as the MRS hasn’t merged with any of its alliance partners, and its “self-dissolution” is eloquently belied by its presentation of candidate slates for mayor and Municipal Council members in 141 of the country’s now 153 municipalities—thus more than fulfilling the 80% of municipalities required by the pact-designed Electoral Law. Three days after the CSE’s announcement, the MRS filed a two-inch-thick appeal against the decision with the Managua Appeals Court and has not ruled out taking the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The argument for withdrawing the PC’s legal status was less detailed and on the face of it more straightforward, in that it did not present candidates in 80% of the municipalities. The two regional coast parties originally denied their legal status by the CSE were spared the final guillotine for the moment, as the CSE has announced that theirs is a “special case” due to the election postponement in the northern Caribbean area. This for some reason gives the National Assembly a voice in the decision.

The CSE would be less vulnerable to accusations of political bias if its rigorous application of every last detail of the Constitution, the Electoral Law and the parties’ own statutes were evenhanded. But a tiny party called Alternative for Change is being allowed to participate in the municipal elections even though in the last elections it pulled less than the 1% of the vote constitutionally required to retain its legal standing. Furthermore, the FSLN itself is in violation of several of its own statutes.

Few were convinced

The CSE’s long list of Electoral Law violations failed to convince many people. In a poll conducted by M&R in late June, 69.1% disapproved of the CSE decision to suspend the status of the two national parties; only 12.2% approved. Nearly as many (64.8%) believe that the decision will undermine the legitimacy of the elections, an opinion strongly shared by Ethics and Transparency, the national election monitoring organization. Even National Assembly representative Agustín Jarquín, a member of the National Convergence allied with the FSLN for eight years, expressed concern that canceling opposition parties “would be identified by the population as a quasi- dictatorship.”

In a joint communiqué titled “Dora María merits being heard” that appeared in Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario the day after she ended her strike and circled the world on the Internet, recognized leftists Noam Chomsky, Ariel Dorfman, Eduardo Galeano, Juan Gelman, Tom Hayden, Bianca Jagger, Mario Benedetti, Brian Wilson, Salman Rushdie, Susan Meiselas and Herman Schulz supported Dora María’s demands. “The signatories of this pronouncement have, one way or another, shared Nicaragua’s history. During the Sandinista struggle against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza and afterwards during the years in which Nicaragua suffered the aggression produced by the interventionist policy of the Reagan Administration, we accompanied revolutionary Nicaragua with our positions and our actions. Many of us formed part of a broad solidarity movement.

“From that time on we have gotten to know and admire the valor and commitment of Dora María Téllez. Her integrity, prestige, dedication and the risk caused to her life by staying on hunger strike for 13 days prompts us to make a pronouncement asking the Nicaraguan government to meditate well on the consequences of not paying attention to the demands she represents. What led Dora María to once more put her life and health on the line is a clear demand: that political spaces not be closed and that a national dialogue take place to resolve the food crisis and the high cost of living that Nicaragua, like many countries, faces. None of these demands is irrational and a government that wants popular support ought to respond to them. We want to support this demand and this protest. Political representation is a right. It is a right to protest against mechanisms that shut down this space. Dora María is exercising her right. She represents a broad sector of Nicaraguan society that ought to be listened to. We ask for her right, for that of her comrades and that of all Nicaraguans.”

This questioning of Daniel Ortega’s international image was surely the most unexpected political cost to date for a man who seems bent on recovering the halo of leftist leader—however ill-fitting—in this era of leftwing leaders on the continent.

The only ones who showed no sign of interest or caring were those close to the government and its media—Radio YA and Canal 4—and politicians linked to Alemán and the PLC. President Ortega made no allusion whatever to the strike of his former party comrade, and his ally in the National Convergence between 2001 and 2005. His media published lies and mocked the strikers. Alemán limited himself to commenting that “the law is harsh, but it’s the law.” Cardinal Obando, now a government official, implicitly backed the CSE.

“Take your money and go!”

The diplomatic representatives of the countries cooperating with Nicaragua asked the CSE for information about its decision, which they considered “worrying.” It was the drop that overflowed a glass full of other unanswered concerns expressed both privately and publicly: lack of transparency about the sizable Venezuelan cooperation funds, the divvying up of the courts along party lines, budgetary under-execution with its corollary of inefficiency, continual changes in the government decision-making personnel and ministerial indecision with consequent delays in all projects, and lack of clarity in the national development plan’s objectives, just to name a few.

Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Kautz spiced up the information the CSE provided the cooperating community by threatening that its members could be declared “non grata” and comparing their demands with the bitching and whimpering of the “angora cat,” a simile with a sexual content. Deputy Minister of Foreign Cooperation Valdrak Jaentschke chimed in as well: “They should learn to behave themselves in the new context of a more dignified Nicaragua or take their money elsewhere.”

“Don’t give us crumbs”

On June 20, the Cooperants’ Working Group unanimously released an unprecedented pronouncement in which something much more than formal concern can be gleaned behind the correct diplomatic language. The most relevant part of the communiqué states that “the CSE decision is generating serious concerns about the progress of the country’s democratic consolidation and governance, particularly with respect to the processes of inclusion and active citizens’ participation. Cooperation is very worried about the impact of this decision. It fears that it could represent a reduction of the democratic arenas and run counter to the inclusive orientation of the national and international legislative corpus on citizens’ civil and political rights, especially the Political Constitution of Nicaragua and its principles of political pluralism…. We are observing the intense discussion that has been generated in Nicaraguan society, which seems to us an encouraging sign of a culture of the peaceful defense of civil rights…” (envío’s own translation).

The Cooperants’ Working Group is the principal international cooperation mechanism in Nicaragua. It is made up of the embassies of Germany, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Spain, the United States, France, Luxembourg, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Low Countries and Sweden, as well as the Swiss and British development agencies, the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations System and the Organization of Ibero-American States.

The next day, President Ortega himself increased the diplomats’ stupefaction. Believing the pronouncement came only from the European Union representatives, he thundered, “They have the effrontery to issue a communiqué in which they want to give us lessons on democracy. They are a few genuine flies [fly in Spanish is mosca, thus a rude reference to Francesca Mosca, the European Commission’s representative to Central America] and we already know what these flies are looking for; they always land on … [a pause to evoke another word] filth. They believe they have the right because they’re giving these countries a few crumbs… Let these gentlemen know that we’re not going to sell ourselves for 30 coins, to bury the knife in Christ, to sink the knife into our own people. We won’t sell ourselves for 30 coins! They can take their 30 coins and look for someone else to buy.”

Irresponsible language

PLC legislator Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, close to President Ortega but always correct in his declarations, commented that Nicaragua “needs politicians who raise the population’s educational level rather than lowering themselves to the sewer level.”

The kindest thing that can be said about President Ortega’s recent sharp language to refer to countries that cooperate with Nicaragua is that it is irresponsible given the country’s conditions. Some 75% of the public investment in highways, roads, schools and hospitals is financed by international cooperation, which averaged just under US$562 million a year in loans and donations between 1994 and 2006. The Europeans have always been the most constant and respectful cooperating countries, including during the revolutionary years when the US government urged the same total economic blockade on Nicaragua it had earlier gotten the then-weaker European countries to impose on Cuba.

Casting the net even wider, government spokespeople have added suspicions about and threats against NGOs. And the threats aren’t just against NGOs the government claims are being financed by the US government, but also against those who receive European funds.

A moral demand

People rallied around Dora María to various degrees. The symbolic climax goes to revolutionary singer-songwriter Carlos Mejía Godoy who visited her on June 13 to deliver a letter he then read in public. Appealing to his author’s rights to his songs, he prohibited the government from using any of them in official acts and prohibited Channel 4 and Radio YA from playing them in its programming slots. The government ignored both the law and Mejía Godoy.

Days later, Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy backed his brother with a similar demand regarding his own music. A couple of weeks later, the recently formed Alliance of Nicaraguan Youth for Democracy called on John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, to prohibit the Ortega government using Lennon’s songs “Give peace a chance” and “Power to the people,” whose Spanish translations are played interminably in official acts. “We are convinced,” they explained, “that John Lennon would never have permitted his songs to be used to promote ideas that violate basic human rights principles.”

The Mejía Godoy brothers’ music continued to be played during the nineties as an ongoing reminder of the Nicaraguan revolution the previous decade. Estranged from the FSLN’s current direction, these once “armed guitars”—more recently civic and now “against the dictatorship”—helped various international sectors take a second look at events in this new century’s impoverished and confused Nicaragua.

A country ripe for
emergency measures

A hunger strike is a desperate measure and thus fit in well in Nicaragua, where the economic reality ought to be obliging emergency measures. According to Civil Coordinator economist Adolfo Acevedo, the cumulative inflation rate for food since Ortega won the elections is 39%. He also studied the price increases over the past eight months for the most basic products in the national diet (rice, beans, sugar, oil, milk, tortillas, bread and eggs, five of which are particularly problematic, especially considering that wages are not being adjusted: rice 40.8%, oil 66%, bread 43%, beans 33% and milk 33%.

The rise in both food and oil prices is a worldwide problem. “The government isn’t to blame,” argue those who defend President Ortega, while he, wrapped up in his rhetorical speeches against “global capitalism,” never even refers to the daily tragedy of the largely impoverished population. But the figures suggest that his government bears at least part of the blame. Like last year, Nicaragua’s overall inflationary rate for the first five months of this year is higher than all its neighbors: El Salvador 8.4%, Guatemala and Honduras 5.8% and Costa Rica under 5.1%. Last year’s annual inflation rate was just short of 16.9% and according to economist Néstor Avendaño could hit 27% this year.

A deaf government

Are there any national solutions? Acevedo appeals to the supply of Venezuelan oil on credit with preferential conditions, arguing that this would allow a 25% lowering of fuel prices, at least for public passenger and cargo transport. But he says “the government hasn’t even wanted to discuss this option.” He also argues that the Energy Stability Law, which permits the government to regulate fuel prices in case of an energy emergency, would allow it to reduce the fuel prices and exaggerated earnings margins for refining, storage and distribution established by the oil companies. But none of this has been done, according to Acevedo: “The government turns a deaf ear to the demands and proposals being made, refusing even to discuss them.”

The government insists that increasing the food supply is the way to combat inflation. Acevedo concurs but explains that while “the government promised to supply urea and credit to growers to increase food production significantly, its Development Bank hasn’t even started functioning yet and the credit supply through the private micro-financing operation known as Alba-Caruna is segmented and highly restricted. Great expectations were created that aren’t being met.”

He concludes that “the political system and the state are ‘closed’ to the need to process, address, deal with and resolve the fundamental demands and problems of the population and different, decisively important economic and social sectors. The political system is only serving to process and negotiate transactions and deals ‘on high’ among large economic and political power groups.”

And sure enough, while Ortega’s economic adviser Bayardo Arce assured in mid-June that an inflationary policy is underway, he said the government has concentrated particularly on eliminating the import duties on products such as beans, wheat, pastas and cereals. Who stands to benefit most from that: consumers, importers or foreign growers? Given Acevedo’s description of the situation, it probably won’t be the local growers who were poised to improve their situation and the country’s by increasing their production of basic grains.

Opposition in the street?

On June 16, five days after the CSE’s final pronouncement and 13 days after beginning their fast, Dora María Téllez and Roger Arias were transferred to a hospital at the attending doctor’s orders after he observed chemical imbalances that could have caused irreversible damage. They spent two days there recovering.

On June 20, some three thousand MRS and PC sympathizers gathered to hear Dora María speak in Managua. A week later, some 15,000 people marched through the streets of Managua chanting an amalgam of slogans against the pact, dictatorships and hunger and in favor of democracy. The same month smaller expressions of the hunger strike echoed in various parts of the country.

The planning and design of the June 27 march revealed the contradictions this opposition—both the organized one and the one spontaneously sparked by the hunger strike—will have to resolve. The idea came in the wake of the CSE’s May decision against the MRS and the PC and was organized by the Movement for Nicaragua—a recently formed entity with few popular roots—which sought to capitalize on the dispersed criticisms sparked by that original decision. It gained huge momentum with Dora María’s gesture, with a number of social movements, discontented individuals and sympathizers or activists of all parties—except the FSLN—participating.

The greatest tumult was sparked by the presence of a delegation from the Arnoldo Alemán-dominated PLC and of banker Eduardo Montealegre and a sizable group of his sympathizers in a march against the pact and hunger. Montealegre is running for mayor of Managua on the PLC ticket, an offer made by Alemán when the CSE repealed Montealegre’s right to run for his own Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN). Ironically he formed that party after leaving the PLC ostensibly in disgust at its pact with the FSLN and Alemán’s corruption. Violating one of the march’s rules, Montealegre and his supporters wore t-shirts promoting his candidacy.

The march’s importance is that it is the first demonstration to openly repudiate the Ortega government. Will there be others? Will they grow? What might they lead to? Will they move beyond that contradictory and fictitious pluri-party and pluri-class unity of “everyone against the government”? Will they be complemented by more organized demonstrations in other parts of the country or continue to focus on Managua? For now, Ortega has felt its sting and has already threatened this opposition with “the steel of war,” despite the peaceful nature of the protests.

Two first unknowns

The admiration and interest Dora María Téllez’s hunger strike engendered, the emotional reactions it unleashed and the erosion it caused the government left two immediate results and a number of unknowns. The CSE magistrates are now even more discredited, with 79.9% of those polled by M&R stating they don’t trust them to head up the electoral process. And the election itself, already burdened with so many arbitrary decisions (moving forward the electoral calendar, snatching the ALN away from Monte-alegre, postponing the elections in the northern Caribbean based on an unbelievable pretext), has begun to lose its legitimacy for part of the population. This is very serious in a country like Nicaragua, which found faith in the electoral process after so many years of the Somoza dictatorship.

Will the view circulating among the population that “there’s no one to vote for” gain support? After the CSE’s hatchet job, Ethics and Transparency director Roberto Courtney concluded that the municipal electoral process is riddled with “enormous defects of illegitimacy and if many things are not reversed it will probably be considered illegitimate.” This is aggravated in his view by the fact that “Nicaragua has the highest per capita cost ($28 per vote) with one of the least credible systems.”

Meanwhile, the MRS won new spaces in the national setting, at least for now. This projection extends beyond its leaders, structures and resources. Never in its 15 years of life have so many opportunities opened up to the MRS. Given that the MRS’s legal status and its main leader unleashed the first blossoming of civic rebellion, the party now has a great responsibility to the country. The political capital accumulated by Dora Maria Téllez during her hunger strike also opens new arenas to her.

Will the MRS be up to the task of constructing a broad movement that inspires and attracts new people and really renovates Sandinismo? Can it provide the fresh new thinking to offer the country a viable Sandinista-rooted alternative of democracy with social justice?

Neighboring strikes

At almost the same time, the Honduran people’s conscience was also touched by a hunger strike, documented in detail in this same issue of envío. Save the differences in the origins of the two strikes, the specific political context that inspired them, the number of people who participated and the number of days the strikers went hungry, there are similarities in the most profound effects in both countries, which are the two poorest in the region: awakening people to the need to participate peacefully to halt impunity and corruption; the reference point and precedent established by this intangible—a voluntary, freely assumed ethical gesture with no monetary reward in the midst of a generalized demoralization of politics; evidence of erosion of the traditional leadership and the urgent need for a new, young one.

In addition, religious fundamentalism is gliding dangerously through the drastic political, social and economic situations in both our countries. In the recent CID-Gallup poll in Nicaragua, 83% responded that God helps resolve the problems of the country’s neediest “a lot,” with another 12% opting for “somewhat” or “a little.” Only 3% professed to believe that God doesn’t help at all and an atypically low 2% had no opinion. This idea of trusting in God, promoted today even by the FSLN government, arises from the over-fertilized terrain of deeply rooted providentialism. Because it fosters passivity, insensitivity and fatalism and leaves people expecting “miracles” rather than taking their destiny into their own hands, it could neutralize any awakening or effort, particularly if it involves risks.

Unlike Honduras, the emotions that memories of the revolution still stir in the third of the population that continues to follow Daniel Ortega with blind faith are yet another drag in Nicaragua. But in both countries, the hunger strikes have left positive impacts, unknown factors and challenges. The main challenge is how to organize the distress at the current situation, indignation at the abusive way the country is being run and sympathy for those opposing it into a broader, more reflective and long-lasting civic movement.

Endless democracy

In the recent Peoples’ Summit in Lima, which offered a space for reflection about Latin American alternatives, the continents’ movements rejected Daniel Ortega’s presence. One of the participants—67-year-old Portuguese activist, thinker and writer Boaventura de Sousa Santos—was asked in an interview how he sees the future. “For me,” he said, “the horizon continues to be democracy and socialism, but a new kind of socialism. We must change the logics of power, and to do that, democratic struggles are crucial. Such struggles are radical, because they’re outside the traditional logics of democracy. We must deepen democracy in all dimensions of life: from the bed to the state, as feminists say…. Socialism’s new name is ‘endless democracy.’ But reality doesn’t change spontaneously. In politics, you always have to have two conditions to do something: at the opportune moment, you have to have reason on your side and the force to impose reason.”

Nicaragua’s difficult reality—the political pact and age-old economic inequalities—will not be changed by the force of spontaneous street demonstrations alone. Nor will the Ortega-Murillo government succeed by relying on empty and turbulent emotionality, attempting to change the political system by decree and with the political work with its grassroots base limited to controlling the Councils of Citizens’ Power (CPCs) so they in turn can control the resources and the opportunities.

The moment and the forces

Was this the opportune moment to challenge the government? Dora María Téllez felt it was. With the force of her hunger strike she also wanted to make both her party and the population as a whole feel it. The June 27 march was at least 15 people wide and stretched for two kilometers. But will that energy last? Will there be enough force over time to impose the reasons for this rebellion on the institutional dictatorship being installed? Will it be an organized force? If so, who will organize it?

And if the forces do organize, how will this government of proven authoritarian and exclusionary tendencies react? Will it wake up in time to rectify and end its term with at least the minimum harmony possible in such a complex situation? Or will it arrogantly insist on continuing to force its project on the population?

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