The politicizing of the institutions is the greatest risk to our security
An analysis of Nicaragua’s security and insecurity
by this expert in public safety and drug trafficking
after the July 19 attack on Sandinista sympathizers
concludes that the politicizing of the
National Police and Nicaraguan Army
is resulting in outbreaks of political violence
that could result in our no longer being one of
the safest countries in Central America.
It goes without saying that we must condemn the shooting at the convoys of buses taking people back to northern municipalities after celebrating the 35th anniversary of the revolution in Managua that killed 5 and wounded another 20. But in light of this tragic event and the observation of some other indicators, it’s also fair to ask if Nicaragua is still one of the safest countries in Central America and, above all, if it will remain so.
One security model in the formal NicaraguaWhat do we currently have in Nicaragua: a public security model or a state security model? What are the differences between the two? To analyze more correctly what’s happening in Nicaragua and what could happen in the near future, we must start by looking at what these concepts mean.
and another for the real Nicaragua?
The official line is that Nicaragua has embraced the public security model. According to the United Nations, public security is closely linked to human progress, in which individuals enjoy the freedoms the State is responsible for ensuring. The reason the concept of human progress is related to that of human security is that the same things threaten both: natural disasters, epidemics, crime, hunger, extreme poverty, dictatorships, totalitarianism…
One of the main components of human security is public security, and a basic requisite for the latter is clear democratic control over the country’s security institutions to ensure the human security conditions the State must provide: peace, stability and wellbeing for all individuals irrespective of their politics, religion, culture or ethnicity.
State or national security concepts, which are similar doctrinally speaking, are different than the concepts of public and human security. National security basically refers to the way the State deals with both traditional and asymmetrical threats that endanger stability and peace. Traditional threats include military aggression from another country, insurrection, widespread chaos, while asymmetrical threats are such things as drug-trafficking and organized crime.
We must be clear about these concepts to analyze what’s happening in Nicaragua, particularly bearing in mind that, as a friend of mine always says, there are two Nicaraguas. One is the formal, institutional Nicaragua, the one that has laws that protect human rights and govern the functioning of the State. The other is the real Nicaragua; the one that never does what the formal Nicaragua says. The two are seriously disassociated.
What’s the security model To answer this question we need to analyze two basic changes contained in the reform to the original National Police Law (Law 228) finally passed in 2014. Law 872, the new law, regulates the organization, functions, career and special social security regime of the National Police, in other words the total institutional life of the police force. A fundamental change brought in with that reform was the abolishing of an exhaustive and clear provision in the earlier law prohibiting members of the National Police from engaging in political propaganda and from militancy in political parties. This apolitical requirement gave the institution an impartial national identity.
in the real Nicaragua?
As I don’t know any police officer who’s a Liberal or Conservative, we can be pretty sure that by permitting its members party militancy, the police force has now acquired an express and direct institutional political commitment to the governing party. One of the clear effects of this change can be seen in the National Police’s district and municipal offices. FSLN propaganda can be unashamedly seen on both their interior and exterior walls. The participation of uniformed police officers in activities of what many now refer to as the “Orteguista” party is also a sign of the change in the law.
In a return to the Somoza model,But if this change is serious, another is even more so. The amendment abolished democratic control by the civil authority over the police institution. The President of the Republic now directs the Police, is its supreme chief, the one who gives orders and decides on plans and operations, directly influences the police force. And he does so without any civil control whatsoever, even without intermediation by the Ministry of Government, which was previously the established body to which the National Police belonged. In the words of Liberal legislator José Pallais, the National Police has moved in juridical terms “from legal subordination to personal submission.”
the President now runs the Police
With only 35 years in existence, the National Police is a relatively recent institution. It was created on September 5, 1979, as the Sandinista Police, when the revolution separated it from the Army to distinguish the two armed institutions from the Somoza system, in which the National Guard had fulfilled both functions. This separation was a very positive decision. Between its creation in 1979 and 2007, when Daniel Ortega took over the government, the Police was never run by only one person, but since that time it has been under the single-person management of President Ortega, a system now institutionalized by the reform.
The police model we had from 1990 to 2007 was a police force with civilian control by the Ministry of Government. This model guaranteed that the discretionary powers that the President could exercise over the police force would not be effective. Previously, in the time of the revolutionary government, the Sandinista Police was under the Ministry of the Interior, in a model almost identical to that initiated in 1990, as the interior minister was one of the nine members of the FSLN’s collegiate decision-making body, called the National Directorate, and it made the most important decisions related to security. In other words, during those years the Sandinista Police depended on a man who in turn belonged to a collective that made the decisions. Therefore, in Nicaragua’s history before now there has only been one security institution directly run by a single man who influenced it in a decisive way with no checks and balances. I’m referring to Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the National Guard, which he made into his praetorian guard. With the reform to the Police Law, the model hasn’t gone back to the eighties, it’s gone back to Somoza’s model.
“I am the State” Our public security model is regressing as the regime has constructed a hybrid, a combination between state security, national security and the security of the President of the Republic. If in the eighties we experienced a state-party fusion, we’re now experiencing a state-person fusion because state security now equals the security of President Ortega as, in his words, “I am the State.”
Wasn’t this what the National Guard did? Nicaragua’s whole security system has been set up to protect the ruling elite, which explains why the National Police acts the way it does. Is the police force biased towards a political party? I’m sorry to say that, yes, it is. Is it still a National Police? No. Does it protect the public according to the public security model? No. Does it ensure the freedoms of all Nicaraguan citizens? No. Do the state security bodies ensure the freedoms that the State ought to guarantee in the process of human progress and the public security model? No.
From 2007 to 2013, the National Police have directly repressed civil society on more than 25 occasions in order to disrupt, dismantle and neutralize political expressions in opposition to the government. Wasn’t this what the National Guard did? And we’re not counting events that weren’t investigated because an order came from above not to investigate them, so they remain in total impunity. And impunity is another factor that leads to violence.
In my opinion, these changes, embodied in the amendments to the Police Law, are the greatest risk to public security we have in Nicaragua today because the reaction to politicizing the security institution will be political.
And the Army? Neither does the Army escape from this politicization. In practice, it is suffering from the same institutional involution as the Police, although not in its regulatory body. In this sense, the Army is very careful; it protects and defends its body of regulations. That’s why we don’t see changes in the Army’s institutional framework.
However, this is only in formal Nicaragua. In the real Nicaragua we’re seeing what Samuel Huntington called “subjective control” by the President over the Army members. Huntington explains that objective control is the regulatory body, the laws, but notes that there’s also subjective control, which is exercised in other ways. President Ortega is exercising direct subjective control over the Army by giving the officers perks, granting them institutional benefits, allowing them to participate in businesses and invest in projects and mega-projects, appointing active or retired officers and/or their wives to state institutions… They have also benefitted from the judicial system in cases of serious complaints, such as in the case of Mokorón. The Army of Nicaragua has procured more benefits from the Ortega government than from any of the three previous ones.
There’s no more pragmatic Nicaraguan institution than the military one: Today we’re with you, we’re buddies and give each other a pat on the back but once Ortega goes—if in fact he ever does—that loyalty will disappear and they’ll be patting on the back whoever takes over the government. Furthermore, for both better and worse, the Army of Nicaragua no longer depends on a political correlation: it depends on its businesses. Some years ago a study established that in Nicaragua we no longer have “politicians in uniform” but “businessmen in uniform.” It showed that those businessmen in uniform are the fifth or sixth most powerful economic group in the country.
How is dissent dealt with? Are there signs of internal disagreement, of dissent in the Army or the Police? Many police officers love their institution and defend its professional, apolitical and impartial development. They only complain and express disagreement with the fact that those in authority in the institution are an elite group, loyal to the President. When I saw that President Ortega fired five Police commissioners loyal to Police Chief Aminta Granera as soon as he came into the presidency in 2007, thus creating a police elite personally loyal to him, I recalled dissentions in the National Guard recently made public by different writers who had belonged to that earlier institution. The cause seems to be the same: disagreement with the institutional management and internal coercion exercised by the group loyal to the Somozas.
But there isn’t exactly dissidence in the armed forces’ institutions. It’s more like specific disagreement with the institution’s current performance, management and administration. The international donor community that collaborates with the Police knows about it because many of its officials have received complaints from police officers who are unhappy with their institution’s current course.
Our social violence may be low,With this context in mind, we ask ourselves if we are the safest country in Central America. I was recently visited by journalists from the United States and Europe and they always ask the same question: “What conditions explain why Nicaragua has security indicators so different from the countries in Central America’s northern triangle? What makes the difference?”
but our political violence is high
This subject has never been studied in depth so we can only give subjective hypotheses. We could say, for example, that Nicaraguan society is anthropologically very conservative and culturally very religious. Does this result in lower levels of violence? We could also say that the legitimacy our country’s security institutions still enjoy also results in lower rates of violence. The legitimacy the National Police in Nicaragua still has, even now, is far different from that of the Honduran Police, whose levels of legitimacy are negligible, almost non-existent. The same is true in Guatemala, where the Army has even less legitimacy. This could be another factor. There must be others as well, because just as security has multifaceted explanations, so does violence have multifaceted causes.
“Somoza won the war” Over and above these and other hypotheses, observing Nicaragua’s history, one can conclude that the rates of social violence and social crime in our country are low but those of political violence are high. In political terms we’re a very violent country. Indeed, a historical review shows that Nicaragua’s homicide rate goes up when the country is politically agitated. Our history has been one of political violence and although we sing in our national anthem that “the blood of brothers no longer stains the glorious bicolored flag,” staining it with blood is what we’ve mostly done throughout our history.
Talking with former Sandinista soldiers who defended the revolution and now feel displaced, they say Somoza actually won the war. Their reasoning is that the antithesis of Somoza has become the new Somoza, so, in the long run, “Somoza beat us ideologically.” This is the opinion of many tried-and-true Sandinistas who spent years in the line of fire on the war front with no time to have and care for families. Such feelings are a breeding ground for political violence.
The armed groups in the NorthInformation I get from the communities, individuals, newspaper reporters in the departments and other sources in the field affirm that there are armed movements. Through the monitoring I do, I’ve identified areas of fighting, deaths, collateral damage and other specific actions that indicate the presence of armed personnel in a given place. I’ve recorded fighting that has already left more than 30 dead and 40 wounded between the rearmed and Army soldiers. The government conceals these facts from the public to maintain an image of stability.
At least eight serious conflicts were recorded in 2013. The conflict areas are around the North Atlantic Autonomous Region, especially in the Mining Triangle, and also in Jinotega. Theaters of operations have been Waslala, Coperna, Las Nubes, El Cacao, Pantasma, El Naranjo, Bosawás, Wapí, El Tortuguero, and San Miguel in Siuna. If we were to put little red stars on the map in all these places we would see that we’re involved in what is militarily known as low intensity conflict, which could increase in intensity depending on many factors. Said another way we’re at a stage of embryonic political violence that could lead to more serious political violence.
Political or merely criminal? Political conditions are starting to warm up again in Nicaragua. We’ve had expressions of political violence such as the July 19 massacre for some years now, although not so visible. This act sent a strong political message. But to whom? Perhaps to the Police, Army, Intelligence and Counter-intelligence, which insist those same attacks weren’t political. How isn’t it political to fire at Sandinista militants and sympathizers on July 19, the 35th anniversary of the Popular Sandinista Revolution?
As time passes, it’s more frequently heard that armed groups in rural areas in the north of the country are politically motivated. Aren’t they a natural reaction to the politicization of the institutions? The government denies the existence of politically-motivated armed groups, instead dismissing them as criminal gangs. In the 1970s, Somoza defined the FSLN’s actions in the struggle against Somoza—assaults, kidnappings, robberies and also murders—as strictly criminal, but obviously they were politically motivated. Something similar is happening now.
After what happened on July 19, they Police and Army made nationwide raids, capturing people who belonged to the Contra in the eighties and to the political opposition today. The detainees and their families have told the human rights organizations that had access to them that they were insistently asked in the interrogations: Where are the armed groups? Who are they made up of? Where do they operate? Who’s supporting them?
All on the InternetThe objectives of the current armed groups aren’t those of common criminals. All the acts they’ve committed have a political message. Moreover the members of these groups are eminently anti-Sandinistas, mostly from rural areas, and we know the peasantry was the most hurt by the 1980s war. We also know the Sandinista Popular Army and the Ministry of the Interior‘s security apparatus committed some crimes against humanity in rural areas, as of course did the Contra.
In order to analyze the political reasons these groups have organized and taken up arms, we have to go to their media. The Coordinadora Guerrillera is on Facebook; some of their communiqués appear on the Internet and some of them have even been published in the national media; there’s also an Internet radio station called “Voice of the People.”
They say in their communications that they’ve taken up arms because of this government’s violation of the Constitution and the laws; Daniel Ortega’s re-election and intention to remain in power forever; the electoral frauds; the political violence exercised in the countryside by FSLN sympathizers allegedly supported by the National Police; the closure of political spaces… What are these reasons if not political?
Although the government denies that there are any politically-motivated armed groups, it would certainly seem there are. As I already mentioned, we aren’t a criminally violent country, but politically we’re very violent; our country is marked by political intolerance. That’s why the politicization of the security bodies, the return to the security management model from Somoza’s time, is a very high risk factor for security. A preliminary prognosis is that we can see this country catching fire within five years, and with very serious security problems even earlier sparked by the closure of political spaces.
The State’s action today isn’t fair, uniform or equitable, with our country very insecure for some of the population and safe for others, but conflict is being generated that could eventually affect the security even of those who are safe today. Political secretaries for the Sandinista Front have already been murdered in the countryside: in Coperna, Ayapal… Those living in the corridors where the armed groups pass through have sent letters to their leaders asking for security because they’re experiencing politically-based insecurity.
Who’s funding the armed groups? A legitimate concern is who’s financing the politically motivated armed groups; who’s supplying them and providing them with weapons. The latest conflict I know about happened in El Naranjo, northeast of Waslala and southwest of Siuna. A mobile Army infantry patrol went in search of a group of 120 armed men and had a run-in with them. Unofficial information says this group opened fire on the Army for half an hour, causing the Army four losses and forcing it to retreat. The fire power needed to sustain half an hour of combat can be calculated by military science. The information I have is that these 120 men were wearing uniforms and had new weapons—in fact were armed to the teeth—and the Army’s retreat shows that their mettle and disposition for combat was very high; they were determined to kill or be killed.
The logistics and supply of these armed groups is noteworthy because it must come from an agency with capacity. Honduras, Colombia and Costa Rica all have border disputes with Nicaragua, but I doubt they would be arming them. For a country to get involved funding an irregular group to fight to overthrow an established government is an aggression by one State against another under international law. I therefore still hold to the idea that they’re being funded by a nongovernmental entity with money and the capacity to provide weapons. Drug trafficking is just such an entity, with presence, resources and structures throughout Central America. It’s only a theory...
A disproportionate responseLet’s close this line of thought by going back to the attack on July 19. What did we see in the State’s response to this attack? We saw extreme acts, abuse, violations of due process, raids on houses without a warrant, kidnappings... What we saw was almost a state of emergency. The actions of the Police and even the Army—which participated in the raids and seizures—exceeded the event they were responding to. The Police spared nothing, even when their actions harmed their good image and their national and international legitimacy. The only thing that seemed to matter was solving the case, loss of legitimacy or political cost be hanged. The order to do that has to have come from above.
A matter of national securitySeeing this disproportionate response by the State security agencies, one theory being mentioned quite strongly is that what happened on July 19 was an inside operation to justify repression. In intelligence and counter-intelligence operations such actions are common. The art of conspiracy is nothing less than causing events that will lead to determined results.
If this theory is correct, even if not corroborated, something was happening in Ciudad Darío that was becoming a threat to the security agencies and to the stability of the government elite because, while the official police line insisted that the attack was a criminal act, the armed forces responded as if they saw it as a national security matter.
Other indicators of public insecurityAfter talking about our current security risk from the political perspective, I want to point out other indicators of public security that shows us we aren’t such a safe country, that our security is relative.
An analysis of Nicaragua’s social conditions, indicators and the State’s response confirms that Nicaragua isn’t suffering from the crime wave experienced in the countries of Central America’s northern triangle, which is linked to organized crime. The homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in those three countries—Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—is staggering. In 2012 and 2013, Honduras had one of the world’s highest homicide rates. Nicaragua doesn’t have this level of crime. A criminal may rob you here, even threatening you with a gun or knife, but it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll kill you. In Honduras, Guatemala or Mexico they’ll kill you first in order to rob you. Most of the murders that occur during a robbery in Nicaragua are because the victim resists or are the result of various chance events.
Not safe for women…As essential proof that Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America, the National Police always presents us with a single indicator, the homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants, and compares it with the same indicator in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and we come out very well by comparison. But that only tells a half-truth. Other indicators belie this worn-out mantra. When, for example, we analyze the historical rate of rape per 100,000 inhabitants, we see that it’s three times higher than the homicide rate. And if from a health point of view the World Health Organization tells us we’re facing an epidemic of violence with a homicide rate of 10 per 100,000 inhabitants, what does that make our historical rate of 30 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants over the last decade? A pandemic of sex crimes? At the very least it tells us this isn’t a safe country for women because sexual violence is very marked in Nicaragua.
or children…An even more serious figure indicates that the rate of rapes increases among children under 14 years of age. The average historical rate in this age group is 40 per 100,000 inhabitants. Using official figures from the National Police Statistical Yearbook, 50% of all rapes committed in Nicaragua are against children—basically girls—under 14, and we’ve observed an increase every year.
Why don’t the National Police admit the indicator for rape in comparison with the other Central American countries? For example, the 2012 rate in Honduras for sex offenses—presumably not just including rape—was 41 per 100,000 inhabitants. That shows that Nicaragua isn’t sexually any safer for children and teenagers than Honduras.
or people with possessions…Let’s look at another indicator in Nicaragua: the historical robbery rate per 100,000 inhabitants. At 300-400 robberies per 100,000 inhabitants, it’s 35-40 times higher than the homicide rate. But the Police use statistical disaggregation to make the figure look less worrying. The total figure for robberies includes all kinds of theft: robbery with intimidation, which is assault with a deadly weapon; burglary, which is entering a house to commit a robbery; and robbery with violence, which is when you’re mugged in the street and they snatch your bag or watch or cell phone. The Police acknowledge that the overall robbery rate is high, but they say we have to differentiate between felonies and misdemeanors. They choose to publish only the figures for felonies, i.e. robbery with intimidation, which endangers life. That figure is much lower than in the other countries. With these statistical tricks the Police present a reality that’s only true up to a point.
…or people on the roadAnother indicator of insecurity is the number of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents. In a ten-year period we’ve had injuries nearly as severe, although not in the same proportion, as those caused by the war in the eighties. By level of severity I mean that many have been left as paraplegics or hemiplegics, just as if they’d been shot in the spine by a bullet. These accidents are concentrated in the economically active population and the State must assume the direct or indirect costs of their injuries. Over the last 10 years traffic accidents have caused 100 victims—between deaths and injuries—per 100,000 inhabitants. Therefore this isn’t a safe country for pedestrians or for motorists.
This and other indicators tell us that the “safest country in Central America” label is a half-truth and not the absolute truth claimed by the National Police, which is today exporting its model to other countries based on this half-truth as if it’s a panacea against crime in Latin America.
Another cause of public insecurity:Let’s now turn to an interesting piece of information about organized crime: one of the factors causing public insecurity. According to the indicators, something happened from 2012 to 2013 because suddenly the Police and Army’s cocaine seizures plummeted 91.5%, from 7,751 kilos, almost 8 tons, in 2012 to 656 kilos in 2013. What happened?
Organized crime and drug trafficking
The only thing I can say is what hasn’t happened: drugs haven’t stopped passing through Nicaragua. The drug traffickers’ main and most profitable market is the United States and the secondary market is Europe. It’s absurd to think this reduction in drug seizures is because drug traffickers are no longer moving drugs through Nicaragua on their way from Colombia to the United States, because whatever passes through Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, and in some cases even El Salvador, has to go through Nicaragua. The transit route is the whole Central American isthmus. It’s illogical to think that if the drug traffickers have an annual production of 800 tons of cocaine—I believe it’s now down to about 750—they aren’t going to pass about 500-600 tons through our countries.
Focusing on other priorities? What then are the reasons why there’s been such a drastic reduction in seizures from one year to the next? It draws my attention because previously the variations were minimal, even including increases from one year to the next. There must be many reasons for the reduction in seizures, one of which may be that drug trafficking is again using air and sea routes more and Nicaragua doesn’t have enough aerial and naval resources.
Many things show us there’s been a change regarding organized crime in Nicaragua, among them that the United States is now expressing some dissatisfaction with Nica¬ragua’s reduced levels of cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking.
A transit country for drugsCould it be that the State security bodies have been focused on other priorities? It wouldn’t be positive if the security and intelligence bodies have focused on pursuing the armed groups rather than capturing drugs because fighting drug trafficking ensures greater public safety than pursuing armed groups does. Nicaragua is a transit country, and the main damage drug trafficking and organized crime cause in a transit country is the corruption they generate in its society. The drug war against the State of Colombia wasn’t caused by any external element; it was Colombians themselves, the cartels. And it isn’t Colombians who are now causing the drug war in Mexico; Mexico’s own drug cartels are causing it.
Organized crime’s mafias corrupt societies and institutions wherever they go, just in order to get through. If they want to pass drugs through Nicaragua they have to corrupt police officers, military, security agencies, politicians. In Central America we’re now experiencing a phenomenon called drug politics. Drug-trafficking is such a successful business in Central America because it’s following the example of Pablo Escobar, who understood that the only way to achieve impunity was to get into politics, so he not only bought legislators but went so far as to become one. We’re learning this in Central America, where we already have drug trafficking legislators in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Will Nicaragua be any different?
Developing the local drug marketThe other damage drugs cause by passing through a country is the creation of local collaborators and of a local market. The Police call it “overspill.” Drug traffickers not only have to corrupt authorities in order to pass through the country; they also have to create local structures to decentralize the domestic movement of the drugs, making the shipments smaller: “Look, take this package for me from Sapoá [on the Costa Rican border] to Guasaule [on the Honduran border] and from there we’ll take it through Honduras.” This service by what are known as mules used to be paid for in money, now it’s paid for in kind. “Overspill” is that payment plus the amount of drugs traffickers sell to local dealers who then peddle it on the local market. The traffickers need both mules and a local market and get them by creating addiction that very soon becomes a problem for public health and security.
With drug sales on the local market now representing 0.8% of the country’s gross domestic product, drug dealing has become a visible element of the national economy. This is causing domestic insecurity and over time we can expect Nicaraguan drug traffickers to declare war on the Nicaraguan State, as happened in Colombia and is happening in Mexico and Honduras. Drug traffickers get increasingly stronger as their economic power grows. They are then able to pay their private army and begin to fight to hegemonize the route. And if any drug trafficking opponent is strong enough to challenge this bid for hegemony, violence ensues.
What about legalizing drugs? Legalizing drugs wouldn’t be the solution to dismantling organized crime, the cartels. With legalization, the drug business would itself go through a drastic transformation because the State would take it over, taxes would be paid on drugs just like other product, prices would be controlled… But organized crime’s own structures wouldn’t go through such a transformation because they’re highly organized and if one product, say drugs, is removed the networks would remain in place to traffic others: weapons, women…
More murders in Bluefields The language of drug trafficking is violence. In 2012 the official homicide figures caused by drug trafficking in the Caribbean city of Bluefields, one city, exceeded the homicide rate in Guatemala, a whole country. There were 35 deaths linked to drug trafficking that year in Bluefields, the seat of a municipality by the same name whose official 2005 population was 87,000, while the national homicide rate in Guatemala from all causes was 32 per 100,000 inhabitants.
than in Guatemala
How was this outbreak of lethal violence in Bluefields stopped? Through State action? No, it was stopped by an agreement among local drug traffickers to stop fighting among themselves over the routes because so much violence was making them too visible. Drug traffickers aren’t stupid; they know that violence attracts the attention of the State, forcing it to intervene.
Are the political extremes uniting? To sum up Nicaragua’s public security situation today, if the country is now experiencing low-intensity conflict, are we still the safest country in Central America or at least one of the safest? Probably yes, in criminal terms, but in political terms, no; especially if the factors that have caused this conflict continue to develop over time. I’m sorry to be the harbinger of a pessimistic, negative message but I can’t hide what I’m seeing when analyzing the reality. To do so would be self-deceptive.
All those captured in the post-July 19 round-up and still accused are linked to the Independent Liberal Party, except for one, Pablo Manuel Martínez Ruiz, who’s now on the run. He was a former captain in the Sandinista Popular Army, a member of the Special Forces; his profile shows that he was a staunch Sandinista. His participation in this action could be interpreted as an infiltration operation to capture political opponents, but could also be interpreted another way: I personally suspect that what happened there is that the opposition extremes and the historical Sandinista extremes could be uniting.
There are a lot of former servicemen in Nicaragua today who gave their blood for the revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, those whom the “modern” FSLN, those of today’s Sandinista Youth, have totally excluded. They are historical warriors who fought in the insurrection against Somoza, then fought against the Contras yet today are no longer being taken into account; they no longer have a place in the FSLN… Moreover today’s FSLN no longer represents what they were prepared to sacrifice their lives for.
For these extremes to join together is dangerous. In analyzing the context, gathering information and attending discussion meetings I see the panorama for Nicaragua in the near future as bleak. I can only see one scenario emerging from all this: increasing political violence in the near future. If the political situation continues as it is, we’ll soon stop being the safest country in Central America.
Roberto Orozco is a senior researcher on security issues for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP).