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  Number 463 | Febrero 2020
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Nicaragua briefs


This is the text released by the Blue and White National Unity and the Civic Alliance for Democracy and Justice on January 17 announcing that they had joined together to start forming a National Coalition: “Nicaragua’s reconstruction is possible. It began in April 2018. The Pedrarias, the Somozas, the Ortegas are through. The struggle of youths, peasants, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and the silent struggle of all Nicaraguans demonstrated that in Nicaragua a new way of doing politics is possible. The old way is over. The time has come for a coalition that can rebuild Nicaragua; rebuild employment, health and education for all; rebuild our institutions and the way we do politics. The time has come for a coalition that assures us social peace so that never again will rice and beans be lacking from Nicaraguans’ table; will Nicaraguans have to die for the way they think; will a Nicaraguan have to flee from this country.

“The first step we are taking for this reconstruction is to unite us all, without exclusion, to re-energize this struggle. The second fundamental step is to promote the electoral reforms that will permit us a better life so we can civically and democratically access food, health education and social security. The third step is to issue a call to all Nicaraguans to join this National Coalition. So we are calling on all of you students, peasants, businesspeople, women, housewives, doctors and honorable police, public employees, workers and unemployed people, political parties and people from civil society. We are calling on those of you in exile who want to return. We are talking to all of you who want justice, freedom and progress. We are going from door to door, municipality to municipality, department to department, in each autonomous region and in exile or diaspora to join hands and take the first step toward a new Nicaragua.”


On January 4 elections were held for
a new 12-member Political Council of UNAB, which has more than doubled in size to over 90 organizations. Unlike the election of the first Political Council, done in secrecy in March 2019, the bulletin Confidencial described these as “genuine elections with ballots, a ballot box and outside observers.” Each of the five sectors formed into assemblies that make up UNAB’s structure—civil society organizations and social movements, students and youths in general, political organizations, territories, and the Caribbean Coast—has two seats on the Council, elected from a total of 25 candidates. Two additional at-large seats will go to the two candidates with the highest number of votes who did not make the cut for their particular slate. According to Haydeé Castillo, a member of that original Political Council, the task of the new one will be to “build the National Coalition, together with the Civic Alliance and other actors, which will serve as the vehicle for taking political power.”


Retired General Humberto Ortega, Nicaragua’s former head of the Army of Nicaragua and brother of the current President, released a message on December 11 in which, following an extensive commentary on episodes of the FSLN’s recent history and before a brief reference to Sumerian civilization, he inserted the following remark to his brother Daniel: “I have insisted on the need for a sum-up since 1990 to strengthen the achievements and correct the errors, being clear that we do not have a democratic culture, that our history demonstrates that we have lived more in war than in peace-democracy. Today wise and firm steps are needed to surmount the painful crisis we have all suffered since April of two years ago, of which the first, inspired by these Christmas days of so much Christian fervor, is that the government appeal to legitimate mechanisms that allow the prisoners of this political crisis to go free…. Such a just decision will energize a civic and electoral struggle removed from violence and destruction, full freedom that criticizes the established power and authoritarianism, and economic recovery so that whoever wins free elections can more easily call for a National Agreement that duly sustains its government program….. In these moments, your government, President Ortega, has an opportunity to make a fair, deeply humanist gesture, streamlining procedures for the freedom of those imprisoned.”


Many altars built to celebrate the “Gritería” in honor of the Virgin Mary on December 7 were adorned with symbols of the blue and white resistance: national flags with the shield upside down and bottles of water. Mobilizations before the fiestas demanding freedom for the “water carriers”—16 youths captured in late November by the police and convicted as terrorists for trying to take bottles of water to hunger-striking mothers in the Masaya parish church—chanted the slogan “Christmas without political prisoners.” The international pressure resulting from the repression of the hunger strike in November obliged Ortega to free the 16 water bearers and another 75 political prisoners, not before Christimas but on December 30, leaving a reported 63 still in jail. Speaking from the Organization of American States, US Ambassador Carlos Trujillo, a member of the high-level OAS mission that Ortega prevented from entering the country last year, said that “Ortega is trying to fool the world into believing that Nicaraguans are living in peace and security, but the facts show the reality. The OAS report issued in November 2019 points to actions that undermine and jeopardize democracy.”


On December 18 the European Parliament debated and approved with 560 votes in favor, 12 against and 63 abstentions a resolution that “firmly” condemns all repressive acts by the Nicaraguan regime and, among other demands, requires that it “disarm and dismantle the armed pro-governmental groups” and seek a solution with political dialogue and elections “in accord with international standards.” In the debate prior to the vote, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy representative, called Nicaragua’s human rights crisis “unsustainable” and referred to the regime’s “failure.” A majority of Euro-legislators called for the application of individual sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, concretely mentioning Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo. They also asked that Nicaragua be suspended from the Association Agreement between Central America and the European Union for its failure to comply with the agreement’s democratic clause. The approved resolution asks for information on the European businesses in Nicaragua and states that “they share responsibilities” with the government and therefore “must be accountable and if their complicity is confirmed, they must be included in the framework for specific sanctions.”


On December 10, the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) asked the State of Nicaragua for information on the “unjustified dismissal of doctors, teachers and university educators” since April 2018. It also asked about the impact of the reforms to the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute and the measures to ensure the independence and functioning of the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office, which given its dependence on the executive branch was “degraded” from class A to B by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions. And finally it inquired about measures to prevent the use of force by “pro-governmental armed elements” attacking or illegally detaining opponents. The government response was limited to a repetition of the indices of positive economic growth, gender equity and infant mortality recognized by international institutions before the human rights crisis provoked by the regime starting in April 2018.


The Nicaraguan organization Catholics for the Right to Decide, which has been recording femicides for years now, counted 63 in 2019, a steady increase over 2017 (51) and 2018 (57). Of the women murdered, 18 were between the ages of 18 and 25 and 4 were between 13 and 17, while 2 were under 12 years old. The woman’s partner was responsible for 25 of the deaths and a man the woman knew was responsible for another 10. Only 5 of the killers have been sentenced, 19 are detained and 31 are fugitives, while 7 committed suicide after the crime and 1 as himself killed.


Among the many cuts to the 2020 national budget, the regime reduced by more than half the already limited resources for the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Services program, first cut in 2018. Alejandro Alemán, an expert in climate negotiations for the Centro Humboldt, declared that the regime is only using environmental issues in international arenas to obtain resources, as observed once again in Cop25, held in Madrid this past December. The human rights crisis provoked by the regime has only aggravated the country’s environmental problems, among other tragedies, through the advances of mining extractions and the invasions of protected areas and Caribbean lands by settlers who enjoy government protection.


Last year, there was an important reduction in the national budget for both the Catholic and Evangelical churches, but this year the regime has cut all aid to the Catholic Church. These funds have historically been earmarked to support social works and the maintenance of churches considered national heritage. “I am very happy the government is distancing itself from this form because this way no one is obliged to pledge obeisance,” said the bishop of Estelí, Abelardo Mata, spokesperson for the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua. “It is much better not to take money from these people. I personally celebrate it because we thus are separated totally from them. It is very healthy no matter what government there is.”


The Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Managua released a message on December 31 that says among other things: “Nicaragua is calling for a change of course, a return to the Constitution and institutionality. This change requires the holding of elections. For the elections to express the will of the electorate, however, they must be free and impartial. For that, said election postulates some indispensable conditions such as a new impartial Supreme Electoral Council, a profound reform of the electoral law, the updating of voter rolls, voting for citizens abroad and supervision by international bodies, among others. Given such a political-electoral challenge, we consider it an urgent task that all of us involve ourselves actively so our society can organize itself articulately. Our people are calling for new faces, new elements in the electoral arena, renovated cadres with a genuinely ethical vision. Let’s not allow a way of being and thinking to be imposed on us. Let’s have the courage to assume a new mentality marked by human and Christian values. This change of mentality is what today’s youth is motivating, inspiring and demanding.”


David Zwiec, the US-born bishop of Siuna, died of a heart attack on January 5. Zwiec came to Nicaragua as a priest in 1975 to do pastoral work in the Caribbean Coast region’s mining area. In the 1980s, the contra war years, he was transferred to Costa Rica, where he was trained in the Capuchin order. After working three years in Chicago, he returned to the Caribbean Coast, where in 2002 he was named the auxiliary bishop of Bluefields. In 2017 Pope Francis named him bishop of a new diocese in Siuna. He is remembered for his closeness to the people and his cordiality with everyone he met.

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