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  Number 464 | Marzo 2020
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Continued social polarization or cohesion? A particular look at Masaya

.Social polarization has increased vastly in Nicaragua since April 2018. From family circles up to the national level, social links are severely affected and violence has damaged trust, a crucial element in the social contract. Distrust and fear have become everyday social markers across the country. The dictatorship’s strategy is to pit some against others. How has all this affected Masaya and what are its prospects??

UCA Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Institute

What is social polarization? According to the well-known social psychologist Ignacio Martín-Baró, who analyzed the conflicts in the Central American societies in depth, we understand it as a psycho-social process in which “positions on a certain problem tend increasingly to be reduced to the two opposing and exclusive corners.” Social polarization occurs when the position of one group is seen negatively by the other. A polarization scenario reduces the problem to two opposite poles in which moving toward one implies rejecting the other.

Polarization isn’t a natural attribute of society. It is produced socially and, therefore, when we analyze it we must identify how it’s produced, who’s promoting it, and which actors, strategies, discourses and purposes it serves. In our investigation we identify and analyze two main factors of social polarization in Nicaragua: traditional politics and social inequality.

Traditional politics functions
with the friend/enemy logic

Traditional Nicaraguan politics, rooted not only in the elites but also in most of the population, sees society divided between two rival groups: “us” against “them.” In this political practice there’s no room for dialogue, debate, listening to the “other,” reasoning or identifying common interests.

Historically, dominant political identities in Nicaragua asserted themselves by rejecting the rival, as a political enemy. In recent history the polarization has been Sandinismo / anti-Sandinismo. The functioning of friend/enemy politics gave way to a political logic of stigmatizing, denigrating, even violent “struggle” against the “enemy.” It promotes a struggle of exclusion and sometimes symbolic, sometimes physical death.

In the current political crisis, pro-government sectors use the formula of “exile, prison or death” to intimidate and/or describe the fate of those they consider enemies. The large crowds in the streets after April 2018 demanding democracy, rights, justice and peace were asking for a change, but the friend/enemy logic was and is also there in their dissident expressions.

The polarizing concept of traditional politics was evidenced in the 40 individual semi-structured and 7 collective interviews we conducted in the seven municipalities we studied. Of the 40, 31 were with key actors independent of the national government: 5 in Bluefields, 4 in León, 4 in Jinotega, 3 in Jinotepe, 7 in Managua, 5 in Masaya and 3 in Matagalpa. They all said political practice in this country “divides” and “sepa­rates.” Only one said it sometimes also unites. One defined politics as a “segregation procedure.” About 30 years old, born at the end of the 1980s war and the country’s pacification process, he said he personally couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t living in a climate of social and political polarization, which shows that a negative evaluation of politics already existed before April 2018.

“We see that monster’s
hand in everything”

Those interviewed think the political parties contribute to social polarization by being responsible for the country’s past conflicts and wars and being protagonis­ts and reproductive nuclei of an authoritarian, militaristic, centralist, patriarchal, corrupt caudillo political culture. Moreover, they foster us/them division, managing it to suit their determination to remain in power; and promoting fanaticism in their rank-and-file base and “presidential fever” in their leaders.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) is the party the interviewees most associated with polarization: “While it’s a government’s duty to find agreement and harmony among the citizens and promote dialogue, we see that monster’s hand in everything, stirring conflict in all fields and sectors.”

This targeting of the FSLN covers three historical periods: the revolutionary government (1980-1990); the years in opposition, when the FSLN “governed from below” (1990-2006); and its return to government in 2007 until 2019, the year we conducted the interviews. When talking about the FSLN, those interviewed specifically mentioned Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and the government’s mass media as being responsible for the social polarization.

Corruption and impunity
favor polarization

Socioeconomic polarization adds to political polarization. The national economic model fosters and reproduces inequalities, flagging evident differences between a minority of the population whose wellbeing is assured and the barely surviving majority. Social inequality is favored by corruption and impunity, both characteristics of traditional politics.

The interviews we conducted showed that public office is not perceived as a service, but as a means for climbing the economic and social ladder through private use of public resources. The interviewees specifically mentioned State-plunder and State-Family, pacts between political and economic elites, and fraudulent elections as concepts favoring polarization.

High levels of corruption aren’t new. The USAID-financed Vanderbilt University study, Political Culture of Democracy in Nicaragua: 2006, pointed out that “Almost 90% of Nicaraguans feel that corruption among public officials is fairly or very widespread.” The same study, repeated ten years later, concluded that seven of every ten Nicaraguans think half or more of the country’s politicians are corrupt.

“Nowadays, the country
looks like a big trench”

Since its return to power in 2007, the Ortega government has capitalized on traditional polarization politics, making government, State and party virtually indistinguishable elements, dividing society between those who explicitly or implicitly support the government’s project and those who reject or dissent: between loyalists and opponents.

Polarization, which previously existed mainly in rural areas and the Caribbean regions, increased vastly as of April 2018 with the massive human rights violations throughout the country. Since then, the right to life and health has been denied; State discourse has stigmatized, criminalized and dehumanized critical citizens; and, finally, a police State was installed and public freedoms were denied.

As a consequence, social links have been substantially affected at all levels, even within families. Violence has damaged a crucial component of the social contract: trust. Distrust and fear have become everyday social markers, inhibitors of freedom of speech and social participation.

Distrust between individuals hinders cooperation and solidarity. In her reflections on the origins of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argues that one of totalitarianism’s strategies is to isolate us from each other in order to break down the intimate bonds of social life.

As a consequence of the government’s denial of its own responsibility—and of its decision to make violence the central means for deterring dissent—two increasingly more exclusive and opposed rival groups have been identified as the political crisis has progressed.

As one of those interviewed said: “The country is extremely divided, it seems like a great trench.” This trench separates the pro-government group, which talks of a failed coup d’état promoted by terrorists, from the self-styled blue and white group, which joins together a diversity of expressions opposing the government and demanding democracy, justice and other ways of doing politics.

Polarization in Masaya:
“already a pressure cooker”

According to data from the National Development Institute t (INIDE), 71.52% of the 178,835 people in the municipality of Masaya were urban in 2016.
Between July and August 2019 we interviewed key players and residents. No government officials, governing party militants or pro-government actors made themselves available for interviews.

A police State was in force at the time this report was written, imposing very tight control over the public’s everyday interactions, significantly affecting existing social ties and thus preventing the exercise of fundamental rights and guarantees established in the Constitution. It also promotes social polarization and distrust between citizens.

In Masaya, the conflict had its roots in the power management model developed by the FSLN government in the last ten years. This model centralized both national and municipal power in the executive branch in Managua.

Manuel Ortega Hegg, a leading national expert in municipalism, considers that the FSLN’s return to government in 2007 reversed important progress achieved in municipal autonomy in previous years. The loss of autonomy increased during the party’s second term in office (2012-2016), after gaining an absolute majority in the National Assembly with the 2011 elections. According to those interviewed for this research, the public failed to demand accountability for years: “we let it pass,” “the people let it pass,” “it was like a pressure cooker, bound to explode at some point”... These encapsulate the absence of a sufficiently critical spirit toward the abuse of power and corruption.

We observe that the Masaya interviewees’ rejection of this management model was increasing in recent years. They opposed the corruption, lack of municipal autonomy and electoral fraud. Special mention was made of abstentionism in the 2016 presidential elections as a clear expression of social discontent.

There had already been divisions even among FSLN members themselves about the Managua-imposed candidacy of Orlando Noguera for mayor of Masaya in the 2017 municipal elections. Noguera had already been mayor of Masaya (2005 – 2008) and the FSLN political secretary in the department of Masaya (2009 -2012), an important power position.

Noel Gallegas, Masaya correspondent for La Prensa newspaper, reported in his 2017 articles about criticisms of Noguera’s reelection due to his governing style: imposing his decisions and not dialoguing. A march of FSLN members in Masaya opposing his mayoral candidacy in the 2012 elections was successful, but the party imposed him in 2017. One of his main conflicts as mayor was with tradespeople in the local market, which was finally resolved not by him but by Fidel Moreno, from the Managua mayor’s office, which shows both the centralization of municipal power in Managua and the limits of Noguera’s governing skills. Those interviewed told us this centralization meant “shunting aside very valuable people,” “key people who could do important things for the town,” “critical local leaders” “We saw the authoritarianism.”

April 2018: “hate agendas”

Our research also identified the deteriorated social coexistence in recent years. We can describe it as the transition from a relatively peaceful, though not democratic, coexistence to one with polarization, political stigmatization and violence.

Apprehension and fear already existed in Masaya before the social-political explosion of April 2018: “They had us very scared, but we coexisted,” said an interviewee about the political surveillance officials and party members already exercised over the general public.

Local leaders think the discourse of the political authorities, mainly the Vice President, fosters a “hate campaign” because it stigmatizes and creates two conflicting poles in the general public. They also believe this campaign results from “the fear of losing power.”

References to “hate” in the government’s discourse command attention. The Vice President insists that the protests beginning on April 18, 2018, were promoting “hate agendas,” but the government’s own discourse has been the main vehicle for disseminating the term “hate” in the national political arena, and throughout the FSLN govern¬ment’s decade, not just since April. An early demonstration in August 2008 was “those praying against hate,” ordinary women and men sent by the government to stand in Managua’s traffic circles for weeks wearing t-shirts that said: “Love is stronger than hate” and carrying signs saying that hate had to be eradicated from the country. Already in that year any expression criticizing the gover¬ment’s authoritarianism was defined as hate.

“Targeting the elderly was
like hitting a wasp’s nest”

In Masaya the protests began peacefully on April 19 in the central park. Even so, they were violently repressed by police, municipal workers and Sandinista Youth members, according to the report of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI). The demonstrators retreated to the city’s indigenous neighborhood of Monimbó where they put up the first barricades and appeared with the first homemade mortars.

Those interviewed agreed that the massive protests arose as an act of solidarity with “los abuelos,” the grandparents, and rejection of the state and para-state violence against them. “The determining factor that united the people of Masaya was seeing them beat up the elderly [on the previous evening in Managua when they protested the government’s announced 5% cut in their pensions]. From that moment, everyone went onto the streets. An old man from Monimbó showed up with his head soaked in blood. The elderly are sacrosanct and Monimbó is a tribe. You touch one elderly person and you touch everyone. People poured out onto the streets. Sandinista leanings didn’t matter as people with strong Sandinista convictions came out too, since none of us agreed with how they were treating the elderly. It was like they hit a wasps’ nest and the whole swarm came after them.”

This agrees with what a young Masaya woman told Confidencial journalist Anagilmara Vílchez: “How is it possible that the government sends leaders from its own mayor’s office to overshadow the people? Old folks came behind us in the march and we began to see Sandinista Youth beating one of the old men. Touching the elderly was the last straw for us; we could no longer remain silent.”

Social energy was activated in rejection of that aggression. Although a deep-seated rejection of the obstruction of civil and political rights and of violence underlay the protests, the main detonator was the emotional bond with the elderly.

The following day,
“abusing the kids”

The state violence increased the next day, April 20. The police went from using rubber bullets and tear gas to using firearms. The highest level of violence was recorded in the neighborhoods of Monimbó, San Miguel and Fátima. The first four deaths occurred between the night of the 20th and the early morning of April 21, all young people: José Abraham Amador (17), Álvaro Gómez Montalván (23), Jairo Mauricio Hernández (23) and Javier López (24).

The violence exerted by the state and para-state security forces was the second motive for the people of Masaya to increase the protests. In the interviews, they talked about “abusing the kids,” a very important motive to under¬standing the escalation of the political conflict. From rebelling against a specific measure—amendments to social security that particularly but not only affected the elderly—the rebellion was now against the total disrespect for the lives of those who protested. By then, the Catholic Church and Edwin Román, the parish priest of Monimbo’s San Miguel Church, were already seen as protectors of the demonstrators’ lives, as were others priests. Thus the church and shortly afterwards the Nicaraguan Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ANPDH) began to be considered shields of support and solidarity against those considered responsible for the conflict: security forces, municipal and national authorities, and members of the FSLN.

“That horrible day was eternal”

In line with the discourse of the national government, the municipal authorities denied the existence of an open rebellion by the population. We discussed this with relevant actors from the municipality who had participated in meetings in Masaya with Police Commissioner Ramón Avellán, local coordinator of the para-state groups.

Without exception, they all confirmed that Avellán consistently denied the existence of social protests, discrediting those who protested. When the media approached him, he argued that those who protested were layabouts and gang members, drunks and drug addicts. “They are druggies” he once said visibly irritated, without further explanation.

Confidencial journalist Maynor Salazar documented the uprising of Masaya’s citizens and verified that they had erected up to 200 barricades in the first days of June. On June 18 their leaders demanded the resignation of the President and Vice President and announced the formation of a national salvation junta composed of members of various sectors that would function as a provisional government.

State and para-state violence persisted until mid-July. On July 17 the government implemented Operation Cleanup in Masaya, an armed operation that lasted more than seven hours, “cleaning” the city of the barricades and other barriers. The attack was especially violent against the indigenous community of Monimbó, leaving at least three dead and dozens injured. “That day was horrible because it was eternal,” a young university student told us.

The GIEI investigation concluded that in Masaya “there was disproportionate use of force during the repression of public protests.” Confidencial journalist Wilfredo Miranda took statements from Avellán days before that endless day: “The order from our President and Vice President is to clean the streets of those barriers and we will comply, whatever the cost!”

“A terrible fear every day,
every night, all the time”

State violence against the social discontent greatly increased the conflict’s magnitude, producing division in all areas of social relationships: families, neighborhoods, communities and organizations.

Those interviewed said this conflict had revived others from the past, reopening many wounds. They frequently said the organizational ability demonstrated in Monimbó and the barricades they erected reminded them of Masaya’s insurrectional struggle against the Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s, and the family divisions of today made them recall their experience in the 1980s war. “I thought this division would never happen again in Nicaraguan society,” one interviewee sadly commented.

People held the entire state structure responsible for the conflict. They said the central government, the mayor, governing party members, municipal workers and members of the Sandinista Youth all got involved in controlling the protest and denouncing the protestors. They identified no state institution that had not participated in the conflict or had taken a position independent of the government. On talking about those responsible, one interviewee refused to describe the FSLN as a political party, insisting instead on defining it as “a political sect responsible for cultivating hatred of those not sharing their way of thinking.”

Polarization and social division are rife all over the municipality. Social links are specially affected in social and political organizations.

State violence has instituted a climate of distrust and fear experienced daily: “What we have experienced has been very hard and is still hard because of everything that has happened. You live with a terrible fear, every day, every night, all the time. You don’t know when the police will come to your house.” Violence is a factor in polarization, establishing a marked division between aggressors and victims. Distrust and fear inhibit social interactions and the possibilities of dialoguing and resolving conflicts.

The police State:
“They’re everywhere”

The installation of a police State is a factor that blocks cohesion and reinforces social polarization. The social control it is based on blocks all efforts to reconnect social links. Without changing the power management model, there would be no capacity to enhance social cohesion and the social organizations and actors would have difficulty working together.

Our investigation found no possibilities of returning to the coexistence model prior to April 2018. This is even more complex in Monimbó. Those interviewed agree that the levels of anguish and social fragmentation are greater there. The atmosphere in Monimbó was described as one of “anxiety” and “humiliation.” People said: “They’re everywhere, on your block, in the next house. There’s a horrible control over the country; and a lot of people are suffering health problems because of it. They shouldn’t have treated Monimbó the way they did. It was such a horrible humiliation to dishonor the blood of all those who fell [referring to the people’s struggle against the Somoza dictatorship].”

Masaya is a city,
a people, a community

The existence of close and enduring social links is one of the main factors that strengthens and can continue strengthening social cohesion in the municipality where face to face interactions have always been substantive. Those interviewed refer to Masaya as a mixture of city, people and community.

The concept of community appears both at the cultural and economic level. Culture, work and economy are spheres of social relations that favor such close and lasting interactions. The people interviewed in many sectors of the municipality consider social unity to be most developed in Monimbó.

Cultural expressions such as the patron saint festivities promote the participation of entire families and communities and contribute high levels of organization and coordination. Their preservation over time demands the transmission of knowledge and practices, fostering intergenerational dialogue. Religious practices, especially Catholic ones, also strengthen social ties. Although the interviewees acknowledged the Evangelical practices, they alluded more to the Catholic Church because it favors a “sense of parish.” The Catholic Church plays an important role in organizing and socially cohering the sense of community.

Significant social links are also established around consumption and economic exchange. Masaya is a society that lives from commerce and open-air markets. Those interviewed note that it is a tradition in Masaya to “consume what is produced locally.” In sectors such as handicrafts and hammock-weaving, there is strong family organization and division of labor.

Another factor that bolsters social cohesion is the strong sense of belonging, of forming part of a collectivity. In Masaya there are clear indicators of the feeling that one belongs to a cultural community and also a religious community. It’s expressed in the folklore and becomes especially visible during the patron saint festivals.

Yet another factor that strengthens social cohesion is the existence of shared values. Pain and grief are considered unifying factors in that they provide bonds of solidarity and cooperation with the individuals and families that have suffered them. Solidarity in response to illness or death is mentioned as examples.

1978 and 1990 were moments of
pre-April unity and cooperation

In the interviews we identified three significant moments that provided bonds of solidarity and cooperation. The first was the experience of the people’s struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. The interviewees who alluded to that moment remember the collective effort, the high organizational level that existed then, the solidarity and the cooperation. It all survives in the memory of those who lived it 40 years ago and felt it reactivated in the 2018 protests.

The second moment was the transition period in the 1990s. It was a decade in which internationally financed social projects were designed for the municipality’s vulnerable and unprotected: “We organized a community and I feel we succeeded in uniting the people of that sector. That life project is still there, and the preschool now has nearly 100 little girls”

Those experiences indicate the existence of organizational and social management capabilities, as well as knowledge of the needs and priorities of the municipality’s populations. The existence of self-managed cooperation networks with the capacity to function in socioeconomic contexts is a reality in Masaya.

Today the projects that emerged back then no longer have any support from either the central or municipal administration, much less the international funding that flowed in during those postwar years. They now demand the beneficiary population’s involvement and create a climate of cooperation that enhances cohesion. And once the project is functioning, the social union remains as a legacy and a learning experience. As one interviewee said: “It was a really nice task and there’s the project; people have had it for a long time now and it’s something that has brought people together”

“Everyone put in what they could”

The third moment of outstanding solidarity ties and cooperation is the political conflict that began in April 2018. Without exception, the individuals interviewed commented on the solidarity as one of the most important elements of the protests in Masaya.

The preexisting solidarity and cooperation were activated to ensure protection of the people under attack by the state and para-state forces. With the increase in violence and the official siege, the solidarity grew, as did the networks of cooperation, all on behalf of the collective needs: supplying food, water and gas; warning of attacks and treating the wounded. “Everyone supported with what they could,” as one interviewee described it to us. Just like the confraternities that organize the patron saint festivals the family, community and also cultural networks of cooperation and management went into action to defend the population. All this awoke an “us,” a factor that enormously boosts cohesion.

Notwithstanding the self-convoked nature of the protests, the already existing social links plus the emerging neighborliness of the moment favored rapid organizing to cope jointly with the problems that by April 20 were already uniting a good part of the population: how to protect themselves from the armed attacks and defend themselves from the pillaging.

“There had been no preparation; there was just solidarity, neighborliness. People said: give me 20 pesos so I can go buy gunpowder for the mortars [homemade devices that mainly made a lot of noise]. And in a matter of seconds they had collected 20, 50, even 100 pesos.”

The decision to erect barricades in the city illustrates the level of social union achieved. It was made in meetings of neighbors who saw the barricades as a protest measure and also as a means of defense against pillaging and theft. On June 1, Confidencial journalist Maynor Salazar wrote that a group of citizens met in Masaya’s central park to form self-defense groups for each barrio and each block. The objective was to defend themselves from the mobs that were stealing under the protective eye of the police. That night no incident was reported.

“The public distrusts anything
to do with the government”

The majority of those interviewed said they knew of no government processes underway aimed at reconstructing the social ties and dialogue in Masaya.

One person mentioned peace commissions promoted by the central government in different parts of the country, and noted that according to the official discourse hundreds are already functioning. “There’s a strong sense of distrust here regarding anything to do with the government, including any municipal government official, independent of where they are in the hierarchy, right down to municipal workers who repair the streets, since it’s known that personnel of the mayor’s office participated in the repression of the protests.” The distrust even extends to the handicrafts fairs promoted by the government in recent months in the Masaya Artisan Market.

This was the explanation of one interviewee: “The people are resentful and anguished.” That individual and collective anguish, the police State, the daily jumpiness it produces and the fact that the conflict has not ended all make it difficult to think about a peaceful transformation and about meeting to dialogue. It is hard to work on the idea of conflict transformation when people have relatives who were murdered, imprisoned, exiled, harassed and even forcibly disappeared. This focuses people’s energies on individual, family and community survival.

The process of reconstructing the former social ties with community members who took the other side is seen as a later moment in the current conflict. One interviewee mentioned that it’s neither a priority nor even viable at this point. But he added that it’s necessary to start now to prepare for that process and adequately conceptualize it. Two interviewees mentioned that the holding of democratic elections would play a fundamental role in advancing to a culture of dialogue.

“Nothing can be done right now,
the conditions aren’t there”

Despite the difficulty of undertaking processes aimed at fostering a culture of dialogue, some efforts to recover the work dynamic Masaya had before April 2018 are noted. They are not about dialogue, but rather about coexisting despite the differences, accepting each other, uniting in their pain.

The price of this unity is to keep quiet, as we were told by one interviewee who is dedicating her efforts to reuniting the members of her community: “If the cost of us maintaining unity is not to discuss political issues, then that’s what we have to do.”

Some members of civil organizations say they are willing to participate in fostering a culture of dialogue, but think “it will depend on the reconstruction context proposed in the country as a whole, and that still hasn’t happened.”

They also mentioned that organizations that had long worked in the municipality and could have contributed to a dialogue process were destroyed either before the conflict or in its wake. “They broke them up,” said one interviewee regarding the independent women’s organizations. “That one is riddled,” said another woman when we asked about Monimbó’s Council of Elders. “In the context we’re living in right now it’s not possible. If there were a concerted, articulated, consensual context, perhaps, but right now the conditions don’t exist; there are valid people and organizations, but they can’t do anything right now.” It is an opinion that synthesizes the general sentiment.

“Whom can you turn to?
Only the Church”

The most frequently mentioned social actor for promoting a peaceful culture of dialogue is the Catholic Church. The interviewees all see the Church as having played a positive and relevant role from the outset of the crisis by opening their doors to, supporting and attending to the victims of the violence.

The priest most often mentioned was Edwin Román, who is seen as a leader and a figure who brings people together. Other priests also mentioned are those from the parishes of San Jerónimo, San Sebastián and la Magdalena. Some interviewees, when speaking of the Church, referred to it not as an institution, but as a community. This suggests that priests aren’t the only ones to play an important role in the work of conflict transformation. Catholic laypeople are also seen as having a role to play. From this perspective, the Church could function as an arena for encouraging trust, a coming together and convergence. It would also be “an arena for people to get things off their chest because they can express themselves here, and have even done picketing.”

The relevance of the Catholic Church as a space of protection and support emerged in large measure as an alternative to the nonexistent institutional protection. State institutions such as the Ministry of Health, noted for its denial of medical attention to the wounded, thus contributing to the state violence, left the population with no defense. “For me the Church was very important because you couldn’t turn to the police, the municipal government, or even the courts or firefighters. There was no one. Whom could you turn to? Only to your moral figure, your religious figure, the Church”.

The released prisoners
and the community

The second most relevant social actors are the released political prisoners. They are considered symbols of resistance and new leaders with moral authority. For that reason they could play a significant role in social cohesion and promoting a culture of dialogue. Two specific individuals were named as new leaders who could contribute in the future. One interviewee also mentioned the human rights organizations, particularly the ANPDH, as outstanding actors.

The community per se also appears as a fundamental protagonist in fostering a culture of dialogue and conflict transformation. Values of solidarity, cooperation, support in adverse situations, and organizational and administrative capacity on behalf of the common good are linked to the concept of community. The experience shared in April, when people united and collaborated in the defense and care of life, is promising. It is useful to consider the concept of community as a protagonist and a living and central actor in any future effort.

The wounds are not yet healed

“People are still resentful, in pain; it’s like having a wound you can’t disinfect, can’t take antibiotics or even suture so it can heal; so it’s difficult for dialogue to be a real process.” Effectively, as long as no panorama of national work is laid out it’s hard for local social actors to put themselves at risk attempting to generate dialogue.

The current conflict offers an unprecedented opportunity to work on the present wounds and on those of the past that have not been sufficiently healed, and to learn to construct another type of social bond. The effectiveness of this opportunity requires a detained and constant measuring of the political times to push for processes that generate reparative and democratizing results.

This does not imply immobility in the meantime. While propitious conditions are being generated for open dialogue, efforts have to be directed to revitalizing and capitalizing organizations committed to democratization and justice in the municipality.

Despite the prevailing distrust, the existing sense of community, solidarity and cooperation constitutes a valuable input for cohesion to take hold, displacing social polarization. The distrust encouraged by the violence can impose itself temporarily, but in Masaya strong and enduring social bonds exist to which its residents can turn.

The hopes of April
need societal invesment

The massive participation of the citizenry in the social protests were the condensation of a spirit in favor of democratization and justice in Masaya. It unquestionably constitutes an opportunity for a change in the traditional political culture. But we must not forget that at other moments in the recent past, significant changes have also occurred in Nicaragua, yet the traditional culture ended up winning out.

Sustained formation and reflection processes will be needed for the collective construction of a substantive democracy and, above all, the configuring of a future in which life lived in dignity can become a sustainable reality. The hope that April awoke in the youth requires a social investment in the construction of that democracy and that future.

Excerpts from the study ““Factores que favorecen la cohesión o la polarización social en Nicaragua” (Factors that favor social cohesion or polarization in Nicaragua), particularly its chapter on Masaya. The investigation was conducted in seven municipalities in July and August 2019 by the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Managua’s Central American University (UCA). This article was compiled and edited by envío.

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