Original Art by ModoGráfico

Isabela doesn’t know if her son will have a new school year. Two months ago, thirty days before schedule, the school’s administration told her that classes had to end immediately, to avoid inconvenients with the blocked streets and protests filling Managua. The last day, her son received all of his grades and the usual yearbook with pictures of his classmates and teachers. Since then, both she and her son leave the house once a week, to go to the supermarket. “We’re under some kind of house arrest,” she says, her voice broken by uncertainty and fear. “Managua used to be peaceful. These last three months, the situation has intensified, getting unbearable.”

“Managua used to be peaceful. These last three months, the situation has intensified, getting unbearable.”

Nicaragua is ruled by Daniel Ortega’s (and his wife, Rosario Murillo). The man famous for participating in the revolution that toppled Anastasio Somoza has resorted to copying a script from another country: Venezuela. What’s the evidence? Everyday examples: Before his first re-election in 2011, he said before the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Electoral Council that his political rights had been violated, because he couldn’t be president again. Three years after winning, he made the National Assembly, filled it with his cronies and changed the Constitution to scrap the limit on presidential terms. His wife is the creator and manager of the “Juventud Presidente” groups, who used to be made of university students supporting Ortega, now turned into a mixture between loyalists and army and police officers specialized in repressing the opposition.

The only area where Ortega has avoided resembling his Venezuelan counterpart is in the intervention of private companies and their administration — even if this honeymoon might come to an end soon.

How did the country’s collapse begin?

On April 18, Nicaragua’s Social Security Institute announced that they would reduce pensions for the elderly, because they needed to make adjustments in the budget. That measure caused thousands of people to take to Managua’s streets, which in turn prompted the Juventud Presidente groups to meet the protests in a clash that left dozens wounded right in front of the police, who refused to prevent violence. Many protesters were elder citizens accompanied by their children or grandchildren.

“Ortega’s actions have sparked protests in Nicaragua for years,” says Isabela, a resident of Managua for two years, “but everything always ended in relative peace and the country went back to normal. Many of us never imagined that this would be the protest that would unleash the wave of demonstrations and repression.”

“Many of us never imagined that this would be the protest that would unleash the wave of demonstrations and repression.”

She explains that the social divide in the city isn’t as deep as in other Latin American cities. There’s no “East for the wealthy and West for the poor” as in Caracas. At night, residents could pleasantly walk across most sectors without fear of being attacked. Now, at 4:00 p.m. most people are already at home to avoid being arrested by Juventud Presidente patrolling aboard 4×4 trucks. “We’ve come to know these trucks as ‘black wagons.’ Many who get in, never return.”

These trucks are used to block avenues and streets in downtown Managua, claiming that they’re checkpoints for citizen security. Civilians must face hooded strangers carrying long weapons, without any kind of official identification. The Youths are also accompanied by paramilitary groups established in several areas across the country over the last two years, to “protect people’s interests.” They’re the Nicaraguan version of Venezuelan colectivos, and they have support and training with certain sectors of the Armed Forces. Daniel Ortega neither denies nor admits their existence, but he’s asserted in several statements that he has “the necessary human resources” to “stop any foe of the Sandinista revolution”.

With that in mind, the government has created the “Operación Limpieza,” which seeks to quell any riots before July 19, the day the ruling party, the Sandinista Front of National Liberation (FSNL), celebrates Managua’s recovery from Somoza’s grasp, in 1979.

“Through WhatsApp groups, we get reports, images and videos of the operations carried out by paramilitaries and Juventud Presidente, arresting anyone who opposes the government,” says Julio, a Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy activist. “Perhaps the country will look more like Venezuela soon. We already have Citizen Power Councils (CPC) invading land and marking companies and structures that could be expropriated.”

Between April 19 and July 10, 351 people have died in various municipalities of Nicaragua.

With this Operación Limpieza, and according to data collected by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, between April 19 and July 10, 351 people have died in various municipalities of Nicaragua. Managua takes the lead with 162 victims, then comes Masaya with 35, then León with 26 and, lastly, Carazo with 25 (the rest of them in smaller numbers, scattered all around the country). Out of the 351 victims, 289 people have been killed with firearms, 206 were civilians and there have been 2,100 wounded. 261 people are missing, while 269 have been released by the government’s shock troops, thanks to the bona fides of the Catholic Church and the Alliance.

Both institutions have tried to advance negotiations with the government to try and solve the situation peacefully. With images in the press a few weeks ago showing students, civil society institutions, business owners and bishops demanding Daniel Ortega to end repression and fast-track the presidential election scheduled for 2020. However, negotiations have their detractors among Nicaraguans who think that new elections would propose the same scenario of 2016, where Ortega won with 72.44% of votes in a process that didn’t have international observers and was denounced by several national entities as a fraud.

In coming days, fresh protests are expected, along with a national strike from those who don’t want Nicaragua to follow on Venezuela’s bleak footsteps. Or as the song “Nicaragua” by La Vida Bohème says: “I didn’t want this, my country died. I killed it, I killed it. Ironically, it killed me.”

***

DISCLAIMER: Names have been changed to protect the sources.

UPDATE: A previous version of this article mentioned the “Sandinista Youths” groups, when the author was actually referring to “Juventud Presidente” groups. The terms were corrected and the article has been updated.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. Reaming me again how awesome socialism is?

    I can never fathom the reasons why so many societies adopt this concept and then act surprised when it begins to grow out of control.

    Repatriation/conscription of private industry in 5… 4… 3… 2…

    • Nicarauga did not adapt socialism, nothing like Venezuela anyway. Ortega used to be a Marxist, but in his long reign back in power he has been relatively hands off the private sector (unless a company threatened his hold or didn’t go along with his wishes). That’s a main reason why it’s not a total cesspool of misery like Venezuela.

      He did, of course, rule like an authoritarian and turned his country into a de factor dictatorship.

  2. The man famous for participating in the revolution that toppled Anastasio Somoza has resorted to copying a script from another country: Venezuela…. His wife is the creator and manager of the “Sandinista Youth” groups, who used to be made of university students supporting Ortega, now turned into a mixture between loyalists and army and police officers specialized in repressing the opposition.

    No, Rosario Murillo is NOT the creator of Sandinista Youth. That would be Gonzalo Carrión, nearly 4 decades ago. The Wiki article has a link to an interesting article about Gonzalo Carrión in La Prensa.

    The use of regime mobs, a.k.a. “turbas divinas” (divine mobs), to intimidate the opposition was a tactic that the Sandinistas used in the 1980s.Tomás Borge obituary.

    As interior minister he controlled the police and state security, the latter created with advice from the Cubans and East Germans. He also organised the so-called turbas divinas or “divine mobs” that harassed the regime’s political opponents.

    The Sandinistas copied the turbas divinas from the Somoza regime, whose mobs were called Nicolasa as Nicolasa Sevilla was the initial leader of those regime mobs.

    The Nationalist Liberal Party organized women into two groups: suffragettes and women from the elite were placed into the Women’s Wing (Ala Feminina), poor and working class women – who often benefited from Somoza’s “populist” policies and were therefore ready to defend the dictatorship)– were used to attack the regime’s opponents. They acted as a substitute to the infamous National Guard(Guardia Nacional). Under the leadership of Nicolasa Sevilla, these women were organized into shock groups, violently attacking Somoza’s opponents with complete impunity. The regime claimed it did not “control” these women and washed its hands of their actions. This same dynamic had been repeated in recent years by other political parties.

    It could be said that El Finado’s use of colectivos imitated the Sandinista’s turbas divinas from the 1980s.

    What is different today from the turbas divinas of the 1980s is killing of oppo members. IIRC, the turbas divinas didn’t kill at the rate of Nicaragua in 2018. Did that “innovation” come from the Cubans, or from the Venezuelans?

    Speaking of youth organizations in Nicaragua, I picked up an interesting fact from reading Quién es Quién en Nicaragua (~1986) : Sergio Ramírez, a writer who was Nicaragua’s Vice President from 1985-1990 during the first Sandinsta time in power, was in his youth a leader in Juventud Somocista. The author of Quién es Quién en Nicaragua predicted that, given his history, Sergio Ramírez would eventually leave the Sandinistas. The prediction was correct.

    • Mr. Tejando, thanks for the reply. You’re right, the Sandinista Youths were created decades ago. Its just that nowadays, most of nicaraguans believe that this groups are the “master idea” of Rosario Murillo, because of the fearce control that she projects over them.

    • Good comment Boludo.

      “The regime claimed it did not “control” these women and washed its hands of their actions.”

      I am thinking of Lina Ron and La Piedrita.

      In any case, I don’t think that either Venezuela or Nicaragua are copying the other, or are behind or ahead of the other. They are very different countries with very different political dynamics. What they do have in common is Cuban “Advisors”.

      Cuba is the source of this plague in Latin America. If (huge IF!) the U.S. and LatAm decide to intervene, they should consider making it a clean sweep and include the principle source of this collective misery.

      • As El Finado’s alliance with Castro came well before any alliance with Ortega, it makes sense that any similarities between Chavista and Sandinista governance passed through the Cuban filter. So that after reviewing turbas divinas in Nicaragua and the equivalent in Cuba, Cuban advice led to the institutionalization of colectivos in Venezuela. And there ARE such mobs in Cuba. I just forgot their names.

        As long as Cuban military and intelligence operatives are free to roam in Venezuela, Chavismo will remain in power.

        Given the similarities between the Cuban and Venezuelan accents ( at least for me), Cuban operatives are harder to identify in Venezuela than they are in Nicaragua. I have read reports of Cuban operatives in Nicaraguan prisons in the 1980s.

  3. An excellent article, and thanks.

    However, if I had to make a point of order, it’d be that if anything, Venezuela’s the one going down the Sandinista/Castroite road to tyranny. Ortega isn’t some new blood tyrant like Chavez was coming in. He also terrorized Venezuela before.

    And he’s heir to the toxic political struggle that ravaged Nicaragua for this past century and the bloody label of Sandinista going all the way back to Augusto Ceasar Sandino himself. (I don’t love the Somozoas to say the least, but I do think they were a lot less horrible than that monster.

    And given all the cripe they did, THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING!).

    The Castros and Guzman helped import Soviet style tyranny to the Western hemisphere, but it was in Nicaragua that it merged with the old Sandinista urge and justifiable anger at the Somozoa dynasty tyranny to get what we see here. And if anything Chavez was cribbing from their boosk.

    Still, that is a minor point.

    Stay safe, Sr. Diaz.

  4. Awesome photo shop job! If only you could work Fidel’s face onto the book cover.

    “Dictatorship for Dummies” would also have worked.

  5. People starving….zoo animals starving…but you better not complain about it or we will arrest you!

  6. On April 18, Nicaragua’s Social Security Institute announced that they would reduce pensions for the elderly, because they needed to make adjustments in the budget.

    As I previously posted, Chavista “cooperation” to Nicaraguan has declined by some $600 million from 2012-2017. Thus the need for budget adjustments. page 15.

    Not a big surprise: Nicaraguan torture victims say Venezuelan and Cuban accents have been heard in prisons. Cuban accents were definitely heard in Nicaraguan prisons in the 1980s. See Roberto Czarkowski’s De Polonia a Nicaragua,

    Thanks for the “Juventud Presidente” update.

    • Great, enlightening comments Boludo! Thanks for posting here. I’ve been unable to track down Czarkowski’s book. If you have any idea where I could get a pdf, photocopy or an original copy, please contact me via my website, http://www.cliftonross.com. In any case, I hope to be in touch in the future to pick your brain about various subjects. Thanks and keep posting!

      • I have never seen De Polonia a Nicaragua for sale at Amazon. At one time I made a photocopy, but I no longer have it. Reading that book did it for me for the Sandinistas- arresting at the border a Polish national with a valid visa, on suspicion of belonging to Solidarity. Not good.

        Go to OCLC World Cat which is the Big Daddy of library catalogs. And I DO mean big Daddy.

        Find items in libraries near you

        Type in de polonia a nicaragua.

        Click on Search Books

        You will see ~30 choices.

        Click on the top choice. Click on De Polonia a Nicaragua, by Robert Czarkowski .That is, click on the title.

        After clicking, at the bottom part of the page you will see Find a copy in the library and also Enter location.

        There are 33 copies of De Polonia a Nicaragua in US libraries.

        As far as I can tell, Advanced Search doesn’t give you the capability of finding out which libraries have a book.

        If the Hathi Trust had De Polonia a Nicaragua completely available whom it granted access, I imagine you could find someone at UCB to get an electronic copy for you. Hathi basically grants access to those with ties to colleges or universities. Unfortunately, Hathi grants only limited access to De Polonia a Nicaragua – still under copyright and all those good things. Ironically, I doubt a new copy of De Polonia a Nicaragua has been sold in 30 years. This is an example of where the copyright law goes bad- for out of print books.

        Assuming you still are in Berkeley, your best access to De Polonia a Nicaragua is to go to UCB- Bancroft Library I believe- and hit the copying machine. Though nowadays, some libraries enable you to make scanned copies to a flash drive without paying anything, as long as you don’t print out copies.

  7. Nicaragua is yet another perfect example of a country (like Venezuela) where the ignorant, poor educated, lazy and shortsighted stupid masses believed that socialism/communism would bring along prosperity and freedom. Sad thing is that socialism/communism ALWAYS does the opposite. IT ALWAYS DESTROYS ANYTHING IT CAN. SOCIALISM AND COMMUNISM ARE TODAY’S CANCERS AND ALWAYS WILL BE. May all socialist and communists die a slow and painful death ASAP!!!

    • Meh. Socialism will always have an audience with the lazy. An in-law moved to Norway about 8 years ago and it was the perfect thing for him. 59 years old, uneducated and worthless as an employee in the US, he has a great life in Norway getting paid top Krone to do nothing.

      Naturally, he thinks the Norsk taxpayer ought to do more to assure his continued happiness… apparently they won’t pay for Xbox games. But all he has to do is unlock a church door twice each week and pick weeds and rocks out of a cemetery. His biggest gripe is that booze is too expensive and the state liquor stores aren’t open all day every day.

      • Ummmm. No. Norway is not a socialist country. Like all Nordic countries it is a liberal democracy with a capitalist economy and social programs administered by the state. Aker. Telenor. Yara. Norsk Hydro. These are just a few of the private sector world-class companies thriving in the Norwegian capitalist economy.

      • No mate, Norway is certainly not a socialist country. It’s a well established democracy, very much capitalist and has a thriving economy which happens to be run by very capable people. They have a couple of oil fields and a little bit of natural gas but unlike “Socialist” Venezuela they did manage their wealth very well. So much so that they’ve ran out of ideas what the fuck to do with all that cash (estimated around €900 billion). And believe me they bought pretty much everything they really wanted worldwide. 5 million well educated Norwegians will live a very comfortable life.

        • @Duncanvd Agreed there. Norway isn’t socialist, though that hasn’t stopped dishonest hawkers like Sanders from claiming it.

          “So much so that they’ve ran out of ideas what the fuck to do with all that cash (estimated around €900 billion). ”

          But THEN you ask if they can scale up the Forsvaret for something that could be used for large scale offensive Bear (or Jihadist_ hunting and suddenly they get a lot quieter about having so much money.

          Granted, I don’t mean to rag on the Norwegians too hard. Their shtick in NATO is a lot better than many others (like Germany). But it is unfortunate.

          • People often point toward Norway and the other Scandinavian countries to say, “See? Socialism works!”

            Firstly, these are not primarily socialist economies. They are market driven economies with very extensive social safety nets.

            Having lived in the region, my observation is that their brand of socialism functions only because they have a very culturally homogeneous society. There are social peer pressures that prevent the benefits from being abused so badly that the system collapses.

    • “…where the ignorant, poor educated, lazy and shortsighted stupid masses believed that socialism/communism would bring along prosperity and freedom.”

      I actually don’t think that they ever believed that. I think that they just thought they could get a lot of free stuff at the expense of the middle and upper classes, whom they hate and resent.

    • @Duncanvd ” Nicaragua is yet another perfect example of a country (like Venezuela) where the ignorant, poor educated, lazy and shortsighted stupid masses-”

      I might give you ignorant and shortsighted.

      But for most of recent history Nicaragua’s been an agricultural country. And while I may utterly hate the Sandinista movement and its adherents back to Sandino himself, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that a subsistence or commercial soil tiller is lazy.

      And as for poor educated….. it’s worth noting how the creame of the Sandinistas and other Communist/Socialist groups tended to be educated elites. Because there really are some thing sso stupid only the highly educated can believe in them.

      • “Because there really are some thing sso stupid only the highly educated can believe in them.”

        Great line! I might have to steal it. 🙂

        • @Roy Thanks, but it isn’t really mine. It’s a paraphrase of Russell.

          “This is one of those views which are so absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.”

  8. 15 minutes ago the doorbell rang and there stood a drop-dead gorgeous young Venezuelan woman, about 25. She stuck out her left breast and proudly pointed to the “Renewal by Andersen” Logo on her golf shirt.

    Long story short, she wanted to do a free estimate for replacing the windows in my house. God, I hated to say no!
    Please! Send more refuges like her to the Boston area!

    • Her (presumably) augmented breasts were subsidized for the Chavista regime, who deemed breast enhancement a health issue and not cosmetic surgery. Many Venezuelan women took advantage, of all social classes.

      Just another insane populist program of many that led to the misery and penury of today.

  9. Same “vicious road” as Kleptocubazuela: Abysmal lack of real education, Galactic Corruption everywhere, at all levels. Simple as that.

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