Rhetoric and Gunpowder: Ortega’s Weaponry Against Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega celebrates the 39th anniversary of the triumph of the Sandinista revolution with a violent speech and many casualties.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega addresses supporters as Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez applauds during an event to mark the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista victory over President Somoza in Managua, Nicaragua July 19, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Photo: Reuters retrieved

Rhetoric is a common weapon for Daniel Ortega, and in these last three months, with over 350 people dead and thousands wounded due to the protests seeking to topple his government, the “President – Commander” has given no quarter in his discourse blaming the United States, the Catholic church and the Civic Alliance as the only culprits of the crisis sweeping over Nicaragua. On July 19, the celebration of the 39th anniversary of the sandinista revolution triumph, Ortega and his wife (the Vice-President – Companion) surrounded by supporters in Managua, continued sowing the path of confrontation by claiming that: “the revolution will win, no one will stop us.

Ortega and his wife (…) continued sowing the path of confrontation by claiming that: “the revolution will win, no one will stop us.”

While Ortega took “a shower of masses,” Masaya inhabitants keep pleading for help after hordes made up of paramilitaries and members of Sandinista Youths violently took over the city on July 18. Yet another goal of the “Operación Limpieza”, aimed at anyone who opposes the government party, the Sandinista Front of National Liberation, at all costs. Since the protests started, Masaya has become Nicaragua’s dissident bastion. Its inhabitants ousted the mayor, an Ortega ally, and installed a self-government demanding central authorities to hold new presidential elections and to arrest president Ortega along with his followers. Entrenched in the streets and armed with molotov bombs and slings, Masaya citizens don’t allow the national police and the military to enter the city.

On social networks and through text messages, we saw how Masaya turned into a battlefield, where its inhabitants, scared of paramilitary groups, recorded videos from inside their homes evidencing the city’s hostile takeover. Dozens of 4×4 trucks drove through the streets trampling on the barricades that fill Masaya; aboard them were hooded men, armed with long weapons, attacking those brave enough to face them. “Look! Look what they’re using to kill us!”, yelled a hooded youngster at the cameras of an international TV team, his hands holding ammunition shells from assault rifles used by the Nicaraguan army. “Please! We need you to come. To help us. Masaya is free, and we’ll defend it!”, said the youngster before running off before the paramilitaries show up.

“It’s the bishops, the Catholic church, complicit with dissidents trained from Washington, the ones responsible for the violence in our country. We’re peaceful people, we’re a peaceful revolution, but we are ready to defend our ideals with whatever it takes,” said Ortega during a speech in Managua on July 19. By his side, Rosario Murillo cheered for him and hugged him.

“It’s the bishops, the Catholic church, complicit with dissidents trained from Washington, the ones responsible for the violence in our country”.

The Catholic church has taken serious hits during Nicaragua’s crisis. It was precisely in the Church of the Divine Mercy, within the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), where one of the worst incidents took place: on July 14, paramilitary groups tried to take over the university facing students who protested against Ortega’s regime. Many of these students, including a journalist from The Washington Post who was covering the assault on the university, had to take shelter within the church and they had to endure a brutal attack that lasted over 20 hours, resulting in two dead students and dozens of wounded. The students managed to escape the church thanks to the actions of the Civic Alliance and the church.

“As the moral powerhouse we are, we want to create peace everyday,” yelled Rosario Murillo during the celebration of the Sandinista victory. Up until April 28, when the dialogue between the government, the Catholic church and the Civic Alliance started, this woman boasted her catholic beliefs and her devotion for bishops. Now, at the turn of the tide, she’s veered her discourse toward the country’s evangelicals, who have expressed their support for Ortega. Meanwhile, institutions such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU), far from rosaries and prayers, have issued statements supporting dialogue in Nicaragua and demanding an end to violence.

And thus, with the kickback of what’s been a day-by-day fight for survival, many Nicaraguans remember that 39 years ago, Somoza fled Managua, fled to avoid falling in the hands of thousands of people who demanded his head. A flight that Ortega recalled on July 19 and arrogantly used to give a strong and clear message to his detractors: “I won’t run away, I’m staying here, fighting in my country.”

Will his words prove to be true?