The journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro (Managua, 1955), director of The confidential and last Ortega y Gasset journalism award, he returned to do the job that he has carried out all his life, but the virulent reaction of Daniel Ortega extended a hunt against 21 leaders of the political, social and journalistic opposition that also hit his family and that they have forced him into a new exile. His sister, the presidential candidate who led the polls, Cristiana Chamorro, is detained and isolated at home and just a few hours after this interview the arrest of another brother Pedro Joaquín, also the son of the historic journalist who caused the uprising against Somoza, was announced. . From his exile in Costa Rica, Carlos Fernando answered El PAÍS by telephone to say that he had to leave Nicaragua to continue doing journalism.
Question: Where is this strategy going? What does Daniel Ortega have in mind with this wave of mass arrests?
Answer: The objective is to make a display of force so as not to leave any doubt of its purpose: to close the political space, close the political competition and close the possibility of being overwhelmed by civic protest, because they have not only eliminated candidates who would be competitors in an election , they are eliminating leaders related to the 2018 protest movement.
P. Among those detained this month are the military, civil society, journalists, candidates … Is the message ‘I dominate the country’?
R. It is a message to society, to political leaderships, to the business sector, to the leadership of the Catholic Church and to the people in general of terror. At the same time a message to the international community. To the United States, the Organization of American States and the European Union. Basically Ortega is saying: “We are already in 2022”. In other words, the November elections will not be fair, or transparent, nor will there be political competition, but, in any case, we will speak after November 7 (date of the elections), about these 21 hostages and the other 120 political prisoners that we have. . That is, Ortega assumed the costs of the dictatorship and the cost of the April 2018 massacres that continue to go unpunished and that are part of the hole that Ortega, his wife Rosario Murillo and the ruling leadership entered. Ortega confirms that his regime is forcibly screwing itself to power and is preparing for the reactions of the national and international community, for which he has captured those hostages.
P. Ortega has scorned the mediation attempts of Spain, Mexico and Argentina. Will you want to do it with the United States?
R. Yes, but the negotiation will be after his re-election, now he wants to send this message of power and for this he needs the detainees. Ortega is not thinking of nationalizing the economy or imposing a model such as Cuba or Venezuela, his model continues to be a political dictatorship with a market, a political dictatorship with a business sector not only Nicaraguan, but also regional that adapts to that dictatorship regime politics, and that is the message it wants to send, towards that we are going and later we will negotiate on the rest. The attempts at mediation by Spain, Argentina and Mexico were despised by the regime, but I also learned that there was a threat from North American diplomacy to open a channel for dialogue with Ortega and he replied: “No, there is nothing to talk about here until after the elections ”. So, the concept of hostages, radicalization and the closure of the political space is not to negotiate anything before November 7. In any case, after his re-election.
P. In 2018 protests took to the streets, but now it seems that fear has triumphed
R. There is a state of total helplessness. There is a massive deployment of heavily armed police patrols, and it is not just about what happened in the last month of arrests, that is, people who take to the streets with a national flag, for example, have been arrested in a preventive manner. There are many examples of this against anyone who expresses a patriotic gesture. The case of Jorge Luis Rugama is documented, who was killed in Trinidad on July 19, 2020 because he shouted: “Viva Nicaragua libre”, and in a caravan of Sandinistas a guy got out of the car and shot him in the head and I kill him. In other words, there is a regime of terror that was not created this month, but has been operating for a long time at the hands of paramilitary forces that persecute and kidnap. It has imposed a state of generalized fear that is now evident in the fact that people are afraid to express their opinions and that independent journalists are locking up our sources or they are fleeing into exile to protect themselves.
P. With this strategy, what does Ortega have in mind, to prevent an electoral defeat like the one in 1990 or the riots of 2018?
R. Clearly 2018. What is present is the rebellion of the people when they took to the streets and placed them on the brink of a total crisis. Back then people shouted “Ortega and Somoza are the same thing.” In other words, the electoral fraud machinery was not invented now, Ortega prepared to never lose an election, but what Ortega said the other day was: “What I am repressing, what I will never allow is that the people take back the streets ”, that is the message that he is sending.
P. The international community has been despised in its mediation attempts, who can influence Ortega?
R. No one from the Latin American democratic left, including Lula, has an interest in building a bridge of influence or communication over Ortega. There is an ideological coincidence with Cuba and Venezuela, but what Ortega considers the real power is the United States, and that is the primary relationship for him.
P. Does Ortega’s seem like a suicidal strategy or is there something we don’t see?
R. Ortega is playing tough and his strategy is day-to-day, short-term, and win in November. What comes next? The only thing that can rebuild his way of governing is to rebuild the alliance with capital and the private sector, and that seems to me to be one of the biggest mistakes he is making with generalized repression. Ortega is burning any possibility of building bridges with the private sector because it is a confrontation and a threat that he is posing to capital for political reasons. It is true that he is not threatening that he is going to confiscate the banks or that he is going to close or that he is going to take over the companies, but what he is telling them is: “This is a country without political viability, without democratic viability.” And I do not think that the private sector, however pragmatic it may be in business matters and with its regional vision, is willing to collaborate. In other words, it is one thing to live with a reality with which they do not want to live and another to give legitimacy to that regime as in fact it was done between 2009 and 2018.
P. Could the Army unbalance the situation?
R. As long as the Army leadership is under the control of General (Julio Cesar) Avilés and the current military leadership, the Army will not lift a finger. In other words, the Army is politically aligned and co-opted by this family dictatorship. I do not see the Army assuming any risk, although institutionally it would have space to do things such as disarm the paramilitaries, that would be to collide head-on with Ortega, who is the head of the paramilitaries, and that is not going to be done by the Army. The Army, I would dare to say, has an attitude very similar to that of big capital and that is that they will not take the initiative in a crisis. Therefore, the Army can not expect anything, at least in the short term in this crisis no.
P. Can you expect a candidacy for unity in the opposition?
R. With the arrest of these five candidates, it is very difficult to think of a hopeful electoral leadership that unifies the nation and the opposition. The first problem is in the Citizens for Freedom party, which is the only party that has legal personality and that could lead a single candidacy.
P. Are you talking about Kitty Monterrey’s right?
R. Yes, because the messages that this party is giving in this crisis do not correspond to the nature of this crisis. It is a crisis of national unity and of the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, and the leader of this party is talking about conflicts between the left and the right in a context that divides.
P. How about the ‘soft landing’ theory that speculates on a quiet handover in power?
R. It seems to me that it became like a myth, a legend, there was never really a negotiation process with the dictatorship. Many false assumptions were made, such as that someone would give Ortega impunity or that the United States is going to negotiate. The truth is that there has never been a negotiation of anything. Electoral reform was never even negotiated with Ortega. There has never been an exchange. The word justice has never been mentioned in a discussion. I believe that they are conjunctures and speculations of analysts and political scientists, but honestly I have never seen a project like this, because that would mean believing that there are forces that are in dialogue or in contact with the dictatorship with a dialogue of the type “I offer this in exchange for what another or this is the route to get there ”. And that has never existed. Honestly, it has never existed.
P. On a personal level, how are you living this second exile? He insists a lot on continuing to do journalism
R. Well, that is the motivation that ultimately moves me to preserve my freedom and go into exile. I returned and honestly the first time I never imagined that I was going to have to go into exile, but I returned with determination, with the conviction that this was my last exile, I would never have to confront this situation again. In any case, my motivation is, in effect, to continue doing journalism and never accept that they can silence us.
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