Jacinto Suarez one of the most influential figures of the Sandinista movement, puts the responsibility for the coup against the FSLN on the oligarchy, the US government, and drug traffickers. The president of the Foreign Relations Commission of the Nicaraguan Congress justifies the use of paramilitaries and warns that the populace has a right to defend themselves against “the others,” those that demand that President Ortega step down and leave the country.
In Nicaragua, the media that do not belong to the government seem full of voices asking for President Daniel Ortega to leave his post, but there are few Sandinista voices. The responsibility for that falls mainly on the Frente Sandinista and on public officials. They don’t talk to journalists. The official version tends to be only one, given directly by the Vice President through her own media.
For that reason, an interview with Jacinto Suarez, of the most influential man in the FSLN, acquires more importance. Suarez presides over the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Nicaraguan Congress, but he is also the man in change of the international relations of the FSLN Party, and as such, the Sandinista representative to the Sao Paolo Forum.
The connection of Suarez with President Ortega, nevertheless, goes back to their childhood. Both were raised in the same neighborhood of Managua, and Suarez joined the FSLN at age 15. At age 19 he was taken prisoner and shared space with Ortega, until both were liberated in 1974. Then Suarez was given work in the area of international relations.
He served as Vice Chancellor, Chief of Intelligence, ambassador to Moscow, and Executive Secretary of the FSLN General Command. He is close to the afflicted Commander and President of Nicaragua.
Suarez is a man of few words, little body language, but with a commanding voice. He is bothered by what he considers to be an attempted coup not only against Ortega, but also against the Nicaraguan people. Sure of his convictions, he accuses the oligarchy, the US government, and drug traffickers of plotting this conspiracy against the Nicaraguan government and people.
This interview was done in his office. A small house beside the Albanisa headquarters, it is adorned by revolutionary posters and a painting of one of the founders of the Frente, Carlos Fonseca Amador.
How do you all understand this situation?
Today it’s easier to understand the US government participation, and more evident. A few days ago the US ambassador asked the National Police to return the vehicles the US had donated to them. There are now multiple articles that clearly show even exact amounts of money that North American agencies have given here. In the US, some representatives of students from here were received with fanfare. They were received, taken to Washington DC, photographed with the Cuban mafia, etc, etc. Now in El Salvador, they are meeting with ARENA. They were received by the mayor- I can never pronounce his name.
Muyshondt, Ernesto Muyshondt.
Yes, him. In other words, all the places they have been are the most recalcitrant right of the continent. The Cuban American mafia, ARENA, it’s more than evident that the US government is behind this.
Why do you think the US government wants to overthrow the government?
Nicaragua was a bad example. How is it possible that in such a small country, so destroyed by war, that Daniel Ortega takes power and magically this country that was prostrate began to lift itself up and become one of the countries with the most growth in Latin America? Well, when the Left arrived….
And made pacts with private enterprise…
The oligarchy had an agreement with the FSLN to reconstruct Nicaragua, and they began a three-party agreement: workers’ union, government, private enterprise. This made the national economy flower, but at the same time, it was a political obstruction that the business sector wanted to shake off.
The oligarchy and the US government. They imagined a coup like the ones we know about….
But apparently that wasn’t so for many years. The COSEP (Supreme Council of Private Enterprise) and Mr. Jose Adan Aguerri traveled through Latin America every year bragging about the virtues of the agreement with Daniel Ortega. What was the problem?
It was a signal from North America. A few days before April 2018, the US ambassador gave a speech to the business people to be careful of that alliance. There commenced to form a scene in which the oligarchy began to search how to get rid of Daniel Ortega.
Because there was a signal from the US government and that is the decision of the Empire.
Let me question your thesis putting some facts on the table: the private businesses in this country, big business, made themselves rich with that agreement. They were comfortable.
That’s right. But there’s a part I haven’t told you: a lot of money came here from Venezuela. For example, the cattlemen. Do you know that here they sold both live cattle and meat to Venezuela? They had a meeting with Chavez. It was preferential treatment that gave lots of money to the oligarchy. In the case of cattle and meat, that contract closed at the beginning of this year. The contract ran out. Now the cattlemen don’t have that market. They stopped making money as a product of the Venezuelan situation and with it, the alliance they had with the Nicaraguan government. That is key to understanding this. And on the other hand, the new Imperial politics, which is signaling a battle against the progressive governments and the “bad example” of Nicaragua, which must be destroyed. But they made one mistake: that this is a government with a popular base. COSEP as such manages 30% of national production. Do you know who manages the rest?
I suppose the small businesses not in an organization and the informal economy.
The small and medium businesses, daughters of the revolution. So you have an idea of how it is here: when COSEP calls a national work stoppage, 30% of the economy stops. They wanted to add the transport unions but were told NO. Daniel Ortega modernized the system of public transport. So several sectors refuse to stop work. If you ask which unions went on strike, you find out none. The oligarchy and the students that participated in that weren’t enough to overthrow the government. So they resort to terrorist methods like plundering stores to provoke chaos. Then we started the national dialogue, in which Daniel Ortega called the church to mediate.
That seems to have stagnated.
They arrive to demand and don’t give any ground. They want Ortega to leave and they want early elections. We ask them to remove the roadblocks and they won’t. They won’t give anything. We already told them about the Commission of Demands. They asked for the IACHR. They asked for the other one from the UN. We have given them all they have asked for.
You say the oligarchy and the students aren’t enough for a coup, but they aren’t the only ones in this mix. There are other people. We have seen them in Masaya, La Trinidad, Leon, Jinotega, all those people could not easily be considered oligarchy or students from Managua, like the ones at the dialogue table. They are poor country people. Nevertheless, they participate in a revolt demanding that President Daniel Ortega renounce his position. It’s very difficult to see in your thesis of conspiracy even if we validated it, how this is related to what we are seeing on the ground, outside the capital.
Look, there is no worse product of the capitalist system than a right-wing poor person. Do you understand the concept?
The poor right-wing man is the worst product this system can make. Here in Nicaragua, as in other countries, a percentage of voters, here it’s about 30%, that are right-wing and they are poor! There’s quite a few. As in the years of the Contra War, it was poor people that joined. These people don’t accept a leftist government. You all in El Salvador understand that well.
You’re saying those people in Masaya, in Monimbo, are right-wing?
Yes, that’s what I’m saying. And I’ll explain something else. We know Monimbo well, There are 9 street gangs there, local ones.
I have met not just one or two, but many Nicaraguans who tell me openly that they have voted for the FSLN all their lives. Including Sandinista ex-combatants that today demand the president renounce his position.
I’ll explain something else: you understand perfectly well how the media influences our conscience. There is a group that we had on our side that has been influenced by the ferocious campaign against us. That is part of the technique of the coup, and there are people that have been convinced by that. And we also have made mistakes.
What errors do you think you all have committed?
Right now we aren’t going to talk about that. We are first going to get out of this situation and then we will correct our errors. But undoubtedly, there are some.
For example: the deaths of the students. Repressing a protest, justified or not, in which deaths were provoked, isn’t that an error?
Yes, I believe so. But let’s begin: there was a protest. Then they invented a death. That a student had died so they had to return to the streets. There was a second protest in which there were three deaths: one police and two protesters. From there another effect was let loose: the deaths, the deaths, the deaths. There are false deaths and true deaths. We have a lot of deaths on our side, and there are deaths on the other side. What can you tell me about repression when you are getting killed too? Because those protesters are not unarmed and you all know that. Perhaps not the protesters, but for sure those in the roadblocks. Look, when the police entered Masaya there were three killed because they resisted and shot at the police and the police shot back.
Let’s talk about the deaths. Not with the lists of local human rights organizations if you don’t want. The CIDH received a list from the government. There are more than 200 deaths and the majority aren’t police.
Because that’s how they listed them. Look, there were deaths from gunshots that weren’t in the protests. And they were listed as being there.
But this is the list the government gave to the CIDH.
Yes, and there are deaths on the other side too. The government turned over the list. In the Truth Commission they have lots of information of who died in protests and who isn’t even dead. There was one who saw his photo and said “Hey, what are they doing with my photo there?”
There are exceptions, senator. But they are just that – exceptions. The larger part of the national and international entities accuse the police, riot police, and armed state security groups of using excessive force. Paramilitaries. In this all of the national and international organizations coincide except for the Nicaraguan government. Could it be that they are all part of a conspiracy?
The CIDH report is totally biased. It relates many acts listed by the opposition without any type of proof. Here there was a fire in a house started by the same opposition, in which six people died: Tell me, what is the logic? They say that there is a family in a house and the government decides that they have to light it on fire. What do they gain from this? Yes, they had a problem with the people from the roadblocks. They had fought with them on various occasions. And the neighbors saw that the people who entered the house were masked and they said that they were police. The other child was killed by a stray bullet. Why is it necessarily a bullet purposely shot by a policeman?
Because now we have more information about those two cases: in the case of the burned house, one of the survivors has requested protection from the CIDH because it is said that she is threatened by state agents. She says they demanded that they open the door so they could put a sniper on the roof. And that upon their decline they set the house on fire. In the case of the Teyler child…
Right, but whose snipers were they?
The neighbors say that there were police opening the way for masked men. Paramilitaries. Those are the registered facts.
Look, look, look… If you go to the neighborhoods in Managua and encounter roadblocks, ask the neighbors why they put them up. The same neighbors put them up because the media, the television and the radio say that masked police are going around killing people. This is the product of this whole environment. That they say that everyone masked is the police… When actually those who are masked are from both sides.
We have seen videos of cars full of masked men with long weapons entering public institutions. The videos have circulated widely.
And what does it matter that they are entering state institutions? There are people who go undercover and defend themselves with guns. Go to Jinotepe.
These people don’t go around in uniforms or in vehicles identified as being from the government. They go in civilian clothes with long weapons and are accompanied by state forces.
Yes, yes. Because remember that the police don’t have the capacity to cover everywhere. The police stayed in their barracks at the request of the opposition in the national dialogue. And not having police, the people had to defend themselves in their own way. Why are you going to deny their right to defend themselves? When there are places, such as in Carazo or in Masaya, where the opposition is the new law and they do it in their own way. The police in their barracks, and the opposition doing whatever they want. The people have to defend themselves however they can.
But I am telling you that these trucks enter and leave state buildings. Who are these people?
Possibly government workers. Who are in these units to defend themselves, man. Possibly, I say. I haven’t seen the videos. It is a speculation. Don’t take it as a sure affirmation.
There are many videos. Right now there are trucks of police going towards La Trinidad and unidentified trucks going, full of civilians with long weapons. Right now, at this moment, they are arriving at La Trinidad. They are not police. They are not riot police. But they are going along in an operation coordinated by the state security force. In other words, the government controls these people. It probably isn’t a policeman who shoots, but instead one of these people, who are armed and in coordination with the police.
Because the police cannot cope with all these situations. Do you think that in this country the police are capable of covering the entire territory with the amount that are needed? It is possible that they have auxiliary forces like those, then. It is a communal police force that has been converted into a “horde of assassins” in order to break the bond that the police had: the community was the police and the police was the community. Which resulted in being extremely efficient in combating drug trafficking, which by the way is not absent from the current situation. It is here now.
Explain this to me, please.
The national police is one of the most efficient in the fight against drug trafficking, and has not been penetrated. Drug trafficking is involved here now and is interested in putting an end to this police, and one of its problems is the bond between the police and the community. You go to the neighborhoods of Managua and you will find police meeting with the community, taking notes on the things that they can do, and vice versa. What does drug trafficking want? To break that relationship between the police and the people.
Let me see if I understood correctly. You say that all of the opposition forces to the regime: the United States, the oligarchy and drug trafficking, coincided at the same time?
Well, we are missing the oligarchy part because they co-founded the system. When was the break?
I already explained this to you. They were no longer interested in being with the government because the relationship was no longer producing the initial money for them. The government also helped them to cushion social conflicts because the unions were also involved. Now there are a series of conflicts that they didn’t have before. The state gave them stability and governance and the unions were in favor of development and employment.
There are accusations of corruption with proof in some spheres of the state and private sectors.
But what cases are you talking about?
They have been public. Of misappropriation of social security funds, constructions of huge buildings that are empty…
That is not misappropriation. That is an investment error. Or, they invested poorly. Anyone can invest poorly. The INSS invested poorly. The INSS was the petty cash box of the Liberal governments (1990-2006). They didn’t pay their quotas. What irritates them about social security? Retirement at 60, pensions for war victims, special programs for cancer and kidney patients. Medical treatments abroad paid for by social security. It started to be attractive. But it requires a reform because the system is in debt. It has to be reformed to financially stabilize it. They didn’t like that, and took the opportunity to start an uprising. It is not true that it is because of corruption.
Let me give you a more obvious one: the palaces and trips of Robert Rivas.
Oh no, Robert Rivas is not one of us. We are friends, we meet with him and we support him in the Supreme Electoral Council, but he has never been more than the president of the Council. He does not have any more history with us.
If the government hasn’t been complicit by appointment….
Roberto Rivas arrived to the Supreme Electoral Council in an agreement that happened in those years that named three from the Liberal Party, three Sandinistas and the other was named by the church. It was Cardinal Obando, may he rest in peace, who nominated Roberto Rivas. Now, that he had money and that he has been squandering it, that has nothing to do with us. The church put him there.
But under your noses this man has squandered the money that he didn’t have..
Are you sure he didn’t have it?
It is impossible justify those luxuries with his salary…
With the capital from the church. That is the origin of his wealth.
And with that he had enough to buy palaces worth nine million euros?
There was a body here called Coprosa. It still exists. The Commission of Archdiocesan Social Promotion. After the war, Coprosa had an enormous amount of money and a bunch of exemptions given them by the Liberal governments, not by us. The Bolaños government exonerated Coprosa of import taxes on 150 vehicles. Do you know what Coprosa did? They sold them all. The boss of Coprosa was Roberto Rivas. There are no public funds involved there. Coprosa belonged to the Catholic Church. There they never checked his accounting and he was appointed to the Supreme Electoral Council by the Church. Are we going to finish now?
Yes. But before we do, tell me about the businesses and the investments of the presidential family.
Which businesses? That’s slander. With the revolution a lot of property was distributed. That is the piñata. Then the non-Sandinistas disqualified it to see how they could recover those properties. They charge the Ortega family with all types of wealth accumulation because that is the objective.
So not the properties in the media, nor the gas stations, nor…
It is because those are Sandinista Party investments. You forget that this party has governed for many years and has its own patrimony. There are many investments of the FSLN that are supposedly “appropriated” by the Ortega family. The administrators of these investments are here next door, in Albanisa.
Could the Sandinista party survive without Daniel Ortega?
It will survive. Be completely sure of it. Because we are more united than ever because we feel attacked.
How do you get out of this crisis?
Through the dialogue. But that happens when these people start to compromise. Let’s get rid of the roadblocks and seriously discuss the rest of the things that they demand.
Are you open to moving up elections?
We haven’t committed to this yet. They have requested it, but they want everything: advanced elections, the closure of the parliament, electoral reforms… everything. But they don’t give anything. That is why it is called the Commission of Demands. They want everything.