Nicaragua is undergoing a turbulent period marked by intense protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega, re-elected in 2016 by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. The international coverage of the demonstrations has highlighted, in general, the repression of participants in the opposition movement, reporting arrests and even deaths.
In an interview with Brazil de Fato , the Nicaraguan ambassador, Lorena Martinez, argues that the protests, initiated on account of a proposed pension reform, are no longer true and have been instrumentalised by the right and the business community. For her, they apply the same “manual of destabilization” used in other countries, including Venezuela and Brazil itself.
Martinez says that demonstrations in Nicaragua today count on the presence of paid individuals who use firearms and violence. The diplomat states, in summary, that there is an attempt against the Sandinista government to “coup”.
Brazil de Fato: The news that arrives in our country highlights the police repression to the demonstrations. There is even some confusion about what the protests claim. What is really happening in Nicaragua?
Lorena Martinez: Since April 18 there have been protests in Nicaragua. Before that date, we were on the right path: growing economically, with good levels of reduction of inequality and social inclusion.
The protests stemmed from the theme of pension reform, which was, in fact, a request from the IMF. We have a program with the IMF. The government did not accept the IMF proposal because it was too bad. He proposed another, which affected the business sector more. It affected the population as well, but it was much better than the IMF project. From this point of view, protests, to some extent, with legitimacy. On the other hand, the entrepreneurs took advantage. They have the attitude of never letting anyone mess with something that affects their income. Entrepreneurs, who did not want to contribute more, became involved.
The government, after many days of protests withdrew the initial proposal, but the protests continued, under the argument that there was repression.
How to understand the performance of the National Police in this context? Is there repression?
The Nicaraguan Police are very young, 39 years old. The same age as the Revolution. It is not a repressive police. The government and President Ortega do not aim at repressing the people. He is a president from a Revolution. Police commanders and the president were tortured and targeted. They suffered many things that now accuse them. Our Police have revolutionary values, it was not built to assassinate the people.
At the time when there were many protests, had to act as in all countries. There are dead on both sides. At first it was said that they were students. But now they are not students, they are paid people to continue the protests and continue on the barricades.
When President Ortega called a roundtable with the demonstrators to file their lawsuit on the first day, they asked for the president’s resignation. How is it negotiated, that the only point on the agenda is the resignation of a person elected with almost 72% of the votes and with great popular support?
Are there armed demonstrators, then? The images that arrive to us show only the use of rojões.
Those who remain protesting are extremely violent. They are murdering people who identify themselves as Sandinistas. It became an ideological movement, a partisan action. There are many houses burned down only because they belong to a Sandinista leader or parliamentarian.
The population that was initially protesting is no longer on the streets. This violence has never been seen in our country. The level of hatred is scary. They are paid for “special programs,” which come in the name of democracy, of freedom of expression, with funding for “young leaders,” and then end up in that performance.
They are armed. We have photos. They have high caliber weapons. They are not alone with rojões, as they say. Although the rojões also kill. They are people destroying private and public property. Many Sandinista directories are being burned.
In addition, it has already been demonstrated that several violent actions were carried out with the aim of holding the Sandinista police accountable.
Brazil underwent a wave of protests in 2013, triggered by a claim regarding transportation fees. Many people estimate that in the end, these protests were channeled from the right. Is this the vision that the Sandinista government has of the current process?
In Nicaragua, they are applying the destabilization manual. The same thing they did in Venezuela, here, in other countries, are doing in Nicaragua. There are [for example] manipulation of photos: things that happened in other countries and that went through montages. They say it is “a murder committed by the National Police,” but it is not. There is the image of an elderly woman who has been a victim of domestic violence and has been used as a victim of police violence in Nicaragua during Mother’s Day. There is a great manipulation. We are very concerned about counterfeit news, but fake news is faster than anything else.
You mentioned the release of fake news. How have the media behaved in Nicaragua?
The media are few and far between. The same family, usually. They have always been anti-Sandinistas. It’s not something new. Both businessmen, as part of the Catholic Church, and the media, demonstrate their anti-Sandinismo is not from now on, it’s always been.
From the triumph of the Revolution, through the 17 years of neoliberalism, this was always the attitude. It shows that the left are the “history thugs”. At the moment, the media are lending themselves to the manipulation of information, the encouragement of hatred, violence.
Regarding the financing of ‘new leaderships’ and non-governmental organizations, does Nicaragua regard this process as international interference in its internal affairs?
This type of financing does have the objective of destabilizing countries. There are several programs to strengthen the foci of opposition to the government. The millions that arrive are not to support the people of Nicaragua. They are directly supporting NGOs that are supposed to act on a particular issue. These young people go to the countries where the funding comes from to know the formulas and methods they will use later.
In addition to Ortega’s resignation, is there anything else being claimed by the protesters?
They have no offer. First because they are very small. They are a minority. The parties involved do not have a good representation in the Chamber of Deputies. It does not have great social expression. There is no government proposal. Circulated memes with images of messages they were supposed to be exchanging, in which they discussed an interim governing board. That is what they want, to come to power without the need to go through elections. With popular vote, they do not pass. That they do political work, partisan, participate in the elections. There is no reason to advance elections or to leave the president.
There are armed groups calling for Ortega to leave. Does the government see the continuation of the protests as a coup d’état, then?
It’s a coup. Or rather, it’s a coup attempt. They want to strike. It’s a group that wants to destabilize the government. If a government comes out of the desire of a minority, this is a coup.