Nicaragua Yesterday and Today – A Conversation with Daniel

Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson

“Faced with terrorism – reconciliation to consolidate peace”

Vice President Rosario Murillo and  President Comandante Daniel Ortega
at the event with international journalists. PHOTO: MIRIAM EMANUELSSON.

MANAGUA / One year after the coup opposition has been defeated, the situation tends to normalize in Nicaragua. The human and economic wounds are indelible. But the most serious thing is the threat of an economic war in the United States that the traitorous opposition wants. Trump does not disappoint her and now opens a new war front through a total blockade of Venezuela. Then come Cuba and Nicaragua, the U.S. president promises.

Internally, there is no doubt that the Sandinista Front and its government, despite all the international media war, is very strong. The attempted coup d’état was a hard and bitter lesson that shook the hundreds of thousands of militants of the Sandinista party.

Four days after the gigantic act of July 19 in the Plaza de la Fe, close to Lake Managua, we met with the Comandante, President Daniel Ortega. As always, he is faithfully accompanied by his Vice-President, the tireless Rosario Murillo.

Comandante Daniel in Stockholm 1985 – acually, a photo of Comandante Ortega in any country in the world in the ’80s. This was how he looked when he visited Stockholm in 1985.

July 23 this year was the second time I met Comandante Ortega. The first was in May 1985 when he arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, at the invitation of Prime Minister Olof Palme, killed nine months later by suspected CIA agents. At the People’s House in Stockholm, packed with two thousand people present, Daniel and Rosario were greeted on stage by 150 pioneering children, an organization of the Swedish Communist Youth. They received the red handkerchief of the pioneers with their three points, characterizing them as “Peace, Friendship and Solidarity”.

Daniel and Rosario reflect tranquility in their faces, although Rosario always observes and absorbs every word of the four journalists invited to speak and comment on the political process and the perspective of developing it peacefully. We were Max Blumenthal & Ben Norton  from the USA, Steve Sweeney from Britain and this reporter.

Daniel Ortega spent seven years in the prisons of the Somoza dictatorship.

Americans want to know about Trump’s hostile statements to Nicaragua but also what they think about the candidacy of Democrat Bernie Sanders. The British refer to the British media as The Guardian or others who consider President Ortega a “dictator” and want to know who Daniel Ortega is.

The Comandante, with his serious face as in the guerrilla era, “probing and exploring the terrain,” laughs a little and begins to relate the hard life of an insurgent in the mountains or in the jungle. “We didn’t know who was going to die when we were planning a guerrilla action. But that one of us was going to die, we knew that.

It is notorious that his humility prevents him from talking about himself. He prefers to talk about his government’s peace efforts at all levels of Nicaraguan life. Trump and Congress threaten NICA Act or other actions to strangle the economy. No one denies that the situation is delicate. An economic giant like the United States can create a lot of damage to a nation with an economy as small and fragile as Nicaragua’s.

“How can Nicaragua continue to advance with a government as aggressive as Washington’s,” asks American journalist Max Blumenthal. Ortega responds by stressing that war is terrible, as is economic war. “That is also terrorism. Now they are attacking Venezuela and Nicaragua. For 60 years they have attacked Cuba with the blockade.”

JULY 19, 2019, half a million Sandinistas present in the Plaza. PHOTO: MIRIAM EMANUELSSON

Sacrifice for peace; his legs! his keynote speech at the Plaza de Fe on July 19, he mentioned one of the most beautiful but at the same time one of the most terrible historical events: the case of Vietnam veteran Brian Wilson, a militant of the U.S. War Veterans Movement who on September 1, 1987, lay down with his legs on the rails of a train that was approaching loaded with weapons for Central America. He had witnessed in Nicaragua the previous year how eleven civilians were killed by the Contra in the north of the country. Now he wanted to prevent the export of those weapons that killed children, old people and innocents in Nicaragua.

“We can never forget our Brother Brian Wilson, who lost his legs when he was fighting for Peace in the United States, and he was lying down with other Brothers on the rails where trains loaded with weapons were coming for Central America. There they lay down so that the trains would not pass. And without any sense of humanity, the U.S. High Command and the U.S. Government said, `Let the train go ahead´. And train went ahead, and there Brian Wilson, a Hero of Peace, lost his legs,” Ortega said in the Plaza, with the war veterans present.

Before us, the Comandante repeated several times the essential words of the speech in the Plaza: “These are times in which we all have to unite, Nicaraguans, Central Americans, Mesoamericans, Latin Americans and Caribbeans, with the North American people, to fight for peace in all of Our America.

 Video Brian Wilson and Daniel Ortega (2012):

Electoral Reform

– You spoke at the ceremony on 19 July about the need for electoral reform. What content would such a reform have, I wonder?

“On the subject of electoral reform, since in Nicaragua there have been several electoral reform processes with changes of government. The first peaceful transition in Nicaragua was in 1990 when we had the power. The entire Superior Electoral Council was Sandinista, our political enemies said, and there was no way for us to lose elections `because they control everything´. But we did show that we were respectful of the people’s vote” in the 1990 electoral defeat.

International Election Observers who observed the 2008 mayoral elections in Nicaragua along with the magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council.
The work to perfect the electoral process continues, says President Ortega. PHOTOGRAPH: Jairo Cajina.

“Some reforms were made for those elections. Afterwards, the liberal governments continued working on reforms in order to improve the legal, technical and organizational aspects of the process. To give more clarity to the electoral issue. Logically, this requires more resources. That is why this has to be a gradual process. Many years ago we had agreed on a process of electoral reform for the 2021 elections. It is the issue that we have yet to address so that the elections in 2021 go with greater certainty, with greater security, so that we have a much better electoral system than the previous one. Logically, we must have an electoral system with other technological resources in order to have a solid electoral system that is not demanding continuous reforms. In that direction we want to move forward.”

With Daniel, Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson, reporter and cameraman, respectively. PHOTO: CESAR PEREZ

The Revolution and Youth

Last year’s coup attempt was a repetition of other “soft blows,” that is, the millions of dollars rained down to prepare and train young people as “democratic leaders,” but in the style of the United States. It is no secret that a large part of the “tranqueros” were young people as well as the popular classes. Many were recruited into criminal gangs. But the young people who oriented and directed the fake accounts in the social networks were mostly young people from wealthier social classes that had been prepared since 2013 by the different agencies of the CIA and the State Department.

– What can be done so that Nicaraguans who were children in 1979 or who had not been born, know who their friend is and who the enemy of their future is, I ask the president.

“The Sandinista Front was out of government for 17 years, but we always fill the Plaza every July 19. Why? Because the Sandinista people who had fought and fought were like a family, raised with children who always went to the Plaza. The majority were unemployed youth, the result of the revanchism of the liberal governments. When we took office on January 10, 2007, we introduced social programs for youth, accompanying them shoulder to shoulder, in sectors like education (among other things, 6% of the national budget goes to the universities), we built houses for young families.

Two young Sandinistas among tens of thousands of young people In Managua’s Plaza de la Fe on July 19.

“It is fundamental for the consciousness of the youth that they know history, their heroes, so as to be involved in the process]. But on the other hand we have a powerful enemy who puts in more and more resources to sow chaos and terror. We promote reconciliation while they the opposition promote hatred among our youth.

“Already, ever since 2007, the opposition has created terror gangs that have murdered hundreds of peasants, saying that they are “patriots” who fight against a dictatorship. They celebrate in Florida. But none of them talk about the human rights of the murdered farm workers. We have a list of all those murdered. When a caravan of Sandinistas returned from the event on July 19, 2014, they were ambushed by one of those bands armed with AK-47s on the Pan-American Highway ging North, near the community of Las Calabazas, in the department of Matagalpa. Six dead and 19 wounded among children and adults. Where were the human rights organizations? Where was the UN? Where was the OAS?”

“We have a very powerful enemy who works tirelessly, who tries to destroy the revolutionary process. They try to recruit young people to destroy the work of the government, financing very poor and humble gang members. They are organized and trained by former Contra members and former Somoza Guards. They not only had the capacity to direct and organize operations against the Sandinista population, but also against the police,” underlines the president expressing the seriousness of the issue.

Neo Contras raid from Costa Rica

The opposition is trying to mobilize what it has left: small armed terrorist groups that have raided from Costa Rican and Honduran territory. We take Commander Ortega’s pulse on this thorny issue:

– Are there internal and external sectors of the opposition that want to provoke a rearming and create armed centers, raiding from Honduran territory to Nicaragua to strike at the normalization of peace in the country?

“They’ve already done it from Costa Rica. They raided and ambushed a police patrol that had been called out to investigate a crime. From Costa Rica the criminals entered with weapons of war. And already in the border towns on the Nicaraguan side they set their ambush. From a house in the region, they called the police saying that people ‘were robbing their cattle’. The police left at dawn to investigate, because it is a difficult area to reach and they had to walk a long way. And the police were ambushed and five policemen were killed there, other comrades were wounded.

The perforations of the ambush of the terrorist group that raided Nicaragua from the territory of Costa Rica.
It cost the lives of five police officers. Are these the `refugees políticos´ that Acnur protects?

“On the border with Honduras there are elements linked to drug trafficking. They have organized networks since 2007 when we regained power. Sandinista leaders, Sandinista mayors, peasants who did not want to collaborate with them, were assassinated. More than 450 murdered from 2007 to April 2018”.

“These armed people joined in to organize and helped organize the armed action in the tranques. They made daily attacks on police units that were confined to their police stations with orders not to respond to the opposition fire. There are always people who are for terrorism and violence, but the vast majority of the Nicaraguan people are against it.”

The Commander says, and repeats emphatically, that the peoples of Latin America and the world must unite before it is too late.

Ex-Contras in Honduras

Edgar Montenegro and his son Yalmar Antonio Zeledón Olivas, 31, were murdered on June 26. On July 13, Francisco Sobalvarro was assassinated. The common thing about these three Nicaraguans is that they died in the municipality of Trojes, not in Nicaragua but in Honduran territory just a few meters from the border with Nicaragua.

In the 1980s, in the village of Yamales, a few kilometers from Trojes, was the largest military base of the Contra. In total the Contra represented about 25,000 men trained, financed and backed by the CIA and the U.S. with the approval of the Honduran state and army.

The common thread is that Montenegro father and Sobalvarro were former Contra commanders of the 1980s. Montenegro had the alias “Comandante Cabezón” and Sobalvarro was “Comandante Berman”.

Montenegro appeared in a video on social networks on May 23rd this year, dressed in “US-Army” military camouflage, surrounded by some 7 or 8 hooded people and armed with AK-47 rifles. Montenegro gave a brief speech underlining its political support for the Nicaraguan opposition in dialogue with the government. A month later he was assassinated.

Video This is Edgar Montenegro, alias “El Comandante Cabezón,” a political asylum seeker in Honduras who recorded this video:

According to the Nicaraguan opposition daily La Prensa, the three were from the department of Jinotega and had taken refuge in Trojes in the middle of last year. In Nicaragua, the first two were accused of leading blockades and murdering Héctor Moreno, a Wiwilí Sandinista militant. When the tranques were eliminated, the Contras took refuge in Trojes, Honduras.

Terrorist safe houses?

Sergio Rivera, a teacher’s leader in Honduras and brother of one of those who disappeared in the 1980s, when the “Strong Man” of the Yankees was John Dimitri Negroponte, remembers that “Cabezón” led a community in that region called “Nueva Nicaragua” in that decade which was so devastating for Honduras.

Video Sergio Rivera speaking:

We interviewed the head of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Honduras, Andrés Celis, a Colombian who has headed the UN agency’s office for the past three years in Tegucigalpa. He admits that the murdered ex-Contras had no protection from UNHCR. They had not sought refuge, he says, from Honduran authorities. But UNHCR was in charge of transporting the remains of the counterrevolutionary dead from Tegucigalpa to their place of origin in Wiwilí, a fact that contrasts with the cases of Hondurans, Salvadorans or Guatemalans killed on the border with the U.S. or who are killed on their way north.

In another investigation we conducted last month, the head of the Center for Human Development (CDH), Adelina Vázquez, an NGO commissioned by UNHCR to assist Nicaraguan refugees in Honduras, admits that the organization seeks to create, with the assistance of churches, Honduran houses where Nicaraguans can have shelter, but strangely close to the border. So now in Honduras there is concern in the social and popular sectors that this network of houses could be something similar to the 80’s, when the Contra had military bases in Honduras right on the border. For example, in the village of Yamales, a few kilometers from Trojes, there was the largest and last Contra military base in Honduran territory.

In the village of Yamales, a few kilometers from Trojes was the largest military base and the last of the Contra in Honduran territory.

Deep Opposition Division

A few days after the interview with President Ortega, several heads of Nicaraguan refugees in Costa Rica met in a luxurious hotel in San José with spokespersons of the opposition Alliance, shouting at them that the “exiles” have been “abandoned” after doing the dirty work on the tranques. Several of them demand weapons for 3000 people in Costa Rica. The desperation of the opposition in exile is notorious and exposes a visible division with the opposition leaders in Managua.

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