Celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Leon this December 12.
This Thursday we came across a text that needs to be answered for two reasons: The first is that this is a direct attack on Sandinista Nicaragua, and the second is that we cannot allow the debate to fall into such a low level of denial of the facts.
The Basque analyst Iosu Perales, who claims to sympathize with Liberation Theology (TL), writes a reflection entitled “Religion and the Left in Latin America” on a subject of great relevance today when, as he himself writes, “an ultra-conservative wave of evangelists and Catholics crosses Latin America,” for example, personified in the racist expressions of Bolivia’s de facto president Jeanine Añez.
“However,” Perales himself explains, “my reflection extends to the policies of the left that in not a few cases have fallen into the temptation to merge politics and religion, making a discourse populated with biblical and evangelical references, and participating in public religious offices that should be private,” and later adds: “As for the left, the slogan of the FSLN in power, ‘Christian and socialist Nicaragua’ is a tremendous error.
In other words, while the fascism of the 1970s shows that it is alive and kicking in the Abya Yala, murdering, repressing, imprisoning and torturing right and left, Iosu Perales chooses to direct his attacks against Nicaragua, which bears the slogan “Christian, and socialist, in solidarity,” and which together with Cuba and Venezuela is one of the three countries governed by the left in the region that has not allowed, nor will ever allow, its overthrow by means of a coup d’état. How wonderful! Of the only three countries -excepting popular China- in the world in which the left has power and weapons, this brainy analyst from the “left with hair on their chests” (but leanly testimonial and “alternative”) chooses to attack one of them.
“From such a fusion” between politics and religion, “sooner or later, bad news can only arise for the left,” writes Perales, who in the case of Nicaragua, which he takes as the central example of his argument, has been distilling anti-Sandinism for many years. Bad news for the left? Before or after what? Before or after the coup d’état? You have to be careful with words when they are used in politics, because with words you can kill.
For example, in September of last year, when there should no longer be the slightest doubt that what happened in this country was nothing but a failed coup attempt, Iosu Perales attacked the Sao Paulo Forum and shrouded in a series of “left-wing” endorsements stood as a critical voice accusing the continent’s vast majority and actually existing left for clearly taking sides in anti-imperialist solidarity and for clearly calling the April-July 2018 coup in Nicaragua a “coup”.
Perales not only embraces the analysis of this defeated coup d’état made by the traitors to Sandinism who met and accepted money and all kinds of donations and financing from the United States, particularly from the most backward sectors of the Trump Administration that resulted in all kinds of atrocities committed by the coup plotters against Sandinista and against the people in general during the months of terror. Perales also falsifies the position of the Government of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Front on religion, and that is the point that we believe is important to clarify.
Sandinista Nicaragua defines itself as “Christian, Socialist and Solidary”. Does this mean that the Nicaraguan State has become confessional? Clearly not, because the State of Nicaragua does not belong to any Christian denomination. According to M&R’s latest study of religious beliefs, 99.7% of Nicaraguans believe in God. Of these, 85% are Christians of religious denomination (Catholic or evangelical) and the vast majority of the remaining 14.7% see themselves as “Christians” without belonging to a church. The only thing that the State of Nicaragua does is to recognize that fact.
La Gritería a la Purísima Concepción de María (The Crying to the Most Pure Conception of Mary) this year in the city of León broke attendance records.
Nicaragua would not be Nicaragua without Holy Week, without the patron saint fiestas of each of its municipalities, without the fiestas of Santo Domingo, without the fiestas of Guadalupe (the Virgen Morena, which incidentally inspired the name of López Obrador’s party in Mexico), without La Purísima and without La Gritería, all of them fiestas in which a large majority of the population participates, beyond Catholicism, and which in reality are the highest expressions of a cultural syncretism that is very much alive and rooted in today’s Nicaraguan society.
“It must be clear to us that the left must be secular and practise secularism, and must not standardize religious content in its political discourses,” writes Perales, unaware of his pathetic colonising Eurocentrism disguised as Marxism. Perales must accept that long before he was born, the poorest known revolutionary leader of Our America, Augusto César Sandino, was characterized by a profoundly mystical and revolutionary discourse at the same time.
On February 21 of this year, all the municipalities of the country celebrated tributes to the 85th anniversary of the passage to immortality of General Sandino.
Sandino not only fought and defeated the Yankee Marines, he also had many ideas about human beings and society, which he never concealed and which have marked the Sandinism that exists today in Nicaragua, the one that fills squares, the one that defeats coups d’état and the one that continues to confront the empire today, not like the friends of Perales, who for a long time betrayed Sandinism and went to live on the money of Western countries.
The Sandinista mysticism can be shown at the click of a mouse, although such references can be found in all the texts of the general of free men and women, whose work is incomprehensible without the concept of God. We will only quote a few paragraphs from his central Manifiesto Luz y Verdad (Manifesto of Light and Truth) of 1931:
From what has been explained it can be seen that the principle of all things is Love: that is, God. He can also be called Creator Father of the Universe. The only daughter of Love is Divine Justice.
Injustice has no reason to exist in the Universe, and its birth was the envy and antagonism of men, before having understood its spirit.
But the incomprehension of men is only a transit of universal life: and when the majority of mankind knows that it lives by the Spirit, injustice will end forever and only Divine Justice can reign: the only daughter of Love.
Another unavoidable referent of Nicaraguan revolutionary nationalism is Rubén Darío, who in his famous ode to Roosevelt, says to the imperial Caesar: “And, since you have everything, one thing is missing: God!”
Then, by expressly incorporating Christian values into its project, the FSLN does no more than: 1) Begin with spiritual values shared by the immense majority of the Nicaraguan people; 2) Collect the mystical dimension of Sandinista thought; and 3) Be coherent with the Sandinista approaches to the participation of Christians in the revolution that dates from the 60s, 70s and 80s of the last century.
The revolutionary political instruments must be “of” and not “for” the oppressed majorities. A Nicaraguan revolutionary party that denies the central role of popular religiosity would not be truly revolutionary, it would be another bourgeois project full of good intentions but controlled by elites who know better than the people themselves what they need. In a world in which 90% of the world’s population who only have access to 10% of the wealth is overwhelmingly faithful, certain “laicisms” coming from the North only sound like old tales of the elite of 10% of the population who have 90% of the wealth.
Perales says that in “churches, the heaviest forces are clearly leaning to the right”. Even more so when Liberation Theology, with which I strongly sympathize, was hit hard in the final decades of the twentieth century, dismembered and in many cases decapitated of its referents. This is a sign that Perales has not understood anything, and that from his “alternative” point of view, the most he can conceive is… to create another church, but this time from the left.
The Sandinista Front as such does not support this or that church, and its objective is not the nonsense of founding any “Sandinista church”. Instead of mere objects of religious manipulation, they see in the people subjects (“our people are the owners of their history, the architects of their liberation,” says the FSLN hymn), men and women with aspirations and dreams of a dignified, just and free life, in peace and well-being for all, in all its diversity. If this were not so, then the Sandinista Front would never have committed itself to promoting projects such as the autonomy of the Atlantic Coast, which recognizes the plural character of the Nicaraguan nation.
Something similar can be said about the extraordinary empowerment of women that has taken place under the Sandinista governments, based on the Nicaraguan women’s own list of priorities and not on the European feminist agenda that Perales sees as something natural and therefore prescribes for all humanity. The same can be seen in the advances in the rights of the members of the LGBTIQ community (or “sexual diversity,” as it is known in this country), recognized, among others, by the Central American organizations themselves. This has nothing to do with right-wing policies.
Analysts like Iosu Perales say that Fr. Ernesto Cardenal, who for many years betrayed the Sandinista movement to join the “Movimiento Renovador Sandinista” (MRS), a pro-American microparty known for its support of the coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, is all that is needed to support analysts like Iosu Perales, for his patronage of the right-wing ARENA of El Salvador and for his meetings with anti-Cuban senators in Miami such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as for his links with the oligarchic Chamorro family, a routine recipient of substantial U.S. government funds to destabilize Nicaragua. The MRS was, it must be said, one of the main operators of last year’s defeated coup.Mónica López, daughter of the prominent ex-Sandinists Monica Baltodano and Julio Lopez, all belonging to the Sandinista “Rescue” Movement (MRS) and terrorist Francisca Ramirez reunited with the reactionary, homophobic and racist
right-wing politician Fabio Gadea.
The then president of the “Sandiist Renewal Movement” (MRS), Ana Margarita Vijil Gurdián, in 2015 on a visit to the congresswoman anti-Cuban Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in support of the Nica Act to punish Nicaragua with the U.S. veto at the IMF.
However, most Nicaraguans who identified with the TL in the 1960s and 1980s are still alive in today’s Nicaragua and have not abandoned true Sandinistaism or changed their social commitment. Most of them remain believers and continue to face the challenge of living their Christian faith in permanent commitment to the people. Last year, members of the community of San Pablo Apóstol de la Colonia 14 de Septiembre in Managua collected almost 600,000 Catholic signatures for Pope Francisco to remove coup bishop Silvio Báez from the country because of his constant calls to violence. On the other hand, evangelical communities throughout the country participated in countless days of prayer for peace against coup violence.
In last year’s defeated coup d’état in Nicaragua, both Catholics and Protestants participated, and were guilty of serious crimes, including torture and concealment of murders. Many churches were in fact hijacked by priests from the right to serve as a refuge for the activities of the coup plotters. Some priests refused to offer religious services to Sandinistas. The answer was that those churches, mostly Catholic, were literally emptied of parishioners, because the coup did not achieve a social base once its true anti-popular character became visible to the entire nation.
Thousands of Catholics and Evangelicals throughout Nicaragua participated last year in vigils and Days of Prayer for Peace and against coup violence.
The defeat of the coup d’état in Nicaragua last year, where after several months of mobilizations the people were recapturing the street from the coup plotters, is the most reliable proof of the absurdity of Iosu Perales’s analysis. Were it not for the fact that it is also an analysis deeply committed to the perpetrators of that criminal coup, and because Perales knows what the true reality of the country is, we believe it is necessary not only to refute it but also to reveal the lack of intellectual and political honesty that it conceals.
Half a million people expressed their support to the Sandinista Revolution on July 19. in Managua. In 2018 and 2019 there have been in view of the major demonstrations sandinistas of all history.
The issue of churches of various denominations and the political right in today’s world, and in particular of our Abya Yala, is very important. From a Nicaraguan perspective and without the intention of establishing ourselves as owners of the truth, we can point out that the cultural identity that forms the subjectivities of peoples is a factor that must be taken very seriously; that there is a popular religiosity regardless of what the ecclesiastical hierarchies order at one time or another, and that peoples must be seen as subjects of revolutionary projects and not as mere victims or objects of manipulation, in this case, of religious institutions.
Let us have confidence in the peoples, and let us not forget that third thesis of Marx on Feuerbach that says that “it is men (and women) who make history” and that “the educator” (the revolutionary) “also needs to be educated”. The one who writes these lines is an agnostic who hates the nickname “atheist” because he knows very well that to live is a matter of faith.