Daniel Ortega’s campaign for new re-election began in June, five months before the vote, with dictatorial methods: arresting those who may become opposition candidates. A dozen opponents have been raided and arbitrarily detained, including four presidential pre-candidates. Among those detained are leaders of Unamos, the dissident Sandinista formation (formerly the Sandinista Renovation Movement, MRS), including former guerrilla commanders Dora Maria Tellez and Hugo Torres, leaders Ana Margarita Vigil and Suyen Barahona, and former deputy foreign minister Victor Hugo Tinoco. They are accused of trumped-up charges such as calling for foreign military intervention. These arrests were preceded by the judicial intervention of the Democratic Restoration Party (PRD), under the bizarre argument that it had departed from its religious programmatic doctrine.
With popular support at around 20 per cent, Ortega has closed off violently any possibility of an electoral defeat at the hands of the Nicaraguan people, overwhelmed by the economic crisis, the government’s appalling handling of the pandemic, super-exploitation, surrender and repression. That is why he wants to reduce the election to a farce like those carried out by his ally Maduro in Venezuela in recent years.
Dora Tellez took part in the guerrilla commando that, together with Eden Pastora, stormed the National Palace and took hostage the legislators of the Somoza dictatorship in August 1978, achieving the release of several political prisoners. After the triumph of the revolution, she was Minister of Health.
On Tuesday 2 June, Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, registered to take part in the internal election for the presidential candidate of the Ciudadanos por La Libertad (Citizens for Freedom) party. Chamorro is vice-president of the newspaper La Prensa and directed the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation until its closure this year, following the enactment of Law 1040, which obliges NGOs that receive foreign funding to register in a registry of foreign agents. This law, together with other laws such as the one regulating social networks or Law 1055, with the pompous title of “Law for the Defence of the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace”, are part of the recently approved legal arsenal for the criminalisation of all dissidence.
On the very day of her registration as a presidential pre-candidate, she was accused of “ideological falsehood” and money laundering, among other charges, being disqualified from holding public office, and the following day she was arrested. The Ortega government’s former ambassador to the US, Arturo Cruz, was also arrested. A week later, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, former deputy finance minister in the Bolaños government, and the former head of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise, José Adan Aguerri, were also arrested.
An amnesty was issued in 2019 that reduced the number of political prisoners from around 700 to around a hundred, but harassment and persecution never ceased. With the amnesty, the government granted itself impunity for the repressive crimes of 2018. The current arrest is the latest in a wave of arrests in a process that has been ongoing since the 2018 rebellion.
Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007, hand in hand with right-wing sectors and the Church, with whom he approved the Free Trade Agreement with the US and whom he pleased with the absolute criminalisation of abortion, even banning therapeutic abortion, which had been legal since the 19th century. Ortega uses pseudo-anti-imperialist phraseology to prop up a capitalist dictatorship. His vice-president between 2007 and 2012 was a former Contra leader, Jaime Morales Carazo. He made big corrupt deals with Petrocaribe money supplied by Chávez and Maduro. Already in 2016, he won his second re-election, having intervened in the major opposition party the Independent Liberal Party. In 2018 he crushed in blood and fire the popular rebellion, started in the protests against implementing the IMF-prescribed social security austerity measures. Business and ecclesiastical sectors conciliated with the regime, feeding the false dialogue. These are part of the sectors of the bourgeois and right-wing opposition to whom the regime is now closing the electoral road. Large sectors of the youth, workers and peasants distrusted these dialogues and perceived the traitorous role of the bourgeois opposition. It is precisely the popular sectors who have been suffering the brunt of the repression after the rebellion.
There are major divisions in the opposition and the possibility that collaborationist parties, of the so-called stilted opposition, might lend themselves to give a veneer of legitimacy to the government’s electoral farce is not ruled out. Experience confirms that those who never believed in the fake dialogue or the Ortega electoral farce were right.
From the International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International we carried out an international campaign in September 2020 for the freedom of the Nicaraguan political prisoners. Today we raise our voice again, as revolutionaries, and we call on all organisations that claim to be left-wing or democratic to repudiate the political persecution of the capitalist, corrupt and sell-out dictatorship of Ortega and Murillo against all political opposition.
We demand the freedom of Cristiana Chamorro and other representatives of the opposition, even though we do not support their political positions in defence of bosses’ and pro-imperialist interests. We consider that these sectors are no way out for the Nicaraguan working people. Therefore, it is necessary to build a political tool of the fighting people and defeat the dictatorship in the streets in a new 1979, a victorious 2018.
Freedom for Dora Maria Tellez, Hugo Torres, Cristiana Chamorro and all the Nicaraguan political prisoners! Full freedom of political association for the Nicaraguan people! For a workers’ and popular way out on the streets!
International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International (IWU-FI)
15 June 2021