Nicaragua is undergoing a turbulent period marked by intense protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega, reelected 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 Brasil 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 instrumentalized 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 have paid individuals who use firearms and violence. The diplomat states, in summary, that there is an attempt to stage a “coup” against the Sandinista government.
Brasil de Fato: The news that we get in our country highlights the police repression of the demonstrations. There is even some confusion about what the protests claim. What is really happening in Nicaragua?
Lorena Martinez: Since April 18th, 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 [International Monetary Fund]. We have a program with the IMF. The government did not accept the IMF proposal because it was too bad. It proposed another one, which affected the business sector more. It affected the population as well, but it was much better than the IMF project. The protests started from that, to some extent, legitimately. On the other hand, the entrepreneurs took advantage of it. They have the attitude of never letting anyone mess with something that affects their revenues. 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, arguing that they were being repressed.
What is the National Police doing in this context? Is there repression?
The [Nicaraguan] police are very young, [they have been around for] 39 years. 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 the president of a Revolution. Police commanders and the president were tortured and targeted. They suffered many of the things they are now accused of doing. Our police have revolutionary values, they were not created to assassinate the people.
At the time when there were many protests, they had to act like in every other country. There are deaths on both sides. At first it was said that they were students. But now they are not students, they are people who are paid to continue to stage protests and continue on the barricades.
When President Ortega called the demonstrators to discuss their demands on the first day, they asked for the president’s resignation. How is this a negotiation, when the only point on the agenda is the resignation of a person elected with almost 72 percent of the votes and with great support from the people?
So are there armed demonstrators? The images that arrive to us show only the use of firework rockets.
Those who remain protesting are extremely violent. They are murdering people who identify 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 member of parliament.
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 by “special programs,” which come in the name of democracy, of freedom of expression, with funding for “young leaders,” and then end up with that kind of action.
They are armed. We have pictures of that. They have large caliber weapons. They are not using only firework rockets, as they say. Although these rockets can also kill. They are people destroying private and public property. Many Sandinista offices are being burned down.
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 transport fare hikes. Many people estimate that, in the end, those protests were channeled by the Right. Is this the perspective that the Sandinista government has on the current process [in the country]?
In Nicaragua, they are applying the destabilization manual. What they did in Venezuela, here [in Brazil], in other countries, they are doing in Nicaragua. There are [for example] manipulation of photos: things that happened in other countries and that were altered. They say it is “a murder committed by the National Police,” but it is not. There is an image of an elderly woman who has been a victim of domestic violence and has been used as if she were a victim of police violence in Nicaragua during Mother’s Day. There is a lot of manipulation. We are very concerned about fake news, but fake news travels faster than anything else.
You mentioned fake news. How is the media's work in Nicaragua right now?
There are few outlets, and in the hands of few. The same family, usually. They have always been anti-Sandinistas. It’s not something new. Both businessmen and the Catholic Church, as well as the media, demonstrate their anti-Sandinismo is not something new, it’s always been there.
Since the triumph of the Revolution, through the 17 years of neoliberalism, this was always their attitude. It shows that the Left is the “bad guys.” At the moment, the media is being used to manipulate information and encourage hatred and 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 opposition groups. 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 learn the formulas and methods they will use later.
In addition to Ortega’s resignation, is there anything else being demanded by the protesters?
They have no demands. First because they are a very small group. They are a minority. The parties involved do not have a good representation in the Chamber of Deputies. They do not have great social expression. There is no government platform. There were memes spreading showing messages they were allegedly exchanging, in which they discussed an interim governing board. That is what they want, to take over power without going through the election process. If people vote, they won't get elected. They should do political work, partisan work, participate in the elections. There is no reason to call early elections or have the president resign.
There are armed groups calling for Ortega to resign. 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 stage a coup. It’s a group that wants to destabilize the government. If a government is ousted because a minority wants, it's a coup.
Edited by: Tayguara Ribeiro | Translated by Internationalist 360°