“The repression in Nicaragua is infinitely greater than that of Francisco Franco [dictator from 1939 – 1975] in Spain,” affirms Javier Nart, Spanish deputy in the European Parliament. Nart’s remarks referred to the banishment of 222 political prisoners, followed by a declaration that they and 94 other citizens would lose their nationality and have all their property confiscated. Nart also pointed to the raids against citizens opposing the government in Nicaragua, and to Daniel Ortega’s open war against the Catholic Church.
Nart feels that “not even Somoza was capable of confronting the Catholic Church, a vital and fundamental institution, in the way this character (Ortega) is doing. And he’s doing it because he’s convinced he has absolute impunity.”
Nart made his comments on May 21, during an interview with Carlos Fernando Chamorro for the internet television news program Esta Semana, transmitted via YouTube and Facebook Live due to the ongoing television censorship in Nicaragua. Nart doesn’t rule out the possibility of “new phases” of repression appearing, some of them nearly unimaginable. Further, he questioned the lack of unity among the Nicaragua opposition and their seeming inability to form a common bloc, so as to raise their demands before different governments.
“The best help that Nicaragua’s pathological government can have is the disunity [of the opposition]. The lack of any unanimous criteria.” The Spanish parliamentarian added that after five years of sociopolitical crisis, the fact that the “opposition continues to be separated” causes him “infinite sadness.”
The last interview we held on the Nicaraguan crisis was in February of this year. It was never broadcast, because three days later brought the sudden release of 222 political prisoners. How do you view this release of the majority of the political prisoners, who were previously being held isolated in the prisons?
It’s a sad joy, a contradiction. First of all, I’m immensely happy that our interview was never transmitted because it was overshadowed by the release of the prisoners, then followed by the subsequent outrage of economic pillaging and the cancellation of their nationality of people who fought fiercely for a better Nicaragua in the former Somoza era, and currently for a better Nicaragua during the pathological pseudo-Sandinista reign of Daniel Ortega.
There’s a deep happiness for their freedom, for seeing them escape the intense suffering they were experiencing. But sorrow, too, because exile is never a bird taking flight, it’s a limitation of your environment, of your homeland, of what I always call our Nicaragua, because you know that Nicaragua is part of my life.
Despite the release and banishment you mentioned, the police state in Nicaragua has intensified. Today there are over 50 political prisoners and another 50 that are on parole.
All dictatorships pass through the same cycle. When there’s international pressure for liberation, they liberate. In the case of Nicaragua, in addition to freeing the prisoners, they expropriated their property and their nationality. That’s an extreme indignity and reflects the propensity of this character (Daniel Ortega) and his wife (Rosario Murillo) to try and inflict maximum pain, and to maintain a constant threat over the population.
There’s an extreme form of control that is exercised through terror. Lenin knew this as well as Stalin, who had the most barbaric repressive apparatus where they even sent the victim’s wives, children, parents, grandparents to the Gulag (forced labor camps for dissidents). This type of repression, which right now also exists in Nicaragua, even extends to those who are outside the country, but who receive calls threatening their siblings, their wife, their relatives, who are going to end up being hostages, even though they’re apparently free in Nicaragua. They use anything they can come up with and anything they can do to harm the person in exile.
From the perspective of the European Parliament, how do you view the repression exercised against the Catholic Church? For example, the imprisonment of Monsignor Rolando Alvarez, bishop of Matagalpa, who was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Or the fact that they’ve even forbidden religious processions in Nicaragua.
Not even Somoza was capable of confronting the Catholic Church the way this character is doing. It’s a vital, a fundamental institution; I’d say it’s the most important social tissue in Nicaragua, even above anything the government can establish with their satellites and their fanatics. They do this because they’re convinced of their absolute impunity no matter what things they might do. And I’m convinced that the repression will have new phases that, right now, we can’t even imagine.
Ortega’s starting point is the supposition that the Nicaraguan people don’t exist, except the ones who are with him. Those who follow him receive certain small benefits, or greater benefits, or maximum benefits, in a pyramid that’s produced in Cuba as well and in Venezuela. And those who aren’t [with him] are out, and hence objects of repression. Here’s the concept: enter into my group and you’ll no longer have difficulties and will receive something. It’s not even a scientific repression, it’s extreme terror as a form of government.
Nonetheless, that system has sustained itself in power for these five years, with very little political support, with great international isolation and a system of economic financing and political repression. Does the European Parliament have a vision or a middle-term strategy in the face of this situation in Nicaragua?
I’ve always said that we don’t have to imagine how to offer support, we must produce the support that the opposition requires. In consequence, developing projects in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people isn’t the result of some illuminated decision from a series of European deputies – myself included – but of following up on what the opposition requires. And this brings us to a point that is absolutely essential. The greatest help the pathological regime in Nicaragua could have is the disunity [of the opposition]. Their lack of a unanimous criteria. When each party, movement or individual comes to propose something, that’s a drizzle of proposals that are isolated, no matter how good they are.
If those proposals arrive in a single body, where there’s a minimum common denominator and a strategy has been established, especially in communication, that’s vital when turning to other countries. It’s also important to establish a network which allows permanent contact with the democratic political forces in the world, in America as well as in Europe. And all that depends on the person reaching them being able to speak in the name of a united opposition. Obviously, there are going to be some people or factors that will be left out. But I view it in this way: there are many factors that are perfectly valid concerns of one person, or a little group of five or six, who have a name. But: who does that name represent? Those five, or those six?
There are also going to be provocateurs sent by the government of Daniel Ortega to infiltrate the opposition, as all the dictatorships in the world have done, beginning with ours in Spain. I’m talking to you about my sins, our sins. Don’t commit them. Be united.
What can the Nicaraguan opposition learn from the errors or the lessons of the struggles against other dictatorships?
We [in Spain], when facing Franco’s dictatorship, at the end finally established a platform with some minimums. Everyone entered in to affirm those minimums, from the Communist Party to the Christian Democrats, sectors that were ideologically different. However, together they established a platform of united requirements, and when we approached the forces that could show solidarity with a future democratic system in Spain, we came with a program of concrete petitions. What you can’t have – and I say this with profound pain, and a bit of indignation as well, is the egoism of people who believe they alone hold the truth. Until unified parameters have been achieved, there’s no unity. The Nicaraguan people aren’t interested in these miserable histories. Because, it’s true, that each one has their own ridiculous little truth.
What’s lacking is one great truth that is a unified position, so you can come to the European institutions, the American governments, the political parties in the Americas with one voice that can speak in the name of the opposition bloc and ask for very concrete things. There are supports and decisions that can’t be made unless you’re listening to a unified platform. At this moment, I tell you, it causes me infinite sadness that after five years, the opposition continues mired in a situation of separation, excusing themselves with a phrase that sticks in my gut: “this is a process of unity.” There’s no process of unity – there’s unity, and there’s no path needing to be forged, there’s already a road. The rest is just egotism, moral misery, a lack of respect for the pain of the Nicaraguan people, a loss of sight of the objectives. In the end, that supports the system of Daniel Ortega.
Can opposition and civic resistance be done from exile, when the police state in Nicaragua is tremendously more severe, ever more restrictive – where there’s no freedom of assembly, of mobilization, not even freedom to offer a public opinion?
An action can be taken inside Nicaragua, and that’s the responsibility of each force. But what each force must do here in exile is to join together around one sole platform, and abandon the idea that each one holds the absolute truth. Because that absolute truth leads to outrages for all of us, and ends up helping the dictatorship.
The war in Ukraine is dominating Europe’s priorities and public opinion on a world level. There are also other crises in other Latin American countries. How is Nicaragua viewed today, amid that concert of regional and world crisis?
Europe has its eyes focused on other parts of the world. Concretely, in the case of Nicaragua, there’s a topic that’s paradigmatic. Daniel Ortega has declared himself an ally of Russia, and, naturally, we’re noting what countries or governments have taken a clear position in favor of Russia in this war. As a result, the situation between the European Union and Nicaragua is one of fractured relations. They’ve thrown out our delegate, let’s say, the EU ambassador. And they’ve also done this with the Apostolic Nuncio and with others.
There’s a pathological isolation on the part of this man, who uses the assumption that those who aren’t with him are against him, and, hence, must be kept out. He’s progressively closing off the circle of his own supports. His only supports are brutality, the Army, and for the last word, the gun. And in this case, we’ll see how the situation might develop.
The repression in Cuba has been systematic since 1960, but here [in Nicaragua] we’re talking instead about a pathological repression from a regime that’s doing things that not even Fidel Castro did, because he was an intelligent man, despite the fact that he was also a murderous dictator. This guy [Ortega] has some responses, I’d say, that have very scarce logical content. It’s nothing but banging his fists on the table, and dishing out the harshest possible repression, with the understanding that he has no interest in anything that could signify a door to compromise, even limited ones. The only message this man has is the final message: the gun and force.
That can’t last, because it will produce internal ruptures. Because of that, an action from the opposition inside the country is also needed, in order to prove and control the financial supports being given to the regime in international institutions. For example, there’s one that’s very important – the Central American Bank [for Economic Integration]. That bank has now made the decision to remove this character [Dante Mossi], who was the bank’s director. Previously, he had a significant relation to the credits the bank was granting to Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua. All this is part of a process of isolation, of pressure, of widening the internal fractures and contradictions that the regime must have. This is a regime like that of Ceausescu [Romanian dictator from 1974 – 1989, overthrown by a sudden uprising], a presidential couple who have spawned general terror in the entire country.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times.