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My Questions to Sandinistas in Times of Pandemic

I mourn physical deaths, but also the deceit that has made them multiply. This virus does not differentiate between Sandinistas and non-Sandinistas

Gioconda Belli

1 de junio 2020


I was a Sandinista from 1970 to 1993. I know what loyalty and faith in a cause is. I know the effect that assemblies, speeches, bosses with heroic bearing have. I also know what it is to wait for dreams that never happen; the arrogance of leaders when they hear criticism, the fear, which spreads little by little, of saying what one feels and thinks; the fear of being accused as a “contra” or of becoming an outcast.

In other words, I understand what many of you are going through, because many of us lived it even in the most romantic and vital time of the revolution. That one which many of you never knew but that is sold to you as a “Christian, Socialist and Solidarity” dream. A dream that cost Nicaragua more than 30,000 dead, mostly peasants, who were our own Nicaraguan people, who rebelled against the lack of democracy and authoritarianism that was imposed in the 80’s. By putting on them the label of “contras”, they taught us to hate, making us believe that to do so was to be “anti-imperialist”, children of Sandino and Carlos Fonseca.

Ideologies, when they are imposed and demand loyalty until death, are very dangerous. To give up your own opinion, the ability to analyze and think, is very dangerous. One becomes like sheep, cannon fodder, a reciter of slogans, an oppressor. You become everything that you thought was not to be a revolutionary: an informant, aggressor and murderer of your own people.

In this terrible pandemic, which is taking away our brothers and sisters, in sudden deaths where we cannot even accompany them to their final resting place, I cannot stop feeling deep pain. I mourn physical deaths, but also the deceit that has made them multiply.

That’s what I want to refer to, the deceit that has been a constant of this regime of Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega. That deceit that is confronting us and has caused great harm to our country. And the only way to get out of that deception is by not refusing to see reality.

1) Didn’t the commander and the “compañera” (comrade) say that they were prepared for this pandemic? That with community health and health brigades, there was nothing to worry about because they had everything under control.

2) Didn’t they say that it would be like a flu, like a cold? That it was not necessary for you to stay home because the economy would collapse? If they had been wiser and more concerned, they would have arranged to give food assistance, help with the payments of debts, provided financial aid, cared for those who had to continue earning their daily bread. Other Central American governments have done so. But here, in Nicaragua, they have not.

They have not decreased the excessive water, electricity, and telephone bills. They have not talked to the banks so that they make a moratorium on loan payments. This Government has not done anything to help the poorest. They send them out to the streets to contaminate themselves so as not to stop the economy and to have excuses not to help them financially.

3) Didn’t they make you march massively, invite you to parties, encourage you to ignore the calls from civil society, the Civic Alliance and the (National) Unity movement to take care of yourselves? Didn’t they say that those who told you to take care were alarmists who spread fake news because they wanted to carry out a “coup d’état”, as the rulers falsely labeled the April 2018 Rebellion? One might even think that they wanted us all to get sick, that there be a major catastrophe in order to postpone the next elections.

4)  How do you explain that the Ministry of Health (Minsa) said that there was no “community spread” and five Cubans returned home from Nicaragua infected?  How do you explain that Minsa reported 25 cases one week, and 254 in the next, and now, that they can no longer hide the sun with a finger, 480 new positive cases and 18 dead are reported? Do you really believe that only 18 people have died?

5) They lied to us. And that lie is costing us lives that could have been saved with a more rational health policy, just by following the guidelines of the World Health Organization.


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6) How can you accept that our youth and children continue to be exposed, forced to go to classes, endangering their teachers, of whom three have already died and many are infected and are still going to work for fear of being fired?

7) They almost say that the opposition, with their “deformed and extraterrestrial brains,” invented the virus.

We are a country that has more high officials sanctioned worldwide for human rights violations, due to the 2018 massacre; with political prisoners who are dying in jail without being shown any compassion, people imprisoned for raising a flag.

There are 100,000 Nicaraguans struggling in exile. The police watch us, those in the neighborhoods watch us, there are patrols and riot police in the streets for fear that people will demonstrate again, which is a citizen’s right. While other countries have repatriated their fellow citizens trapped abroad by the epidemic, they have been banned ours from entering here.

This virus, as had been warned, does not differentiate between Sandinistas and non-Sandinistas. It is not the “Ebola of the rich” as someone said. Who are those who have been mostly on the streets, attending events organized by the Government, taking more risks? That is why police officers and local political operatives have died and there are mayors in serious condition. While you were on the street, the commander and his wife have kept themselves under lock and key, very well protected. We have not seen them visit neighborhoods or hospitals to see how their people are.

And the deceptions and secrets continue. Doctors are not allowed to tell relatives what is wrong with their patients. They bury people without telling their families. The Minsa statistics are not accurate, they have not been from the beginning. Many people still believe that the warnings about the pandemic are exaggerated when we should all be wearing masks, keep our distance, not attend events with lots of people.

The white paper they released this week blames the imperialists and the traitors for the economic crisis and says that is why the country was less prepared. But if this country was less prepared, why weren’t more precautions taken?

After thirteen years of the Ortega-Murillo Government, we are still the second poorest country in Latin America. How did they come about applying the model of one of the richest and most developed countries in Europe, the “Swedish model” which, by the way, is failing? They already have more deaths than Denmark, Germany and other countries that did safeguard themselves.

As a Nicaraguan and someone who knew closely the original Sandinista struggle against a dictatorship, this cruel and incompetent version where two people have appropriated the country, causes me a deep rage and pain. They have become the lords and rulers of our destiny and of the conscience of so many good and selfless people, through deceits of the worst kind.

We must not accept being commanded to always confront each other. We must not live as enemies forever. Those who rule a country through deception and by confronting people against one another by threats of weapons, deserve no loyalty.

If you do not see by now the blindness and arbitrariness with which Daniel and Rosario handle the pandemic, the deceit they’ve used to make you complicit, putting at risk your own lives and that of your families, you will lose not only your rights as militants —if you still have any—, but you will be condemning that Sandinismo in which you believe to the repudiation and rejection of an entire people.


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Gioconda Belli

Gioconda Belli

Poeta y novelista nicaragüense. Ha publicado quince libros de poemas, ocho novelas, dos libros de ensayos, una memoria, y cuatro cuentos para niños. Su primera novela “La mujer habitada” (1988) ha sido traducida a más de catorce idiomas. Ganadora del Premio La Otra Orilla, 2010; Biblioteca Breve, de Seix Barral (España, 2008); Premio Casa de las Américas, en Cuba; Premio Internacional de Poesía Generación del ‘27, en España y Premio Anna Seghers de la Academia de Artes, de Alemania; Premio de Bellas Artes de Francia, 2014. En 2023 obtuvo el premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana, el más prestigioso para la poesía en español. Por sus posiciones críticas al Gobierno de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo, fue despatriada y confiscada. Está exiliada en Madrid.