Logo de Confidencial Digital




Peace and Life Are Inalienable: a Call for Nicaragua

Haydee Castillo’s words at the ceremony awarding her the 2024 Acampa International Recognition for Defense of Human Rights

Human rights advocate Haydee Castillo’s acceptance speech upon receiving the 2024 Acampa Prize

Haydée Castillo

16 de junio 2024


On this day, my thoughts are with Nicaragua’s political prisoners, with the mothers whose children’s lives were snuffed out by the Ortega-Murillo regime in April 2018; with the youth and the students expelled from the universities; with the indigenous people and the farmers who are constantly being dispossessed from their lands and territories through greed; with the human rights advocates like Vilma Nuñez, who currently survive day-to-day under house arrest; with the state employees forced to obey the regime in exchange for a salary. I’m thinking about the Rio Coco where I’ve bathed so many times, but that today is stalked by the fever for gold; and about all the people who are right now crossing some border in search of safety.

In difficult times, there’s no substitute for human warmth. Thank you ACAMPA for embracing through this recognition not only my modest contribution to the defense of human rights and the quest for peace, but also my aching and valiant Nicaragua.

I was born in a country that’s been the arena for occurrences of every kind in its search for freedom, self-determination and sovereignty. A country that’s well worth examining in the mirror and holding as a reference for study and practice; a history for humanity to reflect on and question the road we’re taking. In that little piece of land situated in the center of the Central American isthmus and bathed by two oceans, we’ve known everything – from earthquakes, to volcanic eruptions, to hurricanes. But also, rebellions full of dreams and hopes.

We’ve also been obliged to turn to war, when it seemed that defending life and freedom could only be obtained by that means, in the face of internal and external forces and powers with such huge claws that none of our different bands could see any other way out. A history that brings to mind our Prince of Spanish Literature, the great Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario, in his poem, “The motives of the Wolf.” In this epic poem, he imagines a conversation where San Francisco de Asis wants to convince a wolf to abandon the road of killing he’s been forced to take to protect himself. The wolf responds:

– Brother Francis, do not come too near…
I was quiet there in the convent;
I visited the village,
and if they gave me something, I was happy,
and ate meekly.
But I started to see that in all of the houses
there was envy, anger and rage,
and in every face burnt fathoms
of hatred, lust, infamy and lies.
Brothers made war to brothers,
the weak lost, the evil won,
female and male were like dogs and bitches,
and then came the day when they all hit me with sticks.
They saw me humble, I licked their hands
and feet. I followed your sacred laws,
all creatures were my siblings:
brother men, brother oxen,
sister stars and brother worms.
And thus, they hit me and threw me out.
And their laughter was like boiling water,
and the beast revived within my gut,
and I suddenly felt an evil wolf again;

but always better than those bad people.
And returned to fight here,
to defend myself and to feed myself.
As the bear does, as the wild boar does,
that in order to live they have to kill.
Leave me in the mountain, leave me in the crag,
let me be at my liberty,
go back to your convent, brother Francis,
go back to your way and sanctity.

That’s the provocation our peoples face: noble people, simple, humiliated, led to their own graves when no other exit can be glimpsed – we’ve lived all that in our own flesh. And that’s how we lost the best of us from one band or the other: believing they held truth in their hand, but not realizing that in this drama, as our grandparents would say: “Troubled water is the fisherman’s gain.”

While we were bleeding dry like guinea pigs – some on the outside and others from within – they were weaving the secret webs of the cold war, but also arranging the distribution of power among the native leadership. That’s how they’ve steered us: some wrapped in cloaks of the Right, others of the Left; others Conservatives, Centrists and a little of everything we’ve been sold since the dawn of our independence, as heroes who gave us back our independence and sovereignty.

Nicaragua, Nicaragüita, once again you clamor to the world that hatred, infamy and lies have returned, that once again the beast has been reborn as a dictator – no longer with the name of the Somoza family, but that of [Daniel] Ortega and [Rosario] Murillo. These two, who in the name of sovereignty have shamelessly slaughtered over 300 people who were fighting only with their voices and their national flag. Who have jailed over 2,000 people, and who rape, torture, repress, instill terror, eat their own children, abduct their opponents, and kill and banish journalists.

They banish us, they strip us of our nationality, inflicting civil death on us. They erase us from the birth records, steal the universities, the NGOs, the companies, kill the forest rangers and force thousands into displacement. They commit so may crimes against humanity, that we’ll need years to tell the tales of such barbarity. A barbarity that – up until now – remains in total impunity. 

I hold up this reality in Nicaragua as a living example of what we’re witnessing in the world. Because we’ve knocked on a thousand and one doors looking for a way out of this crisis, but there’s been no answer to so much pain and death.

Those who wield the strings of power, no matter what ideology they shield themselves behind, have consigned the solution to all injustices into the hands of the financial markets. In this division of power and labor, those of us defending human rights have the job of stripping nude the outrages, but the decision to stop them is in the hands of those who engage in politics and economics, those who have veto power in the UN Security Council, and those who manage the world’s financial architecture. Those who have set themselves above good and evil.

Politics and democracy itself have lost their essence, are becoming synonymous. They’ve become a fertile bed for organized crime, corruption, terrorism and violence; a force that’s devouring the land, the water, the forests, the harmony among all forms of life, and the very essence of humanity.


Get the most prominent news about Nicaragua, every Wednesday, directly to your inbox.

But we can’t let that reality paralyze us. Today, it falls to us not to accept this, but to be imaginative, creative and defiant, to take responsibility within a context where all the past references are in question, including democracy and multilateralism. Everything we have built to avoid a repetition of the holocaust is proving insufficient to confront what’s being thrown at us by the market, neoliberalism, extractive capitalism, organized crime and unbridled ambition.

The hour has arrived for action: from the people, the citizens, the social movements and every human being, to take back the power that resides in us and answer ACAMPA’s call. To unite in our differences, so that no longer – not in Gaza, not in Ukraine, not in Nicaragua, not in Sudan, not in Yemen, nor Syria, nor Iraq, not among the Rohingya, not in Mexico, nor in El Salvador, nor on the Mediterranean Sea, nor in the desert, nor crossing the Rio Grande or the Darien Gap, nor in Venezuela, nor in Cuba – to mention only a few – nor in any country of the world, will children die, or become lone survivors, with all the rest of their family fallen to mass extermination.

Every child who dies, whose life is snatched from them – be it through firearms or the arms of ambition, violation, torture, or hitmen – is an affront to humanity. The multitude of such arms tells us that the World War III actually began years ago, but we’ve been incapable of seeing it, because we’ve been sold the idea that peace is on a screen, and progress the destruction of the planet.

Just as we dedicate time and resources to Artificial Intelligence, or to continue conquering space and investigating how not to grow old, our priority should be proposing and finding solutions for despair and self-destruction.

It’s time for us to breathe together: to construct another form of politics, economy and our supposed development, so that instead of death it generates peace and harmonic coexistence. Peace is constructed every minute, in every decision and in every action; peace depends on us, on our giving it attention and connecting – personally, in our families, in the neighborhood, the community, school the institutions and in our organizations.

On looking each other in the eye, of seeing ourselves in the other, putting ourselves in their shoes. We all inhabit this planet, sharing the sun, the moon, the water, the oxygen, and our planet shouldn’t have owners or borders. We’re all one, with us, with the others, with nature.

The ravages of the Second World War have been too soon forgotten. Let us revisit that history and memory. We recover the humanity that was lost to the degree that we reconnect with the pain and happiness of the other; take care of each other, take care of the earth, every emotion and every sentiment. These are times for camping out, finding each other, working together, as our ancestors said: “Today for you, tomorrow for me.”

This planet is our only home. We don’t have anywhere else to go. It belongs to all the life forms, and humanity has been gifted with the faculty of reason to care for it and care for ourselves. Let us open the way, then, to life itself, but a life that’s worth living, where the children play, laugh, sing, dream, design the world and the peace we’ve never known, but that is possible.

When I look at the history of my people, of my Nicaragua, I see in it that unrepentant spirit the world needs, refusing to renounce being itself, with itself, with all its dignity and that of all the world’s people. No one can go it alone; the world isn’t made up only of material things.

Let’s recover the enjoyment of holding each other’s hands for the mere fact of being people, the joy of finding each other, of shared living. The satisfaction of seeing the rivers and the oceans, the calm that nature brings us. Maybe that’s the remedy, the pharmacy that our ancestors left us, the medicine for war and ambition. We must build the new world order, the new framework of rights, new rules of multilateralism that put teeth into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so as to put an end to this system of death.

It’s been days since the sun has shown and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, but the change is here, in each one of us, in our capacity to overcome indifference, to mobilize, to raise our voices, to act, even when we’re afraid. Peace and life cannot be renounced, let’s make camp and hurry our steps so that it dawns soon and for all. Tomorrow is too late.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


Your contribution allows us to report from exile.

The dictatorship forced us to leave Nicaragua and intends to censor us. Your financial contribution guarantees our coverage on a free, open website, without paywalls.

Haydée Castillo

Haydée Castillo

Activista nicaragüense exiliada. Licenciada en Ciencias Sociales y máster en Integración y Desarrollo. Fundadora del Instituto de Liderazgo de Las Segovias (ILLS). Tiene más de 30 años de experiencia en defensa de los derechos humanos, y es consultora en planeación y desarrollo, integración regional, políticas públicas, participación ciudadana, empoderamiento y democracia.