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The honorable defection of Arturo McFields

To defect from totalitarianism is an honorable and often heroic act. McFields strips the regime naked, and he does so with a simple warning

Héctor Schamis

25 de marzo 2022


“I take up the microphone today in the name of over 177 political prisoners and more than 350 people who’ve lost their lives [in Nicaragua] since 2018. I speak in the name of the thousands of public employees at all levels, civil and military, who today are forced by the Nicaraguan regime to fill their plazas and repeat their slogans, because otherwise, they’ll lose their jobs. It’s not easy to denounce the dictatorship of my country, but continuing to stay silent and defend the indefensible is impossible. I must speak, even though I’m afraid; I must speak, even if it means an uncertain future for myself and my family. I must speak out because it I don’t, the very stones themselves will speak for me.”

Those were the opening words of Arturo McFields, Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, at the meeting of the OAS Permanent Commission. The shock went around the gathered semi-circle in seconds. The other ambassadors were mute with astonishment, or at least without prepared remarks and forced to improvise about what they had just witnessed. “A historic event,” some said; “Valor and Courage,” expressed others. Absolutely.

McFields didn’t limit himself to denouncing the Ortega-Murillo regime. He also ratified the February 25th declaration in which the majority of the OAS countries voted to condemn Russia’s illegal, unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and to demand the immediate withdrawal of the Russian troops and a halt to all military action in that country. Nicaragua had not signed that document. McFields corrected the error, another historic occurrence.

Nearly three hours later, the “Government of Reconciliation and National Unity,” – in other words, Managua – issued a “press statement” informing that Arturo McFields was no longer their ambassador to the OAS, a rather infantile post-hoc rationalization. Obviously, he was no longer their ambassador, but not because of any decision on the part of the Ortega-Murillo government. “He doesn’t represent us,” the statement in question assured. On social media, many Nicaraguans disagreed: “He represents us”, they posted.

McFields had entered history, adding his name to an honorable list: that of the “defectors” (this term doesn’t really exist in the Spanish language, but with your forgiveness, kind readers, I’m using it). Every defector is a dissident; both question the established orthodoxy, but a defector is a missile below the waterline of official nomenclature. It reveals from within the dictatorship’s miserable ethics, and, as such, sinks their credibility as much within as without.

McFields strips the regime naked, and he does so with a simple warning: “The people within… and those outside are tired. Tired of the dictatorship and their actions, and each time there’ll be more who say: “Enough!”

Defecting from totalitarianism is an honorable and often heroic act. It’s the illustrious defectors who defeated the one-party regimes in Communist Europe. Baryshnikov, Nadia Comăneci, Milos Forman and Viktor Korchnoi – among many others – are on that list, as is Paquito de Rivera and Duque Hernandez of the New York Yankees on our continent.

They’re the ones who stopped defending the indefensible, in Arturo McFields’ words. His defection links him to those mentioned earlier; his name today erodes the one-party regime of Ortega-Murillo. Valiant and courageous for certain, but also ethical. To close with his own words:

“Light can do more than darkness, because love is stronger than hate, because you can fool people for a while, but not forever. Because God may sometimes delay, but he never, NEVER forgets.” May it be so, Nicaragua.

This article was originally posted in Infobae and translated by Havana Times


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Héctor Schamis

Héctor Schamis

Académico argentino. Actualmente es profesor en el Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos en la Universidad de Georgetown. Es autor de varios libros y articulista de opinión en diferentes medios.