Nicaragua is currently in the throes of a massive protest movement against the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) government of Daniel Ortega. The protest movement is broad and contains organizations across the political spectrum from the proto-anarchist student organizations, like the Alianza Universitaria Nicaraguense (AUN), to the right-wing COSEP (Superior Council of Private Enterprise). What they all have in common is an opposition to the Ortega government, and a desire to see it ousted from power. It is such a broad front that it can barely be called so, to the point where COSEP and other rightists are forced out of protest areas dominated by the AUN.
The current protest movement originates from a series of manifestations against a fire in the Indio Maiz and against a proposed social security reform that merged into one movement after the government’s heavy-handed response resulted in over 40, now over 50, deaths. While the fire has since been contained and the social security reform has been rescinded, popular discontent is now targeting the Ortega government to be removed from power.
The situation in Nicaragua is messy and has no clear delineations, and this is the very reason that it needs to be addressed. A first glance at the anti-Ortega movement and the FSLN government can be misleading to those outside the country who rely upon the slivers of information dished out by western media and the anti-imperialist TeleSUR. To many communists, it looks like a story they have seen a million times before. A historically socialist government in Latin America is facing a massive and political diverse anti-government movement that is described, by the government in question, as a CIA backed attempt at a coup. Such a thing is commonplace and can be seen throughout the past and present day. In fact, Nicaragua has faced a similar scenario with the Contras (CIA backed right-wing terrorists) in the 80s. However, such a quick glance would not tell the whole picture. Nothing is at it first seems.
What needs to be expressed is that the current FSLN is not the progressive and inspiring socialist party that it once was. There are very real grievances among Nicaragua’s left, many of whom view themselves as Sandinista’s true to the original vision.
Since the most recent election of Daniel Ortega to office in 2006, the FSLN has abandoned its core principles that made it the popular people’s movement of the 1980s. In the 2006 campaign, Ortega chose the former Contra leader, Jaime Morales Corazo, as his running mate. Let’s not forget that the Contras were a CIA backed right-wing militant group that waged a brutal terrorist campaign against the socialist Sandinista government from 1979 to 1990. Imagine if Fidel Castro chose a leader from the Bay of Pigs invasion to be his direct subordinate. Such a notion is ridiculous and hypocritical and demonstrates the hollow rhetoric of the “socialist” Ortega. Currently, the vice president is his wife, Rosario Murillo.
In addition to the Contra vice-president, the 2006 FSLN campaign saw Ortega resort to anti-semitic attacks in an attempt to delegitimatize his opposition. Such shocking actions did not stay contained to the campaign trail either. Perhaps the most concerning and damning activities of the new Ortega is the government’s attack on women’s rights. Women played an integral role in the Sandinista Revolution, with 30% of the revolutionary army consisting of women.1 In comparison, in 2014, 35% of the Kurdish fighters in Rojava were women.2
During the 2006 election, Ortega came to the decision to favor the outlawing of abortion, which he later did, and to make matters worse, the women’s centers and the “women’s police,” which dealt with issues like domestic violence, were disbanded.3456 Women’s liberation was an integral aspect of the original Sandinista revolution, and so such a complete reversal on women’s issues is the best indicator of just how degenerate the FSLN has become.
One of the catalysts for the current protest movement stems from a fire that occurred due to the Nicaraguan government’s neocolonial policy towards the indigenous people of the area. Naturally, the FSLN used to be strong proponents of the rights of the indigenous people in Nicaragua but has since allowed invasive farmers to enter native territory for the purpose of deforestation and growing palm trees or raising cattle. These activities, which remind one of a similar issue in Brazil, resulted in a massive fire in Indio Maiz. The government’s seemly lack of ability or concern to handle the fire sparked protests last April. These protests soon combined with protests over a proposed social security reform that would cut pensions and raise taxes on employers and employees.
All in all, international leftists should refrain from publicly defending the Ortega government which has lost its socialist character. Support should be given to the student movements like Movimiento Universitario 19 de Abril, AUN, and Coordinadora por la Democracia y la Justicia, which are in a struggle against the right-wing to steer the movement. While the left of the anti-Ortega movement is making ground and growing its base of support, it is important that internationalists vocally condone the students to counter the FSLN line that the students are CIA-funded. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The attempt to discredit the students as right-wing is an attempt to legitimatize any valid critic from the left of the Ortega government.
- Kathin Erdmann. “Women join the Kurdish fight in Syria,”Deutsche Welle. Accessed May 11, 2018.
- “Nicaragua Prohibicion del aborto supone riesgo para la salud y la vida,” Human Rights Watch. Accessed May 12, 2018.
- “Adios a las comisarias,” La Prensa. Accessed May 12, 2018.
- “No le ven utilidad al ministerio de la mujer,” La Prensa. Accessed May 12, 2018.
- “Gobierno obstaculiza acceso la justicia las mujeres,” La Prensa. Accessed May 12, 2018.