This interview begins and ends the same way: with a deep sigh. For Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo it is not easy to recall what has happened or to see what is happening in Nicaragua, where in recent weeks the Sandinista government has ordered the arrest of opposition politicians, student leaders, journalists, human rights defenders and members of civil society.
Zoilamérica is 54 years old, a mother of three children, a sociologist and a teacher at the university. She is also the daughter of the Vice President of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo, and stepdaughter of President Daniel Ortega, whom he denounced in 1998 for sexual abuse, rape and harassment. Both Ortega and Murillo denied the accusations and called them a political conspiracy, until the case was finally closed by prescription. In 2013, after pressure and her own mother’s persecution against her environment, Zoilamérica was forced to leave the country and go into exile in Costa Rica, where she currently lives.RELATED
From there he explains to elDiario.es he regrets the serious situation that Nicaragua is going through with the wave of arrests – among which are six opposition presidential candidates – when there are barely four months until the elections. He knows better than anyone that the Ortega-Murillo tandem “is not willing to negotiate power.”
After being president between 1985 and 1990, Ortega took over the reins of the country in 2007 and since then his government has been increasing control over the powers of the State and institutions, increasingly resembling the Somoza dynasty that he himself helped. to overthrow in 1979. In recent years not only did he manage to place his wife as vice president, but eight of the nine children they have in common occupy key positions in the country.
In April 2018, Nicaragua experienced an unprecedented social outbreak. Thousands of people took to the streets to protest against a social security reform that harmed both workers and retirees, and despite the project being withdrawn, the mobilizations lasted for months and more than 300 people died in the clashes with the repressive forces. Protests they undoubtedly marked a turning point and represented a loss of support for the Ortega-Murillos.
Despite everything, Zoilamérica has never lost hope in her country and hopes to one day be able to return to Nicaragua and teach at the university.
How do you live in exile?
It has always been a difficult process. In a first stage due to my own history, knowing that my mother was able to act as she acted with the (sexual) abuse, that took time to assimilate, since I always thought about the possibility that I would see it differently, that it would take time to early react. However, the complicity about my history of abuse also led her to turn power into a tool for her own causes. It was a difficult time when he haunted me to the point of having to leave the countryBecause I always believed that there was a limit that I was not going to cross, that it could be to respect my life and that of my children and, nevertheless, he crossed it by threatening us.
Every time he crosses a limit, as also happened in the protests of April 2018, I have to admit that this is the person who gave me life and that deep contradiction can only be carried out with principles: recognizing that he stopped being who he was when he immersed himself in the world of politics and power. It is a process that continues to be painful and I see how the figure that was destructive to me is being destructive to a country.
The Ortega-Murillos are clinging to power, and after this new wave of repression, they do not seem to be willing to lose the elections. How has this situation been reached?
The first tool that this regime used at the beginning, and which was successful, was to change masks: the guerrilla revolutionaries who became democrats and then the United Nicaragua Triunfa Alliance that summoned priests and private companies. This image greatly seduced national and international public opinion because no one wanted to renounce the myth of the revolution. It was better to see a reinvented revolution, because what has always been in the background is preserving power and, if it is necessary to change clothes to preserve it, they will. That has been a constant in this couple since 1990, when they lost the election. Then they reappeared in 2007, Machiavellian reinvented, won the elections and sold another mirage, because their power is based on manipulation.
This regime had the capacity to –to achieve– three things: first, to maintain an image of a parallel country in which a “normal”, prosperous Nicaragua was always seen; the second is that the business sector, the church and the army succumbed; and the third element is strong militant sympathy.
In 2018, however, that ability to reinvent itself was forever broken, because for the first time they had no plan to confront a people who shouted “we don’t want more of the same”, and they had no choice but to react with force. Their arrogance made them believe that this costume ball was going to work for them forever and that arrogance has not allowed them to recognize what was behind that civil cry.
How would you rate the latest wave of arrests?
They definitely saw in the electoral process a window to lose power again. The question is, if they can organize electoral fraud, why do they care? And the problem is not only a vote count, but that they need to maintain this hegemony of manipulation. For them it is a risk to allow an opposition political message, to allow sectors of Nicaraguans to speak to the country through communication and to strengthen a new consciousness in a people that has been used to hearing a single vision and that has fed on myths and mirages. . That is why they are not willing to lose the elections.
In order not to take risks in the elections, they make this sort of declaration of war and with it they are replicating the electoral scenario of the 1980s, elections that were held in a context of armed conflict. Thus, they can polarize the situation by saying that it is an election between American imperialism and Nicaragua, and in that polarization they turn all citizens not related to them into traitors. That’s where they feel strong.
They try to militarize the elections in order to generate a scenario in which they appear as heroes defending a sovereign position, instead of appearing for what they are, accused of committing crimes against humanity. Its objective is to leave no single alternative to independent thinking or anything that detracts from their legitimacy. They prefer to govern an isolated, blocked and economically asphyxiated Nicaragua than to allow a minimum space of freedom, they prefer to enclose it from the world but have their kingdom.
Among the latest detainees is Cristiana Chamorro, the main opposition leader and daughter of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who ruled Nicaragua from 1990 to 1997. Does Ortega fear this rival?
His worst nightmare is 1990, when he lost power. Cristiana Chamorro not only represented the risk of snatching the electorate from him, but it also meant allowing (to present) those who had already done it once. There is a viciousness with the Chamorro family because, in general, Violeta Chamorro slapped their intention to continue. They will never accept that the people reject them for their mentality of attachment to power and feeling adored.
For that also the media shutdown: For them it is not only losing state power, but also losing the power to submit, to generate obedience, to feel like chosen idols of history. Some of the people who are imprisoned were comrades in the struggle, they are now trying to eliminate them from history, to turn those Sandinistas into traitors so that the heirs of history continue to be them.
Following the 2018 protests, in Nicaragua there was a national dialogue between the government, students, and opposition leaders. Will there be this time?
Power is not negotiated. In this premise is the ideology of the Nicaraguan regime. From that point of view, it is very dangerous to dare to point out whether a negotiation would make it possible to change the situation in the country. A true negotiation could only take place with the guarantees in advance that all these demonstrations of abuse of power and authoritarianism will change. You can’t go back to trading with the gun to your head.
We would not want a war as the alternative for this to change. However, we have to recognize that any way out will not be without suffering and sacrifice of the Nicaraguan people because we are in the hands of people who are willing to do everything or nothing.
We must create new routes, new channels, but these involve releasing resources of power that show that it is not about creating a negotiating scenario to continue legitimizing the dictatorship. And this is the dangerous thing: to re-create another negotiation to re-generate a framework of legitimacy for the dictatorship. The route will have to be to completely ignore the Government of Nicaragua as a legitimate government and from that reality create a different process.
Will the Nicaraguan people now take to the streets to protest?
Despite the fact that the pandemic has reduced the possibility of mobilizing, critical thinking is still there and more ways have been generated of continuing to say “we need a change” and they will continue to exist. Although there is no popular mobilization or armed violence, which is what the regime would like to justify its crimes, Nicaragua is on its feet, it is speaking. The opposition, the resistance, we are all and we will be there until the change is achieved.
Do you see yourself coming back one day?
Yes, of course. I see myself teaching in Nicaragua, I see myself waking up one day having students to attend to in a university. Exile allowed me to confirm my vocation as a teacher. The real change will not only be in changing the political leadership, changing the dictatorship; We know that we will have a huge challenge in how to unite a country that is being destroyed in our cohesion as a nation. But I trust that the new generations can acquire this ability to be a bridge between ways of reading history, a generation that does not need to speak of a Somoza Nicaragua and a Sandinista Nicaragua, but a Nicaragua for itself, and that is achieved through education.