A victory for the student and popular struggle… and what follows now?
From the 17h to the 22nd of April, Sunday, Nicaragua lived through an intense journey of struggle, whose vanguard were the university students who opposed the thoughtless reforms to social security, unilaterally approved by the Sandinista government. The struggle journeys have focused the attention of international media. The forgotten Nicaragua has returned to the news.
The revolutionary traditions are reborn
After years of reaction, imposed by the defeat of the 1990 revolution, and specifically by Daniel Ortega’s Bonapartist regime from 2007 onwards, which forbids any sort of independent mobilization or demonstration, the revolutionary traditions from the time of the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship have resurfaced in a youth generation born and developed in the period after 1990.
The struggle against the social security reforms started with a protest demonstration attempt by the students in the Central American University (UCA), which was brutally repressed by the paramilitary shock forces of the so called Juventud Sandinista (JS-19). This generated an immediate wave of solidarity and mobilizations against the aggressors.
Due to the fact that the Sandinista government has always stopped the protest marches and the social struggles, the right to manifestation converted rapidly into a violent confrontation in the streets. On this quarrel, the new student vanguard took up the struggle methods that Sandinismo utilized at the time of struggle against the Somoza. With scarves and hoodies on their faces, rocks in their hands, setting up barricades and using mortars, not only did they face the advance of paramilitary government groups (headed by the JS-19 and the mayors of each municipality), but also the anti-mutiny troops of the National Police.
One of the reborn slogans, coming from the heroic days of the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front), is the one famously pronounced by Leonel Rugama in 1970 (“Let your mother surrender!”) upon dying alone, in combat against 300 Somoza guards. This same slogan would resonate in every barricade and university premises. They went back to listening to revolutionary songs and hymns of the time of the struggle against the Somoza. The students and an important sector of the popular masses retrieved the memory and traditions that had been systematically erased after 1990. The students started discussing the need for a new revolution.
A popular semi-insurrection
By the mechanisms’ nonexistence in Nicaragua through which the masses could express or dissipate their discontent, what followed was the production of a social explosion – by an aspect as elementary as the right to march and protest -, that had the university youth as conductors.
This student vanguard did not fight alone, it was supported by the population close to the different university premises. The struggle started in the UCA, a private university, with middle-class students, but quickly spread to the public universities, among students with plebeian and popular origins, which encompasses also those private universities that receive 6% resources, such as the UPOLI (Polytechnic University of Nicaragua).
The generalization of struggle to almost all departments dispersed and weakened the National Police forces, which concentrated their attacks in sensitive sites such as the Managua Cathedral, the National University of Engineering (UNI), the National Agrarian University (UNA), and the UPOLI. Factually, the near complete stoppage of public administration was produced. Many small and medium businesses closed their doors in fear of the insecurity on the streets.
The solidarity mobilizations hatched in almost every department capitals and even in towns further away, reflecting a burst of the masses against the Sandinista government’s repression.
In a week, the selective repression of the National Police and of National Army snipers led to almost 30 dead. The students were shot to death, while the student vanguard was armed only with bravery and will to fight.
The government blocked the cable signal of four TV channels, but the students and the population were informed by social media, where they could see the mobilizations, hear the shots and watch with pain and impotence as many of their fellows were killed by murdering bullets.
If something characterized the recent struggle journeys, it was the dispersion of proposals and demands, as well as decentered organization. As expected, the struggle centers were disconnected from one another. The struggle in a department was not connected to the others. The one element that kept a certain degree of unity and centralization was the information and counterinformation that circulated through social media, which became a backdrop of media struggle between the Sandinista government and the struggling masses.
Fires, mass violence and looting
By there not being room for peaceful protest, the aggregate discontent generated, equally, a violent response against those who attacked and shot against the struggling students. The angry response of the masses in the streets centered against the “trees of life”, staggering metallic structures adorned with LED lights that were sown across Managua, and which became symbols of the new prevailing ideology (peace, love, good Christian, socialist and solidary government, etc.), whose greatest theoretical exponent is Rosario Murillo.
Many “trees of life” were brought down and burned. The masses’ discontent also centered against certain city halls, because the mayors were the ones who headed the shock forces, who attacked and shot against the demonstrators. There was the start of a fire in the Granada city hall, the headquarters of the National University Centre (CUUN) in Léon was burned down, and in other cases the fires were aborted.
In his speech on the Sunday of April 22nd, Daniel Ortega blamed gangs for the death and violence, but this statement contradicts earlier speeches where he stated that “in Nicaragua there are no mobs or gangs, because it is the safest country in Central America”. Without a shadow of doubt, Lumpen elements got mixed up within the mobilization of students and the public, wanting to take advantage of the crisis.
In general terms, order and respect among the members of communities prevailed in the struggle. The looting started the day on the Sunday of April 22nd by the morning, when the National Police retreated from certain sites. Everything points to the looters being sectors oriented by the Sandinismo, with the goal of discrediting the protests and terrifying the middle class that rebelled against the government. The threat of the spread of looting made the Oriental Market and the Mayoreo Market merchants set up armed vigilance groups, to avoid the destruction of their businesses. Moreover, things got to the extreme point where the public themselves stopped the looters, requested the merchandise and gave them back to the supermarkets and businesses.
A “soft coup” by the imperialism?
Some of the FSLN media qualified, between their teeth, along with Chavist parties like Venezuela’s PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and other heralds, the heroic Nicaraguan student and popular struggle journeys as an intended “soft coup”, organized by the North American imperialism and the local Right.
These kinds of subliminar statements confirmed that the Sandinista leadership has moved away from the people, and doesn’t understand the origin of the popular rebellion. In public, they strike each other in the chest and pretend to recognize mistakes, but in reality they maintain the same position to crush any attempt of independent mobilization. It is a reaffirmation of their reiterated contempt to the popular masses’ discontent.
In Nicaragua, the military and police summit is conformed by Sandinista cadres who are, at the moment, faithful to president Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.
The United States Department of State, on April 22nd, reflected, through a release, a cautious position by the Trump administration, by stating: “(…) We condemn the violence and the excessive force used by police and others against civilians who are exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly. (…) The United States calls for a broad-based dialogue involving all sectors of society to resolve the current conflict, restore respect for human rights, and achieve a better, more democratic future for all Nicaraguans.”
Afterwards, if there were still any doubts on what the US politics for Nicaragua was, the White House speaker, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, declared that Trump “condemns the violence and repression propagated by the Government of Nicaragua.” as well as “joins the international community in calls for broad-based dialogue and support for the people of Nicaragua, who yearn for the political freedom of expression and true democratic reforms they so richly deserve.”
So, what is this “soft coup” that the Chavists and reformists of every kind refer to? Coincidence or not, Daniel Ortega reaffirmed his stance to convene a wide dialogue with the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) and the Catholic Church, to discuss the social security crisis. Is this “soft coup” by any chance being applied by Daniel Ortega himself, by applying the politics of the Department of State and the White House?
An important victory for the masses
Daniel Ortega’s announcement on the Sunday of April 22nd, that the Directive Board of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) had reverted Resolution 1317, which was the grounds for Executive Decree nº 03-2018, constituted, without a shadow of doubt, a great triumph for the student and popular struggle. But this triumph had a great cost: over 30 murdered fellows, 121 injured, hundreds of arrested who had already been freed, small businesses looted, etc.
The great absence from these struggle journeys was the organized workers’, who fought as individuals, not as an organized class, which represents a huge weakness, and gives the Sandinista government wide room for manoeuvre. If the workers don’t advance in their union organization, and if the university youth does not create new and powerful democratic student organizations, this victory may be reverted at any moment, because Daniel Ortega’s Bonapartist regime, even if weakened, remains intact.
The dialogue being convened is not to discuss the social security issues with the struggling students, but to negotiate with businessmen, with the Catholic Church’s blessing. Rightly so, a sector of the student vanguard criticized the call for this negotiating table, backed by the United States, the UN, the OAS (Organization of American States) and the European Union.
A program and slogans for struggle
Initially, the struggle began against the thoughtless reforms to social security and in solidarity with UCA students, but in the heat of the confrontation new slogans have arisen, like the end of repression, punishment to the accountable, and more political slogans such as the debugging of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), demanding even the immediate resignation of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo.
After the obtained triumph, a belligerent sector converted the slogan of the presidential couple’s resignation to the most important one, even overriding the properly student demands.
The COSEP and the Catholic Church fish in a raging river
The April 23rd march, which took place in Managua, called by the COSEP to demand peace and dialogue, left from the Metrocentro square and ended in front of the UPOLI, where a combative sector of students were found on the struggle path. It was a march of tens of thousands of people, many of them private company workers who were given the afternoon off. The leadership weight of the middle class was notorious, but many popular sectors also joined the call. The absence was the struggling students’, who were repelling the National Police attacks.
The struggle journeys took place despite the COSEP’s conduction and incidence. All these opportunistic bloodsuckers did was riding the popular discontent, and using it in the negotiating table with the government. We cannot forget that, when it comes to the theme of social security reform, the COSEP’s stance is much harsher than the plan the Sandinista government intended to impose gradually and unilaterally. The COSEP called for demonstrations to stop the effects of the tax reform, that was demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be applied, and which implies the end of tax exemptions for an important sector of the parasitic bourgeoisie.
The crisis made the Sandinista government reconcile with the Catholic Church bishops, nominated by Daniel Ortega as the mediators for future dialogue. The COSEP accepted the Catholic Church as their “guarantors”.
Independent Investigation Commission
The brutal repression of the JS-19 shock forces, as well as the National Police anti-mutiny troops and the National Army essential troops, along with the murder of 30 fellows who fell by murdering bullets, must be investigated by an Independent Investigation Commission formed by delegates of human rights organizations, independent trade unions, delegations of the struggling students, as well as the affected’s families, with the goal to reach a report on human rights violations.
Those accountable for these violations must be sued and punished, and the victims’ family members must be indemnified by the Sandinista government. The report must lead to a debugging of the officers involved in murder and human rights violation.
Let the people decide whether Daniel Ortega should end his term or not
The demand by a belligerent sector of the students, who call for the immediate resignation of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo, is fair and understandable. However, the La Prensa journal seizes the opportunity to do the same: “For the first time since the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in 1979, Daniel Ortega and the FSLN have lost control of the streets. This is a transcendental feat that modifies the course of national history. From here on, Nicaragua can never be the same. (…) The businessmen should also call for a national stoppage. Daniel Ortega no longer has the political capacity nor the moral authority to go on ruling. Ortega must peacefully leave power or leave as Somoza did. (…) In the national dialogue, that should be mediated and assured by the international community, or at least the OAS, Ortega’s exit must be agreed upon, as well as the guarantees for an ordained and peaceful transition to democracy and, primordially, the call for free and transparent elections.” (La Prensa editorial, April 23rd 2018)
The exit proposed by the La Prensa is deeply undemocratic, and reflects interests that differ from the sincere demand of a student sector. Just as in the past, a sector of the bourgeoisie claims for an imperialist intervention that would free them from Daniel Ortega’s Bonapartist regime, and again solicit the intervention of the OAS, despite this organization having signed, in January 2017, an agreement with Daniel Ortega for gradual democratization of the political regime.
Moreover, some sectors are already proposing to anticipate the elections, just as in 1990. As long as a national stoppage or a massive, general rebellion that’s capable of overthrowing the current government is not produced, any exit to the current crisis must be democratic and with no interference of North American imperialism. The student and popular rebellion shows, effectively, a political deterioration of the Sandinista government, but it stills conserves a part of its social basis. A democratic exit would imply the decision of the people through democratic elections, through a plebiscite or referendum, if Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo should remain in power or must leave.
However, for the people to make their opinion, without the risk of new electoral fraud, the CSE must be restructured, and a new Electoral Law must be immediately approved that will ensure participation of all political forces in equal conditions.
For a National Student Coordinating Body
The Central American Socialist Party (PSOCA), who stood shoulder to shoulder with the thousands of students rebelling against the Ortega government, calls the student and the popular sectors’ vanguard to seize the struggle recess and initiate a process of democratic discussion, reviewing the struggle journeys and discussing the struggle program we must hoist in order to democratize Nicaragua.
Very specially, we call the students to build a Coordinating Body of the committees and brigades that participated, in order to create a national leadership that will allow to coordinate the future struggles, which will inevitably come.
It’s time to fight for a National Constituent Assembly
The student and popular rebellion was due not to an “imperialist conspiracy”, but to the Bonapartist regime’s constant overriding, and to the fact that the middle class and the popular sectors are the ones most severely stricken by the neoliberal economic policy applied by the Sandinista government, for the benefit of a reduced businessmen summit.
It’s time to democratize Nicaragua for the benefit of the poor, and this can only be achieved through the democratic and majoritarian decision of the people, reflected in the immediate call for a National Constituent Assembly, that will elect a provisional government and draft a new Constitution.
Central America, April 24th 2018
Central American Executive Secretariat (SECA)
Central American Socialist Party (PSOCA)
Translated by Eduardo Carniel