The regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo removed the name of the legendary Nicaraguan baseball player Dennis Martínez from the facade, interior, logos, and social networks of the National Baseball Stadium in Managua.
A CONFIDENCIAL team verified that the pitcher’s name was erased from the facade, while users on social networks reported that they also removed a mural dedicated to Martínez’s career, which was inside the sports infrastructure.
The stadium was named to honor Martinez’ legacy as the greatest baseball player born in Nicaragua. He won 245 games in the Major Leagues including a Perfect Game on July 28, 1991, becoming the first Latin American to achieve the feat.
The mural, which highlighted the great moments of Martínez’s career, was a gift from the regime to the baseball player when he inaugurated the stadium, which was widely highlighted by the propaganda of the Ortega dictatorship as a “direct idea of Commander Daniel Ortega.”
The stadium was inaugurated by Ortega on October 20, 2017, in an activity to which only supporters of the Sandinista Front were allowed to enter.
In an emotional moment, Martínez threw out the first ball at the inauguration, while the screens showed images of the Perfect Game that he threw in 1991. The former baseball player thanked Ortega and Murillo in a few words for having named the stadium after him. “This is something for which I feel extremely grateful,” he said excitedly.
Ortega gave a brief speech, in which he described the stadium as a “work of art” and highlighted his government’s efforts to build it. The dictator did not refer to the legacy of Martínez, nor did he clarify the irregularities that occurred during construction.
Misappropriation with funds for the stadium
The stadium was scheduled to be built with a US $30 million donation from Taiwan. However, this money was suddenly diverted by the regime under the argument that these funds would finance the construction of Ciudad Belén, an ubanization in Sabana Grande for victims of the rains that hit Managua in 2017.
In order to build the stadium, the Managua Mayor’s Office took out a loan from Banpro and other banks in the national financial system, without it being publicly known how the funds from the Taiwan donation for the stadium were used.
However, Taiwan did not complain over these irregularities in the use of its donated funds. In an irony of fate, four years later, the regime practically expelled the diplomatic representation of Taiwan in Nicaragua, to re-establish relations with the People’s Republic of China.
The authorities of the National Stadium, administered by the Municipal Sports Facilities and Promotion Company (Emipde), attached to the Managua Mayor’s Office, have not commented on the removal of the name.
The former pitcher’s name was also deleted from social networks in which upcoming sporting events at the Stadium are announced.
Paramilitary base of operations
During the massacre of the 2018 citizen protests, the stadium served as a base of operations for Ortega’s paramilitary forces and the Police who repressed the university students in the nearby streets and avenues.
During the Mother’s Day March, on May 30, 2018, Ortega regime snipers were stationed at the Stadium and shot at protest participants. That day, eight people were killed in this march, as part of a day in which the dictatorship’s repression bathed Nicaragua in blood, with at least 19 deaths throughout the country due to the violence unleashed by the Police and paramilitary.
The baseball hero became a direct critic of the dictatorship as a result of the violence unleashed in 2018. He regretted that the stadium was used as a center of repressive operations by the regime. On June 1, 2018, Martínez issued a statement, in which he called not to continue using the stadium for operations of violence against the protests. He stated:
Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, I want to express my condolences to all the mothers of Nicaragua from yesterday and especially to those who have lost a loved one, due to the tragic and painful situation in my country. It is not what a mother deserves, because thank God for them we are here.
I call for justice, and a resounding NO to violence.
We must stop this vicious cycle of power so that it does not repeat itself. We must set an example for the new generations who trust us with much love to carry out their dreams and goals.
It hurts me to know that the national stadium that bears my name is being occupied for purposes of violence affecting my fellow Nicaraguans.
A place where I dreamed we Nicaraguans could get together to enjoy the sport that I carry in my heart.
I hope you understand that I do not have any intrusion in the way the Nicaraguan authorities want to use it (the stadium), but I would ask them to respect me as I made an effort with great pride for many years to represent my country. Stop using it for those purposes because those are not my values and principles.
Martínez became a promoter of dialogue
Dennis Martinez made constant calls to the regime to open the doors to a dialogue that would restore civil liberties in Nicaragua and put an end to the sociopolitical crisis caused by the violent repression in 2018, but his requests were never heard. The dictatorship responded with a dirty campaign against the former baseball player, through its propaganda media and its political operators.
Subsequently, in an effort to achieve the unity of the opposition political forces in the face of the 2021 electoral process, Martinez joined the Goodwill Commission to mediate between the leadership of the Democratic Restoration Party and the Alianza Ciudadanos por la Libertad so that they put their political ambitions aside and form an electoral unity ahead of the elections.
The commission’s attempts failed, and Ortega subsequently blew up the credibility of the electoral process by embarking on a repressive campaign in which he jailed seven aspiring presidential candidates and the country’s main opposition leaders.