The old familiar revolutionary slogans were relegated to second place in the face of a new cry from the Sandinista sympathizers this July 19th in the Plaza la Fe: “Daniel stays! Daniel stays!”
Comandante Daniel Ortega received the accolades of his smiling loyal masses. He immediately launched into a furious discourse against the Catholic bishops from the Episcopal Conference, accusing them of promoting a “coup d’etat” against him. The leader celebrated the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution with his own convenient interpretation of the sociopolitical crisis that Nicaragua is experiencing.
Despite the more than 300 deaths registered during these months of protests, Ortega spoke only of the fallen policemen, even calling one of the officials killed in Managua a “hero”. Ortega’s discourse was pointed and confrontive, and at certain points in his rally almost burlesque.
“I thought that they were mediators, but no, they had already made commitments with the Coup supporters. They were in with the Coup plotters,” Ortega stated coolly, in reference to the proposed agenda for National Dialogue that the religious leaders presented to the Sandinista strongman on June 7th in the Casa de los Pueblos [House of the Peoples].
The bishops mediating the national dialogue had proposed to Ortega a roadmap to democracy. As part of this, participants at the Dialogue table underlined the need for profound political reforms in the electoral and judicial systems, with the goal of celebrating early elections in March 2019.
La Iglesia no sufre por ser calumniada, agredida y perseguida. Sufre por quienes han sido asesinados, por las familias que lloran, por los detenidos injustamente y por quienes huyen de la represión. Rezamos y estaremos a su lado siempre en nombre de Jesús.
— Silvio José Báez (@silviojbaez) 19 de julio de 2018
Ortega stated that “the script” read by the bishops astounded him: “They brought out their strategy, and they said: ‘You have to change now,’ they gave us a two-day deadline.” “The Judicial power must be changed now, the Electoral Power, the Comptroller, and the President must be deposed with early elections.” When I received that document I said, ‘well then, this is what they really want.’” Ortega related this in support of his accusations of “Coup plotters” launched against the bishops. Each time that the leader said the word “Coup”, the red and black crowd went crazy.
Ortega maintained that within the Episcopal Conference there are “confrontative” bishops and others who are more “moderate.” While the leader attacked the bishops, Vatican representative Nuncio Waldemar Sommetarg remained serious in his place to the left of the stage. Pope Francis’ ambassador listened to the dictator’s interpretations with a severe countenance.
Each time his speech paused, Ortega leaned against a transparent podium to receive the applause of his sympathizers. At no time during his slander of the religious leaders did he mention the attack that the Nuncio himself suffered, together with the bishops, in the city of Diriamba, or the gunfire attacks against the church of the Divine Mercy.
“It hurts me greatly to say this, because I have high regard for the bishops. I respect them, I’m a Catholic. But they have their positions and unfortunately the lines of confrontation instead of mediation always impose themselves,” Ortega said.
He referred to the day of fasting and prayer for exorcism the Episcopal Conference has called for: “They should exorcise the demons that they have there… tell them that we have to reestablish peace and stability, so that the country can continue growing.” Ortega finished his speech amid the new cry that rose above the old revolutionary slogans: “Daniel stays! Daniel stays!” Ortega’s demeanor was that of a president who had won an armed crusade, when what he has overseen is a systematic attack against a civic rebellion that demands he leave power.
Es primordial regreso de buena fe de las partes al Diálogo Nacional facilitado por la Conferencia Episcopal de #Nicaragua @CENicaragua. Es la instancia para resolver aspectos políticos y electorales de la crisis. @OEA_oficial pic.twitter.com/RHrXF12CLp
— Luis Almagro (@Almagro_OEA2015) 20 de julio de 2018
Todd Robinson, Central American advisor for the U.S. State Department, stated this Thursday that the United States offered their full support to the bishops as mediators and guarantors of the National Dialogue.
“We continue supporting the efforts of the Episcopal Conference to resolve the current conflict, reestablish respect for human rights and assure a more prosperous and democratic future for all Nicaraguans. We value the key role of mediation that the church is carrying out,” Robinson assured. “Nevertheless, we are concerned that it’s becoming a target of physical aggression and delegitimization by the Ortega government and its supporters.”
Una vez más, nuestro respaldo a la @CENicaragua . Estamos listos para volver al #DiálogoNacional. #NoMásPresosPolíticos #NoMásFuerzasParapoliciales@silviojbaez @DiocesisdeMat @jorgesolorzanop @DiocesisJinot @DiocesisLeonNi pic.twitter.com/cGoopuDJx2
— Alianza Cívica Nicaragua (@AlianzaCivicaNi) 20 de julio de 2018
The official from Donald Trump’s government insisted that the “path to a lasting peace in Nicaragua continues to be that of early, free, just and transparent elections…. We urge Ortega to join the dialogue for peace led by the church and to enter into negotiations in good faith,” Robinson stated.
Plugging the empty spaces with flags
The gathering commemorating the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution was set for two pm, but it took about two more hours for the plaza to fill with sympathizers. Although it was well attended, it wasn’t an overflow crowd as in previous July 19 celebrations. The spaces that were left were disguised by three enormous flags (two red-and-black Sandinista flags and the blue-and-white Nicaraguan flag) so that the cameras from the official media channels could show a sensationally full crowd.
In the Ministry of Governance, where the press credentials were issued, the employees arrived at noon to report for the rally in the plaza. They were asked to enter through the back door of the building to verify their attendance, and from there they left for the party assembly. Ortega clarified that this was not only a celebration for the municipalities around Managua, but that the 39th anniversary of the revolution was being celebrated simultaneously in different departments around the country.
Ortega entró a la plaza con un enorme despliegue de soldados élite de tu tropa de ocupación, una caravana de 6 camionetas rebalsadas de agentes mostrando los cañones de sus fusiles, mientras decenas de antimotines trotaban, fusil al pecho, escoltando su Mercedes. ¿Tiene miedo?
— Carlos F Chamorro (@cefeche) 19 de julio de 2018
The presidential couple made a surprising entrance into the Plaza del Fe in a Mercedes Benz G63. They entered standing up through the vehicle’s sun roof, saluting the crowd of sympathizers, Ortega more effusively than Murillo. The leader, not well known for popular charisma, made an effort to appear close to his base of support. Both the President and his wife the Vice President were escorted by an elite security force: Six patrol wagons full of hooded officials – the barrels of their rifles barely visible – and another group of riot police on foot surrounded the Mercedes of the “President of the poor.”
The central stage was decked with flowers; members of the Sandinista Youth with their red and black handkerchiefs waved them in synchronization. Fidel Morena, secretary for Managua’s city hall and recently sanctioned by the United States under the Magnitsky act, directed the positions onstage with a walkie-talkie. Meanwhile, Carlos Mejicano, Murillo’s loyal squire, consulted with the music programmer to assure that the right piece would be playing when Ortega mounted the stage to salute those present in the plaza.
Así ingresó Ortega a la Plaza acompañado de la eternamente leal, Rosario Murillo, entre los vítores de los simpatizantes de su dictadura este 19 de julio pic.twitter.com/Ddticjhumc
— Wilfredo Miranda (@PiruloAr) 19 de julio de 2018
Daniel stays! Daniel stays!
Even if it pains you, Daniel stays!
The refrain from the dictatorship’s new cumbia sounded, a musical piece that his followers have been dancing to for weeks and posting on social media with the hashtag #DanielSeQuedaChallenge.
Applause and cheers resounded for the comandante. No other heads of state were present for this July 19th activity, although Cuba and Venezuela, his unconditional allies, sent their foreign ministers. Bruno Rodriguez from the Cuban isle gave a speech centered on anti-imperialism. Rodriguez was the only one to mention the resolution condemning Ortega’s regime that was approved on Wednesday by the Organization of American States, an organization whose legitimacy the Castros foreign minister denied.
Jorge Arreaza, much younger than the Cuban and the high representative of Chavism, compared the Nicaraguan crisis “to the one we in Venezuela lived through last year.” Arreaza blamed everyone in his country except the Maduro government for the violence that left 112 dead in Venezuela over 100 days of protests. Arreaza – who detests Yanqui interventionism – then promised that Chavez supporters would be willing to come to Nicaragua to defend its sovereignty.
The act was also attended by the Ortega bloc of parliamentary deputies, headed by Wilfredo Navarro. Representatives of the state powers were there and the high command of the Nicaraguan Army that has insisted upon remaining at the margins of the crisis. The high echelons of the National Police couldn’t be lacking. High Commissioner Francisco Diaz, sanctioned by the United States, remained very quiet in his seat. When Murillo presented the special guests and mentioned the Police, the multitude applauded those in uniform. The police have been accused in the majority of the denunciations of killing peaceful demonstrators.
Ortega read the names of police officials who died during this crisis. “Pay careful attention, they say that their struggle was a civic one, that their protest was a civic protest. So – Who killed Chief Commissioner Luis Emlio Lopez Bustos of the National Police?” the leader asked. The crowd responded in union – “the golpistas [“Coup plotters”]. And so on with each of the names of the fallen officials. Ortega’s list made no mention of any of the students or citizens who have been killed by the police and paramilitaries.
Instead, Ortega went on pointing to the bishops and accusing the church of being an accomplice to the violence. “The truth must be told. I don’t know if it’s all the bishops, I want to believe that it’s not all of them. I want to believe that the Cardinal [Leopoldo Brenes] knew nothing of this, but many churches were used as places to store arms, to store bombs, and from there to go out to attack and kill,” Ortega stated.
Call for “self-defense”
During the assembly, Vice President Rosario Murillo presented Amada Pineda Arauz, mother of Francisco Ramon Pineda, killed in Managua the same day that the Pavon family was burned to death in the Carlos Marx neighborhood.
Ortega awarded Amada Pineda the Augusto Sandino Order and called the killer paramilitary a “hero”. Although Ortega doesn’t mention by name these irregular groups, he praised them: “We must fight for peace with intelligence, we must fight for peace without hatred; we must fight for peace by strengthening our self-defense mechanisms, so that our Sandinista families are never again assassinated, and the homes of Sandinistas are never again set on fire.”
The dictator also referred briefly to the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. “This is the false face of the Coup plotters, it’s the mask of the Coup plotters,” he insisted. However, it was the bishops who received the brunt of the attack, both directly and through mockery.