Outline of the Conflict in Nicaragua
By: Jason Klarl
The following are excerpts from a May 2019 interview with Lauren, (her real name has been changed as a precaution) a community development worker who had been living in Nicaragua for nearly three years before the political unrest shook the country in April 2018.
Tell me about some of your first interactions with Nicaraguans…
I landed in Managua and my boss picked me up at the airport, which was great. He’s a Nicaraguan man, the director of the organization. We had a three hour drive. We started talking about the upcoming election where Daniel Ortega was going to run again. I asked him his opinion and he said that Daniel Ortega is becoming a dictator, and had a dictatorship… (the word of dictatorship in Spanish is dictadura, and dura means hard, so he was making a word play arguing it wasn’t a dicta-dura but a ‘dictabuena’, and that he was a good dictator”. At the time what Daniel Ortega
had been doing was repaving roads, increasing healthcare, and having some better improvements in education. And I think that in general Nicaraguans are…they have the war, the very long civil war in their very recent memory. And many people who are in their 50’s and 60’s and 40’s lost their brother, their mom, their dad. And nobody wanted to think that Daniel Ortega, who was the savior, had become what he’d overthrown. So there was a lot of tolerance, like:
‘Yeah he’s a dictator, but he’s ‘dictabuena’.
Was there any time where you felt like there was any sort of tension or any thing like that with how [Nicaraguans] regarded estadounidenses?
I think that there was a very clear understanding that what the CIA did, what Ronald Reagan did isn’t the same as me. I didn’t do that. And I do think that people from the U.S. as a whole have benefited from the actions of the U.S. government. So it’s not to say that I’ve never benefited from the corruption and imperialism that our country has done. But I … never felt that someone thought I had done any malicious acts towards them. I did have a few conversations with people where they said, ‘Do you know what your country did to my country’? And because I had
read books like Blood of Brothers and The Country Under My Skin, and other books about the revolution and civil war, I was able to say yes. I don’t understand how it felt to live here during the war, but I am not completely ignorant of it.
(I asked Lauren to respond to a quote from a Bernie Sanders interview from 1985, shortly after his visit to Nicaragua):
One of the things that I think I learned on my trip, you know as a socialist…the word socialism
does not frighten me. And I think it’s probably fair to say that the Nicaraguan government is primarily a socialist government. But what you learn down there is that socialism, or anti-capitalism, is much less prevalent than nationalism. Basically what they’re saying is, we’ve been under the thumb of the Marines—as you know the Marines installed the Somoza family—we’ve been under the thumb of the United States for our entire modern history and we’re not going to
be under the thumb of anybody anymore. Nicaragua is our country. We will do the right
things or the wrong things. We will make our mistakes, but we will make them independently,
as an independent, free nation. That is the theme of their revolution.
I think that in general Nicaraguans love Nicaragua. And Nicaraguans love Sandino and the Sandinista ideals …[A] taxi driver told me that one of the boys …I think he was 19, who was killed in Esteli, his father had been one of the Sandinista soldiers who had liberated Daniel Ortega from prison. And the taxi driver told me basically, Daniel Ortega repaid this man by killing his son. He was killed with a sniper. And that same driver told me, ‘I’m a Sandinista. And I believe in freedom and equality, and not having one landowner own the entire country but instead dividing it amongst the laborers. But I am NOT a Danielista. And so I think that Nicaraguans do believe in cooperativism, and working together, and always together is better.
I don’t know how much you feel comfortable speaking about the events of last year, the unrest where people were killed. Please share whatever you’d like.
On April 16th or right around April 16th, the Ortega government announced a social security change. So, essentially retired people, grandma and grandpa we’re going to receive less in their Social Security benefit money each month. And people who work and pay into Social Security were going to have to pay more. So people did the math and realized that that wasn’t fair. So grandma and grandpa started protesting on April 17th. … At the end of May and beginning of June there was a national day of protest. So basically León, the city where I was living, on a Tuesday decided to have a paro. That basically means to stop all economic activities so that no taxes are going into the government’s pocket. So every store was closed. There was a woman who sold papaya off of a basket on her head every single day. Every single day except that day. And I heard her yelling ‘papaya’ every single day, and so even she was protesting. But when the barricades were going up I went to one of my neighbor’s houses. And she’s like 80, so she lived through the war. And she told us, ‘Do you have barricades on your street? You need to make them to protect yourselves from police.’ So there was, and probably still is, a real fear.
The full interview is available on travelogue.media http://bit.ly/2WsOZMQ
Cover photo: Flickr de Jorge Mejía Peralta.