How Nicaraguan revolutionaries fell into dictatorship

Nicaraguan opposition leader Cristiana Chamorro has been jailed for eight years after being convicted of money laundering in a case she says was politically motivated.

Chamorro was “one of seven presidential candidates” held ahead of national elections last November, the BBC reported. She had been seen “by many in the opposition as their best hope of defeating” incumbent President Daniel Ortega, who won a fifth term as president with 75% of the vote.

Chamorro was arrested shortly after announcing she would run against Ortega, amid accusations of “abusive management” and “ideological lying” while running a media foundation.

“Five Honorable People”

Chamorro belongs to one of the most famous families in Nicaragua. His father, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, was editor of the La Prensa newspaper – which opposed the autocratic Somoza family rule from 1936 to 1979 – until he was assassinated in a broad daylight shooting. in 1978. Her mother, Violeta Chamorro, became Latin America’s first female president in 1990, ending Ortega’s first 11 years as president.

During her money laundering trial, which was held behind closed doors, Chamorro “remained defiant”, the BBC said. According to the opposition news site 100% Noticias, she accused the court of trying to “smear my name”, warning “they won’t succeed”.

His brother, Pedro Joaquín, and three former employees of the media foundation were also sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to 13 years. Chamorro said in court that “five honorable people” were charged with a crime they did not commit.

She joins several dozen opposition figures “imprisoned and convicted on similar charges by Ortega’s government ahead of last November’s election”, The Independent said. The president “targeted non-governmental groups” across the country, “cutting off their foreign funding, seizing their offices, and rescinding their charters.”

A hero of the country’s fight against the US-backed Somoza family, Ortega has long maintained that the groups he has targeted in recent years “are working with foreign interests who wanted to see him removed from office”, added the newspaper.

The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, which closed in January 2021, had provided training to local journalists while advocating for greater freedom of expression in Nicaragua.

The newly imprisoned opposition leader’s work at the head of the foundation led her to be accused of promoting “ideological falsehood” and “destabilizing the government” during her trial, France 24 said.

“The revolution is eaten”

Ortega was a key figure in the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the Somozas and became leader of Nicaragua in 1979. After being defeated by Chamorro’s mother in the 1990 elections, he returned to power in 2007 and remained in office since.

“Thousands of people fled into exile after Nicaraguan security forces violently suppressed anti-government protests in 2018,” Al Jazeera said. Ortega has repeatedly claimed that the protests were “a coup attempt with foreign support”.

The international community has strongly condemned the 2021 elections, with the EU saying Ortega’s victory lacked “legitimacy” because the vote took place “without democratic guarantees”. The bloc called on him to immediately release all political prisoners and “return the sovereignty of Nicaragua to the Nicaraguan people.”

The UK’s global human rights ambassador, Rita French, also attacked her government, saying she was “deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Nicaragua and the lack of progress in political dialogue.

French also called for “the release of political prisoners” and urged “the Nicaraguan government to end the repression of its citizens and cooperate fully with international human rights bodies.”

Nicaragua “doesn’t get much attention abroad,” writes Alma Guillermoprieto in The New Yorker. But “in the final years of the Cold War, the world was anxiously focused on events there.” A “motley army”, the Sandinistas, had succeeded in overthrowing the “dictatorship of the Somoza family dynasty and its brutal Guardia Nacional”.

It was a “David and Goliath” story, she continued. “Progressive, undogmatic, handsome socialist guerrillas” had defeated a powerful enemy allied with Washington and “promised their supporters” a “lasting solution to the endless problem of poverty and inequality in the region.”

More than four decades after this victory, however, the “revolution is eating itself up”. Ortega “crushed civil society” and threw several of his “former comrades” into prison as part of an effort to consolidate his power and maintain his influence.

“To those old enough to remember,” Guillermoprieto added, Ortega’s leadership “looks more and more like Somoza’s Nicaragua, the overthrown dictator.”

Thelma J. Longworth