San Jose. June 7, 2008. (María Suárez Toro, FIRE)
A legendary Sandinista leader and political activist launched an indefinite hunger strike on June 4, 2008 against the current President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega for his authoritarian policies. Dora María Tellez, who fought against the Somoza dictatorship during the 1970s and is currently a leader in the MRS – Renovated Sandinista Movement (Movimiento Renovación Sandinista) – an alternative Sandinista party – is among many who have launched protests against the Ortega Administration including their latest action involving threats to eliminate the legal status of the MRS party. ”I have decided to start this hunger strike in defense of our right to democracy and our right to life” she stated.
Nicaraguan poet and writer Gioconda Belli has stated that “She [Dora Maria] has emerged in the midst of the multitude that is not happy with the situation to demostrate that liberty is a non negotiable and the in the face of injustice silence and passivity do not have a place. Her valiant action is a signal that has come out of the heart of the same historical patriotism that inspired Sandino to go to the mountains with 30 men (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_history_of_Nicaragua) and that inspired a whole peoples to rebel against a 45 year old dictatorship.”
On August 22, 1978, as a young female Sandinista militant, Tellez was third in command of the operative against the Somoza dictatorship in her country where 24 Sandinistas occupied the National Palace, which liberated 70 political prisoners, among them the current President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. That action was an historical milestone marking the end of the brutal 60-year dictatorship.
Throughout the Sandinista Revolution and beyond, Tellez has defended the original agenda of a revolution that implemented numerous actions and human rights policies on behalf of the Nicaraguan people, including a massive literacy campaign, public health campaigns, land reform, some women’s rights initiatives and expansion of democratic participation in Nicaragua.
(See: http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article4051 )
Today, 30 years later, Tellez is challenging Ortega’s “Sandinista” government (FSLN – Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) because of its authoritarian policies that include threats to take away the legal status of the MRS political party that has sought throughout the last decade to revitalize and update the original spirit and platform of the Sandinista Revolution. (See http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/1424)
The MRS platform is based on the democratization of the Nicaraguan society: respect for its institutionality, human rights and women’s rights and, the eradication of poverty as well as efforts to create a healthy environment and social benefits for all. Women have been at the forefront of the process of reclaiming a Sandinismo that will restore their right to therapeutic abortion among other political, reproductive and sexual rights recently denied to them by the present Ortega Administration. (See http://vivirlatino.com/2006/10/27/therapeutic-abortion-now-illegal-in-nicaragua.php)
Among the issues Tellez is protesting is the Supreme Electoral Council’s notification this past May regarding legal problems for four political parties – one of them the MRS Party that she co-founded. Despite the fact that all four parties took part in elections just two years ago, with the municipal elections scheduled to take place this year, the Electoral Council has notified them that their legal status as a political party is under review, accusing them of the unsatisfactory completion of all requirements for political parties as defined under the Electoral Law. If a final sanction is announced in the next weeks, these four parties including MRS won’t be allowed to participate in the November 2008 Municipal Elections in Nicaragua to choose Mayors, Vice-Mayors, Members of Municipal Councils and Regional Authorities of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean.
(See http://insidecostarica.com/dailynews/2008/april/06/reg01.htm )
Many groups – among them the MRS Party – have expressed their concern about the deterioration of the electoral body that is in charge of safeguarding transparent and reliable elections. Critics who claim that the Supreme Electoral Council is losing its professionalism due to the strong political control from the governing political party, FSLN, have declared the following:
One and a half years after national elections took place in November 2006, the total final official outcomes have not been released.
The legal entity of the Nicaraguan Liberal Party (Alianza Liberal Nicaraguense – ALN), that won second place in the 2006 elections, was taken from its Presidential Candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, and given to politicians closer to FSLN. In doing so, the FSLN automatically gains control of all local electoral authorities.
Openly violating the Constitution and the Electoral Law, the Supreme Electoral Council decided last April 2008 to cancel the Municipal Election in three Municipalities of the Caribbean; arguing that there were insufficient conditions due to the impact of Hurricane Felix last October 2007. This provoked a a violent outcry in the Caribbean as the majority of the population in those Municipalities is demanding that elections be held in November. Civil Society is continuously protesting against this situation both in Managua and the Caribbean.
Their declaration is an open challenge to democracy according the MRS. And they do not stand alone. The 2007 Human Rights Report by the Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH – Nicaraguan Human Rights Center) as presented to the press by its leader, Vilma Nunez in February 2008 states that access to justice is the weakest point in the country’s institutionality. Nunez explained that judicial power has been used by economic and religious sectors in order to exclude and persecute their adversaries in favor of high level delegates of the FSLN party in power and the Liberal Constitutional Party with whom the Ortega government has an alliance.
Nunez accused Daniel Ortega of disrespecting the Constitution and degrading the legal system and its separation from the State. She called on the President to eliminate nepotism and the excessive centralization of public institutions, and criticized the confusion between State and Party in the country today.
Popular protests surrounding Dora Maria Tellez’s hunger strike are taking place at 5 pm every day at the Rotonda de Metrocentro in Managua, with support from political leaders, women’s organizations, cultural groups, social movements and international solidarity groups. They are demanding that the Electoral Council issue a favorable statement regarding the legal status of the MRS and also for respect of the institutional system in Nicaraguan society.
Activist Luis Ulloa send an email to Dora Maria stating that ‘her decision is admirable because once again she is willing to sacrifice her life once again so that our country can have a real state of rights, we need people like her in Nicaragua.”
Women in political parties and in social movements have been at the forefront of this struggle to recover Nicaragua’s institutional system and human rights framework because they were the first victims of the deterioration of such institutionality. It is well known today that the famous Aleman-Ortega “pact”of the FSLN and the head of the PLC – Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (Liberal Constitutional Party) which was made in the Legislative Assembly in 2000 when Ortega needed immunity to defend himself against charges of incest by his step daughter. Thus, impunity in a case of violation of women’s rights led to this political pact. (See more in www.radiofeminista.net)
Just Associates activist in Nicaragua, Malena de Montis has issued a call to women, men and human rights organizations to join in solidarity by sending emails to the Nicaraguan Embassies demanding respect of Nicaraguan institutionality and the international human rights framework.
For more information go to: Revista ENVIO in English at www.envio.org.ni
To express your solidarity with Dora María Tellez and the Nicaraguan movement towards democratization and the respect of its institutionality write to:
NICARAGUA. Current political context
In November 2008 Municipal Elections will take place in Nicaragua to choose Mayors, Vice-Mayor, Members of Municipal Council and Regional Authorities of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean. Many groups have expressed their concern with the deterioration of the electoral body. There is high risk that electoral outcomes would not be transparent and reliable. The Supreme Electoral Body (Consejo Supremo Electoral) has loosened professionalism due to the strong political control from the governing political party, FSLN:
One and a half years after national elections took place in November 2006, the final official outcomes have not been released; only the results from 92% of total votes.
The legal entity of the Nicaraguan Liberal Party (Alianza Liberal Nicaraguense – ALN), that won the second place in the 2006 elections, was taken from its Presidential Candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, and given to a politicians closer to FSLN. In doing so, the FSLN automatically gains control of all local electoral authorities.
Openly violating the Constitution and the Electoral Law, the Supreme Electoral Council decided last April 2008 to cancel the Municipal Election in three Municipalities of the Caribbean; arguing that there were no conditions due to the impact of Hurricane Felix last October 2007. This provoked a situation of high violence in the Caribbean as the majority of the population in those Municipalities is demanding that elections are held in November. Civil Society is continuously protesting against this situation both in Managua and the Caribbean.
By end-May the Supreme Electoral Council notified FOUR political parties the beginning of a review process to cancel their legal figure (“personería juridical”); arguing the unsatisfactory completion of all requirements defined in the Electoral Law…….just one and a half year after these parties officially participated in the National Elections of November 2006 and six month away from the Municipal Elections in November 2008. ‘Vamos Con Eduardo’ and ‘MRS’ (2nd and fourth place in Presidential Elections 2006) are two of these political parties. If a final sanction is emitted in the next weeks, these four parties won’t be able to participate in the November 2008 Municipal Elections.
President Ortega openly and directly blamed and accused Eduardo Montealgre, running for Mayor of Managua from ‘Vamos con Eduardo’, of stealing $600 million and all the judicial system is behind Montealegre, building a case against him to put him out of the Municipal Elections game.
These last two points are an open challenge to Democracy. As a response to these, Eduardo Montealegre send yesterday a strong message to President Ortega and challenged him to independently audit the $600 million case and offered to go to jail for one month for every million he is found guilty, but if not guilty, he asks President Ortega to leave office one month earlier for each million not found guilty. On the other hand, Edmundo Jarquin, Coordinator of ‘Alianza MRS’ attended the recent OAS Assembly to make a formal complaint against the dictatorship regime of Ortega and the actions being taken to remove the legal figure of MRS. Meanwhile, Dora Maria Tellez, board member of MRS, started a hunger strike demanding respect of Caribbean Municipal Elections, the resolution of economic crisis and a national dialogue. The hunger strike will last until necessary or as long as Dora Maria can handle it.
If confidence in elections continues deteriorating, there is significant risk of Nicaragua returning to historic cycles of violence. This risk is now higher because there is a widespread perception and some evidence that the Sandinista Government frequently acts beyond Law, weakening the Rule of Law.
CORRESPONDENCE in ENGLISH:
June 5, 2008
Hey NWI women – (y disculpa el ingles) —
All hell is breaking loose in central america — one hunger strike after another against corruption and the steady creep of authoritarianism. Interesting that the strikes are lead by women’s rights leaders — and real opportunity to talk about the bold leadership of women in the real fight for democracy and peace.
Jody, remember the amazing Comandante Dora Maria Tellez in 1984? In her army uniform- 28 years old – leader of a battalion who lead the take over of the palace — if I remember? Big wig in the Sandinista revolution? Now she’s leading a hunger strike because Ortega has declared the MRS — the reform movement in the sandinistas – illegal.
We’re wondering if we can get the Nobel Women’s support to issue a statement and to mobilize the network — that links the nobel women’s position during the elections maybe to continued erosion of democracy today in the region?
June 5, 2008
Well, queridas, I cannot think of a better action on my 60th birthday than to place myself on a 24 hour hunger strike in support of Dora Maria Tellez and the women and people who support her and her party in the struggle for the democratization of Nicaragua.
I was born in 1948, the year when the human rights framework was adopted and in celebrating my 60s, supporting this struggle actively today in supporting the demacratization of all of our Mesoamerican processes… the present government of Nicaragua has violated the most basic human rights of women human righst defenders in the case of the Nicaragua Nine these past months and now the case of the Renovación Sandinista Party. If we let Ortega get away with this in Nicaragua, others will follow his steps in the countries in the region as well.
I do it for the women and people in Nicaragua and the women and people thoughout Mesoamerica in out joint struggle towards a democcratization that includes women’s leaderchip role in shaping those processes.
Today, do not wish me a happy birthday… go on strike and say in Nicaragua and elsewhere through media.
Please write your actions to FIRE at email@example.com
To the Government of Nicaragua:
The eyes of the world are on Nicaragua today as they were in 1979 and througout the eighties when the FSLN was remaking a country ravaged by dictatorship and then torn by war. But today the eyes of the world are on Nicaragua because one of the most brilliant, honest and corageous of those early revolutionaries, Dora Maria Tellez, has launched a hunger strike to call attention to the ways in which a criminal political pact is robbing Nicaraguans of the dreams for which so many died. Please do not add Dora Maria’s death to the long list of martyred Nicaraguans! Her current act of valor–a desperate last-ditch attempt to return transparency and well-being to her countrypeople–must not go unheeded!If Nicaragua wants to be considered a democracy, it must protect the rights of all political parties.Margaret Randall.