by Gianni Beretta

Me duele respirar’, it hurts me to breathe. These are the last words of 15-year-old Alvaro Conrado, one of the very first victims of the student uprising that broke out in Nicaragua in April 2018, involving hundreds of thousands of people who poured into the streets and squares of Managua and the rest of the country. As in the days of the very first anniversaries of the Revolución Popular Sandinista, which the writer had the honour of attending (in 1981) as a representative of the Italian metal workers of the united trade union FLM. Alvarito was shot in the throat by a sniper, as a tragic video testifies with his extreme moaning. He was taken in vain to a hospital in the capital, where the regime had already forbidden any assistance to the demonstrators. He died of internal haemorrhaging. More than 350 victims (mostly young people) have been “certified” by human rights organisations, led by the UN, during these three to four months of general mobilisation. This does not include the thousands who were injured, detained, forced into hiding or left the country.

And it certainly hurts to breathe on this 19th of July, when we remember the popular uprising of 1979 that put an end to the Somoza dynasty. One of its architects was the then guerrilla commander Daniel Ortega. He who, five years ago, in his ill-fated second term as president, bloodily crushed the uprising of the “grandsons” of the General de Hombres Libres, Augusto C. Sandino (we were there). So much so that today we speak of Orteguismo, with the term Sandinista reduced to the acronym of that Frente (Fsln) of which Ortega was always the secretary. A few years after the electoral debacle of the February ‘90 revolution, we documented Ortega’s growing power madness on the ground. He marginalised a large part of the Sandinista leadership, which would have preferred to consolidate the democracy that the defeat at the ballot box had in fact expressed. He thus entered into a mad pact with the local oligarchy. Until he repositioned himself at the top of the country in the 2007 elections.

From then on, the Danielist clan went on the rampage, led by Ortega’s deputy and wife, Rosario Murillo. He proclaimed himself Christian, socialist and anti-imperialist. However, he immediately ratified the Free Trade Agreement between the countries of the Central American isthmus and the United States (Cafta), which is still in force today, to the extent that Nicaragua does more than half of its total trade with the United States. These, in turn, have so far ‘limited themselves’ (like the EU) to ad personam sanctions against family members and exponents of the dictatorship. Nothing to do, therefore, with the cruel US embargo of more than sixty years against Cuba, which, although reduced to starvation, still resists. And where it would have been difficult to combine national sovereignty with the exercise of that democracy which we have only experienced in the wealthy north-western hemisphere (and which is much manipulated today), just 90 miles from the shores of the “giant of the north”. Or with Washington’s systematic boycott of the Venezuelan economy (only recently eased by the global oil crisis), with Nicolás Maduro, orphan of Hugo Chavez and despite the catastrophic situation of his country, maintaining a dialogue with the opposition, albeit a very conflictual one.

Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, all three in the Cuenca del Caribe, the US’s historic backyard with a swimming pool attached. But as a neo-oligarch, Ortega has his foot in many camps, instrumentally reducing the rebels of the spontaneous ‘spring’ of 2018 to the handiwork of an alleged coup hatched by the White House. It is therefore painful to think of the tyrannical drift of recent years, which has seen the imprisonment of the legendary commander Dora Maria Tellez (now sent abroad, free but “denationalised”, along with 222 other political prisoners of various tendencies). It is even more saddening to recall the death in prison last year of the Sandinista general Hugo Torres, to whose daring guerrilla operation in 1974 Daniel Ortega owed his release from a Somozista prison.

It’s hard to understand how the revolution that aroused the greatest expectations among the generations (and following) ‘68 turned out to have such an aftermath. At the time, the United States did everything it could (short of invading) to thwart it, fearing that its very openness and plurality could contaminate the entire Latin American subcontinent. Whereas today they are almost ‘letting it happen’ in the face of a small country that has become insignificant in their eyes. With Ortega, who, according to the latest Cid-Gallup poll, has less than 15% support, thanks to those Nicaraguans who benefit from the regime; who this time celebrated el triunfo on 19 July in a small square in the capital.

At the international level, Nicaragua’s (self-)isolation is worrying. Suffice it to say that it was the only Latin American government not to sign the final summit agreement with the European Union last Tuesday in Brussels. Not even Cuba and Venezuela refused to sign a general condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But for those who still have doubts, especially in our country, about this disastrous drift, it would suffice to mention President Daniel Ortega’s decision a few days ago to extend the recent appointment of Maurizio Gelli (son of the leader of the controversial masonic association P2) as ambassador of the Nicaraguan government in Spain to the Republic of Andorra.

As if to complete a ‘historical and geographical’ circle that began when the banker Roberto Calvi, a Mason in the disquieting Andorra Lodge, of the Nicaraguan-Italian businessman Alvaro Robelo (whose daughter Monica is ambassador to Italy), opened the Nicaraguan branch of the Banco Ambrosiano in Managua in 1977 under the auspices of the dictator Anastasio Somoza Junior. Not to mention, of course, that Maurizio Gelli’s son, who shares the same name as his grandfather Licio, has been Nicaragua’s ambassador to Uruguay since last summer.

Oh yes, dear Alvarito, duele respirar….

On the cover photo: People on street commemorating the 37th anniversary of victory of sandinist revolution (Managua, Nicaragua July 19, 2016) © Riderfoot/