The international commission for freedom of political prisoners
This month an International Human Rights Commission made up of parliamentarians, social movement, and human rights leaders from different countries, will be traveling to Costa Rica and from there to the border with Nicaragua to demand access to, and to check on the conditions of, political prisoners held by the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. Tempest interviews Ariana McGuire and Elmer Rosales—both Nicaraguan student activists and leaders and members of Alternativa Anticapitalista (ISL-Nicaragua)—about the Commission.
Tempest: What is the motivation for the International Commission to Nicaragua? Who initiated the idea, who is participating and why do it now?
Ariana McGuire & Elmer Rosales: The purpose of the International Commission is, specifically, to be able to access the prisons of Nicaragua and visit the almost 190 political prisoners, to check on their health and confinement conditions. Family members denounce torture, truly Stalinist methods of humiliation aimed at breaking the will to fight of a huge and very important vanguard, especially of the youth who rose up in April 2018. Seventy percent of the political prisoners are less than 35 years old. There are also more veteran cadres, who were leaders of the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front].
Of course, we also want to give visibility to the reality that exists in our country, projecting it on the regional and international agenda and unmasking the false left, socialist or anti-imperialist character of a dictatorship whose class content is categorically bourgeois, capitalist. It has nothing to do with socialism.
The original idea was presented to us by the PRT [Revolutionary Workers Party] of Costa Rica, and the International Socialist League took it up and at present it is a reality that will materialize in a few days. We have achieved a broad unity in action, with the convergence of forces from the FIT-U [United Left and Workers Front] of Argentina, sections of the USFI [United Secretariat of the Fourth International] of Brazil and Mexico, as well as unions and human rights organizations of the most varied political spectrum. The support of organizations from Costa Rica itself is important, obviously beginning with the actions of the PRT, a fraternal party of the ISL [International Socialist League ], but even the parliamentary bloc of the Broad Front of Costa Rica supports the initiative and, in fact, the Commission will hold a press conference in the national Parliament of Costa Rica.
Logically, the delimitation expressed in the Declaration of the Commission clearly presents it as a broad democratic initiative from the Left, independent of any imperialist interference. We believe that the most important thing, moreover, is that we have managed to regroup practically all the Nicaraguan organizations in exile and the groups of relatives of prisoners and victims. This initiative is already having regional repercussions and we are going to cause serious political damage to the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. With all of these sectors, we are going to build a “Historic Caravan” traveling 300 kilometers to Nicaragua, to the Peñas Blancas border post, on Friday, July 8.
Finally, the reason why we are doing this now is because of the worsening of repression and torture in prisons combined with the lack of initiatives for the defense of the unconditional freedom of the political prisoners and the struggle against the dictatorship, placed us before a political responsibility and opportinuty. We are proud to take this step.
Tempest: Why choose Nicaragua when there are other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where the human rights situation might equally be called into question?
AM & ER: Well, the ISL has different initiatives. It operates in different regions of the world. At the same time, Nicaragua presents a particularly challenging reality for revolutionaries in several ways:
First, because the right around the world presents Nicaragua as a “model of left-wing dictatorship” to tarnish our political field.
Second, because the so-called progressives, neo-Stalinists and their satellites, silence everything that happens with the excuse of not “playing into the game of the right”.
Both positions cover up reality and sow confusion. We have the obligation to act as a true Left that contributes to a powerful resistance that has now withdrawn and is exiled, but is in a process of organization. And at the same time, the ISL is the only international revolutionary current which has a Nicaraguan organization: Anti-Capitalist Alternative. Therefore, we had a duty to respond to this struggle that is based on principles: the freedom of political prisoners, and the fall of the bourgeois and Stalinist dictatorship of the FSLN. There is an undeclared State of Siege in our country!
In parallel, we could also say that a victory in this struggle would encourage the struggles for political prisoners throughout the region.
Tempest: The founding statement of the International Commission (May 31, 2022) makes it a point to claim that it will operate “independent from all imperialist interference and its local allies in Nicaragua.” Why was it necessary to state this? What is its meaning and practical application?
AM & ER: In Nicaragua there is no “Guaidó”, no emerging bourgeois opposition figure that brings together the entire opposition. But in fact, sections of the bourgeoisie distanced from the FSLN, grouped in the chamber of big business (COSEP) and the leadership of the Church, played disastrous roles at key moments in the process that began in April 2018. They convinced the movement of the line of “dialogue”, when the dictatorship was cornered by the mobilization. And later, instead of taking up the actions of struggle again, they intervened to sow expectations in an electoral solution, which was finally also frustrated by Ortega-Murillo. For this reason, we want to clear up all doubts: broad unity of action but with the limit of not contributing to any bourgeois sector that capitalizes on this initiative.
Tempest: April 2018 witnessed an incredible explosion of rebellion, especially among Nicaraguan youth, against the dictatorship and the general economic and social conditions in the country. More than four years later, how do you evaluate its importance and memory, especially in Latin America?
AM & ER: It was very powerful, really. We managed to paralyze 90 percent of the regime’s activity. There were dozens of “tranques”, roadblocks and pickets, which paralyzed the regime. There were embryos of self-organization. But, the most important conclusion, the deepest and most practical conclusion, is that we arrived at that point lacking an organization prepared to provide perspective, program, centralization, to the gigantic energy that was unleashed. For this reason, with great effort, with the difficulty of persecution, clandestinity and exile, our strategic task is to build Alternativa Anticapitalista, as a section of the ISL in Nicaragua. A new popular rebellion cannot find us once again without an organized force to guide it and prevent the enemies of the process from kidnapping it, diverting it and collaborating in defeating it.
Tempest: Even if you are denied entry to the country, what does the IC hope to achieve? What are the necessary steps to build greater international attention and solidarity with the people of Nicaragua? And, especially for those of us in the US, what does it mean to do this in a way that does not buttress Yankee imperialism, on whose threat the Ortega-Murillo regime relies to justify its very existence?
AM & ER: Our orientation in the ISL is to set up a Permanent Movement for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in our country. That is to say: the initiative of the Commission, as a militant action of concrete internationalism, not declarative but marking a physical presence, has the objective of adding to that Movement, the best of the Nicaraguan vanguard and advancing now in the unity of action, and along the way, also begin to discuss the need for a socialist Nicaragua with true democracy, with which we dream of, towards a socialist, federated, emancipated Central America. Many of our friends and family are in exile in the US. Therefore, surely, we are going to promote the organization of solidarity also in exile. And having a committee in the US would be a great encouragement.
Tempest: What are the concrete steps that can be taken to support the political prisoners in Nicaragua and the many activists now in exile?
AM & ER: The essential thing now is to spread the Declaration of the Commission, its activity, its impact, and propagate the actions that we are going to carry out. Keep Nicaragua in the debate on the Left, and of course, it’s up to us with the ISL to continue generating initiatives that keep the flame of a new rebellion alive, this time triumphant in our country. We are optimistic. We are going to make it.
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