It is more than 40 years since the world praised the Nicaraguan Revolution. In a few months, one of its orchestrators will win an election that independent newspapers can no longer report on, against an opposition that is either imprisoned or annulled - in order to neglect one of the poorest peoples in the Western Hemisphere for another term. Herman Kringlund, a freelance translator and interested in foreign policy, reflects on this year's political elections in Nicaragua.
In March 2020, I was in León, Nicaragua. I was sitting in a restaurant by the main square, alternating between looking out over the hustle and bustle and reading the news. I read about completely shut down cities, and about how the world's most stubborn dictators were historically transparent with what was happening. Then I read in La Prensa, the newspaper that dared to criticize (and have to pay for it) Nicaraguan dictators long before the first Somozan, that Daniel Ortega had been locked in his bunker for almost a month without appearing in public.
In the same vein, I received a reply to an email I sent to Mikael Wiehe. I had asked questions about his and Björn Afzelius Nicaragua when, although in León indefinitely, I saw nothing more useful to do than try to get in touch with someone who could become an exotic link to my idols.
Mikael was so kind and replied that many of the people they met had been forced into exile after the protests against Daniel Ortega in recent years. The regime-loyal mob, hired paramilitaries, and national police have made Nicaragua a life-threatening haven for those who speak the truth and speak it out loud. It was shown if nothing else during the major protests in 2018.
He mentioned some names of old friends who had been forced to flee and all of them had one thing in common: they were musicians and poets, and had gone from singing, speaking and fighting for the Sandinista National Liberation Front, FSLN, to recently criticizing it and its leader - Daniel Ortega.
Later that day I went to the Museum of the Revolution. The woman who was the owner of the hostel I stayed at had recommended it, but also said "I do not follow you there, because the disgusting old men who are guides harass you when you walk by."
At the museum I was received by a lame man named Manolo. He had been involved during the 70's revolution. He spoke in chronological order about the US Banana War, Augusto César Sandino, the Somozo dynasty that the people finally forced out after 40 years, the entry into Managua in July 1979, the subsequent Contra War and his own role in it all. When he understood that I was Swedish, he immediately wanted to talk about Olof Palme.
When we finished the two unassuming showrooms, he had been talking Sandinistas and Revolution for almost two hours, but without mentioning Daniel Ortega. I then asked what he thought of the country's leader. He pretended not to hear the question. Then, completely without business zeal, he unfurled an FSLN flag he had in his bag and asked if I wanted to buy it for 300 cordoba, 75 kronor, a daily wage for many Nicaraguans.
I said no, and we continued to walk around the museum's courtyard where there were murals with old Latin American liberators and revolutionary heroes from León and the surrounding area. The mood had become bad, and for some reason I said:
- I hope they add your name one day, because you are also a hero.
And perhaps I think that the one who sacrifices convenience for justice is a hero, but it is also a fragile status, and is taken from one if one does not succeed in maintaining it. Manolo, who is forgotten sitting on the steps outside the museum, harassing women, who have to helplessly watch as an old comrade rapes his motherland, who may be wondering what the revolutionary effort was worth in the end, shrugged. Yes, what would he answer to that?
This year there is an election in Nicaragua, and in addition to thinking of Manolo, I also think of Ortega and the many other freedom fighters who have suffered from the disease that seems to be able to corrode an eye's most important membrane, wipe out a brain's most important lobe and tear one the most important chamber of the heart - namely power. And then I start thinking about something that Björn Afzelius sang long before he praised Vietnam, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and El Salvador. It was in the song "Juanita", and those words were not meant to be interpreted that way, but then the world can state that Daniel Ortega, once a silent hero with a worldwide solidarity movement in his back, has now mutated into exactly the one he was once prepared for to die to get rid of, those words still echo in me - "the years passed, heroes also grow old".