San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sandinista guerrilla heroine declares hunger strike

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Former guerrilla leader Dora María Téllez today starts her third day of an indefinite hunger strike in protest of the government’s attempts to exclude minority political parties from participating in the upcoming municipal elections, as well as its inability to respond to basic problems such as hunger.

Téllez, 52, is a leader of the opposition Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and is best known for helping to lead a daring 1978 rebel raid on the NationalPalace. A year later, she commanded the Sandinista Front’s northern guerrilla units that captured the cities of León and Chinandega in June 1979, a month before the Sandinista revolution triumphed.

Téllez then served as the first Sandinista government’s minister of health in the 1980s, before splitting from the party in 1995 to form the MRS along with former Vice President Sergio Ramírez and other leading leftist intellectuals.

Today, Téllez is a history professor but remains a leading critic of President Daniel Ortega and the power-sharing pact he formed a decade ago with former President Arnoldo Alemán.

“They have been killing democracy for years in Nicaragua due to the pact; (meanwhile) the people are hungry because of the economic situation, and the government doesn’t do anything about it,” Téllez told The Nica Times yesterday morning from the roadside hammock in which she is camping out during her hunger strike, in front of the Metrocentro traffic rotary. “We have to call attention to this and we have to change the direction of the country.”

Under the banner “We Want Democracy and Gallo Pinto,” Téllez said she will maintain her hunger strike until the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) agrees to include the minority parties on the ballot for the upcoming November municipal elections. The CSE recently ruled that the MRS, the Conservative Party and two other minority parties had not complied with all the requirements to be included on the ballot – something the MRS and Conservatives both deny.

The MRS has since presented all its requirements to the CSE on two more occasions, but party leaders say the Alemán-Ortega pact is determined to keep third parties from competing.

Téllez says the elimination of the minority parties would be another step toward a dictatorship by the Ortega government, which she loathes calling “Sandinista.”

“The government can call itself by whatever name it wants, but they are not Sandinistas – Sandinismo is something else,” said the lifelong revolutionary. “This government is Danielista, not Sandinista. The Sandinista is in the street fighting for life and democracy; the Danielista not. The Danielista just wants to stay in power.”

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