San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Carlos Fernando and the Sacrament of Free Expression

The Nica Times asked me: “What does it mean to you that your father was ersecuted by the Somocista regime and now your brother is in the same situation 30 years later, but by a government led by a party of which he was a member and which liberated the country from dictatorship?”

My answer is that to understand what is happening, we shouldn’t jump from the Somoza dictatorship to the present without also including an analysis of the 1980s, which were presided over by the same President Daniel Ortega. The truth is that those of us who opposed Sandinista totalitarianism during the revolutionary government of Ortega don’t see any difference with the repression that the Daniel Ortega of today is trying to impose once again.

The president of Nicaragua, elected by the force of a political accord with convict ex-President Arnoldo Alemán, returned to power in 2007 with a nostalgia for restoring the totalitarianism that was lost in the 1990s and with a revenge in hand for those who had abandoned him and his totalitarian utopia.

He returned with the pretension of installing the same institutional dictatorship of before, but in a Nicaragua that had changed.

During the government of Violeta Chamorro (1990-1997), Nicaragua had begun to exercise 16 years of freedom of expression, of free association, ample citizen participation in political affairs and democratic empowerment.

In the dictatorship of Ortega today, the history of repression is being repeated. Its first steps are against brave journalism and the independent media, which, as receptors of the public clamor and the voices of civic resistance, have historically been the principal obstacles to impede the perpetuity of dictators on the right, such as Somoza, and the totalitarians on the left, in the style of the Sandinista Front.

For this reason, for the defense of liberty of expression as a sacred right under any circumstance and for journalism as the voice of the people in defense of democracy and public liberties, my father Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal was tortured, jailed, exiled and tyrannized in his own house and at the newspaper until, as punishment for his resistance and rebellion against the repression of the Somoza dynasty, the dictator Anastasio Somoza ordered him killed.

In the same form, the Sandinismo of the 1980s verbally attacked my mother, Violeta Chamorro, my grandmother and the brothers of my father in front of La Prensa, and they systematically censored and closed our family newspaper for defending freedom in Nicaragua and for denouncing the new dictatorship. They also closed all independent media and repressed thousands of Nicaraguans who opposed the totalitarian policies of the Ortega government. Those who opposed the dictatorship were jailed, forced into exile, confiscated and violated of all their fundamental rights, including some who were assassinated, such as Jorge Salazar.

It is not by chance that the new Ortega regime announced itself with the assassination of journalist Carlos Guadamuz and then took an open position of confrontation with the media and journalists. The persecution now is against my brother, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, because as a journalist and with the same bravery that our parents showed yesterday, today he is on the front line of combat against the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship to defend the liberties and fundamental rights of Nicaraguans.

It is hard to realize how we are once again in the same struggle after so much sacrifice and blood that was spilled in two wars. It is hard to understand the return to dictatorship after the first democratic government of Violeta Chamorro that, through uniting the nation and extending a hand to the country, achieved peace and formed the basis for a democracy with independent institutions and full liberty of expression.

It is important to clarify to the world that the destruction of the democratic process is not the fault of the people who continue to struggle, rather that of political leaders who call themselves democratic, such as the autocratic and corrupt Arnoldo Alemán, who allied with the dictator Ortega to take democratic institutions hostage and perpetuate in the power of the pacto, which subjugates all inferior authority to an absolute and centralized power.

The dictator Daniel Ortega has shown no mercy against Carlos Fernando because he knows that the sacrament of free expression that the people profess and which is defended at any cost, such as Carlos Fernando is doing today, is like the Holy Cross against the devil. The triumph of our sacrament of free expression in Nicaragua is a proven fact against two dictators. It will not allow Ortega and his family to perpetuate in power and journalists like my brother Carlos to lose this political battle of all Nicaraguans.

The historic crime of Alemán and Ortega against democracy, progress and the hopes of the people may have demolished the institutions of the country, but they have not been able, nor will they be able, to destroy the popular devotion that Nicaragua has for free expression – something that’s been sealed with the blood of thousands of heroes and martyrs and is once again uniting the nation in defense of Carlos Fernando to shout for the third time: Democracy Yes, Dictatorship No!

Cristiana Chamorro Barrios is the sistero of journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro and daughter of former President Violeta Chamorro and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the legendary martyred publisher of La Prensa. Cristiana is director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, which works on issues related to peace, reconciliation and freedom of expression.


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