NICARAGUA NEWS — A hundred or so people have gathered under the intense midday sun at the main crossroads in this village on the south-westerly edge of majestic Lake Nicaragua.
Many of those who’ve come together here to protest have been loyal supporters of President Daniel Ortega since he was part of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) junta that overthrew the Somoza dynasty in 1979. They backed him when the Sandinistas tried to establish their own Cuban-inspired dictatorship. They backed him in his war against the CIA-trained Contra rebels in the 1980s. And when the country started holding legitimate elections in the 1990s, they backed him in his bid to build the FSLN into a powerful political party that eventually returned him to the presidency—a position he does not look like he’ll give up any time soon. But right now these Sandinistas are absolutely enraged by plans to evict them from their lands to make way for his latest and by far most grandiose project: the Interoceanic Canal.
“It’s all over between us and Daniel,” yelled María Duarte, a 72-year-old former Sandinista combatant who fought in the revolution and then against the US-backed Contra counterinsurgents. “He was like a son to us but he’s betrayed us, sold us out to the Chinese! Que barbaridad!” It’s outrageous!
Duarte owns a small plot of land where she grazes cattle and grows beans, maize, bananas, and oranges. She leads the same simple but secure subsistence lifestyle that sustains most of the 700 families in and around Tolesmaida, and it was made possible by the Sandinistas’ post-revolution land redistribution programmes. So to hear such fervent anti-Ortega sentiment from previously devoted campesinos and compañeros is unprecedented. But the issue for them is, precisely, the matter of their land.