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Daniel Ortega Doesn’t Mind Being Called A “Dictator”

“Dictator, terrorist, I am used to be called everything… not just now, but since being a muchacho (young man). During the (Somoza) civil war I was called terrorist…what haven’t they called me…” said Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega to Andres Oppenheimer during the CNN en Español interview recorded last Saturday and broadcast Monday night.

CNN journalist Andres Oppenheimer (left) with Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega (right) following the interview recorded on Saturday in Managua and aired Monday night on CNN en español

“So, that is, it doesn’t bother you,” retorted the journalist, to which Ortega replied, “simply we are all human and we all humans are like that… I learned not to be bothered when I hear the attacks, the lies…”.

In the 45 minute interview Daniel Ortega defended the brutality by his forces against anti-government protesters Monday, as the United States warned he and his wife were “ultimately responsible” for deaths and rights violations.

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Ortega also closed the doors to the advance of elections in Nicaragua, as a way out of the sociopolitical crisis facing the country, during his interview with journalist Andrés Oppenheimer for CNN en Español, recorded last Saturday and aired Monday night.

Ortega said that advance elections “do not make any sense” and insisted that new conditions must be created to resume the dialogue and that his government is already working with the Organization of American States (OAS) in a program of “strengthening mechanisms elections” in the face of the elections of 2021.

Under what conditions would you accept early elections? The journalist asked Ortega.

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“I have participated in many peace processes, I remember what was the war in Central America, in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and at no time was it proposed that (early) elections be held,” Ortega argued.

The president indicated that before April 18, a timetable for reforms in the electoral field had already been established “to give confidence to the opposition forces”.

Oppenheimer asked the president if he would accept a referendum financed by the international community to consult Nicaraguans whether or not they want to hold elections, but Ortega said no.

“It is that here you are facing an opposition that accepts nothing more than the exit of the Government. The most serious of all this is that if we here set the precedent that a government that is opposed in the way that they have done with us in these three months (…), that Government can be evicted and ended here the electoral route and we would go back to past history… would open the doors to anarchy in the country,” he said.

In the interview Ortega also disputed the more almost 450 deaths recorded by human rights organizations in Nicaragua – like the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) that counts the number of dead between 295 and 448 – saying that count is “not correct, they just add up the complaints but do not verify it.”

Ortega said that the executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrão, “lies” when he says that 90% of the deaths have been due to the Government’s repression. “He (Abrão) is lying, he lies and he lies every day, he comes to conclusions simply because of what he hears,” Ortega said.

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Ortega his own death toll of 195, including two dozen police officers, as well as paramilitaries, supporters of his ruling Sandinista party and other civilians.

Ortega also blames the international media coverage for falsely suggesting most Nicaraguans want him gone. “Not all the people” are against him, he said, only “part of the population.”

“Mr. President you are painting a picture, let’s say, surreal… unusual because 21 countries of Latin America, including those of the left such as Ecuador and Uruguay, have condemned your government for all the repression, brutality, what are they fools, have been misled, are paid by the CIA? 21 members of the OAS… this picture you are painting of the groups of the right does is not believed by any of the 21 governments”, Oppenheimer narrated as Ortega listened with steely eyes.

In response, Ortega blamed the international media for maintaining “a war through social media” against his government, a government under his leadership that has been responsible in the last decade for bringing economic prosperity, stability to the country, that suddenly explodes.

The President says that “groups of the right, led by the US from their bases in Miami, Florida and Costa Rica have been plotting against his government, since his return in 2007, murdering farmers, murdering soldiers, police (…).”

For Ortega, these groups of the right have been “allocating millions so that Nicaragua upholds ‘democracy’… but which are diverted to destabilize the country and encourage armed actions.” He said: “The truth is that we are facing a powerful enemy that has intervened militarily in Nicaragua, which is the United States.”

Oppenheimer asked, “how is that possible when “U.S. President Donald Trump embraces dictators like Putin and that of Korea (sic)… is criticized for fighting with his allies and befriending his adversaries (…), you say he wants to overthrow you… “.

Ortega said, “President Trump no, no”.

On Monday, the United States has stepped up its scrutiny of the violence in Nicaragua and is considering extra sanctions on top of those already applied to top officials. In a statement Monday, the White House said it “strongly condemns the ongoing violence in Nicaragua and human rights abuses committed by the Ortega regime.”

“President Ortega and Vice President Murillo are ultimately responsible for the pro-government parapolice that has brutalized their own people. The United States stands with the people of Nicaragua,” the White House said, demanding democratic reform and an end to the bloodshed.

As to the future, the way out of the crisis, Ortega said he was ready to accept mediation with the United Nations to restart the stalled dialogue with the opposition.

“I don’t believe Nicaragua is on the brink of civil war,” he said. “The people are tired” of the unrest already experienced”.

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