San Jose. June 7, 2008. (María Suárez Toro, FIRE)
A legendary Sandinista leader and political activist launched an indefinite hunger strike on June 4, 2008 against the current President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega for his authoritarian policies. Dora María Tellez, who fought against the Somoza dictatorship during the 1970s and is currently a leader in the MRS - Renovated Sandinista Movement (Movimiento Renovación Sandinista) – an alternative Sandinista party - is among many who have launched protests against the Ortega Administration including their latest action involving threats to eliminate the legal status of the MRS party. ''I have decided to start this hunger strike in defense of our right to democracy and our right to life” she stated.
Nicaraguan poet and writer Gioconda Belli has stated that “She [Dora Maria] has emerged in the midst of the multitude that is not happy with the situation to demostrate that liberty is a non negotiable and the in the face of injustice silence and passivity do not have a place. Her valiant action is a signal that has come out of the heart of the same historical patriotism that inspired Sandino to go to the mountains with 30 men (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_history_of_Nicaragua) and that inspired a whole peoples to rebel against a 45 year old dictatorship.”
On August 22, 1978, as a young female Sandinista militant, Tellez was third in command of the operative against the Somoza dictatorship in her country where 24 Sandinistas occupied the National Palace, which liberated 70 political prisoners, among them the current President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. That action was an historical milestone marking the end of the brutal 60-year dictatorship.
Throughout the Sandinista Revolution and beyond, Tellez has defended the original agenda of a revolution that implemented numerous actions and human rights policies on behalf of the Nicaraguan people, including a massive literacy campaign, public health campaigns, land reform, some women’s rights initiatives and expansion of democratic participation in Nicaragua. (See: http://www.fidh.org/spip.php?article4051
Today, 30 years later, Tellez is challenging Ortega’s “Sandinista” government (FSLN – Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) because of its authoritarian policies that include threats to take away the legal status of the MRS political party that has sought throughout the last decade to revitalize and update the original spirit and platform of the Sandinista Revolution. (See http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3511)
The MRS platform is based on the democratization of the Nicaraguan society: respect for its institutionality, human rights and women’s rights and, the eradication of poverty as well as efforts to create a healthy environment and social benefits for all. Women have been at the forefront of the process of reclaiming a
Sandinismo that will restore their right to therapeutic abortion among other political, reproductive and sexual rights recently denied to them by the present Ortega Administration. (See http://vivirlatino.com/2006/10/27/therapeutic-abortion-now-illegal-in-nicaragua.php)
Among the issues Tellez is protesting is the Supreme Electoral Council’s notification this past May regarding legal problems for four political parties – one of them the MRS Party that she co-founded. Despite the fact that all four parties took part in elections just two years ago, with the municipal elections scheduled to take place this year, the Electoral Council has notified them that their legal status as a political party is under review, accusing them of the unsatisfactory completion of all requirements for political parties as defined under the Electoral Law. If a final sanction is announced in the next weeks, these four parties including MRS won't be allowed to participate in the November 2008 Municipal Elections in Nicaragua to choose Mayors, Vice-Mayors, Members of Municipal Councils and Regional Authorities of the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean.
Many groups – among them the MRS Party - have expressed their concern about the deterioration of the electoral body that is in charge of safeguarding transparent and reliable elections. Critics who claim that the Supreme Electoral Council is losing its professionalism due to the strong political control from the governing political party, FSLN, have declared the following:
One and a half years after national elections took place in November 2006, the total final official outcomes have not been released.
The legal entity of the Nicaraguan Liberal Party (Alianza Liberal Nicaraguense – ALN), that won second place in the 2006 elections, was taken from its Presidential Candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, and given to politicians closer to FSLN. In doing so, the FSLN automatically gains control of all local electoral authorities.
Openly violating the Constitution and the Electoral Law, the Supreme Electoral Council decided last April 2008 to cancel the Municipal Election in three Municipalities of the Caribbean; arguing that there were insufficient conditions due to the impact of Hurricane Felix last October 2007. This provoked a a violent outcry in the Caribbean as the majority of the population in those Municipalities is demanding that elections be held in November. Civil Society is continuously protesting against this situation both in Managua and the Caribbean.
Their declaration is an open challenge to democracy according the MRS. And they do not stand alone. The 2007 Human Rights Report by the
Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH – Nicaraguan Human Rights Center) as presented to the press by its leader, Vilma Nunez in February 2008 states that access to justice is the weakest point in the country’s institutionality. Nunez explained that judicial power has been used by economic and religious sectors in order to exclude and persecute their adversaries in favor of high level delegates of the FSLN party in power and the Liberal Constitutional Party with whom the Ortega government has an alliance.
Nunez accused Daniel Ortega of disrespecting the Constitution and degrading the legal system and its separation from the State. She called on the President to eliminate nepotism and the excessive centralization of public institutions, and criticized the confusion between State and Party in the country today.
Popular protests surrounding Dora Maria Tellez’s hunger strike are taking place at 5 pm every day at the
Rotonda de Metrocentro in Managua, with support from political leaders, women’s organizations, cultural groups, social movements and international solidarity groups. They are demanding that the Electoral Council issue a favorable statement regarding the legal status of the MRS and also for respect of the institutional system in Nicaraguan society.
Activist Luis Ulloa send an email to Dora Maria stating that ‘her decision is admirable because once again she is willing to sacrifice her life once again so that our country can have a real state of rights, we need people like her in Nicaragua.”
Women in political parties and in social movements have been at the forefront of this struggle to recover Nicaragua’s institutional system and human rights framework because they were the first victims of the deterioration of such institutionality. It is well known today that the famous Aleman-Ortega “pact”of the FSLN and the head of the PLC -
Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (Liberal Constitutional Party) which was made in the Legislative Assembly in 2000 when Ortega needed immunity to defend himself against charges of incest by his step daughter. Thus, impunity in a case of violation of women’s rights led to this political pact. (See more in www.radiofeminista.net)
Just Associates activist in Nicaragua, Malena de Montis has issued a call to women, men and human rights organizations to join in solidarity by sending emails to the Nicaraguan Embassies demanding respect for Nicaraguan institutionality and the international human rights framework.
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your solidarity with Dora María Tellez and the Nicaraguan movement for democratization and to demand the respect of its institutionality write to: