Nicaragua: “Our Beautiful Country”

“But if that sentence is carried out 

I will die serenely, because each drop 

of my blood spilled in defense of 

the nation and its freedom will give 

life to a hundred Nicaraguans who, 

like me, will take up arms 

against the betrayal of our 

beautiful but unfortunate 


(Benjamín Zeledón)  (1)

An historical perspective of Nicaragua brings into focus an immense and varied series of events and developments that combines war and conquest with phenomenal cultural, social, and economic changes–all within a physical and geographical environment known around the globe for its extraordinary biodiversified regions and of course, its natural beauty. The intervention and subsequent conquest of the Nicaraguans by the Spanish conquistadors beginning in 1523 established a colonial period that lasted far beyond the time the country gained its independence in 1838. Once an indigenous nation where numerous distinct tribal groups claimed their longstanding ancestral roots, some as far back as 900 AD, today, Nicaragua is a country with 6.5 million inhabitants. Although most of the remaining dominant indigenous languages (Chorotega, Nahuat, Xiu, Cacaopera) have become extinct, according to linguists, a large portion of the population self-identifies as indigenous (“indio”). Only about five indigenous languages remain (most belong to the Macro-chibcha family), and these are spoken in the far eastern part of the country and along the littoral region of the Caribbean Sea. (2) Nicaraguans have had to endure a forty-year brutal dictatorship (1937-1979); a costly and painful revolution, and another violent and deadly armed conflict known as the Contra War, both of which lasted from 1979 to 1990 and took at least 50,000 lives; and most recently, a succession of different, turbulent, and competing governing regimes. The story of Nicaragua entails a historical richness abound with colorful characters that bring to the fore humanity in all its glory, or as Steven Kinzer describes “implausible characters.” (3)

According to linguists, the remaining dominant indigenous languages (Chorotega, Nahuat, Xiu, Cacaopera) have become extinct. About five languages are spoken along the littoral region of the Caribbean Sea.

Zeledón’s Stance Against Imperialism

But the story of Benjamín Zeledón, whose letter to his wife reveals his impassioned plea for a revolution, has a plausible storyline from beginning to the end. It is also a story that unveils the strength and courage of a people who believed that they could change their world.   

Zeledón was a former school teacher, a lawyer/judge and a military general. He was a patriot and like many others, and he shared the indignation toward the unencumbered American military intervention. His life and heroic patriotism inspired others, especially Augusto César Sandino, who upon learning of his heroic death, followed in his footsteps and eventually, became a legendary,  revolutionary hero in his own right. 

In its early stages as an independent nation, Nicaraguan politics seemed to adopt a democratic option but change in governmental control usually involved the conservative faction taking over the liberal faction and vice versa. It wasn’t long before the political parties seeking power turned their attention to the United States as a potential ally. The election of the liberal president, José Santos Zelaya (1893-1906), and his government’s attempt to “modernize” the country caught the undivided attention of the U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909). President Roosevelt, the champion of the Spanish-American War (1898), created and administered the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine (1907) that invariably engaged the United States in interventionist maneuvers to insure that American capitalist investors would reap the rewards. Nicaragua was amongst several countries throughout Latin America affected by the ambitiously and invasive U.S. foreign policy. The multi-faceted policy also included President Taft’s administration (1909-1913) in what was known as the “dollar diplomacy,” allowing the U.S. to exercise full control over Nicaragua’s banks and transportation agencies, including railroads and canals. The conservative faction seeking to overthrow the popular Pres. Zelaya, rallied around the prospects of a shared power grab with the well-equipped American military forces. Upon the request by the conservative leadership, the U.S. deployed a marine unit in 1909, entering the country through the Caribbean coastal town of Bluefields. Once a British protectorate in the 18th century, Bluefields had been declared the capital of the Department of Zelaya in 1903, shortly after it was incorporated into the country in 1894. Negotiations between the conservative party leaders and the U.S. resulted in the ouster of Zelaya’s replacement, José Madríz Rodríguez, and in exchange, the Nicaraguan leaders agreed to a multi-million dollar business transaction deal. Although the conservative leadership had selected Juan José Estrada, Adolfo Díaz challenged the decision and then, was  eventually elected. In 1912, President Díaz transferred the control of the country’s National Bank to the United States’ Commercial Bank owned by the Brown brothers. Benjamín Zeledón, a general pertaining to the liberal faction, adamantly opposed Díaz’ controversial dealings with the U.S. and in response, organized a rebellion. Díaz requested military intervention, and the U.S. responded–again. After Zeledón was defeated (and subsequently assassinated), the United States assumed a dominant role in Nicaragua’s government with a strong military presence for twelve years, until 1924, and again from 1927 to 1933. (4)

Sandino’s Rebellion Against the U.S. Marine Corps

As a young man barely twenty years old, Augusto César Sandino left his country to seek his fortunes in Honduras and México. He worked in various American-owned companies such as United Fruit. His involvement in the labor unions steered him toward activism, advocating for workers’ rights and agrarian reform. He learned from his fellow workers and union activists about how his country had agreed to the extraordinary demands by the Americans to take over the financial institutions and become deeply indebted to American businesses. Indeed, the United States’ intrusion was evident all over Mexico and Latin America, but Nicaragua, according to Sandino’s circle of union laborers, exemplified the worst case scenario. Sandino was thirty-one when he returned to Nicaragua (1926) and headed directly to the mining industry where he knew he could successfully talk to the downtrodden miners about joining an insurrection. His message was clear, engaging, and convincing, that the United States Marines must be dislodged from the country, and as proud Nicaraguans, take back their freedom and independence; and that the Americans had robbed them of their possessions and turned their people into slaves. 

Sandino was anti-imperialist and a nationalist, but not a Marxist. After all, Agustín Faribundo Martí, the Salvadoran legendary hero, who had joined Sandino in Nicaragua for a brief period, returned to his country and told his fellow comrades that he was unable to convince Sandino to adopt Marxist tenets. 

Several hundred men, many of them boys, joined Sandino’s army and began attacking the U.S. military outposts, but as expected, the U.S. Marines fired back with a vengeance. In their first major attack in Ocotal in the Segovia highlands, Sandino’s guerrilla unit managed to push the marines toward the outer perimeters of the town. No one expected aerial bombardments, but soon, two American planes dropped bombs all over the town killing at least 300 people, many of them women and children. This tragedy has the distinction of being the “first” aerial bombardment of its kind in all of Latin America. (5)

The conservative party had elected Adolfo Díaz as their president for a second time (1926-1929); the same President Díaz that had made the business deals and military pact with the United States in 1912. Under his presidency, more U.S. Marines were deployed, strategically located, and instead of Zeledón, his new enemy was Sandino.

Battle skirmishes with Sandino at the helm continued for several years. Then, in 1933, Sandino traveled to Managua to sign a Peace Treaty with President Sacasa. Included in the agreement was that certain state lands along the Coco River would become accessible to the farmers. Later that year, as the United States grappled with the Great Depression, the American Marines were withdrawn from Nicaragua. Sandino was overwhelmed with celebratory cheers from his many supporters; as a poorly equipped insurgency, they had managed to evict the U.S. Marine Corps from their beloved country and signed a peace treaty. This image lay deeply buried in the memories of Nicaraguans. 

Somoza Eliminates His Rival and Unwittingly Solidifies the Struggle Against Imperialism

Anastasio Somoza García, just a year older than Sandino, was the son of a wealthy family of coffee plantation owners. At the time the U.S. Marines were withdrawn (1933), Somoza had achieved a superior rank as a military officer. Thus, when the conditions for removal of American military personnel required a Nicaraguan officer to replace the American general, Somoza was chosen for the position. However, Somoza was also a politician with presidential aspirations, and he perceived the popular Sandino as his rival. On February 21, 1934, Somoza ordered his National Guard to capture and assassinate Sandino while in Managua, attending a dinner with President Sacasa. Sandino and his entourage had just left the presidential event when the National Guard carried out Somoza’s orders. The Guard transported their corpses and buried them in an unknown location. But Somoza’s plan to eliminate his rival also included the murder of hundreds of men, women and children in the eastern semiautonomous region, all of whom were Sandino’s supporters. Somoza used fraudulent electoral tactics to gain presidential positions, from 1937 to 1947, and again from 1950 until 1956, when he was assassinated in Panama. He was replaced by his son, Luis Somoza Debayle from 1956 until his death in 1963. (His death was due to illness.) Somoza’s other son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle became president from 1967 to 1972 and from 1974 to 1979. In interim periods when the Somoza father and sons were not presidents, the presidency was held by politicians for whom many believed were acting as their “puppets.” (6)

The United States response to the assassination of Sandino was not publicly disclosed, although anyone that had a substantial or even periphery understanding of the current events in Somoza’s political orbit understood the repercussions quite clearly, especially in Latin America. According to historian David Francois (2018), the United States’ animosity against Sandino, along with his subsequent assassination, caused a furor across the revolutionary landscape of Latin America. The Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), one of many organizations whose prime focus was to fight North American aggressive imperialism, declared Sandino as the symbol of the Latin American struggle. (7)      

Somoza’s Blind Ambition

Somoza’s calculations for staying in power and accumulating wealth amounted to what Thomas Walker describes as a simple formula: “maintain the support of the guard, cultivate the Americans, and co-opt important domestic power contenders.” (8) The United States, well-trained National Guard was the prize that kept on giving for Somoza since he had intimate knowledge on how he could maintain the soldiers’ loyalties while coercing them to commit heinous crimes against innocent people, mostly the elderly, women and children. Corruption was an integral part of Somoza’s authoritative rule and to hold on to power, the well-mannered, English-speaking ruler created a special image of himself for the Americans as the benevolent, astute, rule-abiding, and promoter of human rights for everyone, including women. His two sons, Luis and Anastasio, Jr., both highly decorated in military rank and file, were equally adapt to playing the roles as powerful, pro-American dictators, although Anastasio, Jr.  or “Tachito” received the worst criticism. After the devastating earthquake in 1972 that killed at least 10,000 inhabitants and leveled 600 square blocks in the heart of Managua, Anastasio Jr. created a fiasco of a scale that only a corrupt dictator could achieve. While the international community responded with compassion and generosity, Anastasio Jr. used the donations to line his pockets and those of his loyal guards and supporters. At first, the public was unaware of the plunderage but Somoza’s deception and lies became particularly noticed by the well-off business and private, elite sectors. The anti-Somoza sentiment began to escalate as more middle-class and wealthy people participated in the FSLN revolutionary organization. The red-and-black flag, once the symbol of the revolutionary Sandino, appeared increasingly dominant as it became the adopted symbol of the SANDINISTA FRONT OF NATIONAL LIBERATION (FSLN).

A Victorious Euphoria and the End of the Somoza Dynasty

“This is another distinctive element in Nicaraguan history – 

that the fragile but heroic resistance of a small guerilla army

 commanded by a visionary–could become

 such a symbolically important factor to denounce

 and counter the designs of the 

emerging imperial power of the United States 

for decades to come.” (Daniel Chávez, p.18)  (9)

Somoza Jr. stepped down from the presidency for two years (1972-1974), presumably to create a deceptive appearance as a proper presidential candidate complying with electoral law. But, he became president for a second time from 1974 to 1979. The Revolution intensified to a an excruciating rage in its final years, from 1977 to 1979. The Sandinistas’ persistence, determination, and perseverance resulted in an extraordinary victory against Somoza’s giant war machine. By July 20, 1979, the Somoza family had departed to their property in the United States, taking their wealth and valuables while the Nicaraguans relished in their victorious euphoria. By the time the Somoza’s left, their financial worth was estimated at one billion dollars. Their property ownership included more than ten thousand square miles of fertile and grazing land throughout the country and in Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. They controlled investments in numerous capital ventures, such as railroad lines, steamship travel, fisheries, mining industries, lumber, and brewery companies. At least, these were the financial sources considered as legitimate. (10) All of the possessions (known as the “piñata” at the stage of disbursements by the state) were now in the hands of the victorious Sandinistas. (11)

The Women and Their Stories: Amada, Rosario, Doris, and Dora María

When the Winter comes, I will take you to


You will love it there!

You will love my home, my house in Nicaragua,

So large and queenly looking, with a haughty air

That seems to tell the mountains, the mountains of


—“You may roar and you may tremble, for all

      I care!”(Salomón de la Selva)  (12)

Amada Pineda

By the time the Sandinista Front of National Liberation, (the FSLN, also known as the “Frente”) was in the conceptual phase constituted by Carlos Fonseca, Silvio Mayorga, and Tomás Borges in 1961, the Somoza dictatorship or “dynasty” had ruled for twenty-four years. The Somoza governing hand print was starkly obvious in the economic, social, and cultural divisions of the country, where the well-off consisted of a small fraction of the entire population and the majority of Nicaraguans were poor, illiterate, underemployed, and in some cases living in extreme poverty where families were barely surviving. 

In her story, Amada Pineda tells how she and her husband worked long and arduous hours picking coffee beans for a pittance, subsisting on a meager diet for a family of nine children. Amada’s story, full of struggle and tragedy, as told to Margaret Randall (13), coincides with those of thousands of others during the sixties and seventies when Somoza’s attempts to quash the increasingly vocal campesino uprisings developed into a brutal repression. Amada’s husband joined the Socialist Party and then, began to participate in labor union meetings. After the union leader, Bernardino Díaz Ochoa, was violently killed by the Somoza’s National Guard, Amada began to get involved. She learned from the fledgling FSLN members about Somoza’s repressive regime. She joined the Women’s Organization associated with the Socialist Party. As the Guard hunted down the families suspected of supporting the guerrilla, people would disperse throughout the countryside. Amada’s husband left the country for the Soviet Union, and Amada took her young  children to a safehouse (her infant son died in a rainstorm while they attempted to flee). But the Guard tracked her down, and at dawn one day, Amada awoke to find her dilapidated house where she was sheltering surrounded by guardsmen with weapons pointed at her. The Guard was looking for her, not necessarily her husband. In her reluctance to surrender, she refused to give up her child that she carrying in her arms. She was forced to let go of her child, and as soon as she did, several guardsmen began beating her with gang style force and violence until she could hardly stand up. They threw her in a prison cell with six other men, her comrades, and then, the Guard began to interrogate her, mostly about the whereabouts of her husband and other “subversives.” Amada claimed she knew nothing about the union, the leaders, and their activities.

Several guardsmen proceeded to violently sexually assault Amada. She recalled that within a few days the men had raped her seventeen times. She managed to stop the assaults by pleading with them to consider the fact that she is a mother and wife and not a prostitute, and she had had enough of their brutality. To her astonishment, the men stopped, leaving her with painful injuries, and alone in a locked room. 

Amada’s story, one of several in Randall’s Sandino’s Daughters, concludes with a hopeful but tragic sense. The revolution had finally reached closure and Amada’s determination to impact the gross inequalities amongst the working poor affected her perception of the roles that women assume in the insurrection. She now believed that women are as capable as men in making important decisions in labor unions, and in fighting alongside their male counterparts in the Frente’s frontlines. Amada’s father prevented her from attending school, which she strongly regrets, but now believed that women should have the same or similar educational opportunities as men. The loss of her children during the war was the most emotionally, heart wrenching for Amada. The Frente had just declared victory when she learned that her seventeen-year old son had been violently killed while collecting firewood for cooking. The teenager was wounded, tortured and then shot to death. His corpse was found in a shallow grave alongside those of a woman and her baby. Her sentiments reflect a profound sense of a mother’s sadness: “What’s there to say? War is like that. You lose and you win, and sometimes you lose what you loved the most. But what really upsets me is the way he died. If he’d been killed in battle, with a gun in his hand, maybe I wouldn’t feel like I do.” (14)

The Mothers of FSLN Soldiers

The mothers of fallen soldiers, or incarcerated in torturous prisons, became the most vocal critics against the Somoza regime. Their indefatigable campaigning was forceful and their presence was perceived as honorable and courageous by the Sandinistas. It became their fight, their struggle to abolish the torture, and to free the prisoners of war. The mothers’ sorrowful voices were refrains in the revolutionary marches where young men and women proudly and bravely fought and died for their freedom—in Nicaragua, but also in Chile, Argentina, and El Salvador.

The Women in the Revolution—Dora María Tellez and Doris Tijerino

La Revolución empezó en las estrellas, a millones 

de años luz. El huevo de la vida

      es uno. Desde .. 

el primer huevo de gas, al huevo de iguana, al hombre nuevo. 

Sandino se gloriaba de haber nacido del ‘vientre de los 


(el de una indita de Niquinohomo) 

Del vientre de los oprimidos nacerá la Revolución.

(Ernesto Cardenal) 

The Revolution started in the stars, millions
Of light-years away. The egg of life
       Is one. From
The first bubble of gas, to the iguana’s egg, to the New Man.
Sandino was proud he had been born “from the womb of the 
   (from the womb of a Niquinohomo Indian woman)
From the womb of the oppressed the Revolution will be born.

(Translated by M. Zimmermann) (15)

Doris Tijerino’s Courage

Doris Tijerino was one of the first females to fight in the frontlines as a ranking officer with the Frente. She was captured three times between 1967 to 1978. In an article that draws together a review of Tijerino’s book, Somos millones with a biographical profile, the author Kristine Byron describes the impossible and agonizing position of the incarcerated females. (16) Tijerino is a daughter of a wealthy family, the granddaughter of an English colonist, whose mother is caring and loving and whose father dominated her life in the tradition of a patriarchic society. Her mother gave her a special collection of classical books, which inspired and guided Tijerino to develop into an independent intellectual. Tijerino’s praise for “motherhood” is based on her beloved mother’s image, the selfless mother such as in Maxim Gorky’s novel, Mother, that above all and despite everything, loves her child profoundly, a raison d’etre behind the unconditional love for the son or daughter. 

Rape is a form of gendered violence and within the context of an armed conflict, female prisoners are subject to the most heinous, inhumane cruelty.

Yet, in prison she was treated like an animal. She was tortured like the rest of the male prisoners, however, as a woman in the guerrilla, she had to endure the cruel and savage methods that target her sexuality. She was repeatedly raped, her breasts and vaginal area were electrocuted; the guardsmen sexually abused her while naked; they humiliated her and made her feel as though she was a despicable female, a “communist whore.” The author explains that when she was captured for the third time in 1978, many people, including author Margaret Randall, feared that she would be killed. Randall had the unpublished, Spanish language manuscript, Somos millones, detailing the life of Tijerino as a female FSLN combatant. She believed that by publishing it, Tijerino’s imprisonment would bring international attention to her case. An English-translated version of the book was published within months of her capture in 1978. A photojournalist’s documentation with photos and audio recordings revealing Tijerino’s harrowing experiences also contributed to her eventual release and safety.  

“We revolutionaries are visionaries to a certain extent.”

(Dora María Tellez) (17)

Dora María Tellez was sixteen years old when she entered the university in León to study medicine. She knew that the university was known for the radical student organizations, and before long she became a member of the FSLN. Her initiation activities were fairly risk-free – procuring food, supplies, medicine, clothes, weapons, and identifying safehouses. Then, around Christmas Eve, the earthquake hit taking 10,000 lives and destroying 600 blocks in a downtown area of Managua. Even so the Sandinistas continued their work and two years later in 1974, the FSLN pulled off a hostage takeover at the Castillo Christmas Party effectively causing intense negotiations between Somoza and the commanders. The Sandinistas asked for the release of prisoners, a hefty ransom, a broadcasting of a prepared communiqué over the public radio waves, and safe passage to Cuba. Somoza complied. One of the prisoners released was Daniel Ortega, convicted for bank robbery and had spent seven years in prison. The FSLN commander was Eduardo Contreras and next in command was Hugo Torres. Edén Pastora, Hugo Torres, and Dora María Tellez commanded the next hostage operation, Operation Pigpen, in August, 1978 with Tellez as the principal negotiator. Later, in 2021, both Tellez and Torres were incarcerated by the Ortega Murillo regime on false charges that amount to a politically motivated vendetta.

Tellez was one of the lead commanders of the Western Front. Her comrades were killed while planning their next operation in a “safehouse” in León, thus, she was tasked with unifying the units and taking command in the liberation of León, which had become one of the Guard’s stronghold. In the summer of 1979, she led her unit in a highly intense battle for several weeks, pushing and dispersing the National Guard at the street level while escaping aerial and mortar bombardments. It was a phenomenal feat considering that the National Guard had major weapons and many more soldiers and the FSLN guerrilla were far short in numbers and in weaponry. However, by this stage of the revolution, thousands of civilians had joined the FSLN as supporters, setting up barricades, and using anything they could to fight off the Guard. There’s no doubt that their involvement was a contributing factor to the FSLN victory. (18) At twenty-two years old, Dora María Tellez who went to León to study medicine, and instead, led a squadron to liberate it, was a heroic figure. (19)   

Dora María Tellez: “What makes a woman believe that she is capable of anything? No one taught us. That is one of the great mysteries about the Revolution. They don’t teach it to you at school. You don’t learn to believe in humanity on the streets. Religion doesn’t teach it. It teaches us to believe in God, not in men and women. So it’s difficult to awaken that belief in yourself and in others. But in spite of all that, many women and men did develop that commitment.” (20)

“All we knew was that we were going to make the Revolution, however long it took. Ten, 20, 30, even 40 years. Most of us thought we’d never live to see the day. It’s still hard to believe that we’ve done it.” (21)

“It’s through experiences like these that our values have changed. We’ve had to live through things most people can’t even imagine. All of this has called into question values and beliefs that used to be taken for granted. How could values not change in families where sons and daughters were killed, where a mother lost what she loved the most? I mean, what couldn’t change in a home where a woman was already capable of seeing her children fight for the Revolution, accepting their death, burying them, and then often having to pretend they were still alive so the repression wouldn’t fall on them all the harder? Anything, even the role of women—so deeply rooted—can change.” (22)

Visit a YouTube interview with Dora María Tellez (2018).

Post Revolution: Enter– Rosario Murillo 


La princesa está triste .. qué tendrá la princesa?
Los suspiros se escapan de su boca de fresa,
Que ha perdido la risa, que ha perdido el color.
La princesa está pálida en su silla de oro,
Está mudo el teclado de su clave Sonoro;
Y en un vaso alvidada se desmaya una flor.

(Ruben Dario) (23)  


The princess is sad … from the princess slips
Such sighs in her words from the strawberry lips.
Gone from them laughter and the warm light of day.
Pallid she is sat in her golden chair;
Unsounded the keys of the harpsichored there,
And a flower, from a vase has swooned away. 

From Poetry to Politics

Today, Rosario Murillo is the Vice President of Nicaragua, and her position of power has been scrutinized by many. (24) Murillo began her political career alongside Ortega immediately after the 1979 Sandinista Revolution. As the official spokesperson for Ortega, she has remained in the public’s eye for over forty years, long enough for the world to adjust a broad lens upon which to examine and analyze her actions and decisions as both a First Lady and now as the Vice President to her husband, President Daniel Ortega. 

Who is Rosario Murillo? She is the VP, “groomed” by President Ortega to replace him if the need occurs; so what should the public expect if she would inherit the presidency? Is she the benevolent, stately “queen” that deeply and genuinely cares about all Nicaraguans, especially the poor, struggling and suffering “la gente del pueblo.” Or, is she the “dictator” at heart whose ambition is paramount and will use (and abuse) whatever political maneuverings in the toolbox to gain that power? What kind of ambition—besides president? Does Murillo harbor the desire for the accumulation of wealth? And, perhaps, significantly, does Murillo promote the empowerment of woman especially since she possesses a position of power? 

A Privileged Education and an Exuberant Ambition

Murillo’s family was a member of the bourgeoisie. She attended a private high school in Great Britain, the Greenway Convent Collegiate School. At the Institut Anglo-Suisse Le Manoir in Switzerland, she was an art student; while at the University of Neuchatel also in Switzerland, she earned a French language certificate. At the University of Cambridge, she acquired an English language certificate. Upon her return to Managua, she attended the National Autonomous University and afterwards, became a language professor at the Instituto de Ciencias Comerciales and the the Colegio Teresiano. About that time, at the age of sixteen, Murillo gave birth to her daughter, Zoilamérica, whom she named after her maternal grandmother. (25) Like so many others with privileged positions, both educationally and economically, Murillo’s ambition was based on a European tradition with an international scope. A teaching career wasn’t in Murillo’s horizon and after two years she began instead, to support the FSLN, setting up her house as a clandestine shelter and also, becoming politically involved. She was caught by the National Guard in 1976 because of her political activities and detained for a short time. Upon her release she fled to South America, Panama, and then, to Costa Rica where she met and fell in love with the future president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. 

Daniel Ortega’s working-class parents were fierce opponents of Somoza. He and his two brothers were young revolutionaries socialized by their parents rhetoric and political activities. (26) Ortega joined the Frente at age fifteen and three years later in 1967, he was convicted of armed bank robbery and imprisoned for seven years. Murillo knew about Ortega’s imprisonment and reportedly, sent him some of her poems. His release from prison was due to the Frente’s armed operation at a Christmas party hosted and attended by Somoza’s government dignitaries. Among the commanders of the 1974 guerrilla unit were Eduardo Contreras and Hugo Torres. Their operation was successful in collecting a hefty ransom and in forcing the Somoza government to release the FSLN prisoners, which included Daniel Ortega. 

Perhaps, one of the most enduring qualities of mutual attraction between Ortega and Murillo was their ambition—the notion that they could become the country’s most powerful couple seemed to be a formidable reality. After the war ended on July, 1979, Murillo and Ortega, now a couple with children, moved to Managua where their political trajectory had its start.

Rosario Murillo, the Writer

In 1932, the newspaper La Prensa, owned and operated by editor-in-chief Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya, became the established news outlet and the critical voice of the conservative, wealthy sector against the government of President Sacasa and then, Anastasio Somoza García. Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal (the son) took over the business after the death of his father in 1952 and followed a similar course of descension and critique against the Somoza dictatorship. 

During the 1940’s and early 50’s, in other Central American countries like Guatemala and El Salvador, the voices of descension were escalating, especially amongst women leaders, and the middle and upper-middle classes began to rise against their despotic leaders. (27)

Chamorro and a co-editor, Pablo Antonio Cuadro, both of whom were members of the conservative, wealthy elite, began to use La Prensa as a platform to publish stories with varied literary genres specifically intended to unify the anti-Somoza opposition and create a viable coalition against the dictatorship. (28)

Many young and aspiring writers were direct beneficiaries of the opportunities that La Prensa afforded them. La Prensa Literaria was the major source of Nicaragua’s published poetry during the 1960’s. Eventually, a group of writers whose diverse works focused on anti-somozacismo within the forceful, pro-revolution rhetoric, emerged as frontrunners in the category of poet-combatants. Some of the most popular works were writings by Carlos Fonseca, Ricardo Morales Avilés, Leonel Rugama, Ernesto Cardenal, Sergio Ramírez, and Doris Tijerino, to name a few. (29)

In the early 1970’s Murillo began working as a reporter with La Prensa and at the same time was a member of “Gradas,” a group of politically oriented artists, consisting of poets, singer/songwriters such as Carlos Mejía Godoy, painters, and others. As a reporter, Murillo took on the assignment of writing up Amada Pineda’s story, which Chamorro then published with full knowledge that the Somoza regime would retaliate for this act. (30)

Amada Pineda had tried in vain to seek justice against the perpetrators that committed the brutal torture against her and others. She made a personal plea to Chamorro as the last resort, and her published story reached a wide, economically diverse readership. As expected, Amada Pineda’s story, in full display in the country’s major newspaper, was received with outrage by Somoza and his supporters. But its publication was also perceived as a bold and powerful statement against the dictatorship’s brutality and repression. Chamorro was assassinated by the National Guard in 1978. His murder sparked a tsunami of violence: the National Guard increased its terror of fear and death against the revolting populace, and the FSLN responded with a massive and forceful mobilization. (31)

Rosario Murillo, the Poet

Murillo played an important role as a featured poet during the late 60’s and early 70s. She was a member of a group of middle and upper-class women known as “The Six,” and their writings were called the new women’s poetry. (32) “The Six” included Murillo, Michele Najlis, Yolanda Blanco, Vidaluz Meneses, Gioconda Belli, and Daisy Zamora. The women shared similar backgrounds and experiences: a Catholic school education throughout their youth, including at the (modernized) private universities, and some studied abroad as did Murillo; all were influenced by early vanguard poets, including Ernesto Cardenal; their poems were published in La Prensa Literaria; and they benefitted from the support of the international community by which they gained greater access to the world-class literary field as women at the universities and in career training. Their poetry was not “feminist” per say, but the overtones were obviously encased within a unique female voice. In as much as their poetic expressions contained images of the female emancipatory identity and the revolution, in general, their feminist themes were consistent with the Nicaraguan society that upholds women’s social traditions as primarily mothers, daughters, and wives. Their poetic inclinations of advancing women’s liberating process from the Somoza patriarchal grip was exhilarating but far removed and out of the grasp of the majority of women in Nicaragua that lived in poverty and repression. (33)

Murillo published seven poetry books from 1975 to 1992: Gualtayán (1975); Sube a nacer conmigo (1977); Un deber de cantar (1981); Amar es combatir (antología) (1982); En espléndidas ciudades (1985); Las esperanzas misteriosas (1990); Angel in the deluge (1992) translated from the Spanish by Alejandro Murguía. (34)   

Murillo’s Ambition

After the revolution in the early 80s, Murillo positioned herself alongside the leadership of her compañero, Daniel Ortega, the coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction. (35) She was director of a union of cultural workers, the Asociación Sandinista de Trabajadores de la Cultura (ASTC), and the editor of the literary supplement of the Sandinista newspaper, Barricada. She believed that the artist should always be prepared to defend the revolution through their art—music, painting, writing—but, also in combat fighting with the guerrilla. (36)

The Ministry of Culture at the State level was directed by the vanguard poet, Ernesto Cardenal. He and his brother, Fernando Cardenal, the director of the Ministry of Education, worked in coordination to administer two of the most important projects of the era. Ernesto Cardenal organized the poetry workshops (talleres de poesía) based on his previous work known as the Solentiname writing project. (37) Fernando Cardenal’s work involved the organization and deployment of thousands of volunteer literacy educators to areas of Nicaragua that had experienced extreme social, cultural, and educational neglect throughout Somoza’s reign. (38) Both projects introduced poetry writing and literacy development at the grassroots level, using techniques advanced by Paulo Freire. (39) Particularly important was the inclusion of the narrative, testimonial poetry techniques developed in the Solentiname Project. (40)

Murillo and other established poets of the Vanguard era, were highly critical of Ernesto Cardenal’s writing project. Murillo used her authority and arranged for the airing of a televised program, which she hosted, to publicly discredit Cardenal’s work, essentially pointing to the “too simplistic” and substandard quality of the poetry written by workshop participants. However, Cardenal was also a Catholic priest and as a liberation theologian his work at the Solentiname lay monastery (which he founded), had as its core and foundation the pastoral duty to bring the teachings of Christ into the daily lives of the poor and oppressed, which was a spiritual/religious process in the revolutionary act of liberation. (41) Cardenal’s response was that the goal of the project was to introduce and teach the expressive arts to the disadvantaged and disenfranchised populace. But Murillo’s preference for a system of cultural brigades, i.e., taking the arts in performance to the people, over Cardenal’s writing workshops, i.e., nurturing creative writing at the grassroots level, eventually, pushed Cardenal out of the Ministry. Whether the conflict between Murillo and Cardenal was personal rather than substantive remains unanswered, although Murillo’s ambition could not be overlooked.   

Rosario Murillo and Amada Pineda, Again

On July 20, 2018, in a ceremony to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista victory over the Somoza regime forces, Amada Pineda stood on a stage platform with Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. In front of a huge crowd of Sandinista supporters at the Plaza la Fe, Ortega pins the Augusto César Sandino medal on Pineda’s blouse. The special honor is bestowed upon Pineda as an award for her heroism as a fighter for the Sandinista Revolution. Pineda took the microphone to thank the Commander for the honor and then, proceeded to tell the story of how the Somocista Guard assassinated her son in 1979, and now her other son, Francisco Arauz Pineda was assassinated by those that want to end the Revolution. “I want to say to the young people,” she stated, “to continue forward, don’t hold back, work hard for the Revolution, since it has given us so much.” “ Comandante Daniel is here to stay,” she added. In referring to the assassins, she remarked that she wanted to yell at the golpistas (the persons that attempted the “coup”) that they were murderers but “they will not finish off the Revolution.”

Murillo, standing by her side, listening intently, waits until she puts down the microphone and then embraces her. The two women pose for photographs; Murillo’s expression shows compassion and warmth, as if to offer Pineda her most profound condolences. (42)

Who Killed Francisco Arauz Pineda? 

Arauz Pineda, the 55-year old son of Amada Pineda, was struck with gunshot and then, partially incinerated on June of 2018 at the site of one of the multiple barracks in Managua that had been erected by the civilian protestors. He and his three companions, all workers with the Sandinista government, were part of the “clean-up” crew tasked with dismantling the barracks. The protest had started peacefully on April 18th, and by most accounts, there was no intention of violence on the part of the protesters. However, violence erupted, and the back and forth skirmishes between the unarmed protestors and the armed Sandinista police and paramilitary (called voluntary police by the government) lingered intermittently for several months. 

Although Arauz Pineda’s perpetrators were captured the following month, very few details about the crime were available to the public. The following contains the information published in the Sandinista news outlet.  

Four adolescent men were charged with participating in the assassination of Arauz Pineda, as well as injuring one of his fellow workers. According to the digital article in El 19, the court hearing took place on November 14, 2018, while Amada Pineda sat somberly in the audience. Two of the young men, Juan Ramón Mena (not present) and Misael Espinoza stand accused of killing Arauz and wounding his co-worker, José Antonio with an AK rifle. The other three, Erick Antonio, Cristopher Marlon and Ulises Ruben Tovel, were charged with each carrying an illegal fire arm and incinerating the lifeless corps of Arauz Pineda. The young men, wearing a passion purple color uniform, sat confused while conferring with their legal counsel. 

Just seven months later, on June 11, 2019, published an article with photographs of jubilant men celebrating their release from prison. The opening paragraph informs the reader that dozens of political prisoners were recently released due to an amnesty proclamation. In this particular group (alluding to the fact that another group of fifty prisoners were previously released) were campesinos, ex-military members, journalists, and student leaders of the April 18th (2018) “rebellion.” The student leaders had been imprisoned by the Ortega Murillo dictatorship on false charges of terrorism, organized crime, and even murder. Reportedly, some had served a prison sentence of 380 days. 

Among the 56 names of prisoners released were the four that had been charged with the murder of Arauz Pineda: Cristopher Marlon Mendez, Misael Espinoza, Ulises Ruben Toval Ríos, and Erick Antonio Carazo Talavera. Questions about the men’s judicial process remain unanswered without additional information on the circumstances by which these men were charged, tried, and sentenced. However, if they gained their release based on the premise of “amnesty,” then, it appears that Amada Pineda lost the justice she sought for the assassination of her son. She believed that the murderers were part of a scheme to overthrow the Sandinista government; and that imperial forces financed the agitators and paid assassins to murder Sandinistas. This was the official message communicated by Ortega and Murillo, and hardly anyone had any reason to question its integrity. News outlets throughout the country are obligated to disseminate official Sandinista communication since most, if not all, are owned or controlled by the Ortega Murillo government. One of Murillo’s responsibility is the management of communication networks and systems, ensuring that her specific message is widely broadcasted on a daily basis. 

The June 8, 2019 Amnesty Law that was passed by the National Assembly in 24 hours.

The Amnesty Law grants “broad amnesty to all people who took part in the events that have taken place throughout Nicaragua from April 18, 2018, until this law enters into force.” The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) raises its objections to this law, not only because of its ambiguity, but because it purports to grant amnesty to those that committed serious human rights violations. Over 300 people lost their lives as a direct result of the April 18th Rebellion, and thousands were injured, some seriously, and many of the hundreds of people that were detained and imprisoned were subjected to torture. In an article by Noelia Gutiérrez, “The Price Paid by Nicaraguan Women Opposing the Ortega Regime,” women were picked up by the police, taken to jails, brutally beaten with clubs – in the legs, stomach, chest, face – and interrogated endlessly. They were denied medical assistance they desperately needed and two pregnant women suffered miscarriages. According to international human rights law, the government is obligated to “investigate, identify, and sanction “ the individuals responsible for the human rights violations. If the court determines that grave human rights have been violated, the perpetrators must be held accountable.  

Rosario Murillo Chooses Which Grieving Mothers to Support

 Amada Pineda lost her son in the milieu of protestations, and although her case for justice is yet unresolved, she has the support and admiration of Rosario Murillo. But it’s another completely different story for the mothers of victims who were also killed as a result of the 2018 April Rebellion. Dozens of mothers and their family members of the victims who were shot and killed by the police and/or paramilitary-style forces have desperately sought the truth. They followed every protocol and procedure in filing formal complaints with the state authorities, but were repeatedly turned away. They finally realized that the Ortega Murillo regime would never concede to their demands, and to make matters worse, some group members began to suspect that they were being targeted and persecuted. When they understood the uphill battle against the ironclad and repressive regime, they realized the need to create their own power of defense. They launched La Asociación de Madres de Abril (April Mothers Association) or AMA, which not only formed a base of support for the members, but it also constituted a means by which to seek truth and justice, using every available resource, including those offered by the international community.

AMA’s first major task was to provide support for the grieving mothers and other family members. Many of the victims were teenagers whose sole purpose were to participate in a peaceful protest as part of their civic duty. The April 18th march was started by people (mostly older adults) protesting the government’s decision to cut back their pension checks. But then, the students joined in and the police responded; the violence escalated, especially when the police began to use deadly violence. The families learned that their loved ones were unarmed when they were shot, and the police refused to render aid to the wounded, causing some of the victims to bleed out. They were appalled at the brutal assault on defenseless young people that didn’t deserve to be killed or wounded. 

The families chose to create a museum, Ama y No Olvida: Museo de la Memoria Contra La Impunidad, to dignify the lives of their loved ones and to remember them. They also wanted to publicly denounce the circumstances by which the victims lost their lives. They were not criminals, nor were they conspiring to overthrow the government, as the Ortega Murillo government claimed. With the assistance of the commissioned, Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEL), an entity of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the AMA members are able to declare, with their own documentation, that the offenses committed by the Ortega Murillo government constitute crimes against humanity.  

The museum opened on September 30th, 2019 and closed a year later, December, 2020 due to the constant harassment by police and their agents. The virtual museum features the 70 victims killed during a five-month period in ten departments. Each department features a custom-made map of the municipality where the victims were shot, and illustrates the location of the police that committed the assassinations. Many of these killings occurred at the site of the barricades where protestors were positioned. These barricades, once hailed as heroic symbols of resistance during the Sandinista Revolution, were re-named by the Ortega Murillo regime as “tranqueros de muerte.”

 Individuals can report human rights violations in the website, Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Nicaragua Nunca+.   

Murillo’s words and deeds were closely aligned with Ortega’s accusations that the protesters were paid by foreign agents and the killings were justified to end the attempted coup. Murillo’s similar message to the mothers of the victims was intended to discredit their complaints against the police, and despite their unfortunate loss, the Sandinista government would only acknowledge the loss suffered by Sandinista women like Amada Pineda. 

Murillo’s Repression Against AMA (Mothers of April Association)

In a news release (dated April 21, 2021) by the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, several incidents of aggression and assault were reported toward members and supporters of the AMA as they commemorated the third anniversary of the April 2018 Rebellion. Between the 14th and 17th of April, about 75 women (human rights defenders) associated with AMA (and their families) were subjected to harassment by police, preventing them from leaving their homes. On April 19th, a similar group of women in Masaya and Carazo were also harassed by the police. Their commemorative books were confiscated, their purses and bags were searched, and they were threatened with incarceration. 

On April 20th, the police physically assaulted and then, detained Francys Valdivia Machado, a human rights defender and the president of AMA, her mother and three other women. While in police custody, the women were physically and verbally assaulted. They were eventually released but never told the reason for their detention. 

On August 15, 2018, BBC World Service released the news report on YouTube about the women outside of the El Chipote Prison where their children and other family members were detained. According to “Betsy,” the spokesperson, the women were demanding the answers to their basic questions: where are their loved ones, why are they detained, and when can they see them. Their detention is illegal and the accusations against them are false. On that day, the women were ordered to voluntarily leave the premises or face the physical aggression by police. Betsy reiterates the group’s response, that contrary to the government’s claim, their family members in detention are not “golpistas,” (seditious protestors), and their families are not “terrorists.” 

Murillo’s Propaganda and Distortion of the Truth

The Ortega Murillo dictatorship is dependent on key governmental authorities, and the expanded core of Sandinista supporters to apply the regime’s manifesto accordingly. In the case of the paramilitary or parapolice, which Ortega calls the “voluntary police,” their actions reflect an autonomous interpretation of responsibilities and expectations. Thus, their repressive actions against civilians, regardless of the extent of aggression or brutality that they exercise, are in acquiescence to the order established by the National Police, which functions exclusively under the Ortega Murillo directive. From all indications, the government allows the paramilitary forces (or voluntary police) to act with impunity. 

As VP, Murillo has strict control over the content that’s broadcasted throughout the country. Her precise language used to describe the April Rebellion and the protesters is repeated in a variety of formats by various governmental functionaries, e.g., that the protestors are golpistas, seeking to overthrow the government, and/or they are paid by foreign interventionists, or the imperialists such as the United States, and that they and their families are terrorists. Essentially, individuals that are pro-government and embrace the Sandinista rhetoric and propaganda have the support of the Ortega Murillo administration, but the anti-government populace, or everyone else, is abhorrently rebuked.

The human rights violations committed against those associated with the April Rebellion have been documented in various reports including the following: two Human Rights Reports: Human Rights Violations and Abuses in the Context of Protests in Nicaragua, April 18 to August 18, 2018 and Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. An additional document was produced by the Comisión de la verdad, justicia y paz, as ordered by the government’s National Assembly. 

It’s important to point out that the Nicaraguan government authorities have yet to acknowledge the violations of human rights as the first step toward reconciliation and reparations. The following are some of the most egregious violations in the findings reported in the above mentioned reports: 1) the disproportionate use of force by the police, in some cases resulting in extrajudicial killings; 2) enforced disappearances; 3) obstruction to access medical care (particularly of victims of gunshot); 4) widespread, arbitrary, illegal detentions; 5) prevalent ill-treatment and instances of torture and sexual violence in detention centers; and 6) criminalization of social leaders, human rights defenders, journalists, and protesters considered in opposition of the government. 

The OHCHR reports consistently conclude that over 300 people were killed as a result of the April Rebellion, with about 2,000 injuries. The July, 2018 Comisión de la verdad, justicia y paz report, the official document commissioned by the National Assembly, includes the total deaths of 222 as a result of the April Rebellion and 2,225 wounded. The autopsy reports issued by the Instituto de Medicina Legal (IML) include information that of the 81 corpses examined, 71 of these were killed violently by gunshot. The report also concludes that the deceased received gunshot wounds to the head and chest, suggesting that they were killed by “tiradores expertos” (francotiradores or sharp shooters). This evidence strongly suggests that the gunmen were members of the National Police. They have the training and the weapons to carry out these kinds of killings. Barricades or “tranques” were reportedly assembled by the protesters, which obstructed vital routes throughout the cities. The National Police ordered the paramilitary groups called “fuerzas de choque” or shock forces, to attack the barricades with military-style weapons. These confrontations caused the deaths of 108 victims, which presumably were mostly protesters since they only had hand-made, crude weaponry to defend themselves. Numerous complaints by victims and their families were filed; besides extrajudicial killings, these included extreme beatings resulting in fractured bones, sexual violence, and some were burned to death.   

The Case of Cristiana Chamorro Barrios: Two Perspectives – Vilma Nuñez and Rosario Murillo 

At the time the La Prensa editor, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, was arrested for publishing Amada Pineda’s story which Rosario Murillo had written up, Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia was a human rights defender and lawyer. She recalls in an article “Ni Somoza, la destrucción judicial del gobierno Ortega Murillo” (Not even Somoza: The Destruction of the Judicial System in the Ortega Murillo Government), that Pedro Joaquín Chamorro was allowed due process, and his court proceedings were open to the public, allowing journalists, family members, human rights defenders and activists in the courtroom. Daniel Ortega was also allowed similar judicial proceedings after his arrest for bank robbery in 1967. In contrast, Nuñez argues that Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, illegally arrested on June, 2021, was detained for three months before any proceedings were allowed. Subsequent to her arrest were at least thirty others that were similarly detained. Clearly, their rights were violated, and Nuñez contends that Chamorro’s arrest was political as were the others, and that the judicial process is so corrupt that a fair trial is unlikely to materialize. (43)

Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, the daughter of Violeta and Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, founded the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation in 1987 with the expressed mission of promoting free speech and freedom of the press. On September 11, 2020, Chamorro Barrios bestowed the  Foundation’s prestigious award to the Association of Mothers of April (AMA) for their diligent work in the creation of Museum of Memory Against Impunity in Nicaragua. The museum became the target of cruel harassment and threats by the Ortega Murillo regime supporters, and on December, 2020, the museum closed its doors but retained its website as a virtual exhibition. In the same month, the Sandinista National Assembly approved controversial laws that were consider in violation of international human rights norms and standards. One particular lawLey 1055, The Defense of the Rights of People to Independence, Sovereignty, Self-determination for peace, developed on the behest of the Ortega Murillo regime, was obvious to many government critics as a means by which to attempt to silence the opposition that threatened their electoral victory in November 2021 elections. On February 5, 2021, Barrios Chamorro publicly announces that her Foundation had to shutter because Ley 1055 specifically targets her NGO, which receives international funding. The Ley 1055 is so ambiguous and broad that a partial judge can readily amplify the “treasonous” interpretation of Barrios Chamorro’s support of associations like AMA.    

It seems that Barrios Chamorro’s fate was sealed, probably even before she was actually arrested. After a few days of her arrest, according to the news article, “Murillo clamors for justice, against corruption and la huaca golpista,” Murillo broadcasted her opinion of Chamorro in her daily radio show, saying in effect that Cristiana Barrios Chamorro is a “huaca golpista,” and “receives blood money to kill, to quash, subordinate, to create chaos, instability, insecurity… [it is] money to destroy, and she will pay.” Murillo adds that Barrios Chamorro “receives money from those that believe they are powerful (presumably from the United States); it’s a crime and the “pueblo” (Nicaraguan people) demands justice and reparations.” However, Murillo refuses to reveal the nature of Barrios Chamorro’s crimes, although “money laundering” is on the list, which human rights defenders and Sandinista opposers claim are all false and thus, deliberately intends to obfuscate the judicial process. Barrios Chamorro was considered by many political analysts to be the viable front runner as a presidential candidate, which posed a serious threat to the Ortega Murillo aspirations for a November electoral win.  

Vilma Nuñez, her two siblings and their mother, grew up in a single parent household in Acoyapa, Chontales. (44) Their father and his wife (not their mother) were wealthy; their father was a stern critic of Somoza’s dictatorship. Vilma and her siblings had to be home schooled by their mother because they were born out of wedlock. (45

They were refused enrollment at a public school and, then a Catholic school, as well as a neighborhood social club. After the death of her father, their mother was excluded from receiving the inheritance, but had to collect the monthly check from a designated guardianship on behalf of her children. Eventually, the siblings lost all of their inheritance when a judge gave approval to the guardian in charge to sell their property. From these discriminatory experiences, Vilma learned about injustices and at a very early age began to ask questions, which only deepened her quest to find the answers from a personal level. In Managua, she was able to study law and eventually, obtained her law degree. In 1990, after the election of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in a stunning defeat of Daniel Ortega, she founded the Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), and continued to practice law in the area of human rights. 

In contrast to Nuñez, Murillo’s wealthy, elite upbringing included attended the best private schools in Nicaragua and abroad. Even when Murillo became part of the Sandinista movement, her family’s wealth offered her economic security. After Ortega assumed the leadership in the Sandinista government, Murillo benefitted from the properties and possessions that the Somoza family left behind. (46) Today, Murillo, Ortega, and their children are reportedly millionaires. Their businesses are set up as anonymous companies to hide their identity and their wealth. (47)  You can view Nuñez biographical video here.

Murillo, the Real Power Behind Ortega

Murillo used her position as VP and the numerous, privately-owned communication outlets at her disposal to disparage her adversaries, including mothers, activists, professionals in their own right, scholars, and in the case of Dora María Tellez, as a revolutionary hero. She used propagandistic schemes to denounce the women’s efforts in raising their voices in opposition to the Sandinista dictatorship. Her main targets are female leaders/activists, particularly those actively preparing for the November elections. Murillo’s plan was to silence the key female members of the political opposition in a deliberate, synchronized tactical strategy. First, she had to convince her supporters that the women were “enemies of la patria,” or traitors that should be charged and convicted for their treasonous acts. Cristiano Barrios Chamorro was the first victim of her nefarious campaign strategy. There are approximately 11 female political prisoners. They include the following: (48)

Dora María Tellez (arrested on June 13th): Born in Matagalpa in 1955, Tellez joined the FSLN in León when she was twenty years old. Her initial move to León was to enroll in the School of Medicine. She was twenty-three years old and commander number three when on August 22, 1978, she participated in the Operation Pigpen, the takeover of the Somoza regime’s National Palace that resulted in the release of FSLN prisoners and a ransom. She was chosen as chief negotiator amongst her comrades, illustrating their confidence in her remarkable abilities. Then, under her command, the FSLN unit in León “liberated” the department, defeating the powerful, well-trained and equipped Somoza National Guard. Her success as a female commander was perceived as one of the most heroic acts in the Sandinista Revolution. The international feminist communities took special interest in her achievements. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Helsinki, and she was invited as a Visiting Professor by the Harvard University’s Robert F. Kennedy School of Theology, although she was unable to attend due to problems with a U.S. visa. After the Revolution, Tellez served as Vice President of Parliament and in the Ministry of Health. In 1995, disillusioned and disappointed over the direction of the FSLN political party, Tellez and many other stalwarts of the FSLN, left the party and created their own movement based on democratic ideals. The Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS) was established and later “cancelled” by Ortega in 2008. A new version of MRS emerged as the Unión Democrático Renovadora (UNAMOS). Her writings have been well-received by international audiences; her publications are catalogued in the centers of investigation such as Instituto de Investigación y Desarrollo Nitlapan (UCA), the Institute of History in Nicaragua an Central America (IHNCA), and the Envió Digital Journal. She was in charge of coordinating the project Memoria Centroamericana, an academic platform in the field of Social Science. (49)  Dora María Tellez and Ana Margarita Vijil were taken by force from their home on June 13, 2021. A few others that were in the home were also taken away but then released. A large convoy of police in tactical gear barged into their home, ransacking and confiscating anything they deemed of some value although they didn’t have a warrant nor could they elaborate on why they were being arrested. (50)  

 Ana Margarita Vijil (arrested on June 13th): Vijil, born in 1978, is a human rights defender and former president of MRS (now UNAMOS). In her mid-twenties she worked at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. She received a Fulbright Scholarship and graduated from the University of Arizona majoring in Political Science. Vijil was professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Managua. 

Tamara Dávila (arrested on June 12th): Dávila and her five-year old daughter awoke in the middle of the night to the noise of Police tearing down the front door, who then, proceeded to ransack her home, confiscating the electronic equipment. She was taken to prison, leaving her daughter behind. Dávila is a forty-year old feminist and an executive member of UNAMOS. She is an experienced psychologist committed to the defense of human rights and gender equality.

Suyén Barahona (arrested on June 13th): On Sunday, June 13th, a huge police presence descended upon Barahona’s home. She was taken prisoner without a lawyer and remained in isolation for months. Like Vijil, Barahona is also a Fulbright Scholar. She has a degree in International Relations and a Master’s degree in Environmental Politics. She was a political science professor for eight years. She founded the project, “La Mujer Nica Como Emprendedora Social,” that focuses on helping low-income women become entrepreneurs. She joined MRS, now UNAMOS in 2007 because she believed in the democratic principles, justice, equality, and respect for human rights. She looks to a brighter future for Nicaraguans, where no generation will ever have to live through another dictatorship. Barahona was elected president of UNAMOS in 2017. (51)

Violeta Granero (arrested on June 8th): Granero, a sociologist, is the leader of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco political organization. Maria Oviedo (arrested on June 29th): Oviedo is the coordinator for the Comisión Permanente de Derechos Humanos (CPDH). Also arrested and imprisoned were: María Fernanda Flores; María Esperanza Sánchez García; Karla Escobar; and Julia Hernández Arévalo. 

The international community has overwhelmingly expressed outrage over the incarceration of the women and others. In a recent letter issued by the UN Human Rights Council, the Nicaragua Core Group makes a forthright plea, “We once again urge the Government of Nicaragua to immediately release all political detainees, refrain from reprisals and all acts of intimidation.” In a gesture of solidarity, representatives from fifty countries signed the letter. A similar statement was issued by the U.S. Secretary of State on September 14, 2021: “[President Ortega and Vice President Murillo] have closed all space for political competition and public discourse, cruelly jailing in recent months more than 30 opposition leaders, students, reporters, business leaders, human rights activists, and members of civil society.” 

In Ortega’s response, according to the article published in the newspaper, Confidencial, he maintains that his government seeks good relationships with all countries; and asks for their respect. He made an intriguing plea to the international community– to continue their contributions (in donations) to combat poverty and develop the country. However, in previous public speeches, Ortega has insisted that the jailed political leaders are “criminals,” who sought to depose the government and/or were complicit with imperial elements (“el imperialismo”) to overthrow the government. 

Murillo’s Tactics in Targeting Women That Oppose the Regime

Murillo is Ortega’s best and formidable defense for the cruel, despicable acts of violence that he perpetrates against women. The aforementioned women, Tellez, Vijil, Dávila, Barrios Chamorro, Barahona, Granero, Oviedo, Flores; Sánchez García; Escobar; Hernández Arévalo, are well-educated (two are Fulbright Scholars), have professional occupations, accomplished, intelligent; and some are wives and mothers. If Ortega called out each woman by her name, establishing a case of treason, conspiracy, money laundering, etc., he may risk losing some of his popularity amongst the Sandinista female supporters. Certainly, he would be chastised by the international community of feminists. Thus, Murillo’s role is key to Ortega’s successful outreach to both the male and female political bases. She interprets and embellishes Ortega’s messages, and channels the substance of the content to match the discourse, specifically tailored to the audience. The supporters believe Murillo’s persuasive, fervid rhetoric when she describes the women as “bad mothers, traitors, liars, thieves, deceitful, evil, and dangerous.” Murillo’s daily speeches spoon feed an audience that has limited access to the news outside of their communities. (52) Murillo insists on their loyalty to “la patria”, that when they believe in the “comandante” Daniel (Ortega), they are placing their faith in God. In her actions and words Murillo caters to the patriarchal society deeply seeded in Nicaraguan society, reinforcing the kinds of gender-based violence that many women have longed fought against. 

Silencing the voices of the opposition by cancelling the legal status of the non-profit organizations to which they belong is another tactic used by the Ortega Murillo regime. The National Assembly, heavily dominated by Ortega supporters, used their power to void the legal standing of at least 55 NGOs. Many of these have been critical of the government, not necessarily intended to confront the authorities but rather to denounce the serious problems and offer solutions. An example is the Centro de Estudios para la Gobernabilidad y Democracia (CEGODEM). Their leader, Fidel Moreira, gives a testimonial statement in the video located in the organization’s Face Book page, which describes the assaults, including murder of human rights defenders, and campesinos by paramilitary units operating with impunity. In a news report published in August, 2021, Deputy Brooklyn Rivera, gave testimony in objection to the closure of Acción Médica Cristiana which has offered assistance to the indigenous communities along the Caribbean Region in areas of health and emergency relief during natural disasters. He also opposed the shutter of the women’s association, el Colectivo de Mujeres de Matagalpa, which has a lengthy trajectory of 31 years serving thousands of women and their families, creating Casas de Mujeres, libraries, constructing homes, to name a few of their projects. Many of the canceled NGOs received international funds to carry out social, health, and educational projects. 

Three other women organizations, known for their feminist perspectives, and have served to  defend women’s rights and defenders, were ordered to close by the Ortega Murillo regime: La Asociación de Mujeres de Jalapa contra la Violencia Oyanka; la Fundación entre Volcanes; and Fundación Xochiquetzal. The National Assembly’s president, Gustavo Porras indicated in his statement published by Nicaragua Investiga that the NGOs’ cancellations are as a result of the organizations’ irregularities or non-compliance with accountability requirements on donor identification and the operational budget. However, the IM-Defensoras article points to the belief that many feminists and human rights defenders perceive this action as part of the repression unleashed by the Sandinista government in the course of the presidential electoral process–to persecute, criminalize, and subject to imprisonment–dozens of people, including feminists, journalists, lawyers, and defenders of human rights, or simply to eliminate the opposition. 

Murillo, the Mother of Zoilamérica Who will Not Be Silenced 

At thirty-one years old, Zoilamérica, daughter of Rosario Murillo and (stepfather) Daniel Ortega, took the giant step toward recovery as a survivor of sexual abuse. For the previous decade, Narváez had undergone a transformative process to alleviate the emotional and psychological pain from a twenty-year nightmare of sexual abuse perpetrated by her stepfather. As a final step toward her healing process, she petitioned the court to legally change her last name from Ortega to her late father’s last name (Narváez), and stated the reason: that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather. However, for such an accusation she had to have proof. In the spring of 1998,  Narváez made public her painful admission that she had been sexually abused by Ortega since the age of eleven. She told about her decision to do so in her 2002 declaration a few days ahead of her testimony with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: “I was a prisoner of desperation and anguish at the time, but I’ve celebrated that day like a second birthday ever since. I celebrate it as the day I took off a mask and was able to break with a history that had scarred by life.”

Her denunciation sent shock waves throughout the country. The general public was in disbelief, and some felt indignant that she even brought up such a private matter. But, the most ferocious attacks came from her mother and Ortega. Murillo denied the accusations, as did Ortega, although, in her testimony she recalls a private conversation in which he admits to the abuse and blames his emotional problems on his seven-year prison term. These and other details are documented in Kenneth Morris’ book. (53) Morris explains his analysis concerning the verity of Narváez’ accusations: “… the evidence suggests that Narváez is telling the truth. No one has ever linked Narváez’ accusations to any of Ortega’s political opponents at home or abroad, and Narváez herself was a militant Sandinista at the time she leveled the charge. She has had nothing material or political to gain by accusing Ortega of sexually abusing her, and in fact had much to lose.” (54) Narváez describes in detail the gross, criminal misconduct of Ortega toward her in the 1998 manuscript, “Testimonio de Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo.”

When Narváez took her case to the Inter-Amercian Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 1999, Vilma Nuñez de Escorcia, founder of the Nicaraguan human rights center, CENIDH, was her legal representative. In the case document, Narváez contends that the State of Nicaragua had violated her right to a fair trial because the Court of Managua refused to suspend Ortega’s congressional immunity. (At the time Ortega was a member of the Parliament.) Thus, the court ruled in Ortega’s favor without allowing witnesses or even a testimony from Narváez.

Later, when the case was re-activated, the IACHR did not make a ruling in Narváez’ case because Ortega threatened to withdraw from the Organization of American States (OAS), of which the IACHR is an integral component. Having been re-elected in 2007, he used the power of his presidency to make this claim, and Narváez once again, was left defenseless. (55)

Although Narváez chose not to bring charges against her mother, it’s clear from her testimony that Murillo had full knowledge of the sexual abuse, and instead of helping her daughter, she became an enabler. Murillo’s sister, Violeta Murillo, had agreed to come forth as a witness in Narváez defense and testify what she saw and heard at their home in Costa Rica, before their move to Managua in 1978. Morris believes that Murillo knew about Ortega raping her daughter, but that when her sister, Violeta Murillo confronted her about it, “Murillo dismissed her concerns.” (56) Narváez asked her mother for help, but was rejected. Murillo must have known that Ortega was going into her bedroom at night because Narváez begged her mother to let her sleep with a sibling, as a way to protect herself, but she refused. Murillo chided Narváez for not wanting to sleep alone. When Narváez decided to go public with her accusations, Murillo was furious. Narváez harbored a resentment toward her mother for siding with the man that repeatedly raped her.  

Morris analyzes the relationships between Murillo, Ortega, and Narváez from the perspective of a power pact. “Instead of helping the man she came to love overcome an obvious emotional problem, or the daughter who depended upon her for protection, she exploited the man’s weaknesses by offering him her daughter. In exchange Murillo extracted real political power.” (57)

Although Narváez’ attempt to prove her case in court was not successful, her battle was not lost. Her video testimonies reveal her strong willingness to expose the truth regardless of the consequences. Murillo and Ortega’s futile attempts to hide their dark secret failed, and the more they ramped up their accusations against Narváez, the bigger their crime and conspiracy to cover it up. Narváez was steadfast in her determination to expose the horrid truth of sexual abuse in children. She came to recognize that, as a survivor, she possesses the powerful platform from which to advocate on behalf of child victims, and demand the reconstruction and reform of the broken judicial system that favors the criminal and further persecutes the abused child. (58

Concluding her remarks in the 2002 declaration (before she was forced to drop her case), Narváez makes the following statement: “Whatever happens in the international process at the IACHR, I cannot allow this case to be closed, because that would amount to closing the option of many other women to talk and to feel that justice is being done in their case. My struggle is no longer against Daniel Ortega, it is against the precedent that my case created through the complicit action of the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch and the country’s whole political system. (59

‘To Change the World’ is a Call for Action

As Narváez’ legal counsel, Vilma Nuñez was instrumental in navigating Narváez’ case through a difficult course. She prepared her defense despite Murillo’s plea to refrain from representing her. Murillo’s animosity against her became starkly evident after Nuñez was named the recipient of a prestigious award, Woman of Courage, from U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Laura Farnsworth Dogu on March 7, 2017. Murillo tasked her female cabinet members with a letter to Ambassador Dogu, asserting their objections on the basis of  Nuñez’ “insults” toward the government. In learning about the letter, Nuñez was not surprised and indicated that Murillo’s hostility toward her derived from the time she legally represented Narváez. Observers and critics (especially feminists) of the Ortega Murillo regime are synchronized in their analysis about the roles and functions of the large numbers of females in their government, which they believe are prohibited from working outside an anti-feminist agenda strictly controlled by Murillo. But the disparaging letter was only the beginning of Murillo’s actions against Nuñez. In December, 2018, the reported that the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) was cancelled by the National Assembly, in part by the Sandinista-dominated congress agenda to quash non-governmental opposition entities. As founding member of CENIDH, Nuñez had been the target of personal attacks and threats; after the 2018 April Rebellion she worked with CENIDH to compile complaints of human rights violations against the State police forces. In February, 2021, the IACHR asked government officials to file a report that specifically responds to the “aggression and harassment faced by CENIDH workers,” since the 2018 April Rebellion. The Ortega Murillo government has yet to respond to the request for an investigation into the documented violations compiled by CENIDH, and has turned the State’s repressive forces against the staff (human right defenders), some of whom had to self-exile for fear of their lives. 

Women have only themselves to create a powerful force beyond the wide realm of possibilities.

Left with a dictatorship that punishes female activists, shutters feminist organizations in an attempt to silence their descending voices, weakens institutions by politicizing their power and rewarding corruption, controls and manipulates the media to exploit the vulnerability of women in dire social and economic circumstances, and all within the context of a paralyzing fear wrought by repressive forces becoming increasingly lethal–women have only themselves to create a powerful force beyond the wide realm of possibilities.

The “sisterhood” that exists today between and among women in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and México was evident during the periods of armed conflicts, i.e., El Salvador, 1979-1991; and Nicaragua, 1970s-mid-1980s, and beyond. Even though the wars had major differences, the women shared common problems, during and after the armed conflicts. For example, the majority experienced similar discriminatory treatment as they sought to gain equal status with the men as combatants, and after the war, the infuriating disappointments and frustration of not being able to achieve the substantive changes in favor of women at the highest levels of their “new” government. (60) From these experiences and others, the women crafted a unique interpretation of the international women’s movement in which they found their own voice.

The United Nation committees responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have published reports which address the specific areas of issues related to the discriminatory practices against women. A careful perusal of these documents reveal patterns of similarities in regards to gender-based human rights in Nicaragua, HondurasGuatemala, and El Salvador

Some of the common areas of human rights violations against women include: 1) increasing rates of femicides and the failure of the State to properly investigate, prosecute, and punish the perpetrators; 2) sexual and reproductive rights violations, resulting in an alarming increase of underage pregnancies; 3) increase in domestic violence and lack of appropriated funds to resolve cases, especially those that threaten the lives of the victims; 4) the absence of full protection for domestic violence victims where the courts favor the perpetrator or where laws such as Law 779 in Nicaragua, require the victim to confront the aggressor for purpose of mediation that results in the re-victimization of the victim; 5) increased violations against female human rights defenders, including the LGBTQ community members and indigenous women defending land rights and environmental resources—that have resulted in attacks, sexual violence, intimidation, and criminalization; 6) increase of sexual violence against women activists in general and specifically, the online violence against women; and 7) the increase in the deteriorating conditions in education and social services for girls and women.

Latin American women—feminists, activists, advocates, and defenders of human rights—all form an indestructible link, especially evident in times of great need. They realize that their strength is in their collective force, and when they raise their voices in unison and deliver a heartfelt message on behalf of their “sisters” in peril and resistance, the international community listens. Such a clarion call is heard in the voices of three women in a brief video feature, all are members of the Iniciativa Mesoamericana– Red Nacional de Derechos Humanos (IM-Defensoras/National Network Human Rights): Morena Herrerra, El Salvador; Gilda Rivera, Honduras; Yésica Sánchez, México; and Lydia Alpizar, México. Their message clearly and accurately describes the conditions of repression in Nicaragua, and for some women, the constant fear of persecution. 

They hunger for freedom, and although they are trapped in an anti-democratic state, they realize the liminality of their lives; today they struggle but their future is bright, and they will never give up hope.

To Our Sisters—”Nunca están solas.”

When night comes,

   The moon will rest on your forehead;

You will close your eyes and DREAM

   Like you’ve never dreamt before;

SEE what you’ve never 

   Seen before;

BECOME what you’ve always

Thought you could.

A NEW DAWN awaits you.


Dear English-language Readers: We tried to include English-language resources as much as possible; many of the original sources are in Spanish. Some of the newspaper articles have the “translation” option which is worth a try if you need it. Thank you for your patience.

1.   Excerpt from Benjamín Zeledón letter to his wife on eve of his assassination, October, 1912. In Kinzer, S. 1991. Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p. 27.    

2.   See Nietschmann, Bernard, “Chapter Seven: Protecting Indigenous Coral Reefs and Sea Territories, Miskito Coast, Raan, Nicaragua,” pp.357-415. Nietschmann is quoted: “If you’re interested in cultural diversity, you have to be interested in biological diversity because nature is the scaffolding of culture; it’s why people are the way they are. If you’re interested in environments you have to be interested in culture.” 1992 Audubon Magazine.

3.   Kinzer, S. (1991). Blood of Brothers. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p.16. 

4.   In 1926, President Coolidge ordered U.S. troops to the Caribbean town, Puerto Cabezas and in 1927, 5,000 U.S. Marines were deployed along with 16 warships. After the Battle of Chinandega and the signing of the Peace Treaty in Espina Negra, Coolidge, followed by Hoover, signed an order that upon removal of the U.S. armed forces, the Nicaraguan National Guard will serve as its replacement under the command of U.S. generals. (Walker, 2003).

5.   See Kinzer (1991), p. 29.

6.   See Walker (2003).

7.   See Francois (2018). 

8.   See Walker (2003), p. 26.

9.   See Chávez, D. (2015), p.18.

10. See Kinzer (1991), p. 33.

11. See also Ramírez (2012), p. 32.

12. Excerpt from “Tropical Town,” by De La Selva, Salomón. (1918). Tropical Town and Other Poems. NY: John Lane and Company.  

13. Randall, M. (1981). Sandino’s Daughters. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, p. 80.

14. See Randall (1981), p. 92.

15. Excerpt from “El canto nacional” by Ernesto Cardenal. Translation by Marc Zimmerman in Beverley, J., and Zimmerman, M. (1980). Literature and Poetics in the Central American Revolutions. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, p. 84.

16. Byron, K. (2006). “Doris Tijerino: Revolution, Writing, and Resistance in Nicaragua.” In NWSA Journal, V.8(3), 104-121.  

17. See Randall (1981), p. 53.

18. The Nicaraguan “Revolution” was a 20-year struggle from 1960 to 1979. The dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle left the country for Miami, with the help of the United States, on July 16, 1979, leaving behind a ruthless, brutal repression, and on July 19, 1979 the Sandinistas took a victory lap in Managua with all fronts represented: the Northern, Southern, Central, Eastern, Western, Southeastern, and lastly, the “elite” Southern Front. See Francois (2018).

19. See Randall (1981), pp. 40-54.

20. Ibid, p. 54.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid, p. 57.

23. Excerpt from “Sonatina,” by Rubén Dario (circa, 1895), translated into English.

24. See feature by writer, Carlos Dada: “Nicaragua: The end of Poetry.”  

25. See Rosario Murillo Zambrana.

26. Ortega’s brother, Humberto, served in the FSLN as a ranking military officer and his brother Camilo, was killed in 1978 during a battle with the National Guard.

27. For example, in Guatemala, the dictator, Jorge Úbico resigns under pressure from the middle-class; a civilian, Arévalo is elected president and in 1950, Jacobo Arbenz is president, and then, ousted with the intervention of the United States’ CIA; and in El Salvador women were able to vote in 1950.

28. Chamorro founded the Unión Democrático de Liberación (UDEL) in 1974. See Beverley, J., and Zimmerman, M. (1980).

29. See Beverley and Zimmerman (1980).

30. Pedro Joaquin Chamorro was considered an important man that would help others in dire need. For example, he paid for the funeral services of Luisa Amanda Espinosa, upon request of her family after she was killed by the National Guard on April 3, 1970. See Randall, Sandino’s Daughters, 1981, p. 29.

31. See Francois (2018).

32. See Beverley and Zimmerman (1980), p. 89.

33. La Prensa newspaper/organization was ordered to shut down by the Ortega Murillo regime in this article, and the explanation of the losses suffered from this politically motivated order in this article.

34. See Rosario Murillo Zambrana.

35. Ortega was elected president for the first time in 1985 then, was defeated in 1990.  

36. Murillo did not serve in combat although her involvement with the Sandinistas in the mid-1970s led to a brief jail sentence. 

37. Solentiname is the largest island on the 38-island archipelago in Lake Nicaragua. Cardenal founded the Our Lady of Solentiname, a lay monastery that includes a farmer’s collective, an artist center and a clinic. See Cardenal, Ernesto (1976).

38. Known as the Literacy Campaign in the countryside – 60,000 to 80,000 volunteer literacy workers, 1980-81. See Beverley and Zimmerman (1980). Also, see also Ramirez (2012) and Vilas (1986).

39. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire was published in Portuguese in 1968 and then, in English in 1970. The proposed pedagogy in the book focuses on the irrevocable relationship between teacher, student, and society.

40. Costa Rican Mayra Jimenez was the coordinator and teacher of the Solentiname Writing Project. See Jimenez (1985).

41. See Sabia (1997). 

42. See the article and photos here.

43. Nuñez points out in the same article that the Secretary of the Organization of American States (OEA), Luis Almagro, declared in a statement that Nicaragua was a “failed state.” 

44. Nuñez profile can be retrieved here. Since this article is archived in, the download may take a little longer than usual. On some days the may be out for maintenance purposes, so you may need to try another day.

45. See Dore and Molyneux (2000).

46. In this YouTube video report on “la piñata,” the focus is on how Somoza’s possessions were purported to be expropriated by the Sandinista government but instead, the properties were distributed to individuals, including Ortega and Murillo.

47. See an investigative report on the wealth accumulation of the Ortega and Murillo children. This YouTube videoreports on the ownership of businesses of the Ortega/Murillo family.

48. See the article that reports on the political prisoners.

49. This is the YouTube video message by Tellez concerning the crisis in her country, before she was arrested. 

50. More information about Unión Democrática Renovadora (UNAMOS) can be retrieved from this FB page.

51. Suyén Barahona has a video clip of her speech here.

52. See article on Nicaragua’s low availability of the internet in comparison to other similar countries here.

53. Morris, K. (2010). Unfinished Revolution: David Ortega and Nicaragua’s Struggle for Liberation. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.

54. Ibid, p. 136.

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid, p.137.

57. Ibid, p. 139.

58. The Institute of Legal Medicine,  2018 report concludes the following 2017 data: 1,679 girls from ages 0-12 and 1,643 girls ages 13-17 were sexually abused. See also, “Abuso sexual: Un mal silenciado en la guerra de los 80,” a YouTube documentary video by Nicaragua Investiga about the sexual abuse of Sandinista female combatants during the Revolution.

59. See Kampwirth’s (2004) analysis of how Narváez’ public denunciation of Ortega sexually abusing her is partly due to the feminist movement in Nicaragua, especially after 1990.

60. See Kampwirth (2002).  


      Beverley, J., & Zimmerman, M. (1990). Literature and politics in the Central American revolution. Austin: University of Texas Press.

      Byron, K. (2006). Doris Tijerino: Revolution, writing, and resistance in Nicaragua. NWSA Journal, 8(3), 104-121.

      Cardenal, E. (1976). The gospel in Solentiname. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

      Chávez, D. (2015). Nicaragua and the politics of utopia. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

      De la Selva, S. (1918). Tropical town and other poems. NY: John Lane Company.

      Dore, E., & Molyneux, M. (Eds.). (2000). Hidden histories of gender and the state in Latin America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

      Francois, D. (2018). Nicaragua 1961-1990: Volume 1, the downfall of the Somoza dictatorship. Warkwick, UK: Helion & Company Limited.

      Gonzalez Rivera, V. (2011). Before the revolution: Women’s rights and the right wing politics in Nicaragua, 1821-1979. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University.

      Gould, J.K. (1998). To die in this way: Nicaraguan Indians and the myth of the mestizaje 1880-1965. Durham: Duke University Press.

      Incer, J. (2002). Colón y la costa Caribe de Centroamérica. Managua: Fundación Vida Colección Cultural de Centro America.

      Kampwirth, K. (2002). Women and guerrilla movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.

      Kampwirth, K. (2004). Feminism and the legacy of revolution: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas. Ohio: Ohio University Press.

      Kinzer, S. (2007). Blood of brothers: Life and war in Nicaragua. Cambridge: Harvard University.

      Maier, E., & Lebon, N. (2010). Women’s activism in Latin America and the Caribbean. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

      Morris, K.E. (2010). Unfinished revolution: Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s struggle for liberation. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books.

      Newson, L. (1993). The demographic collapse of native peoples of the Americas, 1492-1650. Proceedings of the British Academy, 81, 247-288.

      Ramirez, S. (2012). Adiós muchachos: A memoir of the Sandinista revolution. (Translated by Stacey Alba D. Skar). Durham: Duke University Press.

      Randall, M. (1981). Sandino’s Daughters: Testimonies of Nicaraguan women in struggle. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

      Sabia, D. (1997). Contradiction and conflict: The popular church in Nicaragua. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press.

      Sierakowski, R.J. (2019). Sandinistas: A moral history. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

      Tijerino, D., & Randall, M. (1970). Somos millones …: La vida de Doris María, combatiente nicaragüense. México City: Extemporáneos.

      Tijerino, D. (1978). Inside the Nicaraguan revolution. (As told to Margaret Randall). Translated by Elinor Randall. Vancouver: New Star Books.

Vilas, C. (1986). The Sandinista revolution: National liberation and social transformation in central america. Berkeley, CA: Monthly Review Press Center for the Study of the Americas.

      Walker, T. W. (2003). Nicaragua: Living in the shadow of the eagle. Cambridge, MA: Westview Press.

Additional References:

For more information about the “Contra War,” 1979-1996, see the following books: Brown’s book includes in-depth accounts from the perspective of a former diplomat working with the U.S. State Department, and Horton’s perspective originates from the campesinos’ or peasants’ points of view.

Brown, T.C. 2001. The real contra war: Highlander peasant resistance in Nicaragua. Norman, OK: The University of Oklahoma Press.

Horton, L. 1998. War and peace in the mountains of Nicaragua. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

For human rights violations, please see the following document:

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Nicaragua: Concentration of power and the undermining of the rule of law. October 25, 2021. IACHR.


Guadarrama, I. N. (2021, September 26). Nicaragua: Our Beautiful Country [web log]. Retrieved DATE YOU RETRIEVED THE ARTICLE, from 

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