Teresa Blandon, feminist activist from Nicaragua: “We are arguing between the anti-right and the authoritarian left”

Maria Teresa Blandon Gadea is 62 years old and one of the most important feminist leaders in Central America. He is Nicaraguan, a nationality shortened by the word Nika and expanded by the idea of ​​a literate revolution that awakened – like the coffee of his fertile lands – the idea of ​​a world with a greater distribution of taste and knowledge. . Nationality and revolution became trivial and took away from him and many others the opportunity to live in their land.

“Now I have to say I’m Central American, but really I always have been,” Blandon says of the ancestry that goes beyond the passports, but that grew when he went to South America and the government didn’t let him come back either. to his home, nor to his green steppe, at the foot of the hammock, where instead of settling, the world seemed to be in motion.

“I’ve dedicated much of my life to building the feminist movement, and now I’ve been in forced exile for over a year due to a sociopolitical and human rights crisis,” she says with a calmness that is part of loving leadership. Focused and who knows how to look to the side and forward, the need to rebuild with hope for the future.

In 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza, who had ruled Nicaragua from 1937-1947 and 1950-1956. In March 1981, Ortega was officially appointed coordinator of the Government Council for National Reconstruction, and in 1984 he won the election with 67% of the vote. In 1990 he lost them, but 16 years later, on November 7, 2006, he won them again with 36% of the vote, following a reform of the electoral law that allowed the number of votes needed to win in the first round to be reduced. 45% to 35%. He returned to power in January 2007, a position he has held to this day thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2009 annulment of Article 147, which barred him from re-election.

In 2013, Ortega pushed for a constitutional reform that allowed for indefinite re-election and the election of the president by a simple majority and the power to rule by decree. In November 2021, he was declared the winner with 76% of the vote, according to the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).

What happened in April 2018 when the repression of student, feminist and social protests left at least 325 people dead?

We are already witnessing the progressive process of weakening human rights, closing civil space, and corruption. But on April 18 and 19, 2018, there was a breaking point in León and Managua. The students were protesting because the government was doing nothing about the 5,000-hectare fire that started on April 3 in the Indio Maize Ecological Reserve. And older people were protesting the social security reform that stole millions of Cordobas (Nicaragua’s currency) from pensioners (by cutting pensions by 5%).

How did the protest develop?

The extremely violent reaction of the regime of Ortega and Rosario Murillo (Vice President and Ortega’s wife) caused a wave of national outrage that almost paralyzed the country for three months. We have held protests despite complaints of over 1,000 arrests, disappearances, torture and rape.

Then you didn’t think about leaving the country?

Many feminists stayed to accompany the victims to denounce the state’s growing violence and sexist violence. I have not left the country for three years in a row, because it has become a practice that people are not allowed or not allowed.

How is it expelled?

I had to go to a meeting of the Economic Council of Latin America (ECLAC) in Chile, as part of the sexual and reproductive rights organization La Sombrilla, as part of the Montevideo Consensus.

The Montevideo Consensus is the most progressive, the most advanced, the most complete in the entire world. It is a binding program of action signed by the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure access to contraceptives and safe abortion.

My flight is scheduled for July 1, 2022 from Santiago de Chile to El Salvador and from El Salvador to Nicaragua. The airline I was traveling with informed me that it had a list of people the government banned from entering and that I was on that list. I was told that I could not travel on the last leg. I stayed in El Salvador for a few months and then decided to seek asylum in Costa Rica, where I now live.

What is the most difficult thing in emigration and what do you miss in your daily life outside of politics?

I can handle the distance because I know that wherever we are, we can do something. But I did not make this decision, and it is not a minor decision, it is a major decision that is a product of authoritarianism, arrogance and total denial of the basic rights that I have as a citizen.

The first reaction was enormous indignation. Nicaragua is my country, I was born there. It does not belong to a few violent, authoritarian and arbitrary people like Ortega and Rosario. They have no right to ban any Nicaraguan from leaving their country or from entering their country. The first feeling was anger and said “I’m coming back”. Although the return is the unmistakable promise of prison, ill-treatment and torture, as happened to several companions who remained incarcerated in the infamous Chipote prison facilities.

How did a Sandinista prison become a Sandinista prison?

El Chipote is the old prison in Somoza where Daniel Ortega and many leaders of the Sandinista revolution (such as Tomas Borge, founder of the FSLN) were imprisoned and tortured, and where unimaginable atrocities were committed. At the time, when they did not let me into the country, there were already 300 political prisoners.

How does a people’s revolution turn into an anti-popular dictatorship?

Thousands of Nicaraguans protested in 2018 in a self-inflicted uprising. They said North American imperialism, the CIA, neoliberal forces, traitors, coup plotters were behind it, because they told us all that. They never wanted to know that people were tired of being blackmailed and manipulated. First it was asking for an end to the repression, and then for Ortega and Murillo to leave and never return.

What can be made of secrecy in Nicaragua and what can be made of exile?

In Nicaragua, very little can be done from secrecy because the regime has completely destroyed the mechanisms to control dissent. It would be very difficult to hide it inside, and it would be like being in your own prison, with very little room to maneuver.

In addition, there are many women, young and old, who are displaced. We have to do something before we get out of this new dictatorship.

What do women-oriented presidents of different ideological origins, from Javier Millais in Argentina to Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, come to power?

Many of the guys who came to power with polarizing and irresponsible speeches have a history of a lot of violence that they have accepted and are perpetrating.

The governments of (former Brazilian president Jair) Bolsonaro, (former US president Donald) Trump or (El Salvadoran president Naib) Buquele use the formal mechanisms of democracy but distort them. They use coming to power, and once they come to power, they want to change the rules of the game to suit them. They share a deep contempt for press freedom. One of their priorities is to annoy, subjugate, threaten and exile the independent press. It is also a very misogynistic and very racist brand.

What can we expect from the disenchantment of the authoritarian left and the advance of the extreme right?

We are in terrible decline. We are torn between the anti-right and the authoritarian and demagogic left. There are governments that have betrayed us and this has caused great disappointment. We have to think how to build other political forces.

The existing political alternatives in Latin America no longer serve us; They are very old and very closed forces with very little desire for change. We need other alliances, with multiple dialogues, from feminists, environmentalists, sexual dissidents, and other pedagogies to build. We must facilitate a change of direction to have a change of era.

Source: El Diario

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