In a letter to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the former "dictator in designer glasses" and el jefe supremo of the Sandinista party, a handful of prominent supporters of the 1979 revolution have denounced the creeping totalitarianism of Sandinismo 2.0. Twenty-nine years too late, but why pick nits?
So what's bugging Bianca Jagger, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, and Tom Hayden about the New Sandinistas? Dora María Téllez, former Minister of Health during the first Sandinista dictatorship, "Commander Two" in the 1978 seizure of Somoza's parliament, and icon of the revolution, is on hunger strike after Ortega's government banned her party, the rival Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS). According to a report in The Guardian, Téllez is on hunger strike to "protest against the 'dictatorship of Daniel Ortega.'" As a longtime government minister in the first Sandinista regime, Ms. Téllez wasn't particularly concerned with the "dictatorship" in its first iteration—the repeated closing and censoring of opposition newspapers like La Prensa, jailing of "bourgeois" political opponents, etc. But this is a political feud with some history: Téllez publicly denounced Ortega's dictatorial streak all the way back in 1992. When Ortega allied the party with those he once denounced as "counterrevolutionaries"—Contras, Catholics, and conservatives—Tellez spilt with the Sandinistas, forming the splinter group MRS. In 1996 she grumbled that his willingness to work with former enemies "shows just how far Daniel Ortega is willing to go in order to reach power." When Ortega was accused of child molestation, she told Mother Jones reporter Marc Cooper that she "absolutely believed" his accuser.
Now Comandante Ortega-—who has annoyed many former sympathizers on the left with his opposition to abortion and his "newfound Catholicism…[which is] another factor in the dilution of Sandinismo," according to The Nation—has received a sharp rebuke from Chomsky and friends for his treatment of Téllez. From The Guardian:
The celebrities and intellectuals who backed the government in the 80s wrote an open letter in her support: "None of these demands is irrational and a government that wants popular support ought to respond to them. Political representation is a right. It is a right to protest against mechanisms that shut down this space. Dora Maria represents a broad sector of Nicaraguan society that ought to be listened to."
The letter was signed by: Chomsky, a US academic; the British novelist Rushdie; Jagger, a human rights activist and former actor; and several others, including writer Ariel Dorfman, journalists Eduardo Galeano and Mario Benedetti, and human rights campaigner Tom Hayden.
The letter, published last week just as Tellez halted her strike on medical advice, elicited no government response. The office of Rosario Murillo, Ortega's wife and spokeswoman, did not respond to calls.