Is privacy at risk in Nicaragua?

Critics of the Sandinista administration claim the creation of new family councils is an attempt by government to control Nicaraguans’ households and family life

Opposition lawmakers are decrying the first lady’s efforts to implement a new model of government that critics call “a totalitarian plan” to control Nicaraguans’ private lives.

Congressman Alberto Lacayo, head of the minority Nicaraguan Democratic Bloc (BND), warns that Sandinista lawmakers are preparing to use their supermajority muscle in the National Assembly to pass into law Rosario Murillo’s latest political scheme: the creation of so-called “Councils of Family, Community and Life.”

The new neighborhood organizations, a concept that is so inchoate the Sandinistas can’t even decide what they’re called (they are alternately referred to as “Councils of Family, Health and Life”) are allegedly going to be put to vote as soon as Thursday, opposition lawmakers warn. Critics claim the creation of the councils and their inclusion in the Family Code is an attempt to repackage the unpopular Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) and give them a new legal mandate to infiltrate people’s personal space.

 “They want to control people’s private lives and households, and they have the votes in the National Assembly to pass it into law on Thursday,” Lacayo told The Nicaragua Dispatch in a phone interview. “They are disguising the CPCs as Councils of Family and Health or Life or whatever they call it. They are just lubricating it so people don’t feel the danger when they come into your home.”   

 The Independent Liberal Party (PLI), in its feckless and ornamental role as a minority opposition party, released a statement this week comparing the proposed family councils to the defunct “Sandinista Defense Committees (CDS),” which in the 1980s were considered “the eyes and ears of the revolution.”

Opposition lawmakers point to the language of First Lady Rosario Murillo’s so-called “constitutional document” for the creation of the family councils as evidence that the Sandinistas are trying to institutionalize the CPCs while continuing to exclude all other forms of organized civil society and genuine citizen participation. CPCs are Sandinista neighborhood committees that were formed in 2007 but have never really taken off; less than 5% of the population participates in CPCs, according to polls. Critics think Murillo is trying to recast that project now under the new framework of family councils.

“These councils are the expression of organized communities that promote citizens as protagonists and the practice of values,” Murillo said recently in explaining the new family councils.

Institutionalizing Murillo’s vision of Nicaragua?

In effect, Murillo is trying to institutionalize her very particular vision of family and community values. “Our identity is Christian, socialist and in solidarity, and the family is the central nucleus of these values, these beliefs, this culture of practices that are solidarity because the Nicaraguan people are generous and in solidarity,” Murillo said repetitively.

The proposed Councils of Family, Community and Life will promote these values in homes, neighborhoods and communities, Murillo explains. Instituting the new family councils in the Family Code the first step in big changes to come, she promised. 

“Further ahead we will see many steps in the path that will bring us to a Nicaragua that is fraternal, dignified, free, just and prosperous,” Murillo said during one of her recent daily monologues on Sandinista TV. “We will be energized, affirming dialogue, harmony, democracy and peace. We will have more faith, more hope and more love for God, for our neighbors, for ourselves, for our Nicaragua, which is blessed and forever free. We see ourselves as Christians, Socialists and in solidarity. We see many blessings, more protected, more prosperous and more towards new victories. We see everyone, and for everyone and for the good of everyone.”

When attempting to explain how this new model will work, Murillo, the unelected mastermind and administrator of the Sandinista government, is characteristically oracular and pleonastic.

“How will this be moving forward?” Murillo said. “Working more and better from a model of dignity, unity, fraternity that promotes self-esteem, esteem; a model that recognizes duties and rights; a model that recognizes and incorporates the values of the person, of the family, of the community to recreate the Nicaraguan society from a view of Christianity, Socialism, solidarity and responsibility. We see ourselves reunited in the identity and spirit of community, accompanying ourselves, embodying ourselves, talking and promoting actions and solutions that are our own as citizen protagonists who are responsible, in solidarity, who complement and who identify with the pride and joy as Nicaraguan families, by the grace of God. We see with great learning of communication, co-existence, generosity, friendship as human beings that we need each other and support one another in the good and bad moments, in sickness and in health, in happiness and in adversity, in need and misfortune, in celebration, and in the solutions to the struggles of day-to-day live, that among all of us we can be better.”

Can I get an Amen?

Encroaching on private space?

Whatever it is the first lady is talking about, Nicaraguans have reason to worry, says journalist and social commentator Sofía Montenegro.

The ruling party already controls all the public spaces in Nicaragua, and now they are going after people’s private spaces, Montenegro warns.

“People’s intimate space is at risk,” Montenegro told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “This is about community totalitarianism.”

The first lady’s recent “Live Pretty” clean-up campaign is just the tip of the camel’s nose pushing under the tent. The family councils, which allegedly will work in conjunction with various government ministries to enforce the Live Pretty campaign, will be the second push all the way into people’s homes and private spaces.

“When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your house, you can close the door on them. But now we are going to have family councils coming by the house to make sure we are living pretty?” Montenegro says.

The problem, Montenegro says, is that once the councils are created, they can be used to enforce any type of arbitrary campaign that the government implements. Even if the Sandinista Front says participation in the community councils is voluntary, Montenegro warns, “They have mechanisms for coercion and pressuring people to join.”

While the first lady and her satraps insist the forthcoming family councils will be used to promote values and good living, critics worry the councils will act as a Trojan Horse for the government to infiltrate the last sanctuary that Nicaraguans’ have from politics.

Says Montenegro, “The only private space left in Nicaragua is the refuge of people’s homes and families, and now they are going after that, too.”

  • Karen in Los Angeles, Ometepe

    With one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy on the continent (111 per 1000 15-19 year-old girls) and continuing high rates of domestic violence, Nicaragua needs to do something… is this the right approach? Who knows, but community mobilization has worked wonders in delivering effective primary healthcare (including health & hygiene advice in the home, as in this program) in many developing nations in Asia & Africa, so it does seem to be relying on a well-proven model.

  • Jay in Toronto, Managua

    Tal parece que la agenda que promueve la naciones unidos bajo el consejo de los billónarios como David rockefeller quien conduce el Cónsul de relaciones al extranjero esta siendo implementado en NICARAGUA al igual como ya es implementado aquí en Canadá, EEUU, y partes de Europa donde la familia esta siendo completamente dictada por el estado y monitoriada con la excusa de mantener los derechos de las mujeres y niños. Así empieza toda esta mierda de un estado sobre controlador donde todo tipo de disciplina familiar es considerado criminal, los hombres después no quieren tener ni formar un hogar porque las mujeres andan como liberadas en discotecas y llamando policías cuando se quieren quitar a un hombre, entonces que pasa..el hombre lógicamente solo las utiliza para tener sexo y se protege a no embarazarla y después ella se acuesta con 100 de hombres buscando al hombre que este dispuesto a formar hogar, y así empieza la guerra de los sexos con árbitros del estado que ayudan a separar a las familias, los niños crecen sin la presencia del padre o de la madre, los niños ven ese estilo de vida de discotecas y sitas con julano y sutano y los principios se distorsionan y crea un ciclo repetitivo donde la sociedad se empieza a desmoralizar y derrocar de sus principios hogareños. Tal parece que Daniel Ortega se vendió a esta agenda de implementación de leyes standard de los países supuestamente desarrollados donde casi ya no hay matrimonio, casi todo mundo es gay y valió verga la familia. Así empieza la caída de una sociedad, primero atacando la unidad familiar, porque los ingeniero SOCIALES saben que para derrocar una sociedad primero tienen que destruir la familia y después en 1 o 2 generaciones esa sociedad está tan corrompida que se puede hacer lo que sea con ella. Ustedes sabían que existe ese tipo de ingeniería?? Se llama INGENIERÍA SOCIAL BÚSCALO EN GOOGLE (((((INGENIERÍA SOCIAL)))))) ahora todavía es temprano para derrocar esto pero eso ya es cuestión de sí ustedes LOS NICAS que viven en NICARAGUA que formen peticiones y protestas en contra de estas nuevas leyes e intrusión del núcleo familiar. Si no ustedes están destinados a llegar a la vejes sólo, porque este tipo de sociedad es eso lo que forma, más de 80% de ancianos en este país mueren en casas de jubilación como prisioneros producto de esta sociedad donde los principios del núcleo familiar fueron derrotados en las cortes a través del estado de esa misma manera en la cual ahora se está practicando en Nicaragua.

  • Nicagringo

    People who focus on family, community and faith live the longest happiest lives. Look at this website.

    Rosario understands this principle. People who worry about spying are just paranoid.

    The government is doing an awesome job…lets help them continue the good work!

    • car

      your position is pathetic. unless of course you’re being sarcastic….

  • Carla Chamorro

    They are trying anything to get to the people as they know people abhor them, people need the few petrodolares from Chavez and hate even more whoever violates their dignity and in this case we all know who that is…

  • Ken

    Grassroots democracy is generally a good idea, but even at its best it can amount to institutionalizing and empowering gossip, so it must be implemented very carefully. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that what Murillo is proposing is even democratic, since I’m sure she intends to control this gossip groups personally and politically.

    The relief is that so few Nicas participate in this nonsense. The puzzle is Murillo’s popularity despite this. And her a poster child for family values? Give me a break.

  • Brian

    Echoes of the 80’s???

  • OEstrada

    @Brian, I agree with you. Put another way; recycled 80’s propaganda. New names, same old mission, total control of people’s lives by ramming through a failed populist leftist agenda which makes the poor poorer and those in power richer while hiding behind the facade of the proletariat as communists like to called it. Individualism and hard work is what makes societies proper! I’t been proven time and time again. I just hope the Nicaraguan people wake up before it’s too late.

    • Lars

      “Individualism” is what has made China and South Korea prosperous too, isn’t it? Don’t think so. There has to be a balance between giving opportunities for the individual and at the same time making sure families feel a sense of belonging and chance to impact their local communities. The U.S. is NOT an example of a well-run country in terms of politics, where left and right is basically the same thing. As long as you have money you can buy power bla bla.

      Latin-American countries needs to look other places for inspiration. This includes safety, health, job market, environment, family life, sports/activities etc. It’s sad to see so little being done for kids in terms of playgrounds, parks, sports etc. in Nicaragua. They could start with making a nice, green central park in Managua, build sidewalks for cyclists and close down certain streets in the weekends and arrange events/concerts/shows/auctions or similar things for people to get together and feel joy and excitement. This might seem like distant dreams for someone, but if money was more wisely spent I am sure change can happen in the next five to ten years time.

  • NicaRay

    I hope they will get under my neighbors tent where they will find open cooking fires dangerous to health and safety and kids who piss on motorcycles in the street and parents who think it is funny. Nicas are the most independent people in CA and I doubt this law can be enforced. Where else to folks park in the middle of the street? You want to what? Can someone clue folks in and tell them education is the key to a better life.

  • Edgar

    the 80’s are back, the Ortega family is stuck in their own ideas of a Nicaragua that belongs to them, remember Somoza the history will repeat itself with this seudogoverment.