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.”