Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In April 2018, President Daniel Ortega moved from governing the nation-state by attempting to achieve hegemony, to maintaining control over its population by sheer force, upending constitutional guarantees. This shift came in response to a nation-wide civic uprising that asked for the president’s resignation after government forces used live ammunition against student-led demonstrations, killing fifty-four people over four days. As demonstrations intensified, the vice president declared Nicaragua was hit by a “diabolic terrorist wave.” Demonstrations were made illegal, public hospitals refused medical care to injured protesters, and government authorities organized paramilitary death squads, that, along with the national police, engaged in hundreds of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and in physical and sexual abuse of detainees.
This paper asks what made it possible for Sandinista sympathizers, state employees, and other citizens to be so quickly enlisted into paramilitary squads prepared to exercise unrestrained violence. Based upon two years of field research among historical Sandinista militants in the city of León (2016-2018), I consider the ways in which the Sandinista regime had been attempting, with partial success, to reanimate the political passions of historical Sandinista militants as well as youth by articulating political antagonisms in terms of a struggle against “evil.” Furthermore, I use feminist scholarship on affect, desire and emotions to delve into the fantasy space within which state-sponsored violence operates and trace the sentimental attachments to Sandinismo that were suddenly under threat by the civic uprising.