Arturo McFields, from journalist loyal to the ambassador who undressed the regime of Daniel Ortega | International
The journalist moves freely, microphone in hand, through the super-guarded house of Daniel Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, to document for television how the presidential family celebrates Christmas. The reporter, smiling, approaches the couple, who, surrounded by relatives, appears happy before the cameras. The stage has been set up to demonstrate Christian bliss: huge piñatas representing crowned angels, tablecloths with poinsettias, Christmas carols in the background, twinkling lights to adorn nativity scenes with snowy, chubby God Children and Christian images mixed with other more mystical images of Buddha and Sai Baba, which are part of Murillo’s own “gospel”. The reporter approaches the couple to get the first statements of the night:
“What does Christmas mean to you?” he asks Rosario Murillo flatteringly.
“For me, Christmas has always meant the opportunity to make the birth of Christ reborn in the heart of each one,” she replies pleased.
Who asks the questions that night is Arturo McFields Yescas, a journalist from Channel 12 of local television, who years later would be awarded various positions within Nicaraguan diplomacy, until becoming the regime’s ambassador to the OAS in October 2021. And from that position, this Wednesday, he has dropped a bomb on that bunker where he enjoyed Christmas several years ago: he has vehemently denounced what he has described as a “dictatorship” that violates human rights and has advocated for the release of prisoners politicians. “The people inside the government are tired of the dictatorship,” he said during an appearance before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), in Washington.
That Christmas night, Rosario Murillo, usually volcanic in her public appearances, was open and friendly. He explained to McFields the meaning of the Buddha sculptures that protect his house, in a quote that today may sound prophetic, given the international isolation to which the regime is subjected and the rejection of the majority of Nicaraguans, tired of the excesses of the presidential couple that rules Nicaragua with an iron hand. “Buddha means detachment, detachment, not being attached to anything. Because one is not eternal, one is movement. Life is movement and one must flow with that movement and must be detached and know that one day you are here and another day you are there, but the only thing that counts is that your spirit prevails, “said the first lady and vice president. “Everything is very nice,” the journalist replied.
The jewel of the night, however, is the moment in which Daniel Ortega, dressed in a white peace shirt and not in his old military clothing (a transformation that is also the work of Murillo), opens a huge lamb that is dinner for Christmas Eve. “I have eaten this there in Libya, in the Arab countries. This is eaten with the hand there. The people sit on the floor, the lamb is placed in the middle and the people eat. We have done this with Colonel Gaddafi”, Ortega tells the journalist, while he debones the freshly roasted animal. “Make a test of how he is,” asks the reporter, while Ortega gobbles up a piece of the animal. And McFields, at the commander’s invitation, does the same. It’s 2006 and Ortega, reconverted into a reconciliation candidate, aspires to return to power.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
From that Libyan dinner in the middle of the tropics, the reporter’s career took off. In 2011, he was appointed press attaché at the Nicaraguan embassy in the United States. In his social networks, he thanked the Government for that opportunity and the support to perfect his English. Years later he would rise to the position of minister counselor of the permanent mission of Nicaragua to the OAS, until becoming, in 2021, the regime’s ambassador to that body. During his tenure in office and until this Wednesday, he had defended Ortega’s excesses and rejected the consecutive resolutions that the Permanent Council had voted against the Government of Nicaragua, including one in which the results of the November elections are unknown, in which that Ortega declared himself the winner with 75% of the votes. The elections were denounced as “illegitimate” by the international community, after Ortega ordered the arrest of the seven candidates for the Presidency by the opposition, including Cristiana Chamorro, who, according to the polls, had the best chance of defeating the former guerrilla. .
Arturo McFields Yescas is the son of Nicaraguan poet David McFields, who is a friend of Murillo. Together with her, he founded the so-called Grupo Gradas in the 1970s, made up of artists and intellectuals who improvisedly organized concerts and poetry readings on the steps of churches in Nicaragua to denounce the torments of the Somocista dictatorship. Due to this activism, Murillo was arrested in 1977 by the regime and, after being released, she went into exile in Caracas. The now former diplomat graduated as a journalist from the Jesuit Central American University (UCA) —a rebellious student bastion persecuted by the regime—, and worked as a reporter on evangelical radio stations. He later joined the newsroom of the newspaper La Prensa —whose facilities have been confiscated by the regime— and later became part of the team of Channel 12, a television station whose news programs avoided criticizing Ortega’s authoritarian drift.
McFields Yescas has unexpectedly become a hero to Nicaraguans who oppose Ortega. From exile, the courage of the former reporter, who has ruined his future diplomat, has been applauded this Friday. “Admirable Arturo McFields denouncing the Nicaraguan dictatorship in the OAS. History will remember his gesture and the Nicaraguan people thank him. We hope that many others will follow his example. God will take care of you, Arthur! Thank you for your gesture in favor of life and truth”, tweeted Bishop Silvio Báez, the most critical voice of the Church and whom the Vatican removed from Nicaragua due to the threats he received.
“We salute the courage that Ambassador McFields has shown. It is hopeful that officials from the Government of Nicaragua begin to speak and air in these important spaces, such as the OAS, what is happening within the configuration of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship,” Marlon Caldera, a member of the Political Council, told Efe. of the opposition Blue and White National Unity. The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, also spoke on Twitter this Friday, where he stated: “We value the courage of the Ambassador of Nicaragua and his commitment to the values of the OAS.”
Admirable Arturo McFields denouncing the Nicaraguan dictatorship at the OAS. History will remember his gesture and the Nicaraguan people thank him. We hope that many others will follow his example. God will take care of you, Arthur! Thank you for your gesture in favor of life and truth.
– Silvio José Báez (@silviojbaez) March 23, 2022
In Managua, however, the share of McFields Yescas has fallen like a bomb. Sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirm that, after the ambassador’s statements to the OAS, “a paranoia has taken hold in the ministry.” They are waiting, the sources say, for an investigation “by a furious Rosario Murillo to see who she knew” of the diplomat’s decision, reports Wilfredo Miranda. “There is a review of everything: administrative, computer and political. They want to see if anyone knew,” the sources reaffirm. In a concise statement published hours after the ambassador’s intervention, the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry has stated that McFields does not represent them, “for which no statement of his is valid.” An expected reaction from a regime increasingly isolated by the international community. While a witch hunt begins in Managua, in Washington McFields, who in his statement has recognized that his testimony may have repercussions for him and his family, knows that the distant days when he visited Ortega’s house and ate lamb a la Gaddafi are now an old fantasy
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS América newsletter and receive all the key information on current affairs in the region
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits