The Many Stories of Carlos Fernando Chamorro
By TINA ROSENBERG Published: March 20, 2009 New York Times
Ed-I have included this article not for the factual information, since it is heavily biased, but because it gives a glimpse into the Nicaraguan soul and family. Different members of the Chamorro family supported the Sandinistas, the Contras, democracy, socialism, communism, censure of the press, freedom of the press, Cuba, USA and every other controversial thing affecting the country of Nicaragua. Yet they got together on Sunday for dinner because family was more important. A very good insight into values that are perhaps difficult to understand by those of other cultures.
The Christmas trees in the traffic roundabouts sported a “30” on top where the angel would normally sit, and TV ads advising Nicaraguans to celebrate Year 30 were ubiquitous. The Sandinista National Liberation Front (F.S.L.N.) again governed the country after 16 years out of power, and Daniel Ortega, one of the original nine comandantes of the 1979 revolution, was again president, still making speeches denouncing Yankee imperialism. But this was not revolution; the rhetoric and slogans were employed in the service of something quite different. Whatever ideals Ortega may once have stood for, he now stands for only himself.
He was first elected president of Nicaragua in 1984 and, after losing power in 1990, regained the presidency in 2006, this time not as a Marxist-Leninist, not even really as a leftist. His government now embraces business and the Catholic Church warmly. Although he won the presidency with only 38 percent of the popular vote, he has abused the powers of his office to win near-total dominance of Nicaragua. For instance: in January, the Supreme Court, which Ortega controls, overturned the corruption conviction of a former president, Arnoldo Alemán, the dominant force of Nicaragua’s right-wing party; the same day, Alemán’s party gave the F.S.L.N. the votes it needed to control the National Assembly. Late last year, the European Union and the United States announced they were cutting off Nicaragua’s aid because of credible evidence that the F.S.L.N. stole the municipal elections held in November. In addition, Ortega is trying to amend the Constitution to eliminate term limits so he can run again in 2011. He has become an old-fashioned Latin caudillo. His ideology is no longer Marxism but simply Danielism.
One thing, however, has remained constant in Nicaraguan life: for more than 50 years, the principal voice for democracy in the country has been that of a member of the Chamorro family. Before the revolution, during the 33-year dictatorship of the Somoza family, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor of La Prensa, the only independent newspaper in the country, was the Somozas’ most important and principled opponent. His newspaper was closed several times and went through long periods of censorship. His assassination on Jan. 10, 1978 — by agents still unknown — turned even much of Nicaragua’s oligarchy into supporters of the Sandinista revolution.
After Chamorro’s death, his wife, Violeta, continued his mission, first as the publisher of La Prensa during the Sandinista era and then as a politician, defeating Ortega in 1990 to become president of the country. Today, the family legacy has fallen to their youngest son.
If you are an independent journalist in a country in which independent journalism is seen as a danger to those in power, you sometimes cross a line from reporting the news to being the news. That is what is happening to Carlos Fernando Chamorro. On a hot, dry Monday in January, Chamorro drove to the studios of Channel 8 to tape the day’s episode of “Esta Noche” (“Tonight”), a half-hour talk show of his that runs every weeknight at 10. “The owner says this is the Rolls-Royce of Nicaraguan television,” he said, smiling, as we walked into a studio that rather more called to mind a dented-up 1983 Plymouth. There was one room, with three cameras surrounded by three different sets of chairs and tables. He sat down, and a young woman brushed powder on his forehead. Chamorro also runs a weekly newsletter, Confidencial, and the top-rated “Esta Semana” (“This Week”), a “60 Minutes”-style investigative magazine program that runs every Sunday night. “Esta Semana” regularly generates controversy with investigations of government corruption or cronyism and analyses of electoral fraud or the travails of Nicaraguan migrants in Costa Rica. It does this on a total budget, including all salaries, of $23,000 a month.
Chamorro is 53. He and his wife, Desirée Elizondo, have three children and a grandson. He has been bald since he was a young man and wears glasses and hearing aids, and his daily uniform is a button-down long-sleeve shirt and chinos. He is relentlessly unglamorous. On and off camera he comes across as serious but warm, with a youthful energy. On that evening’s episode of “Esta Noche,” Chamorro talked about press freedom with visitors from the Inter American Press Association: Enrique Santos, the editor of El Tiempo in Colombia, and Robert Rivard, editor of The San Antonio Express-News. They talked about how drug cartels are silencing or killing journalists in Mexico and about Hugo Chávez’s refusal in Venezuela to renew the license of an opposition TV station. But mainly they discussed the escalation of attacks on the press in Nicaragua, a country that the Committee to Protect Journalists calls Latin America’s “ground zero” for the use of government institutions to silence critical reporting.
Santos and Rivard noted that the Nicaraguan government recently released from jail two men convicted of killing journalists and also pressured two different TV stations to drop a talk show run by a fierce government critic. They also discussed other cases of intimidation they had heard about from Nicaraguans they interviewed — among them Chamorro himself, whom they had spoken with that morning. Now he was interviewing them. The next day on “Esta Noche,” another set of Chamorro’s guests continued the discussion. The subject that evening was the government’s recent attack on Cinco, the Center for Communication Research, a small social-research and journalism organization run by Chamorro himself.
In October a team of prosecutors, backed by 40 police officers, raided the Cinco office and over the next 13 hours took the files, computers and books. They announced they were looking for evidence of fraud and money laundering against Cinco and its leaders, Chamorro and Sofía Montenegro. (The basis for the charges, absurdly, was Cinco’s work with a feminist group that lacked official legal status.) Montenegro, a colleague of Chamorro’s for 30 years, is a journalist and Nicaragua’s most outspoken feminist. On Chamorro’s show that night, she and two other guests talked about a rare victory — the charges had been dropped, and the day of the TV show prosecutors began to hand back the contents of Cinco’s office. But the government was publicly threatening to continue to go after Cinco by other means.
It was an unusual week; normally, Chamorro’s shows are not about his own cause. And at least on the surface, there was something incongruous in discussing repression of the press on a highly rated national TV show. After all, in some countries, TV programs simply vanish when they begin to offend the powerful — or their journalists do. But the game of intimidation that Ortega plays with Chamorro is more subtle than the Somoza family’s crude aggression against Chamorro’s father. Nicaragua, despite its recent wars, is one of the least violent places in Latin America, and assassination is not common. The Ortega government, in addition to not having majority support at home, is heavily dependent on international donations — not only from Chávez, Ortega’s own personal Soviet Union, but also from governments that care about democratic freedoms. So it must tread carefully. At the same time, Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, continue to carry out personal vendettas and stifle critics by drawing on the nonviolent mechanisms of the state: subservient courts and prosecutors; large budgets for advertising in newspapers and television that can disappear overnight if the government is displeased; control of the price of newsprint, broadcast licenses and legal permissions.
At stake is more than just press freedom. Nicaragua is a country in which the parts of the state that are supposed to check the president’s power — courts, prosecutors, Congress, supposedly impartial agencies like the election commission — are controlled by the president. The function of government watchdog has fallen to journalists and members of civil society. Chamorro is walking point for both. He is resisting being silenced with every tool at his disposal: his airtime, his famous name, his credibility and his reputation for impartiality (after the Cinco raid, writers from all over the world, including such icons of the left as Eduardo Galeano of Uruguay and Ariel Dorfman of Chile, signed a public letter of support for him). If he loses his fight, the defense of democratic liberties will be left to people with much more limited weaponry.
Chamorro makes a particularly inviting target for a reason that goes beyond the values that he stands for today. Ortega and Murillo direct special fury at their former allies and intimates. And during the comandantes’ time in power, the editor of the newspaper Barricada, the official voice of the Sandinistas, was the committed revolutionary Carlos Fernando Chamorro. Pedro Joaquín and Violeta Chamorro raised their four children “eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with talk of the news,” Cristiana, one of Carlos’s two sisters, told me recently. “Journalism was not imposed on us; my father left it for us to decide. But it was in some way in our blood.” Carlos had not wanted to go into journalism. “I admired my father, and he was the most important person in my life, but I didn’t want to live in his shadow,” he said.
After graduating from high school, Carlos left Nicaragua to study economics at McGill University in Montreal. In 1977, he returned to Nicaragua with the intention of acquiring a master’s degree and then helping Nicaragua’s poor. But for a young Nicaraguan concerned about social justice, a more direct route to change quickly presented itself: joining the armed guerrillas of the F.S.L.N., which was promising a dignified life and wage for the common man — shoes on his feet and beans on his table. In secret, Carlos did small-arms training, studied Marxism-Leninism and went to work in the F.S.L.N.’s propaganda department. When his father was assassinated in 1978, however, Carlos embraced journalism. “My world changed when my father was killed,” he said. “I didn’t have time for personal grief. That was the moment to dedicate yourself to getting rid of Somoza. You get on the train, or it passes you by.” For him, that meant going where he could do the most to further Somoza’s overthrow: La Prensa, his father’s paper.
He became a reporter, editorial writer and columnist. On July 19, 1979, Managua fell to the Sandinistas. Taken in by the Sandinistas’ professions that there was room in the revolution for all, Violeta, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro’s widow, agreed to serve on the junta. She stayed nine months before she became disenchanted and left. Alongside her children Pedro Joaquín and Cristiana, who were also disillusioned early, she steered La Prensa back to its accustomed posture, firmly in opposition to the government. Pedro Joaquín, in fact, would leave Nicaragua in 1984 to join the armed opposition — the contras, who were trained, financed and essentially run by the Reagan administration.
Most of the La Prensa staff, however, did not share Doña Violeta’s views, creating a rift in the newsroom. Xavier Chamorro, her brother-in-law, who was an editor at La Prensa, sold his shares and with the money took most of the staff and started a pro-Sandinista newspaper, El Nuevo Diario. And Violeta’s two other children sided with the government — Carlos’s sister Claudia, who became ambassador to Costa Rica, and Carlos himself, who became editor in chief of Barricada. Every newspaper in Nicaragua was now run by a Chamorro. Salman Rushdie, in his 1987 Nicaragua travelogue, “The Jaguar Smile,” wrote that Barricada was the most boring newspaper he ever saw.
He clearly had not read Pravda or Granma, the organ of Cuba’s Communist Party. I lived in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s and was a regular reader of Barricada. The paper was less mortifyingly submissive to the party than Granma. Sandinista Nicaragua was then an ongoing improvisation by the standards of socialist states, and Barricada was a much more laid-back mouthpiece. It had a world-class political cartoonist (who even made fun of Barricada’s own eagerness to be spoon-fed news), and it featured vivid, if one-sided war reporting.
It had some beautiful writing, often by Chamorro and Montenegro, and a decent sports section, in which, because of Nicaragua’s obsession with baseball, you could occasionally read the startling headline “Yankees Victorious!” What Barricada didn’t have was news. It covered an alternate reality. Day after day in the pages of Barricada, the heroic people of Nicaragua and their revolutionary vanguard celebrated victory after victory in the anti-imperialist struggle. To a lesser extent, the same editorial mission — serve the cause — was shared both by Carlos’s pro-Sandinista uncle, Xavier, at El Nuevo Diaria and his anti-Sandinista mother, brother and sister at La Prensa. Barricada, at least, did not pretend to be independent. Its slogan was “The Official Organ of the Frente Sandinista.”
Inside the F.S.L.N., Chamorro had his battles. He had to respond to the strictures of a political commissar and to lobbying from nine comandantes to put each one’s activities on the front page. When I met with him earlier this year, I asked Chamorro for an example of conflict with the F.S.L.N. He said that on the day Pope John Paul II was shot, his F.S.L.N. handlers insisted, over his objections, that the paper run as its top article a report of a meeting between the Sandinista and Honduran armies. But this is a dispute over placement, not censorship, of an article.
Was there no fight to run an article that might displease the F.S.L.N., I asked? There was not, he said. “The war impeded any profound debate,” he explained. “We had a sense of loyalty to the revolution, of self-protection.” Via the contras, the revolution was under attack from the United States, the most powerful country in the world. It did not occur to Chamorro to contribute to that siege. “We practiced self-censorship,” he went on. “If we discovered evidence of corruption that would damage the image of the government, my first instinct was to do an internal investigation and not publish it.” Chamorro saw no contradiction between censorship and his ideals. What he valued as a Nicaraguan and as a Sandinista was social change, not democratic freedoms. “Nicaragua didn’t have a democratic culture,” he said. “We didn’t have respect for elections and rule of law. My father never voted in his life — he was in jail or in exile or there was no one to vote for. The concept of democracy didn’t have much legitimacy.”
Shortly after the revolutionary victory, the F.S.L.N. closed the small Maoist publication El Pueblo on charges of inciting labor unrest. La Prensa was closed by the F.S.L.N. for the first time in 1981 and then several more times over the course of the 1980s, including for more than a year beginning in October 1986. As of 1982, La Prensa and Nuevo Diario had to submit each day’s edition to a censor before publishing. Barricada did not. (At the same time in military-controlled El Salvador, there was no need for censoring left-wing journalists, as death squads had taken care of the problem.) “I rationalized the decision to censor even though the people who were victims were colleagues and family,” Chamorro told me. “In the 1980s we were prisoners of that era. To me it was justifiable to suppress freedom in order to preserve the state that made other liberties possible.”
Among his fiercest critics were members of his own family. “He was a cadre, a mechanized cadre,” Antonio Lacayo, his brother-in-law, husband of Cristiana, told me. “His headlines were slogans.” Carlos’s brother Pedro Joaquín expressed similar sentiments about his time at La Prensa: “He never called me when Sandinista gangs attacked my house. He never spoke out against censorship, never called me to say, ‘I’m sorry about what’s happening.’ ” At the time, Barricada and La Prensa were in a war of their own. La Prensa called Barricada “BarriKGB.” Barricada called La Prensa “La PrenCIA.” Privately, Doña Violeta took to calling her son’s paper “Barracuda.” But Nicaragua during those years was so polarized that the divisions in the Chamorro family were not especially unusual. (The spokeswomen for the Sandinista and contra armies, for example, were sisters.)
What was unusual about the Chamorros, aside from their high profile, was that they still gathered for family events. “Violeta was attacked by her brother-in-law and by her son, but at Christmas and my grandmother’s birthday, the whole family got together,” said Francisco, Xavier’s son, who is now editor of Nuevo Diario. What was that like? He laughed. “We didn’t talk politics.” Cristiana explained further: “My mother never distinguished between her children — what she likes best is to see all of us at her house. She didn’t take politics personally. But when La Prensa was closed, or there was a very strong government attack against my mother or La Prensa, Carlos and Claudia didn’t come to the house that frequently. But we had a house at the beach and during vacations — the volume was always lower during vacations — and Carlos would show up as if nothing had happened.”
Doña Violeta is now retired from public life and does not speak about politics. But at a recent lunch in her house she was willing to talk to me about her family. “Everyone has the right to think as they want,” she said. “A mother doesn’t abandon anyone. Family relations are family relations.” In 1990, after six years as president, and as the contra war was coming to a close, Daniel Ortega ran for re-election. The Sandinistas expected to win, perhaps by a landslide. The landslide instead went to the candidate of the momentarily united opposition: Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. “I voted for Daniel Ortega,” Carlos told me, and smiled sheepishly. At Barricada, the staff was in shock at the Sandinista’s loss. For Carlos, the shock was more personal. “My mother was president,” he said. “I’m here at Barricada. Do I want to be in opposition to my mother?” Well, yes, as it turned out, he did.
Although Barricada eventually changed its slogan to “For the National Interest,” the paper was merciless with his mother’s government. Then there was another, more pleasant shock: for the first time, Carlos did not have to censor himself. “We can be real journalists, not people defending a political project,” he said he remembers thinking. “We began to feel liberated.” The shift in Barricada was not only a professional imperative; it was a necessity for survival. Barricada had lost its income from government advertising. Now it had to survive by selling papers. Doña Violeta was a symbolic president; for all intents and purposes, the country was run by her chief of staff and son-in-law, Antonio Lacayo. But this woman, usually dressed beatifically in white, often photographed with her arms outstretched, helped bring to her country a degree of tolerance and freedom it had never before seen.
The Chamorro children began to gather at their mother’s house for supper on Sunday evenings. She was doing for Nicaragua what she was doing for her family. Meanwhile, Barricada was evolving and its ties to the F.S.L.N. were loosening. Carlos told the F.S.L.N. that there were new rules: decisions would be made on journalistic, not political, criteria. In 1988 he visited Scandinavia and for the first time experienced — and was deeply impressed by — democratic-leftist government.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, when leftist movements all over Latin America began shifting away from authoritarianism, his beliefs about what was best for his country began to change in earnest. “The conclusion you had to draw was that to be really on the left, you had to be democratic,” he said. “In the 1980s you could say what you wanted inside, but when the party made a decision, you followed it. After my mother became president, the debate became public. We were recognizing errors we hadn’t wanted to admit before — the war, bureaucracy, distancing ourselves from ordinary people. We had to examine why we lost. It couldn’t still be an official newspaper.” Barricada, for example, did an investigative report in 1993 linking a cache of arms discovered in Managua, including 19 surface-to-air missiles, to the Salvadoran guerrillas and the Basque terrorist group ETA. The story deeply embarrassed the F.S.L.N., which had long denied letting Nicaragua be used as an operational base for ideologically kindred movements.
Chamorro also investigated a terrorist group that compiled a death list of prominent rightists. Barricada found the group had associations with the F.S.L.N. Chamorro was told not to publish the article, but he did publish it, for good measure writing a strongly critical editorial and signing it. The orthodox wing of the F.S.L.N. was furious at Barricada’s transformation. Ortega, who remained the leader of the party, wanted a newspaper he could control. At the F.S.L.N. party congress of 1994, the hardliners purged the more democratic members; soon after, the F.S.L.N. took control of Barricada. Chamorro, Montenegro and other top editors were fired, and most of the reporting staff quit. The newspaper went back to filling its pages with long interviews with Sandinista comandantes. (The market spoke, and Barricada closed in 1998. La Prensa and Nuevo Diario continue to publish today.)
Doña Violeta was president until 1997, and was followed by two conservative governments, ending with Ortega’s election. During this time, Chamorro became an independent journalist. In June 1995 he began “Esta Semana” and Cinco, and in 1996, Confidencial. The next year, he received a fellowship to study at Stanford University, and he and his family spent a year there and a year at the University of California, Berkeley. He taught reporting on Central America and took classes but also educated himself by watching “60 Minutes” and listening to NPR. In 2005 he added his daily show, “Esta Noche.”
His reporting was something new for Nicaragua. Latin America had little tradition of TV magazine shows outside Brazil and Argentina. And Nicaragua had rarely seen journalism that wasn’t tied to a political party. “He’s the gold standard,” said María López Vigil, editor of Envío, the monthly magazine at Central American University in Managua. “He’s an intelligent, neutral professional — not typical virtues here.
Normally the press is very one-sided and sells itself for advertising. He’s serious, honest and responsible. Maybe because he’s the son of Pedro Joaquín or because of his years on TV, he has huge impact and influence among the elite.” She paused. “That the government touched him,” she said, “means it can touch anyone.” The government’s decision to raid Chamorro’s office in October seems to have come from the very top. After trying to arrange interviews with about a dozen Sandinista officials, I was granted one by Rafael Solís. He is a Supreme Court judge and an adviser to Ortega. Solís told me that the decision to raid Cinco was made by the government’s security chief, Ana Isabel Morales. “It could have come from the presidency,” he allowed later. “Whether she took the decision with the president or on her own as minister, it was still coming from very high.” (Morales’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) It was not a surprise. The government’s displeasure with Chamorro and Montenegro dated back to the days of Barricada’s independence in the ’90s; the authoritarian left has always reserved its strongest wrath for the democratic left.
But there have been other provocations. Recently, for instance, there was the matter of Zoilamérica Narváez. She is the daughter of Ortega’s wife, Murillo, from a previous relationship and as a teenager was adopted by Ortega. In 1998, at the age of 30, she stunned Nicaragua by announcing that Ortega had been sexually abusing her since she was 11, and she supplied a 48-page dossier of details. Murillo immediately called her a liar. Ortega, who denies the charges, initially used his legislative immunity to avoid them, then three years later had the matter turned over to a Sandinista judge who dismissed the case on the grounds that the statute of limitations had passed.
But the case has not been dropped by Latin American feminist groups, who organize protests wherever Ortega visits, calling him a rapist. Montenegro, too, has been outspoken in her support for Narváez and her fury at how the case was handled. She has also enraged the government for her attacks on a recent ban on abortion, which until 2006 was legal to save the life or health of the mother. But during his campaign, Ortega supported its complete illegalization, a move that neutralized the opposition of the Catholic Church. For months, the Web site of the president’s office carried on its home page a headline that said “An Agent Named Montenegro” — a link to an article from Murillo’s personal magazine that claimed Montenegro was a C.I.A. agent.
Another story that stoked the government’s anger was a segment on “Esta Semana” in 2007 that captured on tape a businessman being asked for a $4 million bribe in a matter concerning a land dispute with peasant cooperatives. The fixer who was to resolve the legal problems was a confidant of Ortega’s. The government’s immediate response was to attack the accusers. Its TV channel accused the businessman, his associates and Chamorro of drug trafficking. Chamorro’s picture appeared on TV alongside some of the businessmen in the style of a “Wanted” poster, with the following list of accusations at the side: “Crimes: stealing land, swindling cooperatives, attempt to bribe and export, falsification of documents.”
When prosecutors announced in January that they were not going to press charges in the Cinco case, Chamorro tried to portray this as proof that citizens can stand up to their government. But it probably had more to do with his name and prominence, and in any event it was only a partial victory. The prosecutor who dropped the case went on to recommend that the government use its administrative power to pursue “evidence” that Chamorro was diverting money from Cinco to himself and his family. Chamorro disputes these charges convincingly; Oxfam Great Britain, the major source of the money, says it has full confidence in him and Cinco. The government may be trying to use the Cinco case to tighten its controls on civil-society organizations. Officials have talked about introducing legislation to prohibit nongovernmental groups from engaging in “political” activities — it would be permissible, for instance, to feed the poor, but not to work to change antipoverty policy.
Government officials are also discussing instituting a requirement that all foreign donations (which finance virtually every organization in Nicaragua) be approved by the foreign ministry. Ortega may also try to remove Cinco’s legal status or push Chamorro off the air. Channel 8, which carries both his programs, depends heavily on government-paid programming and ads, and its license is up for renewal soon. Solís, the judge and Ortega adviser, argued that I was making too much of these conflicts between the media and the government. “There has been total freedom of the press except for a few isolated cases,” he said. “We have half a dozen TV channels, a quantity of newspapers, and they publish freely. And there is not a policy against civil society — if it had been otherwise, we would have begun to requisition the books of some 4,000 organizations. Some people have tried to use isolated cases to create the perception of a policy of harassment. There is no such policy. The situation of these organizations is very particular. Some have confronted government policies like abortion. Some have made very critical personal attacks on the president and first lady.” What struck me was that Solís considered this a defense.
I asked Chamorro if the intensity of the attacks against him ever led him to think that he was in physical danger. “The moment you become a government target, there’s a risk,” he said. “When people asked my father that, he’d reply that yes, he was afraid, but would then quote a Mexican saying: ‘Each person owns his own fear.’ That’s the way to try to live.” Chamorro has no bodyguards. At his wife’s insistence he agreed to get a driver for his Toyota S.U.V., but he often drives alone anyway, as his father did. Chamorro is the same age as his father on the day of his death.
Last year marked 30 years since Pedro Joaquín Chamorro’s assassination, and in January, at his father’s grave, Carlos read from a collection of his father’s articles and speeches about the press. “I read things he wrote in 1974 and found they are very current today,” he told me. “One theme is the weight of free expression as the basis for all public liberties. The other dimension is his political thought: the need for profound social change, but with roots, so the changes last. This is different than the revolutionary dream — where you have big radical changes, but then you see what happens. That’s heroic, but what the country needs is gradual but real revolution, with strong democratic institutions. Back then my father was talking about justice, accountability of the government toward its citizens, clean elections, a ban on re-election. Back then it was Somoza, now it’s Ortega.”
Every year, Doña Violeta’s charitable foundation and the United Nations award the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Prize for Excellence in Journalism, and every year she hosts a luncheon in her home for the winners. She lives in a sprawling four-bedroom house with an interior courtyard in a middle-class neighborhood, surrounded by a wall, with the Nicaraguan flag flying from a tall pole. This year’s gathering began in Doña Violeta’s study, a room redolent of the past. Near the door there is a glass-fronted cabinet that serves as a shrine to her husband. It contains the artifacts of his life and death: a striped prison shirt; the now-shredded ivory sweater he was wearing when he was killed; a letter he was carrying; his glasses, still covered with dust. Next to the cabinet is a rug rolled up in a heavy plastic bag. It was the rug from the car he was shot in, still stained with blood.
When the children gather at their mother’s house on Sunday nights, the family eats in this room. But today the lunch was more formal: seafood paella and sherbet served in the dining room. All of Doña Violeta’s children were home, along with the spouses of Carlos and Cristiana. The Chamorros casually gathered in an open-air room off the dining room. Their conversation was about the doings of their children and grandchildren, family things, but also about the Ortega-Alemán pact, the National Assembly, Carlos’s case. Politics, in other words — a subject on which they are, for the first time, united.