Dora María Téllez
Dora María Téllez (born 1955) is a Nicaraguan historian who is well known for her involvement in the Sandinista Revolution, which deposed the Somoza regime in 1979. As a young university medical student in Leon in the 1970s, Téllez was recruited by the FSLN. The FSLN, also referred to as The Sandinista National Liberation Front, was a socialist party in Nicaragua. The early work of Téllez within the FSLN was through student movements centered around support work for members active in the mountains. Téllez went on to become a comandante in the popular revolt to oust the Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle.
As "Commander Two", at age 22, she was third in command in an operation on August 22, 1978 that occupied the Nicaraguan National Palace in Managua, where the Nicaraguan National Assembly was in full session. They captured 1,500 civilian hostages and threatened their lives unless their demands were met. The demands included a prisoner release and a monetary ransom. There was a subsequent release of key Sandinista political prisoners and a million dollars ransom payment. Téllez played a role in managing these negotiations.
This event had repercussions for the 50-year-old Somoza dynasty by revealing the potential vulnerability of the Somoza regime. It also helped the FSLN win support from Latin American governments, unite diverse factions of the opposition to the regime, and prompt them into action. Following the operation, thousands of youths and women joined the Sandinista movement. A popular insurrection grew along with the FSLN and contributed to the fall of the Somoza regime on July 19, 1979.
Military commander during the Nicaraguan Civil War
Upon her arrival in Panama with the released Sandinistas in August 1978, Téllez trained in Cuba and Panama to become a military commander. In February 1979 she was back fighting in Nicaragua and she went on to establish a place in the Tercerista leadership structure. For five months she led Sandinista platoons throughout the country in skirmishes with the Nicaraguan National Guard: first in the Southern Front with Edén Pastora's forces, and later in Central and northern Nicaragua. According to Sandinista Commander Mónica Baltodano, her raids on the northern provinces in conjunction with Cmdr.
Finally, she led the Sandinista units fighting the enemy's elite forces block by block for six consecutive weeks until capturing in June 1979 the city of León, the first major city to fall to the Sandinistas in the Revolution, followed by Managua two weeks later. This was followed by the Sandinista Provisional Government Junta's installation in this city soon after.
Public service in the Sandinista Movement
An increase in government repression and rise of political prisoners being taken prompted Téllez to go underground in 1976. While underground she did educational work in the mountains. She later served as Minister of Health in the first Sandinista administration. The administration's public health campaign that won Nicaragua the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's prize for exceptional health progress. Specifically, Téllez has been quoted discussing the specific health inequalities present in the mining industry in Nicaragua.
Within the Sandinistas government, Téllez held positions alongside religious figures to advocate for gay and lesbian rights, as well as reproductive rights for women in Nicaragua.
Academic life as a historian
Téllez wrote publications on Nicaraguan history that underscores the importance of the north-central region of the country to the nation's political and economic history. In 2004 she was appointed Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor in Latin American studies at the Harvard Divinity School, but was barred from obtaining an entry visa to the US on grounds that she was a terrorist, citing as evidence the raid on the Nicaraguan National Palace in Managua via the Patriot Act.  This prompted 122 members of the academic community from Harvard and 15 other North American universities to publish a statement in her defense, stating:
The accusation made by the State Department against Dora María Téllez... amounts to political persecution of those who have engaged in overthrowing the atrocious dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua...This regime was almost universally viewed as criminal and inhumane, and yet it was financially and militarily supported by the United States...In reference to dictatorships, just as the State Department cannot affirm that the activities of Nelson Mandela against the atrocious dictatorship of apartheid in South Africa were terrorist activities, neither can it affirm that Dora María's activities against the atrocious Somoza dictatorship were terrorist.
Early experience within the FSLN political party included Téllez's position as the Political Secretary for Managua. Téllez also served as a member of the Council of the State. The first congress of the FSLN had an election in 1990 which prompted discontent regarding the election process however the Directorate decided that the subsequent election of a new body would be done so by slate rather than voting for individual members. This stunted the potential political candidacy of Téllez, which was being pushed by many rank-and-file members. Téllez would have been the Directorate's first female member.
In 1995 Téllez founded the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) after resigning her seat in the FSLN. Other former Sandinistas such as Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez have joined the MRS political party. The MRS political party opposed the current corruption in the Nicaraguan government and appointed Herty Lewites to run as the party's candidate in the 2006 presidential election against Daniel Ortega. Four months before the election was to be held, Lewites died of natural causes. Daniel Ortega, whom was president from 1985 to 1990, won the presidential election and regained political power in Nicaragua.
On June 4, 2008, Téllez began a hunger strike to protest the "dictatorship of Daniel Ortega", her former comrade-in-arms who was elected again to the presidency in November, 2006. Ortega and his supporters stripped the MRS of its legal status about one week later. Téllez suspended her hunger strike on June 16, after doctors told her she would suffer irreparable damage if she continued her fast. She vowed to begin "a new stage of struggle" against what she termed the dictatorial policies of Daniel Ortega.
The Global Feminisms Project
Dora María Téllez is one of many women part of The Global Feminisms Project, an archive of interviews from women activists and scholars from 7 different countries. This archive was created in 2002 at the University of Michigan. The oral history of Téllez and many other Nicaraguan women, as well as women the USA, China, India, Poland, USA, Brazil, and Russia are recorded by The Global Feminisms Project.
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- "About the Global Feminisms Project | Global Feminisms at the University of Michigan". globalfeminisms.umich.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-31.