Nicaragua, mi Nicaragüita…
have you heard there’s strife happening now in my second, lovely home? without fluff and too much of my opinion, here’s the scoop:
In mid April, peaceful Nicaraguan citizens took to the streets to protest President Ortega's ( 1985-1990, and 2007-present) ‘social security reform’ that reduced benefits while raising taxes, especially on the middle class.The government responded with police repression—killing 38 people in the first week of protests.
That was just the beginning of the uprising. Since then, Nicaraguans have continued to protest the dictatorship of Ortega & his wife Rosario Murillo on a daily basis, countrywide.
Now, the travesty is worsening. People have been denied the right to peaceful protest, denied access to information (news sources have been temporarily blocked, news outlets attacked, and one journalist killed,) and denied access to healthcare, as victim are refused medical attention in public hospitals and state health officials deny autopsies to those killed by police.
The police are out of control, shooting indiscriminantly into crowds in cities all over the country.
This is the first time that i’ve learned the word “tranque” (barricade), as young protestors have fought back at government police, armed with AK-47s, by tossing coke bottle molotov cocktails from behind paving stone barriers.
Solidarity used to be a word we’d joke about seeing as a famous communist word, used in the campaign and regime of Ortega. Now, the citizens of Nicaragua appear united in demonstrating solidarity against the oppressive government.
The violence continues. this past weekend, during a peaceful mother’s day march, with at least 15 dead and 79 were injured by government police and supporters.
According to the Nicaragua Dispatch, we know that Nicaragua’s Conference of Bishops, the mediators of the National Dialogue, released a statement saying Dialogue cannot restart because the government continues to repress and assassinate people, denying citizens the right to peaceful protest.
Also from the Nicaragua Dispatch, new reports of government sharpshooters using high-calibre Dragunov sniper rifles. There are more than 100 dead, 1000 injured in less than two months, and the situation is worsening. People have been murdered, with no consequence. Hundreds have been arrested, or gone missing.
There is looting and vandalism, which, to me, is an obvious effect of an erupting lawlessness, encouraged by the fact that government police seem to be targeting the wrong people- those not committing a crime by walking in the streets.
This week, in addition to other fluff, Ortega’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada claimed the following on behalf of the Ortega government: he denied government responsibility for violence (guys- there is video documentation). He accused protesters of being terrorists themselves (and implied a conspiracy aimed at destroying security of Nicaraguan families). He also said that reports and news sources trying to blame the Ortega regime for violence are defamation and part of a criminal conspiracy to intimidate and terrorize people and hand over the country to organized crime while destroying the image of Nicaragua.
Sadly and unsurprisingly, tourism is tanking; the State Department has upgraded their travel advisory for Nicaragua to a “Level 3: Reconsider travel due to crime and civil unrest.” Nicaragua is a beautiful country of lakes and volcanoes and kind, gentle people. it saddens me for the state of the country that so many people i love are deeply affected by this tragic dictatorship’s turn for the worst, in so many ways.
I don’t think there is an end in sight, and there are definitely horrors still to come from this government. Ortega can only rule by domineering oppression for a finite amount of time. There are vague CNN posts about this topic, and many news sources are in Spanish only and marginally publicized. Hopefully, the UN, US State Department, or Organization of American States (OAS), can help with policy changes. The latest press release I saw from OAS talks of electoral reform from 2017. What these outside government agencies will do, and how can I help force their hand? I’m not sure.
But I do know that there are heartfelt, angry, hopeful Nicaraguan citizens, women and men, for us to support.
To become more aware, and help in how you can, follow Nicaragua Dispatch on facebook/twitter, amnesty.org, and keep your eyes peeled for news on your local sites, and share, share, share.
I don't have any personal photos of what's going on currently, but wanted to add some photos that capture why Nicaragua holds a special place in my heart.