What is happening in Nicaragua?

Since last April, we have been watching the news about street demonstrations and violence in
Managua, Leon, and other Nicaraguan cities. Street violence reports, according to government accounts,
a toll of approximately 198 dead. Non-Government Organizations (NGO) acknowledge 300.
There are hundreds of people injured, arrested, disappeared, and many other gone into exile in
Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico. The majority of the protestors are high school and university students.
Demonstrations started to object President Daniel Ortega ordered reforms to the social security and
retirement funds.
The reforms would have increased premiums to all the working population. Students and
workers considered the increases excessive and without justification. Students are at the forefront of the
demonstrations but have the support of workers, peasants, civic and religious organizations, and critical
parts of the private sector.
Protestors stepped-up the demands for the repeal of the reforms. In effect, Ortega withdrew
them after violence exploded in the streets. He did it after several days of confrontations and the surge
in the number of dead and injured protestors. Still, disturbances did not stop.
The students rage increased when individuals wearing hoods accompanied the riot police to hit
and injure. Soon, demonstrators and the press recognized the anonymous aggressors. They identified
them as paramilitary forces acting on behalf of the police.
Some have suggested that the attackers are government-hired thugs from criminal gangs. There
is no proof of this fact, but their brutish behavior gives credence to the allegation.
After the retraction of Ortega, demands and protests intensified. Nicaraguans raised the stakes
and requested the resignation of Ortega and wife, Rosario Murillo, the Vice-President. Anger and
resentment heightened, and the clamor rose against a leader that has stayed in power for too long.
Ortega is currently at the onset of his third consecutive presidential term. Adding all of his years
at the helm of Nicaragua, Ortega accumulates 20 years of control. He has shown no signs or disposition
to resign. To the contrary, he has grown more authoritarian and adversarial. His behavior is contrary to
his struggle against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. It is mainly opposite to the ideals of Augusto
Cesar Sandino that inspired the Frente Sandinista fight and victory in 1979.
For decades, the Sandinista economy has not advanced. It is far from the promises of
development. The agrarian reform and the seizure and distribution of the wealth of the Somozas did not
relieve the burden. The 1980s Contra Wars further bankrupted the country and deepened dislocation.
The 1990s agreement with the International Monetary Fund opened lines of credit, but economic
reforms did not produce the expected reduction of poverty.
Since 2000, per capita income has fallen, and economy shows no signs of progress.
Agro-industries, ranching, manufactures, and remittances are insufficient to support the national
In this context, students’ protests and demonstrations are explainable. Economic stagnation and
lack of professional and occupational prospects affect the young. It is because of the awareness that
students are demanding change. The Nicaraguan young understand that 38 years of Sandinista
leadership must be over. Two generations of Nicaraguans has seen their country, their present and future
The young students have listened and astonished at the explanations for the violence from an
Ortega newly found religiosity and devotion. They amaze at the Vice-President Murillo power at the
forefront of Sandinista programs and decisions behind Ortega.
Moreover, they reject the sect she has created out of blending the Hindu mysticism of Shri Sai Baba,
Sandinista ideology, Indigenous religiosity, and Catholic creed. The cult has nothing to do with the
history and culture of Nicaraguan past, present or future. The students understand this well. The rituals
of Murillo are among the reasons the students are standing firm in constant demonstrations.
The depth and callousness of the violence exercised by the government is objectionable and
must stop. Protestors’ violent reaction is equally damaging and unacceptable. The majority of the
Nicaraguans, the progressive sectors of the Latin American countries, the European Community, and the
American people have repudiated the repression.
Church officials requested an immediate end to the violence and offered to mediate. Human
rights organizations invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to assess the situation and
report a recommendation. The published results faulted the Sandinista government for the violence.
Ortega and his regime did not accept the remarks of the Commission and expelled its members from
Talks between the Bishops Council, mediator of the ongoing conflict and representative of the
opposition, and the government stopped after three meetings. On the meantime, demonstrations and
violence are ongoing. The human cost, the social hardships, and the economic disruption are too high to
ignore. The Nicaraguan regime must change under the guidance of capable young people.

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