It is hard to know where to start in the sea of crisis, in the midst of this horrific drama still unfolding in Nicaragua. I'll be honest, in April when it all began it was easy to tell of the day to day happenings and keep somewhat track of events. As of today, June 20, more than 60 days into this I am finding it difficult to keep up with all the details of this escalated violence. It is absolutely heart-wrenching.
For the sake of those who haven't been receiving our email updates or have not seen any news of what is happening in Nicaragua I'll attempt an overview.
There have been protests, dialogues, lies, barricades, killings, threats, tears, strikes, detainments, and a lot of fear. The Nicaragua we know and love we barely recognize, except for the glimpses of unity, love and pull of the common people.
The vocabulary and outlook, the economy and safety, the beauty and the comfort it has completely changed. What has taken years to build up is toppling faster than any of us want to believe. The sights and sounds of what used to be children playing soccer in streets is weeping as people bury their loved ones. There is fear to leave houses and an incredible looming cloud of the unknown.
They call it a citizen 'uprising' or a civic revolt, but what people are seeing in the streets of Nicaragua is evil, the best I know how to label it is, pure evil.
Most say it began April 18 with the protests in Managua, the capital city, people outraged against President Daniel Ortega's decree of social security reforms that increased taxes and decreased benefits. And some believe that was added fuel but the very beginning were protests regarding insufficient government response to forest fires that burned 13,500 acres of the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, a tropical nature preserve in early April. Regardless the peaceful demonstrations involved mostly elderly individuals, university students, and were met with a heavy response from the authorities.
April 19 the Vice President, Rosario Murillo (President Ortega's wife) in a radio address, said protesters were trying to destroy the peace the government had built in Nicaragua, comparing them to “vampires, needing blood to feed their political agendas”. Protests and confrontations spread quickly in various cities and the suspension of transmissions of four independent TV channels was ordered. The fight found it's way to our city of Esteli on April 20 and our streets became fighting zones with 2 young men left shot and dead. April 22, President Ortega announced cancellation of the social security reforms but by then there was already the rise of the deeper, more rooted fight and now people wanted justice and President Ortega out.
On April 23, 2018, the U.S. government ordered the departure of U.S. government family members and authorized the departure of U.S. government personnel. Day after day more protesting, more attacks, more deaths and more anger. By May 1, the estimated deaths were anywhere from 40 to over 60. May 14, the Government of Nicaragua accepted the entry of a mission from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visit (IACHR) to "observe the human rights situation" in the country but amidst that acceptance, more repression, attacks and more deaths. The first, and televised, National Dialogue, May 16, was held under the mediation of the Catholic Church and included the President and Vice President, the business sector COSEP and the students who have been the driving force of this movement. By May 23 the talks were suspended indefinitely for the lack of agreement on an agenda of issues to be discussed which prevented negotiations from continuing.
On May 30, Mother's Day in Nicaragua, a march was held in honor of the victims killed during the protests. It was brutally and suddenly attacked, leaving many injured and approximately 15 dead. June 2, the US embassy confirmed the death of the US citizen in Managua.
The barricades erupt all over the country and traffic on the main road through the country is at a stop. More protests, more attacks, more fear. Many still holding on to that thread of hope for a new and free Nicaragua but very adamant that it will only come as a result of a new democracy and everyone in this regime leaving.
June 14 was a 24-hour national strike called by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (including the student coalition, private business sector and civil society representatives) which also demanded that the president “stop the repression.” June 15 which was agreed to be a ceasefire was only followed by the next day, June 16 where a family of 6 was trapped in their home while it was set on fire, in which all 6, including a baby and toddler, died. What was going to be a reconvening of dialogues June 18 was yet again suspended due to non-compliance of the government of Nicaragua, which did not present the invitation letters to the international entities that was asked of them.
It's horrid, it's frightful, its evil and we are praying by some miracle the deaths, the fear and the injustice ends soon. We stand with you, Nicaragua.