I'll start with this statement from Erika Guevara-Rosas, America's director of Amnesty International, from a July 9 press release: “The message sent by the highest ranking Nicaraguan authorities is that they are willing to do anything to silence the voices of those who demonstrate against this violent repression. This situation is extremely serious and deserves strong condemnation from the international community."
On July 11, the Nicaraguan Association For Human Rights reported that Nicaragua's death toll has climbed to 351 since protests began on April 18. An additional 2,100 people have been injured, and 51 victims have suffered permanent injuries, according to ANPDH. An additional 329 protesters have been kidnapped by paramilitaries. There have been 68 cases of torture, and 261 people are disappeared and still missing. The leading causes of death: 289 (firearms); 10 (burned); 5 (machete); 5 (knife); 5 (run over) 4 (rocks); 2 (morteros), 2 (grenades). ANPDH's report also denounced Sandinista homes that are being used for torture, and the existence of mass graves, including one behind the stadium in Carazo.
Horrifically, these numbers are hugely outdated only 12 days later. It seems the time without dialogue is only giving more space to greater evil. Since my last post there have been awful turns in the situation that make the repression darker, if that is even possible. While most people felt the Catholic Church's place for mediation and for raising white flags secured them as 'untouchable' for violence, recently the regime proved otherwise as priests in Diriamba were targeted and attacked.
There have been countless more detained, targeted, killed, there has been more land illegally taken and waves of terror looming over the entire nation as more bodies turn up. With my last post being some time now it would be impossible in this space to tell of all the marches, raids, attacks and threats. There are countless stories coming out, videos and graphic images of the atrocities, personal stories such as this man's testimony of torture as given by NBC News or of this father's attempt to find his son, only to discover him in the morgue. With some being U.S. citizens and able to flee Nicaragua, even after being illegally and wrongfully detained, such as the story of these cousins, imagine now the hundreds, thousands that do not have that option. Young students being taken from their homes, streets-even while attempting to cross borders into safer countries, such as Christian Fajardo and his wife, one of the Masaya protest leaders captured just this weekend.
With the Ortega regime controlling all sides of current government there have been recent laws passed trying to dig deeper the persecution of the people and take away even more freedoms. You can read more about that new law here, but this is what opposition legislator Jimmy Blandón warned, "this law seeks to regulate, supervise and control the non-profit organizations, especially religious, and the movements that are participating in the citizens’ marches, within the framework of the current crisis that Nicaragua is going through." In recent days there also has been a proposal made by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, "to send military support to "defend" the sovereignty of Nicaragua."
Even with this newly passed law, many took to the streets over the weekend protesting and demanding freedom again. Nicaraguans are committed, they are persistent and they deserve justice. Stories get skewed to the perspective of the side of the listener, take this instance where it is reported some police officers hand over their uniforms to the Permanent Commission of Human Rights and basically go into hiding, stating they couldn't commit to the things they were being asked to do. And yet when questioned the police, in their explanation, claim that they were 'dishonorably discharged for theft."
While Thursday, July 19 was the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution, Ortega disqualified the role of the bishops as mediators and claimed they are part of a coup d’etat. He also blamed “satanical criminals,” in which he stated “the satanists have to be exorcized." He claimed that protestors have been financed by the "North American Empire" as the Cuban and Venezuelan foreign ministers stood by him delivering his speech.
The international community has seen more coverage in just the last 2 weeks, slowly trickling out what is happening in this Central American country, just 3 months ago known as the safest part of the region. Reports from BBC News, CBS News, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and ABC News among others. Videos, explaining what is happening in English, such as this one are starting to draw attention to this country of just over 6 million people.
Ortega, in an interview today with Fox News, discards the idea of early elections or stepping down and still maintains the stance that the government does not control the paramilitaries. Meanwhile last Wednesday, July 18, the OAS resolution by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru and the U.S. called on Ortega to support an electoral calendar agreed upon during the dialogue process. And after this interview done today, Congresswoman Ieana Ros-Lehtinen criticized Ortega's intervention stating that he should not be given a platform "to justify disgusting actions" and went on to put on Twitter, "In @SpecialReport #DanielOrtega dares to blame the Nicaraguan people for their violence and abuses of #DDHH. This Wednesday, we will debate my resolution in the full condemning the regime #Ortega and urging responsible nations that blame for violence #SOSNICACARAGUA."
The evil that keeps playing out, the fear and the instability, we pray sees an end, soon. The people of Nicaragua deserve more.