In mid-April, Nicaraguans began protests demanding that President Daniel Ortega step down from office and since then, more than 100 people have died as a result. Witnesses and human rights groups have identified state security forces and armed pro-government groups as those responsible for the fatalities. Rosario Murillo, Vice President and wife to President Ortega, has denied government involvement in the attacks, suggesting that a conspiracy is responsible for the allegations. The Catholic Church attempted to initiate negotiations between the government and opposition groups. However, talks have since ended indefinitely, as the political uprising continues.
Gonzalo Carrion, a lawyer working with the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, has said that police fired on civilian protestors, and stated that “They are causing a wave of terror.” On Nicaraguan Mother’s Day, a peaceful protest honouring the mothers of students who had died in attendance of previous protests resulted in the deaths of at least fifteen people, marking the highest death toll in any of the demonstrations. Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a mediator on the national dialogue committee stated that “The demonstration was peaceful. There were children there. It was a peaceful manifestation that ended up with people shot in the head and killed deliberately by snipers.”
The actions, which have been perpetrated under President Ortega’s government over the last six weeks, represent the gross violation of government responsibility. Amnesty International has published a report detailing the current government repression in Nicaragua and has called for an immediate end to state-sanctioned violence. Humanitarian organizations should continue to draw attention to the events, challenging the false government rhetoric that claims state forces have not been involved. Importantly, the currently varied groups opposing the government must work alongside one another to develop an agenda to enter negotiations with the government, as this is the best strategy available for achieving measurable change.
President Ortega has held power for three consecutive terms since 2007, after first serving a term as president in the 1980s. His wife rose to office as Vice President in 2017, increasing and cementing his power. According to Al Jazeera, the demonstrations started April 16, when university students protested to express their dissatisfaction that the government had failed to respond to fires in the significant Indio Maiz Biological Reserve. Shortly afterwards, the government announced that pensions and social security contributions would be reduced, resulting in further rallies across the country.
Throughout the last six weeks, Nicaraguans have refused to be silenced and have continued to make a stand against their repressive government. Their freedom of expression is an inalienable right and looking to the future, it’s crucial that negotiations are pursued in order to ensure the demands of protestors are addressed, and that those responsible for the recent violence are held accountable. It is reprehensible when any government harms its own population, to whom it holds a responsibility, and it is imperative that this political upheaval is resolved through dialogue, rather than further bloodshed.
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