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On Sunday, Nicaraguan police arrested 38 people in Managua who were protesting against the Nicaraguan government and calling for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, as well as the Vice President Rosario Murillo, according to the BBC. The protest, dubbed “United for Liberty”, had been orchestrated by 40 activist groups that came together to form the Alliance for National Unity in opposition to the oppressive regime. This demonstration of dissent is not the first in Nicaragua, and it certainly will not be the last.
A number of prominent figures and associations have come forward to condemn Ortega and Nicaraguan officials. The Organization of American States (OAS) chief Luis Almagro stated on Twitter, “We demand the government of Nicaragua release the protesters who have been detained, that it respect the right to peaceful protest nationwide, and stop repression and all intimidation of political leaders and civilians.” Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado chimed in, calling for decisive action and an end to all of the mistreatment. “The repression the Nicaraguan people are being put through must stop.”
Similar to the deadly protests in Venezuela, Nicaraguans who protest the government and fight against their corrupt leader-turned-dictator, put their lives at risk each time they go out on the streets.
Ortega, who was once president in 1980, returned to power in 2007 and has yet to leave. Since the start of his reign, he has assumed total control of all four branches of government, its institutions, the military, and the police force. He has also re-written the Nicaraguan constitution, banning all opposition parties and public protests. This is a man whose own step-daughter has accused him of sexual assault, and who, according to a statement by the Superior Council for Private Enterprise, has lost the economy over $600 million.
Just earlier in 2018, Nicaragua would appear entirely peaceful to an outside observer; a great tourist location, possessing the fastest-growing economy in Central America, as reported by The Atlantic.
However, it quickly became evident that this was all a facade, after a series of protests began back during April 12th to the 18th. At that time, thousands of Nicaraguans — largely of whom were university students — joined forces to peacefully protest the social security reforms enacted by Ortega that would increase taxes while decreasing benefits. The government’s response to this was a massacre, causing a movement of dissent to grow in earnest.
In the months following the initial protests, over 300 civilians have been killed, and thousands have been injured by police forces as per United Nations reports. Many more detainees were tortured and raped in prison. In turn, Costa Rican officials made it known that over 25 000 Nicaraguans have sought asylum there.
Barring civilly disobedient citizens, sources have reported to Al Jazeera that being a journalist in Nicaragua is a particularly perilous profession to be in, as journalists are targets of harassment, assault and death threats.
Back in August, Nicaraguan officials rebutted a U.N. report that suggested the Human Rights Council should inquire into the country’s actions and corrupted measures. They argue that there were in fact violent acts organized by protesters, and that there was no evidence of jail or prison statements confirming the maltreatment of detainees and inmates. But the U.N. found no evidence to support these assertions over the ones offered in counter.
It is surprising that forces around the world are not more invested in this issue than they are, as militant forces firing grenades, flash bombs, and AK-47s being used against civilian crowds is undoubtedly a distressing and horrific practice. Police behaviour, such as stripping and beating protesters, without any regard for the elderly or children, that has been shown through videos shared underground on social media sites is completely unacceptable. Any country which attempts to quell constructive, non-violent resistance cannot truly be called a free or fair nation.
While the U.N. and the OAS had done the right thing by intervening, there needs to be more of an international movement against foreign corruption. No man, woman or child in a country can truly know peace with a government that silences the press and the voices of the people with violence and arrest. Drastic measures must be taken to stop the course that Nicaragua is on before a Venezuela-level crisis arises.