Ongoing Civil Unrest In Nicaragua Can Lead To A Refugee Crisis

The political crisis that started in Nicaragua since the mid of April in 2018 has raised great concern among its citizens as well as national and international authorities. Everything had started as a student protest in Managua against the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega has now become a violent civil conflict. After three months of the ongoing protests, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands wounded by pro-government forces, engendering a great deal of fear and pushing the residents to flee the country. Today, Nicaragua can become the second country after Venezuela that can trigger another refugee crisis this year in the western hemisphere.

The political and civil unrest in Nicaragua has directly affected living conditions in the country. According to a Human Right Watch report, several cases of abuse perpetrated in Nicaragua have been the result of a systematic violation of human rights from pro-government forces and government officials. This evolving conflict has urged neighbouring countries to work together for peace in Nicaragua. In this regard, the US in a press statement condemned Ortega’s regime and called “for democratic reforms and an end to violence”. This statement came along with a halt the political repression in Nicaragua, which has resulted not only in hundreds of casualties but also in 23,000 people seeking refugee and protection in neighbouring countries such as Costa Rica.

It is evident that after 3 months of social turmoil that involves even the churches, Nicaraguans have found it safer to flee the country. The daily violence has spread all over the country making it seem like a never-ending problem. Certainly, Ortega’s attitude and actions towards these events have caused more violence as he refuses to resign and restore democracy. Moreover, Nicaragua’s political crisis is having direct consequences in neighbouring countries which are receiving Nicaraguans unprepared. In this sense, meanwhile, democracy is restored in Nicaragua, the support from the internal community is essential to provide at least shelter and basic needs to these people. Furthermore, considering Nicaragua’s national sovereignty, local authorities and organisations, as well as police officers must call for dialogue and negotiations for lasting peace.

A social security reform imposed by the government was the trigger for the university students protest on the 16thof April 2018. Two days later, in face of the civil unrest originated, Mr. Ortega abolished the reform arguing its unfeasibility. Despite Ortega’s decision, Nicaraguans took the opportunity to demonstrate its discontent towards allegations of electoral fraud, the police’s ability to act with impunity, the several cases of disappearances, and the rising gas prices. The police and military forces instead of restoring peace and social stability have reacted violently escalating, even more, the political crisis. At present, according to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, an NGO backed by the Catholic church in Nicaragua have reported more than 350 casualties, 2,100 wounded, 329 kidnapped and 10,000 requests for asylum in Costa Rica.

The current events in Nicaragua reflect the lack of legitimacy, and therefore of democratic principles from the government. If the political crisis and social unrest continue to escalate, national stability and lasting peace will be hard to achieve. Ortega’s regime is now being regarded as a tough dictatorship that ignores the rule of law as well as human rights. Unfortunately, this case could become the second refugee crisis in the Americas and preventive measures must be taken to avoid the collapse of many developing countries.

Ingrid Valladares Gonzalez
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