Uprising against Nicaragua’s President Ortega began on the April 19, 2018, after government reforms were met with anti-government protests that turned violent. Al Jazeera reported 200 people have been killed and thousands injured, many of them including university students and children, during the two months of turmoil in Nicaragua. The government reforms included reducing pension payments by 5%, while increasing workers contribution by 0.75% and the employers by 3.5%, which citizens viewed as unfair as it would deny people who had contributed for decades to their pension to not reap the sum contributed. Despite Ortega responding to the protest by revoking the pension amendments on April 22, the violence and death is still occurring two months on with 8 people reported to have been killed on June 17, and the protests having developed from those against government reforms, to those demanding the resignation of Ortega.
The violence in Nicaragua has been described by Al Jazeera as the “country’s bloodiest confrontations” since 1990, when the civil war ended. This violence reinforces the fragility of a state with a recent history of war. Over two months the protests have consisted of: A journalist being killed while live broadcasting anti-government protests, and images of the violence show anti-government protestors carrying handmade mortars and barricading themselves on streets behind brick walls. Amnesty International reported that censorship and media control has been managed by the state and pesticides and open fire are being used against crowds of protestors. However, there have also been failed peace talks and mediation by the church between the state and people, which was reported by BBC from mid-May to June 15.
Amnesty International stated that Ortega has breached human rights and international laws, having “reasons to believe that these deaths occurred with the knowledge of those at the highest level of the Nicaraguan state, including the president,”after it was confirmed that identifiable pro-government students and people on motorcycles were carrying out violence and attacks by government accord. The government denies these claims, blaming “opposition political groups with specific political agendas.” On June 24, it was reported by Al Jazeera that “police and political forces” forced their way through six neighbourhoods in Managua city, killing six people. The use of extreme force should not be used to cull or remove people who are voicing their political opinions because this breaches human rights. Such use of force and human rights issues has gained the attention of the United Nations, who are seeking to intervene and investigate the rising death toll in the wake of the protests. The Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights are also seeking to become involved as they see that the rights of democratic citizens are not being upheld and people are being oppressed.
It is evident that the events of the uprising in Nicaragua have been unsuccessful at finding a peaceful resolution, and the dissatisfaction with the reforms proposed by Ortega exploded into violence and fatality. The pro-government forces that acted on behalf of President Ortega, in combating the anti-government protest, in reflection should have been controlled from the beginning, realizing that the use of force and weapons to disperse protestors would only aggravate the people more, but also the level of force used in the first day resulted in 3 deaths, showing that a peaceful approach was not taken even in the early days of disagreement. The counter-protest by Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) youth group amplified the protest movement and further created competition for having the loudest voice. Although the death and decision of the last two months cannot be rewound, there are considerations that can be made going forward for peace in Nicaragua that stops the death of people using their right to speak and sees control and stability restored.
A suggested solution for reducing violence and restoring peace, mentioned by BBC reporting, would be to allow international actors to enter Nicaragua, such as the United Nations and European Union, to investigate violent acts of the government and causes of the nearly 200 deaths. Since promoting his wife to vice president in 2017, there has been a big fear that Nicaragua will slip back into harsh dictator rule, the Nicaraguan people share this concern, so upholding their democratic rights and demands are vital to pursuing healthy governance. By doing this, the Ortega’s government are making themselves vulnerable to international intervention and the possibility of being charged under international law. Ortega has already broken the promise to the citizens of international inquiry in the last months, making him more unfavorable. Therefore, suggesting if he was to allow some internal investigation, by the UN or Inter-American Commission of Human rights, citizens will be more satisfied to see their demands being met and then there is an opportunity for a truce for violence to subside and peace to be restored. Through this approach, protests would decline and the FSLN would have a chance at regaining some support or legitimacy among the citizens.
A second option for a peaceful solution would be for Nicaragua to hold an election to re-elect their president, this would give citizens an option for a new leader, putting the power back in their hands, and would rely on the vote of the majority, thus giving an opportunity to restore peace. Although this may not go in favour of the Ortega’s party Sandinista National Liberation Front, because people are so dissatisfied with the force his forces have exceeded over the population in recent months, changing their political choice. This is interesting because Ortega is serving his third term after being re-elected since 2007, showing that in the past he has been a popular leader, but with recent uprisings people are questioning his legitimacy and their safety under the forces of his rule. According to Al Jazeera, holding an election to restore peace has been endorsed by Nicaragua’s core business lobby, showing that even those closest to the executive see this as a rational decision.
Lastly, if Ortega is to stay in power there needs to be a drastic change to the relationship his FSLN party shares with the police force and their violent traits that are being used to try to subdue citizens who have the right to a political voice and to oppose reforms, such as that of the pension. This could be done through constitutional amendment or policy, whereby Ortega endorses the protection of Human Rights and vows to stop with the use of force. It is evident that the use of force to stop crowds of anti-government protestors is only being met with even more force from the citizens that oppose Ortega’s party. Therefore, it is a vicious cycle that is only going to end up with more injured and rising death tolls that destroys families and lowers the populations’ political trust. Political protection of these people is important for their trust and support. If Ortega can control the forces that are suggested to be acting on the government’s behalf and endorse peoples safety, then he may have the chance to remain in power and stabilize the current power he holds.
It is evident that the current measures being tested by Ortega and church leadership is unsuccessful for returning peace to Nicaragua and will not be enough to agree on a truce to stop the violent attacks on crowds and in neighborhoods. Therefore, consideration of other solutions needs to be made that have a chance to support Ortega, or else lose his power completely, including larger scale solutions such as international intervention, political redistribution and alignment, or a new election. These methods, after two months of conflict, are the only ways the Nicaraguan state will meet a peaceful solution that will stop death and injury.
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