It all started with a fire.
Nicaragua, Central America’s largest country, has recently found itself in the international spotlight, due to the public’s discontent against the government of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo. Public demonstrations against the government began after the nation’s second-largest rainforest went on a 10-day uninterrupted blaze on April 3rd. During those days, it became clear that one of the poorest countries in the Americas had lost more than 5,000 hectares of biodiverse and precious land.
Nicaraguan’s ordinary patience with Ortega’s government was evidently put on hold after it appeared that the nation’s top brass refused aid from Costa Rican firefighter units to help the local, ill-equipped military to suffocate the Indio Maiz fire. Instead, the government went to seek aid from Mexico, Honduras, Russia, and El Salvador. If the allegations of negligence prove true, it would be a diplomatic mistake that would cost the Sandinistas.
While a majority of those who have been protesting for the better part of the month has largely been university students, other citizens are joining the growing movement. For a country like Nicaragua, with a young revolutionary past, and susceptible to all kinds of pressures (both internal and external), the discontent amongst the public matters. In the case of the Sandinista government, it is currently facing strong criticism in light of controversial reforms to the country’s pension system, after it pledged to increase the number of deductions for many. It is a particularly awkward contention, as the luxuries of the presidential family have recently been exposed.
Worse, in terms of the ongoing violence, there are those who have accused the government of allowing the National Police to give free passage to the Juventud Sandinista (Sandinista Youth) to attack not only university students but also journalists. In one case, a camera man’s equipment worth $25,000 was stolen, and there is also video footage of violent men wearing motorcycle helmets, a la Venezuela.
The situation has gotten so out of such control in the Central American nation that two tv channels were taken off the air amidst the protests. The censorship incident has since been completely ignored by Ortega, who appeared only days after the protests had already taken its first lives. He has since been called el “Gobernador ausente” by the son of a prominent journalist. His father’s death had before sparked an insurrection.
Many people have lost family and, over the weekend, a journalist was shot dead in Bluefields, a city located in the southern Caribbean region of Nicaragua. At the time of writing, the death toll in the country is situated anywhere between 15 to 30 people.
This is a situation that needs restraint. And, as such, we urge violence from all sides to come to an end.