Protests against the Government reforms of the social security and pension systems started in April 2018. The Government used violence to clamp down on protesters.
Mother’s Day on 30th April, 2018: Mothers of many victims of the violence (deaths, missing people, prisoners) called for protest demonstrations, attracting huge crowds in Managua. Police responded by shooting with live bullets, resulting in a blood bath. February 2019: Negotiations started between the Government and the people united in the Blue and White movement (the colours of the Nicaraguan flag). According to the Dutch newspaper Trouw (19th april 2019): ‘Negotiations have been going on since late February about sensitive topics including disarmament of paramilitary organisations; early elections; the right to demonstrate; safe return of political opponents who fled the country; and release of political opponents. But everything is difficult. Ortega’s government claims that only 260 arrests were made during protests, but the opposition claims at least 600 are still in prison. For president Ortega early elections are not up for negotiation.’
So far the Government has used a lot of the right words, and even some agreements were signed, but these are not implemented in practice. An example is that street protests are now allowed, subject to permission by the police, which is never granted. When protests without permission have been planned, the police have been present at the venue in such strong force that the organizers have cancelled the demonstration to prevent more violence.
What’s next? Two weeks ago prisoners in the most notorious prison in Nicaragua were shot at with live bullets. This prison is home to the majority of political prisoners who were arrested because of their participation in protest marches, without the issuing of an official arrest warrant. The Government officially claims that these prisoners tried to take weapons from their guards. The stories of the prisoners are quite different. One prisoner, Eddy Monte, lost his life.
His death resulted in indignant responses from everywhere, including abroad. Fortunately Nicaragua is still being watched by international human rights organisations, which was partly the reason why the 4th national strike could be held last Thursday. To minimize the effect of the strike the government had warned businesses and banks beforehand that they would be put under close scrutiny if they were to join the strike. But in spite of that the streets felt much emptier than on ordinary days. Will the Government soon release all political prisoners as promised? Will the Government succumb to condemnations and international pressure and be open to true dialogue, even if only to avoid international economic sanctions? It is hard to imagine that the Government has appetite for real change, in spite of our desire to believe this…
Please keep remembering Nicaragua in this difficult period.