Violence Erupts in NicaraguaMay 4, 2018 in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is currently embroiled in what is being coined as the worst political crisis in the country’s history. Violence has erupted in the Latin American nation in response to planned social security reforms by President Daniel Ortega’s government. These reforms would mean increases to income and payroll taxes, as well as taking 5% of citizen’s pension checks for medical care.
On April 17, hundreds of elderly citizens, activists and others descended upon Managua in protests of the planned reform, which resulted in clashes between protestors and pro-government groups.
After 5 days of back to back protests President Ortega, in a televised speech, announced that he would be revoking the legislation. He stated that “we are revoking, cancelling, [and] putting to the side the resolution”. Despite this announcement protests have continued in the country, with many protestors instead being students and lecturers after protests expanded to cover various other anti-government grievances aside from the social security reform. The police crackdown on protestors has led to vast numbers of students and lecturers being detained, with Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission for Human Rights reporting over 120 had been arrested. Detainees have since been released, however there are unconfirmed reports that detainees were subjected to beatings and torture whilst in custody.
Ortega has also invited Nicaragua’s bishops and Cardinal Leopoldo Jose Brenes to be involved in peace keeping mediation talks between the government and the country’s leading business organisation in an attempt to resolve the mass unrest. Having been called by the Catholic Church, tens of thousands marched for what they are calling ‘Peace and Justice’ in attempts to ease tensions in the country. The day before, Nicaragua’s private business sector also organised a march that attracted similar numbers calling for an end to the unrest and an end to the repression by Ortega’s government.
On April 24, in light of the mass unrest, the US has decided to withdraw embassy staff from the country. A statement from the White House said “The repugnant political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, has shocked the democratic international community”. On the same day the UN human rights office in Geneva called for an investigation into the violence to be carried out, claiming they suspect the killings by the police to be ‘unlawful’.
On 27 April, after 9 days of continuous protests and looting, Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission for Human Rights has reported that 63 people have died in the violence. Furthermore, 15 people are still missing and more than 160 have been injured by gunfire alone with 9 of these being in critical condition. The government has neither confirmed nor denied these figures as yet. Ortega is blaming right-wing agitators for the violence stating they have tried to discredit his government by infiltrating the protests. As we head into May, the unrest shows no signs of slowing down.