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This Week you May Have Missed: The Crisis in Nicaragua

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Anti-government protests in Nicaragua have been ongoing since April, and are so far showing no signs of a resolution.

A woman protests in Nicaragua, 20th April 2018 // By Voice of America [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Officials are warning that Nicaragua may be the next country to join the immigration crisis body in South America, as government instability and the danger level faced by civilians continues to increase.

The protests, originally against changes to pension policies in April, have continued after a violent backlash from the government resulted in mass demonstrations. The people are now rebelling against the government, which they fear has lost its left-wing rhetoric, and become a power-hungry dictatorship.

History of Nicaragua

In 1979 the right-wing President Somoza was overthrown by left-wing rebels, ending his family’s 40-year supremacy.

Daniel Ortega headed the Junta, the provisional government led by the Sandinista Liberation Front.  Later, in the 1990s, they were defeated by the National Opposition Union, backed by the US in general elections. The Sandinista party returned to power in 2006 with Ortega. 

39 years on from 1979, and the Nicaraguan people are calling for a revolution against a ‘revolutionary’, amidst fears that the ‘left-wing’ President Ortega has, in reality, become a second Dictator. 

President Ortega has tried to defend his violent actions against his own people by claiming that the revolution is nothing more than “an armed conspiracy” supported by the US government. Ortega has used the media to depict himself as a savior of the Nicaraguan people, claiming that “it has been our duty once again to defend peace for everyone”. Such claims have been denied by the rebels, who claim they now live in a country where they fear for their own life. 

Sadly, this is a pattern that has emerged time and time again following the defeat of a dictatorship where the rebels have painted themselves as liberals and the saviours of the people. Such parallels can be seen in the Egyptian revolution of 2011, as well as in Venezuela.

Vanessa Neumann, a business owner, author and political theorist from Venezuela, spoke to Aljazeera News on the crisis, highlighting the “very similar dynamics” between the two countries.

“The people have realised that what were these left-wingers have taken control of the powers of state, taken control of a lot of means of production, control of the media,” she says.

Such behaviour can only mean that a repressive state ideology has come into effect.

The main repressive force in Nicaragua, as it is with most countries following this pattern, is a form of the military. In the city of Monimbo it is now commonplace to see men in black hoods driving around with guns and people disappearing from outside their homes.  

What is most worrying in this situation is that these paramilitary are not amateurs but have spent years being trained by the Russian government. This is not a protest that has spiralled out of control. These forces were deliberately deployed in order to crush the revolutionary spirit out of its people. The police have been described as “hunting” those leaving protests and snatching them from the streets.

So what’s happening now?

Since April, Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the US have condemned Ortega’s actions against his own people.

On Thursday the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) formed a council to visit Nicaragua and mediate on the ongoing crisis.

However, Ortega’s foreign minister Denis Moncada spoke out against the group, saying that “Nicaragua rejects and condemns this disrespectful action of a group of countries of this Council, when trying to become a foreign authority, meddling in the internal affairs that are exclusively the responsibility of Nicaraguans”.

However, as Neumann correctly states, it seems that this situation is  “beyond the point of dialogue.”

“Daniel Ortega needs to go. I think that once you start murdering your own people because they want free and fair elections, using paramilitary forces, [it becomes apparent]”.

With 317 of their own people dead and thousands more injured something must be done soon.  But what will President Ortega do next?

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