Six weeks of demonstrations with violent encounters of police continues. More reported deaths during a Mother’s Day march incite outcries of Human Rights violations.
Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of Managua on Nicaragua’s Mother’s Day holiday to protest the growing number of deaths at the hands of police attempting to quell demonstrations against the government.
Demonstrators descended upon the capital to honor mothers whose children were killed in protests that began weeks ago. Most of those who have died were university students protesting the country’s president, Daniel Ortega, while calling for his ouster.
Like much of the protests since April 18, the day ended in bloodshed.
As reported by Reuters, at least 15 marchers were killed and 200 injured. In a violent siege, police and para-police fired into large crowds with high-powered military weapons.
Disrupting a Repressive Regime
While the Nicaraguan government attempts to block news coming from the country, its citizens and independent media outlets have been using social media as a way to update.
Republican strategist and political commentator, Ana Navarro, a Nicaraguan immigrant, posted messages on Twitter that her father and other family members participated in the demonstrations. Her expression of pride quickly turned to concern when violence broke out. Since, she has been urging others to spread the news of escalated violence.
I’ve been tweeting re Ortega’s massacre of Nicaraguans. Nicaraguans, including my family & friends, beg for support from the International Community. They feel like they’re being killed w/impunity & nobody’s paying attention. Pls share.#SOSNicaragua 🇳🇮 https://t.co/8cHTdOZZbu
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) June 1, 2018
Nicaraguans in the diaspora also post updates on the events.
— J-Antonio Blandon (@Madeback_in1998) May 30, 2018
Non-Nicaraguans began using their platforms to raise awareness, as well. Black-and-Native singer and emcee, Maimouna Youssef, who performed and conducted workshops in Nicaragua in 2016, messaged on Facebook that she received updates from students who attended the Mother’s Day march. Here is one of the notes passed to her:
During the march the Pacific march to accompany the mothers of those kids murdered by the police, they shot us and 11 more died and 97 injured. It was a mas[s]acre on Mother’s Day.
Thousands of thousands of people of all ages marched in support of those mothers and those whose kids are still missing. Some of the students’ bodies are found dead by the roads. Ten bodies were incinerated at a public hospital where the injured students were taken to and the Government gave the order to burn them.
The Ortega Dynasty
The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) says that Ortega implemented a “systematic shoot-to-kill policy” against protestors, along with kidnapping citizens in the middle of the night.
The United Nations issued a statement detailing the deaths:
We are appalled at the ongoing violence in Nicaragua, where this week at least 16 people are reported to have been killed and more than 100 injured amid anti-Government protests, which are now in their seventh week. Reports that many of those killed were shot by police and armed pro-Government groups are deeply worrying.
The majority of the deaths are reported to have happened on Wednesday, which was Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, when thousands of people took part in marches in the capital, Managua, and numerous towns across the country in support of mothers whose children had been killed during the demonstrations and to protest peacefully against the Government. Since the protests began on 18 April, at least 100 people have been killed and some 1,000 injured.
So far, 100 deaths and 1000 injuries have been reported in the past six weeks. CENIDH releases information of the deceased regularly.
One of the high-profile killings has been of Ángel Gahona, a journalist who ran the local news website El Meridiano. While live streaming on April 21, to cover the aftermath of clashes between protesters and police in the coastal town of Bluefields, a shot rang out. His body slumped over. Gahona who grew up in a repressive regime in the 1980s, became a casualty in an emerging dictatorship.
In response to growing accusations of human rights violations under Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega’s regime, the United Nations Human Rights Office asked that an investigation take place.
#Nicaragua: We urge the authorities to carry out effective, prompt, independent, impartial & transparent investigations into all allegations of serious #HumanRights violations. At least 100 people killed and 1,000 injured since 18 April ➡️ https://t.co/9aTTu2TzpZ pic.twitter.com/BEvC4SEAYW
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) June 1, 2018
For years, Ortega has been accused of gross abuses of power.
Leading up to the protests, opposition voices of the former leftist guerrilla leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) expressed outrage when he withdrew a welfare overhaul in early April. A highly popular political party, the FSLN offered free healthcare and education, one of the few Latin American governments to do so.
Concurrently, with the rise of Ortega, his work to carry out the philosophy of FSLN diminished. His critics disagree with his strategy to use family members as national office holders, and in key business positions.
Under Ortega’s influence, the term limits for presidency changed, allowing him to run a third time in 2016. In a move similar to a political dynasty, his wife, Rosario Murillo, ran as his running mate, and now serves as Nicaragua’s vice-president. His brother, General Humberto Ortega Saavedra, is a Nicaraguan military leader. Some of the president’s children are power players in tourism and building the country’s infrastructure.
In an interview with the Guardian, Dora María Téllez, founder of the breakaway Sandinista Renovation Movement said, “[Ortega’s] a representative of big capital. He and his family are now among the richest in Nicaragua. This is a profoundly corrupt system that completely betrays the principles of the Sandinista movement.”
But not all families agree with the Ortega-Murillo political movements. In 1998, Murillo’s daughter, Zoilamérica Narváez Murillo, publicly announced that her step-father, Ortega, molested her since the age of nine. Until this day, she remains shunned from the family.
Téllez foreshadowed in 2016 that Ortega’s leadership is a return of the government he once fought as a freedom fighter. The ongoing marches show that democracy is still elusive, but worthy of the fight.