By, Karen T. ’19
Latin America has been the home of tyrants for years. Millions have fled their homes because of these tyrants, who have held the power in their countries for a decade or more. Not feeling safe, not being heard in their home countries, many Latin Americans flee to the United States for survival, yet the US government has created a hostile environment in which these immigrants are being marginalized and refused a haven from the tyranny that has killed their families.
One of the long-lasting tyrants of Latin America is the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega. For the last three executive terms, President Daniel Ortega has ruled over Nicaragua with an iron fist. However, a series of protests has taken place against Ortega, sparking a movement across the nation. The people have spoken and no longer want Ortega in power. So, why now? What led to the empowerment of the Nicaraguan people at this moment?
On April 18, what started as peaceful protest over changes to the country’s social security system resulted in two dozen deaths and over 400 injuries. The protest turned violent when pro-government gangs attacked protesters and journalists who were there to cover the protests. The government coverage of the demonstrations was on news channels, and security forces allegedly used excessive force and live rounds on the demonstrators. Since then, there has been a wave of deadly protests. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the total death toll resulting from the violent response to the recent demonstrations has now surpassed 76, including 40 university students. The government has continued to claim, however, that only 13 are dead. Looting is rampant throughout the country, and the streets are in disarray. Although Ortega has reversed the changes that sparked the protests, it seems that the country has reached a tipping point, and, according to CNN, a dialogue between Ortega and the protesters, mediated by the Catholic Church, has been set up.
“It was a situation that was going to happen sooner or later. The Nicaraguan people are tired of so many injustices and violation of the people’s human rights. Now it is more evident than ever of the government’s corruption. Corruption [that] has been poisoning the country since his first day in office,” said Josefina T., age 22. Josefina has participated in the protests.
The protests in Nicaragua have clear parallels with the recent movement in America countering gun violence, as both are student-led. However, instead of being protected, Nicaraguan students are dying for exercising their human right of free speech, and coverage in America of the demonstrations and Ortega’s violence has been limited. The protests have not gone viral on social media. As the situation in Nicaragua continues to develop, it is important that American citizens stay informed and engaged. Nicaragua’s freedom of speech is under attack, Nicaragua’s government is abusing its power, and people are dying in order to protect their rights. We may not be able to help the Nicaraguan people directly, but we can spread awareness and let them know they are in our hearts and prayers. ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido! (The people united will never be defeated.)