Political Tensions in Nicaragua

Photo Source: The National

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

One of the largest civil unrest has happened in Nicaragua, ever since the civil war of the 1990’s.

The demonstrators are calling for President Ortega’s resignation. Lately, the crowds that assembled in front of Managua’s cathedral have been massive.

To curb the ongoing violence, several TV channels were shut down, as protesters threw rocks at the police. There has been looting both at public offices and private shops.

As police retaliated with tear gas shells and rubber bullets, around 58 people have died in the ongoing violence.

Many students have died including one police officer and a regional journalist, who tried to broadcast his footages live on Facebook. It appeared that the journalist ran a small media outlet called ‘El Meridiano’.

In an interview with Univision, journalist’s sister said: “I never imagined that he would film his own death."

In response to the killings, many civilians have been injured in the clashes. In the northern city of Leon, pro-government thugs burned a university campus area and a radio station.

Diplomatic relations with Costa Rica have worsened, as the country wants the Nicaraguan government to reconsider the decision to close down media offices.

According to The New Yorker staff writer, Jon Lee Anderson: ‘La Prensa, a Chamorro family initiative, is the only newspaper in Nicaragua that resists the government narrative in the country. Its website had been taken down number of times during the citizen protests.’

Lately, the two countries have locked horns with each other, on issues, mediated by the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

The situation has prompted the Nicaraguan Attorney General to pass an ordinance for a formal enquiry into the deaths.

In comparison to neighbouring countries such as Honduras and El Salvador, the gang violence and street protests are much less. 

Due to this reason, Ortega’s economic plans were productive and increased growth.

However, since 2014, a series of protests have happened against the President. It reflected certain oppressive tendencies of his rule.

It started with the Campesino protestors near El Chipote Prison being beaten by policemen.

In 2015, Omepete residents greeted a government-affiliated medical team with banners against the regime. In June that year, around 30,000 people demonstrated against government policies in Juigalpa, mostly consisting of peasant workers. It was followed by Managua protests in July.

In 2016, hundreds of farmers gathered in La Fonseca, where they demanded dissatisfaction against a construction of a water canal with a collection of signatures.

In April 2017, around twenty protestors were arrested in Juigalpa.

The civil unrest again started this year when President Daniel Ortega tried to change the country’s social security system known as the Instituto Nicaraguense de Seguridad Social (INSS).

A controversial pension plan had been drafted by the President, which reduced the allowances retired servicemen received, in order to reduce the budget deficit in the country.

If we look into the leadership record of Ortega in the country, he has won the national election three times, back to back.

After serving the Sandinista Revolution from 1979-1990, he again came into power in 2006. Currently, he enjoys support from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

During his tenure at the office, he instituted a series of anti-poverty programmes, partially funded by Venezuelan petrodollars. The welfare initiatives won support from poorer communities.

Many Nicaraguans considered Ortega as the one from the Nicaraguan revolutionary tradition.

Although, in times such as today, the people call him a worse political figure than Samoza himself, as he has been in office for more than ten years.

It is nothing but ironic.

The protests, happening every now and then, since four years, reflect a kind of political rot and dismay of the common people.

The Sandinista regime had been inspired by ideas of Carlo Fonseca, who likened himself to the Cuban Revolution leaders. He particularly laid emphasis for the emancipation of Nicaraguan peasantry. This important event proceeded with the ousting of the Samoza monarchy in 1979.

Around that time, 40,000 Nicaraguans were killed.

Samoza had been one of those tyrants, who believed: "I want more oxen and fewer people in my country."

Ortega was part of the Sandinista junta, and in later years, acted as regime’s coordinator after the collapse of the monarchy.

Aligning himself with the Catholic Church, he has been charged with nepotism and partisanship by his opponents, as he had installed his family members and close friends in the military and several government posts.

As per his prevailing norms, Ortega has installed his wife as vice president, the space for the opposition is largely diminished and terms limits are also abolished. It seems that Nicaragua is slipped into a dictatorship.

His wife, the vice president, made loathsome comments lately, calling the protestors as ‘bloodsuckers’, ‘vampires’ and ‘criminals’.

In Nicaragua, the political situation seems like a powder keg. That’s why the government will try to hold talks with several public stakeholders involved in the coming time.

Many commentators are of an opinion that the United States could play a constructive role to end the rising political tensions. It is considering a legislation that will freeze loans from international financial markets. The bill, drafted in 2017, is called Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act.

In its history, the Sandinistas aligned themselves with the Soviet Union, so that they could help Marxist guerrillas come into power in El Salvador, Guatemala and other countries.

This 'collective red stance’ made the United States think of the Nicaraguan regime as prime adversaries of the American foreign policy.

However, this ordinance will not ease the sufferings, but will further deteriorate the already volatile situation.




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