- Explore Nicaragua online

The social crisis in Nicaragua

RedaciĆ³n ViaNica | Apr 25, 2018

A barricade set up by the students near UPOLI campus. | Photographer: Róger Solórzano Canales

Protests, repression, lootings in commercial buildings and massive marchs.

Nicaragua suffers a social unrest since the week of April 16. The situation has been known worldwide. This week, a tense calm returned to the country. A country which had been positioning as an outstanding emerging tourism and investment destination, and one of the safest place in the continent. What is happening in Nicaragua? Manifestations, repression, killed and disappeared people, looting and destruction of buildings, and massive march in several cities. This is a short panorama about the current situation.

A wave of protests and violent repression got viral in the internet

The direct precedent of the situation was an April 16 announcement by the Nicaraguan social security institution (Instituto Nicaragüense de Seguridad Social, INSS). An important increase on the contribution by workers and employers, and a reduction on the retirees pension was part of the non-consensual changes. A presidential decree officialized the reform 24 hours later.

Social discontent started to show up on social media. Particularly because of the pension reduction. And also since several journalistic investigations signaled an obscure management of the institutions reserve funds, when used to fund private housing project and purchase of buildings during the last years. Small manifestations on the street started to be posted on streaming and previous-recorded videos in social media since April 18.

The final trigger of the current situation was, however, the repression exercised by civil pro-government groups against the manifestations since April 18. The incidents got viral in social media thanks to live streaming videos posted by witness and abused people in Managua and Leon, and because of the coverage by a few media not related with the presidential Ortega Murillo family and allies (who own several television channels, radios and ciber-media). Videos and social documentation of the repression included injured people, as well as equipment robbery and aggressions against the reporters on site. The attackers were two groups: one of them dressed with the government supporter group Juventud Sandinista (Sandinista Youth) T-shirts; and the other was a group of men on motorbikes, who were wearing their helmet when attacking the protesters. At night, the riot-police was added to the repression, and was recorded when blocking the protesters and ignoring the first attackers behaviors.

April 19: the social media content posts about the violence against the protesters bring more people to the street to join them, and several protest started in other cities and towns. Among them, several groups of university students were protesting in front of their campus, together with young people from the nearest neighborhoods. Authorities response was more repression. The few TV channels covering the protest were censored, although the signal was reestablished again on the following day. The exception was 100% Noticias TV channel, which was censored on open signal (not on the internet) for six more days. On the internet, however, the violent actions by police and civilian pro-government groups was shared rapidly.

The students defend them self with stones and slingshots in Managua, and set up barricades in some points. The same reaction was repeated in others place, like in the historical Monimbo neighborhood in Masaya city. This day (April 19), the first video showing firearm wounded were shared on the social media, and were documented the first young people killed during the repression. Official reports just mentioned police officer wounded while facing “tiny criminal groups” with political interest. Nothing more about the protest was broadcast on the analogue media controlled by the family in the government.

Next day, citizen solidarity brought more people on the streets to participate in the protests, or to bring water, food and medicine to several spontaneous collection points for the protesters support. Police abuse scenes invaded the social media: officers mistreating young people, officers seizing water and food from inside citizens’ cars and properties. The protesters continued to hold their position facing the attackers. That day, the first “arbol de la vida” monument was tear down by the people in Managua (other 6 more monuments were also teared down in subsequent days). Dozens of those high metallic monuments, around 55 foot tall (between 15 and 20 meters), were set in Managua and others point by the government during last years, and are a symbol of their administration. In Bluefields city (Caribbean), the journalist Angel Gahona was killed by a shot-gun in the head while broadcasting the police and protesters clash in a Facebook Live. Other killed people were reported by social media in other cities.

Public protests intensified. Streaming video posted by the people got viral the repressive situations in several cities, during the weekend (April 21-22). In Leon city, several pro-government buildings were burn down, as well as the Radio Dario station, which news team was actively reporting the attacks against the manifestations. But, two facts were highlighted in the content sharing. The first one was the students resistance in the Universidad Politécnica de Nicaragua (UPOLI), backed by the people from the surrounding neighborhood. There, continues coordinated attacks by police and civilian-dressed people were recorded and social media content shared by the people. The second one was the looting of supermarkets and some commercial buildings in different points of Managua city, and the subsequent defense of several other commercial buildings by the neighborhood people, who confronted the looters. More gun-shot killed and wounded, and disappeared people were reported through the social media.

That Sunday, April 22, president Daniel Ortega appeared on a live television speech for the first time since the beginning of the protests. The president announced the repel of the social security decree. He also state that political anti-government violent group were troubling the peace and will be stop using the ways established by the constitution. In the meantime, social media viral content reported violence actions from the police and the civilian-dressed group acting on their side.

The protest, prisoners, the disappeared and the dialogue to come

This week, on Monday April 23, thousands of people took advantage of a previously announced march by the superior council of private companies (COSEP) to be out on the streets. The original march had a definite route initiating and ending at the same location. However, the multitude of people spontaneously made the march towards the campus of the UPOLI, demonstrating a clear rejection towards repression, and support towards the students and civilians that were corned inside the University. This time there was no repression. During this march, another two “árboles de la vida” located on the route were also teared down. Other marches and protests were held on different locations throughout the country. Slogans were made to honor those who were murdered, clamoring those detained and disappeared, asking to end repression, bring justice at the same time, asking for the resignation of governmental authorities. President Daniel Ortega surfaces announcing a dialogue with COSEP, inviting the catholic church as witness.

The current tense calm was felt on the country since yesterday, April 24. The manifestations continue on the streets. In different cities there were many events to honor everyone that was a victim from the violence during the repression. This week, many monuments in different cities were painted in White and Blue (national flag colors) to remove the colors of Red and Black, that are related to the Sandinista Front of National Liberation (FSLN) party. This party evolved from the guerrilla group that lead the revolution against the dictator Anastasio Somoza (1979). The political organization is now accused of repressing and murdering like the previous Somoza dictatorship.

Today, Wednesday April 25, the web was busy broadcasting videos and live transmissions of the many youth that were detained during the protest, whom were put in high security jail at La Modelo, located in Tipitapa. The boys were abandoned on the side of the highway at the outskirts of Managua, with their heads shaved and signs of torture on their bodies. These stories were going viral on social media. Even though the numbers have been increasing, entities like the Permanent Commission for Human Rights are saying that up to this day there are 33 deaths confirmed; other 9 people dead that have yet to been recognized at the Legal Institute of Medicine (Managua) morgue; more than 200 detainees, from whom only 120 have been released; and there are approximately 64 missing people. The police informed there were officially 2 officials dead and 121 injured. These numbers could increase in the following days.

There is no date for the dialogue, the church has accepted its participation and other actors have been mentioned as participants, we shall see what happens in the next few days.