Thursday, April 18, 2019

Remembering Nicaragua's Popular Uprising One Year Later

Remembering the student led protests in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is in mourning. Protests and repression mark one year of resistance.

One year ago in Nicaragua on April 18, 2018 long standing frustrations with the Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega erupted across Managua in response to a "reform" of the pension system that reduced them for current recipients while raising the amount taken from salaries of current workers. At 5:00pm "Sandinista youth" and national police attack protesters, destroyed commercial establishments and took over the Central American University. The following day classes were canceled across the country and the government continued to call on the police and the Sandinista youth to counter-protest.

On Saturday, April 21, 2018 journalist Ángel Gahona was shot in the head while conducting a live broadcast of the protests in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

 Ángel Eduardo Gahona, killed while reporting protests
On Sunday, April 22, 2018 with over 25 confirmed dead Ortega rescinds the "reform." This would have ended the protests on April 18, 2018, but after the thuggish behavior of the regime combined with the wholesale violation of freedom of the press, freedom of expression and association the citizenry was aroused.
Tens of thousands protested against Ortega regime on April 28

On Tuesday, April 24, 2018 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States issued a statement in which they condemned "the deaths of at least 25 people in a context of repression of protests against plans to reform the social security system in Nicaragua." The IACHR also made known that "four TV channels that were reporting on the protests were taken off the air following government orders."

Photos of seven of the youth killed in Nicaragua during anti-government protests

The death toll would continue to mount over the upcoming days and weeks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 was Mother's Day in Nicaragua, and it is a day traditionally of great celebrations across the country. Nicaraguan mothers marched on this day to remember the children, who were among the 80 killed since the start of the protests at that time. Pro-government para-police called "shock forces" and armed third parties fired on the non-violent demonstrators. Official reports are that 15 people were killed and 199 were injured in Managua, Estelí and Masaya.

Moms in Nicaragua peacefully protested for children killed by government.
By July 14, 2018 the Sandinista regime's campaign of extrajudicial killings and political terror to hang on to power had reached new lows. 350 Nicaraguans had been reported killed, 169 disappeared and 3,000 have been wounded by police agents since the protests began reported Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuardas. At least 20 people were killed on July 8, the Economist reported, and reports of new killings flooded social media every day.

However one aspect that is not being widely reported is that Nicaraguan torture victims have disclosed hearing Venezuelan and Cuban accents in the regime's secret prisons. The Miami Herald quoted Nicaraguan student leader Victor Cuadras on July 13, 2018:
“Castro copied his recipe for repression and harassment in Venezuela, and now they are doing it in Nicaragua. There are many people who, while being tortured, heard the accents of Venezuela and Cuba in the clandestine prisons.”
Two day later the São Paulo Forum gathered in Havana, Cuba and backed Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista regime despite their slaughter of civilians. 

Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela
 Agence France Press reported on July 27, 2018 that more than a dozen doctors, nurses, and technical staff in a public hospital in Nicaragua were fired because they treated wounded anti-government protesters. The Associated Press reported that eight public hospital doctors in Nicaragua said Friday that they have been fired after violating alleged orders not to treat wounded protesters opposing President Daniel Ortega’s government.

Despite all of this the protests continued and students continued to put their lives on the lines. There are more than 600 identified political prisoners. On September 10, 2018 Amaya Coppens, a fifth year medicine student at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de León in Nicaragua was arrested and accused of "terrorism." She was arbitrarily detained along with Sergio Alberto Midence Delgadillo by hooded police that used violence to detain them, and taken away in a van. 

Amnesty International estimated that 322 Nicaraguans had been killed "as of September 18, 2018, most of them caused by gunshots to the head, neck, and torso."
Amaya Eva Coppens has been arbitrarily detained since September 10, 2018

The Committee of Concerned Scientists reported that on October 26, 2018 "she and 18 other women confined at La Speranza prison were attacked and beaten by over 20 unidentified, hooded men. None of the women received medical treatment. Four days following the attack members of the Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua accompanied by the Permanent Human Rights Commission attempted to visit the prison to observe the condition of the attacked prisoners but were denied entrance." Amaya Eva Coppens has both Nicaraguan and Belgian nationality. She remains arbitrarily detained in a Nicaraguan prison as of today.

Amnesty International has described the past year in Nicaragua as one of "brutal repression." They are not exaggerating. On April 17, 2019 police in riot gear disrupted a peaceful protest to mark the one year anniversary, and several dozen were arrested, according to news reports.

Across the United States acts of remembrance and protest are being carried out to demand freedom for Nicaragua and justice for Ortega's victims.

One year later and the opposition estimates the total number killed at more than 550. Other news accounts document that there have been "over 3,000 injured, dozens missing, more than 700 political prisoners and approximately 60,000 exiled due to the political persecution."

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