Ever since Daniel Ortega became President of Nicaragua, the people of Nicaragua have been frustrated by the government. With his wife, Rosario Murillo as Vice President, Ortega allegedly participated in electoral fraud. He controls most of the government institutions, excluding only the National Assembly, Supreme Court, and the army. As soon as he became president, Ortega changed the constitution to permit indefinite re-elections. To top it all off, Ortega created a social security reform where the employed pay more tax and pensioners get less pension benefits than before.
Around April 19th, the Hashtag #SOSNicaragua surfaced on Twitter. This was because of the protests that were happening around the country which led to the deaths of two university students. Two police officers and a journalist also lost their lives to the cause. By April 25th, the death toll had reached 34 people. All around the country, government supporters attempted to suppress the demonstrators against the reform.
On May 29, 2018, CNN reported that Nicaragua had adopted to a “shoot to kill” policy against the demonstrators, which has lead to a major increase in the number of deaths around the country. According to a report by Amnesty International, the government has violated citizens’ human rights, used “excessive force in the context of the protests…[and] possibly carried out extrajudicial executions in conjunction with pro-government armed groups.”
While the Nicaraguan government has reported around 15 deaths since the reform, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has estimated at least 76 deaths, with 900 injured. The reform has been withdrawn but the unrest continues. The number of deaths makes this protest the most severe civil unrest in the country since the civil war ended in 1990.
The government has also been accused of using armed mobs to keep the demonstrations under control. Amnesty has received the information that the “Nicaraguan government has used armed individuals or pro-government armed groups that act in collusion with state officials, in particular the National Police, or with their acquiescence or tolerance.” These mobs are called Sandinista turbas and dress in an attire that associates them to the government and sometimes ride on motorbikes. The government has reportedly used these mobs to attack people and make threats.
According to Amnesty International, the government is handling the situation with a motive to punish people that express disapproval towards the current government. It will be a better idea to have an impartial party come into the country to investigate the state. Human rights and freedom of expression need to be respected in this scenario and the Nicaraguan government is doing the exact opposite of that.
As for the residents of the country, they are demanding that President Ortega be removed from power. The also want the reform made to the constitution regarding indefinite re-elections reversed. Democracy needs to be restored in Nicaragua and Ortega is not the way to go. Amidst this unrest, the area around Polytech University of Nicaragua is facing the most attacks during demonstrations and students seem to be facing the brunt of it all.