Life Under the Ortega Family Dictatorship in Nicaragua

“Indignation, Desperation, and Fear”

A citizen contemplates the line of police and riot squad agents holding Matagalpa bishop Rolando Alvarez and ten other people under house arrest in the city’s Curia.  Photo from social media.

A seminary student, a retired woman, an NGO employee and a recently exiled journalist share their perspectives on life in Nicaragua today: “Forget waiting for Nicaragua to progress.”

By Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – During the first eight months of Daniel Ortega’s fourth illegitimate term in office, Nicaragua has suffered under an ever-worsening repression. The toll has included over 1400 non-governmental organizations shuttered, political prisoners imprisoned and sentenced in bogus trials with no right to defense, unprovoked sudden detentions, police sieges or house arrests, restrictions on the right to emigrate, and the forced exile or banishment of citizens the government finds “non grata”.

The latest repressive actions also include persecution of independent journalists, closures of television channels and radio stations, arrests of priests and harassment of the Catholic Church. All of these indignities were ordered by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, who have pushed another 100,000 Nicaraguans into exile – some to protect their physical integrity and their freedom, and others seeking better economic opportunities in the face of galloping unemployment and legal and political uncertainty.

Confidencial spoke with a seminary student who is closely following the current government actions against the Catholic Church; a young woman who’s still working for a non-government organization and fears it will be closed soon, like so many other NGOs; a retired woman living on her pension; and a journalist who never thought he’d have to leave his country, but who had to go into exile last month. These four Nicaraguans offer their opinions regarding the direction Nicaragua is going in, and their own personal stories and reactions. All of them have shared their thoughts under promise of anonymity, as they fear possible reprisals against themselves or their families.

Jorge, seminary student: “We feel frightened, indignant, and powerless”

As a citizen and a member of a Church that today is under persecution, naturally I repudiate all the attacks and human rights violations. I profoundly regret that now they even want to take away our right to freedom of worship and religion.

I think that they’ve forced us Nicaraguans to live this way, but now a new generation of thinkers and leaders have awakened us to the hope of constructing a country based on freedom, democracy, justice, and peace. However, we can’t reach this new country we dream of by walking down the old roads that brought us to poverty, injustice, and a crisis on all levels.

For now, I think that a large part of Nicaraguans, like myself, feel frightened, but also indignant. There’s a lot of impotence, because many of us would like to act, but we know that one swallow doesn’t bring the summer. No matter what desires and courage we have here, sadly, there’s someone else holding the frying pan by the handle. That Someone is the government.

Monsignor Rolando Alvarez is one of the voices they haven’t been able to quiet, but we see that the government forces aren’t standing down. They repress, intimidate, mount vile attacks and that’s where many of us draw back and say: “Better not to speak up; better I keep my mouth shut.”

All of this affects everyone emotionally. It’s enough to notice the sadness in the parents who struggle to afford school supplies or food for their children; those who left the country due to the repression; those who aren’t allowed to pray freely. We’re in crisis emotionally.

The State’s abuse of their power and authority is ever sharper. I feel this is a time bomb that at some moment is going to explode, the same way we saw in 2018. The impact of all this is chiseled on the faces and in the eyes of those who lost their children in April 2018; in the social systems – education, health, security – that have been plagued with corruption for a long time; in the economic crisis and the lack of opportunity for those of us who aren’t devotees of the government.

Martha, NGO worker: “Forget progress in this country … there’s only desperation”

We’re lost at sea. Daniel Ortega is going to ruin the country completely in revenge for the 2018 uprising. He’s made this clear on more than one occasion, with no shame whatsoever. The repression is generalized, it’s not just focused on one sector of the population. Its targets range from Sandinistas to dissidents, Catholics to Protestants, rich to poor. What happens is that the [news] coverage is sometimes partial, and I say this as someone who doesn’t belong to a popular group yet has felt this silent, unspotlighted repression.

On a personal level, this has provoked a crisis of anxiety, waiting and wondering what day they’re going to close my organization and confiscate everything, because I know that sooner or later they’re going to close us down.

The closing of the NGOs has left a high rate of unemployment, and it seems like the prices of our basic goods were set in Dubai. It’s no lie – in order to afford the basics now, you have to hold two or three jobs.

If we look at my field of activity, it’s impossible to be blind to the topic of education. The situation is extremely worrisome. The children aren’t learning to read and write, and while our society becomes more ignorant every day, the cow continues to grow fatter.

I feel like I’ve aged 30 years since 2018. Every day brings a new worry: the water bill, electricity, food, transportation, the news that they let “so-and-so” go – the one who killed that woman, the one who goes around on a motorcycle, stealing things from people. That “such and such” left the country over unmarked border crossings. This, that, and the other. Who can live well that way?

Generally, I think the overall feeling of the population is resignation. Because – What can I do for my country, if the one you thought they couldn’t touch has now been in jail for three months? What can I do? If the life of those who were their “saviors” in the 80s is worth nothing, and they’ve left them to die in jail, who’ll go out and demand justice for me? Who’ll take care of my family, if they put me in jail?

In order not to suffer any more, and to not bring suffering on my family. It’s better I keep my mouth shut and bear up… until I see the next brave soul strike a match, trying to light the fuse to a volcano, and in one breath they blow it out and make that person “disappear.” Because that’s our pattern. So, you could say that besides resignation, there’s a feeling of despair. Many of us feel that way.

Personally, I was planning to study for a PhD in a few years, but now my options are: eat or study. In terms of any other plan Nicaraguans have, those are the options: the plan or eat. There’s no other choice. Forget progress in this country. That doesn’t exist anymore.

Sandra, pensioner: “Today it’s the Church, tomorrow we don’t know what will happen”

I’ve never liked this Government, but I never thought we’d come to see such bitter days. They’ve practically taken over everything, and they’ve even taken away our freedom. We can’t speak our minds, because that means becoming their enemies and no one wants to be in jail. I, who lived through the war, fear for my son and for my grandchildren.

Life in Nicaragua is more expensive and difficult every day. In my case, since I’m retired, what I get as a pension doesn’t cover my needs, but we can’t say anything. Every day, we go to bed and wake up with a new worry. Now it’s the Church, tomorrow we don’t know what else it will be.

I don’t fear for myself, because I’m an old woman and I already had my life to live. But – yes – [I fear] for my children, who are still young, and my grandchildren, who are beginning life in a country like this. For that reason, I understand the many who seek a better road in other countries. It’s painful that the youth leave because their country doesn’t offer them a future.

Emotionally, I believe that, yes, it’s affected all of us. Especially those who’ve felt in their own flesh the abuses of these people (the government). The mothers who lost their children; those whose family members are prisoners; the young people who don’t see any opportunities; and the old people like me, who aren’t even in peace in our old age.

I think the fear is generalized. We’ve censored ourselves. In my case, I don’t even talk about politics with the neighbors, because you never know what intentions they may have. I tell my children and grandchildren not to post anything on social media, because even for that they can damage us. You can’t give your opinions.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in this country. I don’t know if I’ll see the change, or if I’ll leave this world without seeing it. But I hope we get out of this situation soon, and that these people pay for everything they’ve done to us. After all our history, we don’t deserve to live like this.

Sami, recently exiled journalist: “They ask me when I’m coming back, and I don’t have an answer”

Almost a month ago, I had to leave my country. What hurts me most is not being able to see my children. Not being able to hug them or kiss them. Be at their side if they need me. I can’t tell them stories when they go to bed. When they ask me when I’m coming back, I don’t have an answer. It hurts, because I haven’t done anything wrong that I should have to flee.

I’m in a place where I can’t even do a bank transaction, because I don’t have a passport. The government decided I shouldn’t have one, without offering any explanation why. The change, from one day to the next, has been so strongly traumatic that sometimes I have to take a sleeping pill so as not to think about the life I was forced to leave behind in Nicaragua.

Right now, Nicaragua is like a large property belonging to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, where you have to live according to what they decide. The laws, the institutions, international rights, are all worthless. The only thing that matters is the will of the Ortega-Murillo clan.

There’s simply no freedom. Nicaragua is a “failed” country. It must be rebuilt again, because currently it’s no good. Even if the Ortega Murillo dictatorship falls, it’s going to take many years to reconstruct the country.

There’s a new stab of pain in every news item that appears regarding the repression, persecution, and all the human rights violations Ortega and Murillo commit, because the country is being destroyed more each day. However, the Nicaraguans who see this can’t do much because they’ll be persecuted and jailed. It’s so sad.

The dictatorship persecutes all those they think endangers their possibilities of remaining in power. Most of the time, their fear is unjustified. We must get our children out of Nicaragua. This country doesn’t guarantee them a future.

There can’t be any quality of life in a country where there are people in prison for thinking differently from those governing. Where hundreds of innocent people were assassinated, and there’s no justice for them or their families. Nor where hundreds of thousands of people had to leave the country for economic or political motives, leaving their families fractured. There can’t be any quality of life in a place where you can’t express your ideas freely, because if you do, you’re jailed or they shoot at you.

There’s fear in the population, but I think that fear isn’t for oneself, but for our families. Many don’t take action so that their families won’t suffer reprisals. However, there’ll come a moment when the people say “enough”. That will be sad, because innocent blood will be spilled, something that’s already occurred so many times in Nicaragua, since the era of our first years of independence.

The dictatorship won’t be able to smother the need for freedom that exists right now in the Nicaragua people.

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