Nicaragua Continues Deep in Crisis after Two Months

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

Residents of Masaya have erected barricades throughout the city to defend themselves from the Police and paramilitary attacks. Photo: Manuel Esquivel /

HAVANA TIMES – Two months after the crisis that has convulsed Nicaragua began, the country continues to be mired in chaos and terror, far from a negotiated solution that will help resolve the worst conflict since the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.

The first student protest over a reform of Social Security took place on April 18, but multiplied quickly after the violent action of the police and government shock forces against unarmed university students.

After a month of tensions, a national dialogue was installed on May 16, but was suspended a week later due to lack of consensus between the government of Daniel Ortega and the Civic Alliance (comprised of the Student coalition, business people and civil society representatives) which has since demanded his departure from power.

Although the dialogue resumed on Friday June 15th and the Government committed to “stop the violence wherever it comes from”, alleged police and paramilitaries attacked a house in Managua on Saturday morning and six members of a family, including two infants, were burned to death.

The event shocked the country’s population. Neighbors and survivors of the tragedy blamed Ortega for the attack, which questioned the credibility of the Government in fulfilling its commitments.

“The criminal actions perpetrated by the Government flagrantly violate the rights of children,” the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh, independent) warned in a communique denouncing what it called “actions of State terrorism against the civilian population.”

In the last two weeks, Managua and other cities have been seized with terror by the unprecedented presence of snipers in public places and the mobilization of heavily armed men in raids against government opponents.

Paramilitary forces in the streets of Managua with noone to stop them since they are accompanied by or supported by the Police.

In many cases, the hooded paramilitaries operate along with uniformed police and carry AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles, among other weapons of war, something never seen in peace time in the until recently “Safest country in Central America”.

The legal director of Cenidh, Gonzalo Carrion, accused the Army of being “committed to the state of terror” for tolerating displacements of irregular groups equipped with high precision rifles, and recalled that only the military entity and the police have access to this weaponry.

The Army has promised not to get involved in the crisis. Leaders of human rights organizations, which have also been threatened with death, say at least 200 people have died and more than 1,400 have been injured since the first protest.

Thousands more were arrested, some of which are listed as missing, according to the same sources.

At the resumed National Dialogue on Friday, the Government agreed to immediately invite the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union to send missions to Nicaragua to support an investigation of the deaths that occurred in the protests, punish those responsible and compensate the families of the victims.

However, the most thorny point of the negotiations is democratization, as the opposition will try to include at all costs issues such as a constitutional reform, a clean sweep of judicial and electoral officials and early elections, as well as the departure of Ortega from power in the short term.

“We will not accept impositions that break the legal system and the rules of the game established to change governments through elections,” warned Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, head of the official delegation in the dialogue.

The issue, like the others, will be discussed in commissions starting on Monday June 18th. So far, the main claim of the Government has been that the peasants withdraw more than 140 “tranques” (checkpoints) that prevent the circulation of some several thousand cargo trucks with merchandise stranded weeks ago on the roads that connect with the rest of Central America, producing major losses to the country.

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada represents the presidential couple of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo in the national dialogue.

“We are not going to remove the roadblocks until Daniel Ortega is gone,” said rural leader Francisca Ramírez, adding pressure to the government in the midst of the conflict that has paralyzed the country.

The majority of elementary and high schools and all universities in Nicaragua, remain closed. Of the latter, two are under the control of hundreds of students entrenched in their facilities, often attacked in late night raids by the bullets from riot police and irregular forces.

The attacks seek to destroy the barricades that protect the university students. and that have also been raised in working class neighborhoods of the capital as a measure of self-defense.

It is estimated that more than 800 barricades of paving stones, tree branches, stones and other materials have been erected to protect the protesters and their families. According to economists, the losses thus far total more than a billion dollars, a very high figure for the second poorest country in Central America.

The main damages affect exports, construction, tourism and foreign investment, with its usual impact on the image of the country. “How long will it take for us to convince the world that we are a safe country?” Asked a tourist entrepreneur.