We have been saddened to hear of the recent unrest in Nicaragua, a country and people that we have walked alongside for many years.
Since 19th April there have been protests and clashes after the Sandinista party, led by President Daniel Ortega, amended the social security law without due consultation. The protests have been met with force and as a result, lives have been lost. A Truth, Justice, and Peace Commission is now being set up to look into what has been happening on behalf of the families who have lost loved ones.
Damáris Alberquerque from CEPAD has been sending us updates. You can see the first 3 updates below. We will add more as they are sent.
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April 23, 2018
Since the evening of Thursday, the 19th, our country has suffered from violence. The President authorized some reforms to the Social Security law, without consulting any of the sectors, that affected the retired people and increasing the amount that is paid by the employers and employees. This generated some protests, especially from the University students and the Police reacted in an outrageous manner, clashing with the protesters.
These protests led to people being killed — students, one policeman, one journalist, innocent bystanders, other protesters. We still don’t know how many have died, how many are wounded, detained, hurt. After three days of protests, President Ortega appeared on national TV, surrounded by members of the National Army, the National Police and Vice-President Murillo, his wife. He said that a dialogue would start between the private sector, the government and representatives from the unions.
He didn’t once apologise for the undue force from the Police, neither he offered a word of sympathy to the families of those killed. That led to more protests and then, riots exploded on several locations of the capital city and in some of the municipal seats. Government offices were damaged, markets, supermarkets, and other stores were pillaged.
President Ortega again spoke yesterday on national TV, this time surrounded by the owners of the Free Zone factories, with a much conciliatory tone saying that everybody has the right to protest, speaking against violence and reiterating that the dialogue will start — without any conditions, with the mediation of Cardinal Brenes, from the Catholic Church. However, during the evening the Police again fired against the students who are inside of the Polytechnical University (UPOLI).
Some say that students were killed and many wounded. Today, the Private Enterprise owners (COSEP) are calling for a march at 3pm. We hope that it is
peaceful. News are very confusing. We don’t know the exact truth and maybe never will. We’re glad to report that all our staff and communities are safe. We’re still hoping to receive groups and doing our work. We ask for your prayers in this time of grief, uncertainty, and disbelief.
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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April 30, 2018
Eleven days after the dialogue was announced by President Ortega, things are far from settled.
Last Friday, CEPAD’s Board of Directors sent a letter to President Ortega urging him to bring justice in order to reach peace and to start the dialogue immediately. On Saturday morning, a small group of members from six Protestant churches met at a Managua park to pray for peace.
Their leaders had announced previously that they were ready to participate in the dialogue. As far as we know, no invitation has been received. In the afternoon, the Roman Catholic church led a huge 'peregrination to consecrate Nicaragua to Virgin Mary', which in reality was another demonstration against violence and supporting the Bishops in their role of mediation. The march concluded with a Mass where Cardinal Brenes announced that if the dialogue did not meet expectations, they would drop out as mediators.
The National Assembly, the legislative body, announced the creation of a Commission for Truth, which is not satisfactory to the population since that body and all government institutions have lost all credibility.
The lack of official communications continues. No date for the dialogue has been set, neither who will participate or the agenda for those meetings. This gap is filled with so many contradicting news that contribute to the uncertainty and dissatisfaction among the population.
Meanwhile, the work of CEPAD in the communities continues. We regret that because of this convulse situation, four groups from the U.S. have cancelled their visits in May and June. Since Sunday 22 evening, there’s been no more violent events, for which we are grateful, but continue to ask for justice for victims.
Please continue praying with us.
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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May 7, 2018
Things continue to be uncertain as the crisis goes into its third week. The Episcopal Conference held a press conference last week calling all those invited to the dialogue to appoint their representatives, including the University students. So far, only the private business sector has named their five representatives, besides the Bishops.
Yesterday, the National Assembly, the legislative body, swore in the members of the Truth, Justice, and Peace Commission with the mandate to investigate all the happenings and to submit a report in three months.
The members are:
- Fr. Uriel Molina, a well-known Liberation Theologian;
- Dr. Myrna Cunningham, an activist from the Caribbean Coast;
- Mr. Jaime Lopez-Lowry, vice-President of the National University of Nicaragua;
- Mr. Cairo Amador, a political analyst
- Dr. Adolfo José Jarquin, the Deputy Human Rights Defender
- Dr. Jarquin is from the government sector
Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Human Rights Commissions have been filing the accusations from the victims’ relatives. Protests continue every day from different groups and at different locations, mainly of Managua, but also of the larger cities of Nicaragua, claiming for justice for the victims, but others for changes in the government, including changes in the universities.
Most of the protests have not reported any violence until last night where protesters clashed in Niquinohomo, the birthplace of General Augusto Sandino, a national hero after whom the Sandinista Party takes its name.
Those who protest against the government pulled down the party flag from the Sandino monument, painted it in blue and white (the national flag’s colors) instead of red and black (the Sandinista Party’s colors), which led to a confrontation with those who favor the government. The media reports many wounded, but no confirmed figures.
Please continue praying for Nicaragua, for wisdom for all involved, for justice and peace.
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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May 16, 2018
Almost one month later, finally the Bishops Conference announced that the dialogue will start today after the government issued an invitation to the International Commission of Human Rights to come and investigate all the deaths and violence that started in April. This was one condition that the Bishops had set for the dialogue to start.
Most of the Nicaraguans are hoping that the dialogue will begin a process too many changes in the country that eventually will bring justice and much-needed peace, as the situation went from bad to worse last weekend when highways leading to other cities were blocked. In Masaya, many stores were pillaged, some homes were burned and looted, an unknown number of persons were wounded and some say that four people were killed. Some citizens joined successfully to guard the supermarkets of the city against the pillage.
Protests continue every day in Managua and in other cities. Some 20 'Trees of Life', have been taken down since the unrest started. University students, high school students, taxi drivers, truck drivers, anti-canal activists all have different motives to protest with the support of most of the population. Because of the roadblocks and violence, gas stations from cities outside of Managua are empty and food supplies are scarce and prices are going up.
This week CEPAD could not carry the activities scheduled in the communities, some because of the roadblocks and all for lack of gas in the municipality seats. Yesterday, our staff in Matagalpa was advised to stay at home for safety measures as there were clashes between the protesters and the police in the city. Most of the staff at the central office are coming to work, except those who come by bus from nearby towns.
On a positive note, rains are starting and the farmers are preparing their land for the planting season. They hope that it will be a good rainy season.
Please continue praying for Nicaragua, and do whatever is within your means to discourage any external intervention in the country’s painful affairs. I truly believe that we, Nicaraguans, can reach positive solutions.
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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To find out how you can support CEPAD during this difficult time, please visit amostrust.org/cepad
Links: CEPAD | Sandinista National Liberation Front