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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May 22, 2018
The national dialogue was started last Wednesday and has held two working sessions since. Representatives from the government, university students, unions, private enterprise, farmers, civil society, universities are at the table under the coordination of the Bishops’ Conference.
Those at the table opposing the government, demand the President and Vice-President’s immediate resignations, while the government representatives are saying that changes have to be made within the Constitution’s frame.
After the first session of the dialogue, a truce was reached between all parts for last weekend. Roadblocks and street blocks were partially lifted in order to allow free mobilization within the country and cities, the government promised that the police forces would not attack any march.
The truce was carried out, with the exception of two places, at the Agrarian University in Managua and in Masaya. There were wounded protesters at the University.
From May 17th-21st, a delegation from the International Commission of Human Rights (CIDH in Spanish), came to observe the situation of the human rights in Nicaragua related to the violence that started on April 18, to document the facts and to give preliminary recommendations to the State of Nicaragua. CIDH is a body of the Organization of American States.
Yesterday, the CIDH gave their preliminary findings of at least 76 people being killed since April 18, 868 wounded and 438 people detained characterized by the excessive use of force on part of the security bodies from the government and others.
The Commission urged the State of Nicaragua to investigate, judge and punish those responsible and to restitute the victims. It gave 15 recommendations to the State, including to cease any repression to protesters and to stop arbitrary detention of those protesting. It also recommended creating a mechanism of international investigation of the violent events with a guarantee of independence and autonomy to ensure the right to the truth and to identify those responsible.
The findings were presented at a press conference and also at the dialogue table on their second session. All parts agreed to accept the recommendations. Although no consensus was reached about lifting up completely the roadblocks which are causing economic losses, yesterday and today the inter-city transportation has been almost normal, in most of the country, with few exceptions.
The training activities scheduled in Teustepe were carried out last week and today, our staff at the other zonal offices will visit the communities to determine if they can resume their plans.
Although the dialogue is advancing slowly, we still believe is the only way to a peaceful solution. We ask to continue praying with us for Nicaragua.
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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May 25, 2018
I wanted to inform you about the situation in CEPAD at the national level.
- The Community Development Committees in all of the zones are developing their community plans, meeting and visiting beneficiaries of the projects. What they have not been able to do is ask for support for their projects due to lack of transportation or access to the municipal governments.
- Farmers are optimistic with the entrance of the rainy season and are preparing their plots to plant. In Pantasma and Oriente they have begun planting. The farmers in Pantasma have made their compost and in Teustepe they are even selling compost to farmers who normally use chemical fertilizers.
- The women working with family gardens have been planting their vegetables. The women participating in Community Banking and Work programs are putting into practice what they have learned in their training and are working on their businesses.
- The pastors in the municipalities have been meeting regularly to pray for peace. In Nueva Guinea, members of the pastoral committee are members of the Municipal Commission of Peace that have been formed and they are promoting peace through radio programs in the area.
- All of CEPAD’s zonal offices have been in touch via phone with the community leaders to monitor the advance of their plants. The social technicians of Matagalpa, Teustepe and Pantasma have been able to visit the villages. The access has been more limited for villages in the zones of Oriente and San Francisco Libre because there have been roadblocks even though it is still possible to reach the villages.
The only zone where this is no access to the villages is in Nueva Guinea but we have been monitoring the situation through phone calls. Teustepe has not had any interruption in training activities; Pantasma and Matagalpa have pushed training back to next week.
- The Institute in Leon (high school) has had classes normally with the exception of a few days. The administrative staff has been working normally. Radio CEPAD has also been transmitting normally with their staff. Despite the challenges, the Nehemias guest house had two groups from Nicaragua in May.
- We have not had more delegations cancel. We hope to have at least 4 groups visit in June and July. However, if the problems continue due to roadblocks, the groups will not be able to visit the villages, so we are proposing a change in the purpose of their visit.
We would like them to come and listen and see what is happening in Managua so they can promote the solidarity in their churches and/or denominations. This was the objective of the program when it was founded in the ‘80’s.
The cancellations of delegations in April and May, as well as a reduction in the number of groups using the Nehemias center, has negatively affected us financially. We use these funds to help support our administrative costs so that more of our donations and gifts can be used to directly support programs.
- The majority of staff in the central office have been working without interruptions. Some people have missed a few days, mostly people who live outside of Managua and rely on public transportation.
The directors, together with the president of CEPAD’s Board of Directors are monitoring the situation very closely. Weekly we have been sharing what is happening in the country in English with organizations that support us and that have been published on Facebook.
The organizations and readers on Facebook have been supporting us through prayers for our country. We give thanks to God for positive news. We know that He is listening to our prayers for an end to the violence and for us to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11.) May God Bless you. Damaris
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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June 18, 2018
During the past week, violence worsened even more, when we thought more wouldn’t be possible. Armed people are rampant on the streets killing, hurting, and destroying property both public and private. Last Saturday, an entire family was burned to death in Managua inside their own home which served as a mattress business. People believe that the paramilitary forces did it.
This terrible situation has reopened old wounds and made new ones in the society. Hatred is increasing to the degree that deaths and attacks are justified depending on who the victims are and on the perspective of the people. We need to seek reconciliation with each other, but right now it seems there is no time for that. Trying to survive, to get food, to get to work and home are the priorities every day.
Last Thursday the 14th, there was a national strike called by the private enterprise sector. Most businesses were closed, some because they responded to the call and others because of fear that their businesses might be burned down or attacked.
Finally, last Friday the 15th the dialogue was resumed. On Friday and Saturday, they approved the agenda and appointed sub-committees for the issues of democratization, judiciary and electoral reforms. Those sub-committees will work today and go to plenary discussions tomorrow. The Roman Catholic Church continue serving as witnesses, now with the support of the Ambassador from the Vatican in Nicaragua. We still hope that the dialogue will bring a solution although sometimes we despair because it’s taking too long.
Two months after the unrest started more than 200 people have been killed and many more are wounded, detained and missing. At least a death occurs every day somewhere in the country. Our staff remains safe. This week we are on mid-year vacation praying that there are advances on the dialogue table and that by next week the environment is less dangerous.
We have to regret the tragic death of Wilton Cornejo, one of our youth of the psychosocial program in community Las Piedras in Pantasma. There are still investigations going on about the causes of his death. Please pray for his family and entire community where he was greatly appreciated.
Finally, we are grateful for all your support. Prayers, letters, words of encouragement and financial support inspire us and remind us that we are not alone. Thank you.
May God bless you,
Dámaris Albuquerque E.
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June 28, 2018
The special commission of the Organization of American States that is investigating the government’s involvement in the violence in Nicaragua, has been here since last Sunday and is serving as advisor for the sub-committee for security and verification that was appointed by the Dialogue Board.
Last week roadblocks at the main highways of the country were lifted by the police and paramilitary forces, which has allowed mobilization between cities. At the roadblocks where protesters resisted, the police shot and killed more people while wounding and detaining many others.
According to one of the human rights groups in Nicaragua, the death toll has risen to 286 as of June 25. All of CEPAD staff are working at all offices since last Monday, when we returned from vacation and are rescheduling activities that were not possible to carry out in May and June.
However, the levels of crime have risen. Three of our staff have been victims to robberies in different parts of the country. One of them was robbed while eating at a diner, another one was assaulted when he was going to his parents’ home in a nearby town on his motorcycle and the house of a third one was broken into in the middle of the day, when he and his wife were at work and the children were at the school. All their valuables were stolen.
Although no state of siege has been declared, everybody is home when the sun goes down as a preventive measure. Unemployment is also rising. Businesses in the service sector, are closing or reducing operations and are laying off their employees. In the hospitality sector alone, 40,000 jobs have been lost, reported the president of the tourism chamber.
Other companies have opted for sending their employees on unpaid vacations or keeping their jobs part-time and therefore with half salaries. The emblematic House of the Mejia Godoy closed indefinitely their operations this week, as well as the luxurious Hotel Mukul, owned by the richest man of Nicaragua, Carlos Pellas.
In the midst of this bleak situation, we are very grateful to you who are giving financial support to CEPAD. We also have a challenge with Radio CEPAD which is transmitting on and off thanks to our technician who is doing some repairs and working miracles.
Part of the equipment failed last week and we were off the air for some time. I ask you to please consider giving to this campaign so we can reach our goal of $3,000 which is the cost of replacing the tuning box. To give directly to this campaign please go here: mightycause.com/story/radiocepad
Your support to CEPAD will guarantee that no employees lose their jobs and that we can continue providing support and training to the 40 communities we accompanying during their 5-year plans. If you would like to give to support CEPAD’s general work please visit our website: cepadnica.org/donate
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