Protests in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan government announced several social security reforms that increased taxes and reduced pension benefits.
- Daniel Ortega – President of Nicaragua, first came to power as Nicaraguan leader in 1979 and later assumed presidency in 2007
- Silvio Baez – Auxiliary bishop of Managua, Nicaragua’s capital
- Over the past several months, Nicaragua has been embroiled in violent protests. Recently, President Daniel Ortega announced his intentions to resume national dialogue for peace with opposition leaders, and on February 27th, he released dozens of prisoners jailed during the protests in anticipation of talks.
On April 16th 2018, the Nicaraguan government announced several social security reforms that increased taxes and reduced pension benefits. The announcement added fuel to the fire, as many Nicaraguans were already displeased with the government and its handling of recent forest fires. Two days later, citizens—mostly university students and elders—took to the streets, spawning protests in the nation’s capital and several other cities. In face of several protester fatalities, President Ortega ordered the censorship of five independent TV channels. He later lifted media censorship and cancelled the new reforms due to exceeding backlash. However, protestors marched on, demanding that he resign. Demonstrations soon escalated across the country as violence between protestors and government forces became more frequent. Meanwhile, peace talks between opposition leaders and the Nicaraguan government were initiated on several occasions, only to be quickly abandoned.
The government eventually deemed the protests to be “acts of terrorism” and launched a violent offensive, dubbed “Operation Cleanup,” to retake areas from protestors. Government forces carried out the crackdown using military-grade weapons against mostly unarmed citizens. As of now, more than 320 people have been recorded dead and 600 remain in jail.
The Catholic Church
Over the course of this crisis, the Catholic Church has been responsible for helming talks with the Nicaraguan government. Various high-ranking bishops have become important mediators of the crisis, actively engaged in national dialogue for peace. Other bishops, however, have expressed concern for the future of the nation’s democracy. Among these bishops is Silvio Baez, who has been labelled as a terrorist, fascist, and conspirator by state-run media due to his critical stance against the Nicaraguan government.
The church has helped in other ways as well. On April 21st, protestors sought refuge in the Metropolitan Cathedral after being attacked by government forces. Since then, the church has acted as a sanctuary for protestors to conduct Mass and remember those who have been killed in this crisis.
Reuters. “Nicaragua Releases Prisoners before Crisis Talks with Opposition.” The Guardian, 27 Feb. 2019. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/27/nicaragua-releases-prisoners-before-crisis-talks-with-opposition.
Lakhani, Nina. “Nicaragua Used ‘weapons of War’ to Kill Protesters, Says Amnesty International.” The Guardian, 18 Oct. 2018. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/18/nicaragua-amnesty-international-police-killings-daniel-ortega.
Hill, Toby Stirling. “Cathedral Protests Highlight Ortega’s Broken Alliance with Nicaraguan Church.” The Guardian, 8 Nov. 2018. www.theguardian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/08/nicaragua-catholic-church-protest-repression-daniel-ortega.
Gonzalez, Elizabeth. “A Timeline of Nicaragua’s Crisis.” AS/COA, https://www.as-coa.org/articles/timeline-nicaraguas-crisis. Accessed 12 Mar. 2019.
CNN, Natalie Gallón. “How Fractured Is Nicaragua after Months of Protests?” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/03/americas/nicaragua-months-of-turmoil/index.html. Accessed 12 Mar. 2019.
“After Bloody Protests, Nicaragua’s Ortega Says He Wants Dialogue…” Reuters, 22 Feb. 2019. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nicaragua-ortega-idUSKCN1QB085.