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The Situation in Nicaragua Far From Normal

Normality seems to be that Nicaraguans are governed by a pair of despots; too many things have been normalized that are not and should not be

Carlos Martínez

23 de diciembre 2019


It has rained in Nicaragua since that April that seems so distant today: 20 huge months that stretch mercilessly, turning pages barely read, turning that civic fire into a remote incident, with cobblestone barricades and massive marches that today are unlikely. Because today normality seems to be that Nicaraguans are governed by a pair of despots, coming from the darkness of past times, with the capacity to impose their own version of normal and of everyday life.

Paul Perez is a leader of one of the student organizations in rebellion. When I met him, just over a year ago, he was hiding in a safe house on the outskirts of Managua and used a pseudonym to hide his identity. Along with other students, he participated in the occupation of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua and was driven out by the police with bullets.

Anti-Ortega demonstrators in Masaya, Nicaragua, June 5, 2018. Photo: Victor Peña / El Faro.

Two of his companions lost their lives, hundreds were captured and tortured. Since then, he has lived, he says, in at least six other safe houses and has received an additional beating, for filming the arrest of another student. He speaks to me from the United States, where he has been in exile after the police arrested several of his close friends. His family and his organization ask him not to return.

Exactly one year ago the newspaper Confidencial was occupied by the regime’s police, along with the television channel 100% Noticias. Today, both media outlets remain seized by government forces. Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of Confidencial, returned to Nicaragua on November 25, after several months of self-exile, and says that in the country he found “there is no normality, but the imposition of a police state.”

Because it’s not normal, says Chamorro, that there are kidnapped media outlets. Nor is it normal for a 25-year-old student to be exiled in the United States, nor is it that a reporter must leave his country in order to do his job.

Nor is it normal that the most meaningful claim of civil society that opposes the Government is that there be a Christmas without political prisoners, or that there be at least 130 political prisoners: people who marched to protest and ended up in a dungeon accused of terrorism or drug trafficking.

Nor is it very normal that when a group of 11 mothers of those political prisoners announced a hunger strike in the San Miguel church, in the department of Masaya, the Police, together with paramilitaries, surrounded the church, cut off water and electricity and prevented anyone from entering or leaving the premises. They did not even allow the entry of insulin for priest Edwin Roman, whose diabetes worsened as days went by.

When thirteen young people tried to bring water and medicines to the mothers on hunger strike and the priest, the Police arrested them and accused them of acts of terrorism. That is not normal either.

Four days later, nine other people also went on hunger strike, for precisely the same reason, but this time at the Metropolitan Cathedral. Here the police did not restrict itself to cordon off the church, but it allowed the entry of sympathizers of the regime, who upon entering beat a priest and a nun who tried to protect the hunger strikers. Nothing normal.

In the city of Leon, the police chief, Commissioner Fidel Dominguez, appeared at the house of a family of opponents —of course without any court order—, threw the door down with a sledgehammer, beat the mother, husband and son and then filmed them, handcuffed and humiliated, repeating phrases in which they pledge to “not mess with the regime”, nor its militants and not “go around filming” Sandinistas.

In Managua, a small group of demonstrators protested in front of a very central hotel, asking for the same: “Christmas without political prisoners” and they received a police onslaught of kicks and punches. The courageous law enforcement officers broke the eyebrow of a 64-year-old lady. Three police officers assaulted a journalist and tried to snatch the microphone with which she covered the event, in plain sight.

This sum of abnormalities has occurred in the last two months, in a country where according to the presidential couple nothing happens and—literally—love and justice prevails.

But beyond the last-minute outburst, in Nicaragua too many things have been normalized that are not and cannot be normalized. These include making it illegal to march in public or gather on a corner to protest; that at least nine NGOs that ensure the defense of human rights have been closed.

The country’s economy has declined two years in a row, leaving a series of predatory omens for the future. Since July there is not a single table of dialogue between the opposition civil society and the regime. In less than two years at least 325 people have been killed, more than 2,000 wounded and close to 70,000 people exiled, according to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

Meanwhile the economic elite continues to mince its words and to think with its pocket and the international community remains lukewarm and slow. All the while, Nicaragua is governed by a family that enriched itself shamelessly at the expense of such an impoverished country.

The world lives to the rhythm of fleeting scandals, so that the brutality of a tyrant is almost immediately buried in the one of the day-after and thus something sinister is being created, resembling normality, imitating it well, which learns the anodyne routine that defines it. That is why it is important to repeat as many times as possible that nothing is normal in Nicaragua.

 “El Faro” and “El Pais” have come together to expand coverage and conversation about Central America. Read the original article of “El Faro.”


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Carlos Martínez

Carlos Martínez