2018 Nicaraguan protests

2018 Nicaraguan protests
Part of 2013–2018 Nicaraguan protests
2018 Nicaraguan protests - woman and flag.jpg
Protestas en Managua, Nicaragua de 2018 (1).jpg
Protestas en Managua, Nicaragua de 2018 (2).jpg
Top to bottom:
A woman holding a Nicaraguan flag near a burning barricade.
Large crowds demonstrating in Managua.
A candlelight vigil held in respect to those killed.
Date 18 April 2018 – ongoing
Location Nicaragua
Caused by Social security reform and corruption
Goals
  • Cancellation of social reform
  • Cancellation of Nicaragua Canal
  • Release of detained protestors
  • End of police violence
  • Restoration of free speech in media outlets
  • Reformation of the Supreme Electoral Council (including the resignation of all magistrates in duty)
  • Resignation of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo[1][2]
Concessions
given
  • Cancellation of social reforms
  • Release of 200 prisoners
  • Investigation into deaths during protests
  • Truth commission
  • Resignation of the president of the Supreme Electoral Council
  • Resignation of National Police chief
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures

Government of Nicaragua

Number

Hundreds of thousands[3]

  • 250,000+ (23 April)[4]
  • 150,000+ (28 April)[5]
Tens of thousands[5]
Casualties
Death(s) 264-351[8][9]
Injuries 1,000+[6][7]
Arrested 350+[10]

On 18 April 2018, demonstrators in several cities of Nicaragua began protests against President Daniel Ortega's decree of social security reforms that increased taxes and decreased benefits. After five days of unrest in which nearly thirty people were killed, Ortega announced the cancellation of the reforms. However, the opposition has grown - also through years of repressed protests - to denounce Ortega and demand his resignation, becoming one of the largest protests in his government's history[11] and the deadliest civil conflict since the end of the Nicaraguan Revolution.[12]

As a result of the unrest, the Nicaraguan public and international governments alike have called for the next presidential elections to be moved ahead, with the European Union supporting this move.[13]

Background[]

Pensions for small contributors[]

The protests initiated in June 2013, when elder people, with little contribution (less than 750 weeks) demanded from the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute a reduced pension. Soon, students and young people joined their protests.[14] After a week of demonstration, the peaceful protesters were violently beaten up by paramilitary government mobs, associated with the Sandinista Youth,[15] while police had moved back only moments before.[16] Later, to calm down the protests, concessions to the pensioners were made by president Daniel Ortega to supply a reduced pension.[17]

Proposed canal[]

Over a year later protests started again, this time opposing the construction of a proposed Chinese-funded inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua, with environmental impact, land use, and indigenous rights, as well as Nicaraguan sovereignty among the chief concerns of demonstrators.[18] By February 2018, the project was widely viewed as defunct,[19] though a 60% absent vote to revoke the 2013 legislation creating the project, the Chinese company (HKND) granted the concession to develop the canal maintains legal rights to it as well as to ancillary infrastructure projects.[20]

Forest fires[]

In early April 2018, demonstrators marched in Managua, the country's capital, to protest what they regarded as an insufficient government response to forest fires that burned 13,500 acres (5,500 hectares) of the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve,[21] a tropical nature preserve that is home to Rama and Kriol indigenous people, as well as significant biodiversity and endangered species. There were suspicions that the government had an interest in the fire, as it is the largest natural reserve through which the Nicaraguan Canal is planned to make. Counterprotests also occurred at the time in support of the Sandinista Front government.[22]

INSS crisis[]

In 2013, the Instituto Nicaraguense de Seguridad Social (INSS) entered in a deficit situation that has grown annually, reaching 2,371 million córdobas by end of 2017.[23] This deficit has increased by over 50% annually for the last two years.[23] The IMF alerted Nicaragua in 2017 that in the absence of the reform, the cash reserves would be depleted by 2019.[24] The government of Daniel Ortega prepared a reform plan for the INSS based on the IMF's report. The government rejected some of the proposed remedies, such as increasing the retirement age, arguing that older people have fewer possibilities of finding employment, and that the urgency of the reform required fast results to ensure the INSS's viability, as some measures suggested by the IMF would not yield results for three or four years.[25]

In early April 2018, the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) announced they started negotiations with the government to reform the INSS, declaring that the solution must include an increase to the contribution of the employers and employees, as well as fiscal reform.[26] These negotiations excluded small and medium-sized enterprises.[27] The reforms were announced on 16 April 2018, and published by presidential decree on March 2018 in La Gaceta (official government record) on 18 April 2018. The reform included an incremental increase of 0.75% (from 6.25% to 7%) on the employee contribution and 2% (from 19% to 21%) on the employers, starting July 2018. The employers' contribution would increase annually until reaching 22.5% in 2020. Pensions would also be taxed 5%.[28] The 5% tax has been criticized as unconstitutional, since only the National Assembly has the power of taxation, and Law 160, signed by Ortega, indicates that pensions are not subject to any retentions.[29]

The government-aligned unions Workers' National Front and the Employees National Union supported the reform,[30][31] while the COSEP rejected it, indicating it did not have consensus and filed a recurso de amparo in an attempt to reverse it.[32]

Timeline of events[]

April[]

Anti-riot police outside the National University of Engineering loading ammunition in Managua, 19 April 2018.

There were major protests and confrontations in León, Managua, Granada, Boaco, Carazo, Estelí, Rivas, Matagalpa and Masaya.[41][42] TELCOR ordered the suspension of transmissions of four independent TV channels that were reporting the news: channels 12, 23, 51, and 100% Noticias.[43] Also the Catholic Episcopal Conference's TV channel.[41] The suspension lasted several hours, except for 100% Noticias, who was out of the air until 25 April.[44] Murillo accused the protesters of being manipulated and trying to "destabilize" and "destroy" Nicaragua.[45]

May[]

The Catholic Church of Nicaragua gave the government of Daniel Ortega 72 hours to provide conditions to start a dialogue amid the protests calling for the resignation of the president. The ultimatum of the bishops came after three people died on Friday in a new day of protests in the country. The four conditions that the president of Nicaragua must fulfill according to the Catholic Church are:

  1. Allow the entry of a delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).[88][89][90]
  2. Suppress paramilitary bodies and order the withdrawal of civilians in favor of the president.[88][89][90]
  3. Stop all kinds of police repression against protesting civil groups.[88][89][90]
  4. Willingness of dialogue on the part of the government.[88][89][90]

National Dialogue (16–23 May)[]

June[]

July[]

Attack on Bishops and nuncio in Diriamba[]

White and Blue Caravan[]

International pressure and Anti-Terrorism Law[]

Masaya Attack[]

Dialogue[]

National Dialogue[]

The National Dialogue began on 16 May. Ortega kicked off the "dialogue for peace Wednesday" saying, "We all suffer the death of our loved ones, but we have the obligation not to respond to violence with more violence, because otherwise we have scales that end in wars, and the people are tired of that."[197] Students led with a strong demand. "We have decided to be at this table to demand them right now to order the immediate cessation of the attacks that are happening in the country," said student leader Lesther Alemán, as protests continued throughout the country. After hearing the student, Ortega questioned the wave of protests, calling it "irrational violence".[198][199][200][201] Monseñor Mata made three requests to Ortega.[202][203]

On 23 May, the National Dialogue was suspended. Archbishop Brenes suggested to create mixed commission of three representatives by each part to discuss an action plan to restore the table of the National Dialogue.[204] The Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, Dennis Moncada Colindres, objected that the agenda of the National Dialogue involves 40 points that all lead to a single point; an agenda for a coup d'état for a change of government outside the constitution and violating the laws of the country. On the other hand, the university students, businessmen and civil society asked that a Framework Law be debated, which would allow to advance the elections, prohibit the presidential re-election and change the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).[205]

Following the repression and over a dozen deaths in the 30 May protests, the Nicaraguan archbishops cancelled the National Dialogue and protests continued.[206]

IACHR resolution[]

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted precautionary measures of protection for the entire leadership that make up the University Coalition in Nicaragua and that have led the civic protests against the government since 18 April.[207]The US government urged Nicaragua to fully implement the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to prevent further violence in the protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega.[208]

Protest violence[]

Police responding to protests

Firearms[]

At least 42[52] people were killed in the first week of protests in April, with most injured by bullet wounds.[209] Nicaraguan authorities used live ammunition to fire upon demonstrators[38][210] resulting in hundreds of injured.[210] Government forces were also reported to have armed pro-Sandinista groups with weapons to use against protesters.[38] Following the government crackdown, rioting and looting ensued.[210] On 2 May 2018, The Miami Herald reported a total dead of "At least 63 people, almost all of the student protesters" since the start of the demonstrations.[38] By the end of May, over 105 people killed.[6]

The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned what they said may have been possible "illegal executions" performed by the Nicaraguan government.[211]

Torture[]

Individuals detained during protests alleged torture by the Nicaraguan authorities, with hundreds of prisoners later released by the roadside in the outskirts of Managua with shaved heads and bare feet.[50][210]

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission received allegations about some families being forced by the government not to file complaints about the deaths of their family members, mistreatment of detainees and threats against human rights defenders in the Central American country.[56]

Media[]

A protester holds a sign saying "No to censorship", 26 April 2018.

There were reports of censored media organizations during the protests.[37][39] Miguel Mora, the director of 100% Noticias de Nicaragua, stated that the Nicaraguan government censored his channel on cable networks in the country.[212] The censorship of 100% Noticias was not lifted until 25 April.[213] One journalist, Ángel Gahona (es), was shot and killed while reporting on the protests on Facebook Live. Radio Darío, a radio station known for being critical of the Ortega government, was said to be attacked and burned down on 20 April 2018 by pro-Ortega groups, leaving the facility at a total loss.[214]

The United Nations Human Rights Council criticized the attacks on media and censorship performed by the Ortega government.[215] The Inter-American Press Association also called on the Ortega administration to stop its efforts of censorship, with its president Gustavo Mohme Seminario stating that its actions toward the media "unmasks the authoritarianism of a government that in its eleven years in power has only sought to dismantle the State for its benefit and that of his family members".[216]

Alleged foreign support[]

Many protesters tortured have reported hearing to Cuban and Venezuelan accents in the cladestine prisons.[217]

Protests abroad[]

Several protests abroad accompanied the development of the demonstrations against INSS reform in Nicaragua. There were protests held in San José (Costa Rica) Nicaraguan Embassy, Miami and Houston Consulates, and other cities like Cuidad de Guatemala, Madrid or Barcelona. A group of Nicaraguans residing in Panamá demonstrated at the Cinta Costera of Panama's capital. In Spain, there have been at least eight concentrations of the Nicaraguan community in the country. Of the most active cities in this sense, it is worth highlighting the Andalusian Granada, where hundreds of Nicaraguans and Spanish citizens have concentrated to ask for peace, freedom, and democracy in Nicaragua by reading poems of Nicaraguan writers and a manifesto, demanding that the Ortega-Murillo family abandon the power in Nicaragua. There have also been protests in Berlin, Copenhague, London, Australia, Vienna, Finland, Paris, San Francisco, California, New York, Washington, and Toronto, Canada.[218][219]

Cyberattacks[]

Anonymous Nicaragua, a group of the Anonymous movement, joined the protests against the government and launched Operación Nicaragua, or #OpNicaragua. The operation consists of a campaign of cyber attacks against Nicaragua's government web pages or accused to be related to it. The campaign started on 26 April with an attack that left the National Assembly website out of service. The attacks continued against the websites of Juventud Presidente, Canal 2, and the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, the Nicaraguan Institute of Civil Aeronautics, Nicaraguan Institute of Culture, El 19 Digital or Canal 6.[220][221]

The state agency Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Postal Services (TELCOR) cited the corporations that provide the internet service to see what actions to take to form a unity against hackers. TELCOR summoned these providers to a meeting to address security measures to take around the cyber attacks executed by the international hackers against web portals of the government and private corporations.[222]

Response[]

Domestic[]

Protesters generally were spread across the political spectrum, and Murillo's statements angered the left-wing sector, which responded by destroying her metal "Trees of Life" public art pieces in Managua. The majority of those demonstrating do not see any negotiation without the results being Ortega's removal.[38]

Domestic NGOs[]

The NGO Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) stated that President Ortega and his wife "encouraged and directed" the repression against protesters and that "the demonstrations are legitimized by a social rejection of the authoritarian way of governing by President Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo" and called for dialogue monitored by the United Nations and the Organization of American States.[223]

International[]

Supranational bodies[]

Governments[]

NGOs[]

Others[]

The Uruguayan Senate on Tuesday approved a declaration that "requires the Government of Nicaragua to immediately cease violence against the Nicaraguan people." In addition, he expressed "his strong condemnation of all acts of violence and violations of human rights.[252]But these statements did not fall well in some sectors of the Latin American left and generated the reaction of Chavez leader Diosdado Cabello who criticized him on Thursday in a television audition. "Do not you realize Pepe what is happening in Nicaragua at this time? It's the same thing that they did to Venezuela?" Said Cabello.[253]

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