As the days go by, the situation in Nicaragua is deteriorating, as the regime of Daniel Ortega has increased repression in a wave of attacks on the opposition that has already left more than 350 dead. However, the opposition is not giving up in its struggle for justice and democratization of the country, and announced that it will increase the pressure on Ortega.
“We will not leave the streets because the streets belong to the people,” stated the Higher Council for Private Enterprise (Cosep), a former Sandinista ally and one of the main participants in a successful general strike last June.
The increase in pressure begins on Thursday July 12 with a march in Managua called by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy called “Together we are a volcano.” Following the march, the Cosep and the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), both part of the alliance, will call for a 24 hour national strike.
The strike, likely to shut down the country, will take place next Friday, July 13, and would be the second strike to take place during the wave of anti-government protests that began on April 18.
“Our call is to Nicaraguans in all parts of the country, to join these actions,” Cosep insisted, recalling that the fight is to demand the cessation of repression, as well as a “response regarding pushing up new elections, so that the Nicaraguan people can regain their freedom.”
The opposition coalition, composed of peasants, students, leaders of civil society, and businessmen, among other sectors, decided that their campaign would be extended until next Saturday, July 14, when they will schedule several marches that are expected to blanket the Nicaraguan capital of Managua.
The demonstrations, which will last 72 hours, are a response to the latest violent attacks by police and paramilitary forces, in which even bishops and journalists have been attacked. However, among the students, there is discussion of prolonging the strike to turn it into an indefinite protest.
“Civil disobedience, more than a right, is a duty when we lack the weapons to defend ourselves from a repressive government,” said the poet Gioconda Belli, former Sandinista activist.
The international pressure on Ortega is growing
On Wednesday, July 11, the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) met to discuss Nicaragua’s current political crisis. In that meeting most of the countries blamed the Ortega regime for the excessive repression against the Nicaraguan people.
“Every act of violence, every murder is a step backwards. Two days ago, police and paramilitary forces linked to the government carried out actions that have cost the lives of many people, deaths that we can not tolerate, and much less that we can accept in silence,” said Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS.
During the session, Latin American nations called for the “immediate cessation of violence” and called on the government to comply with the measures of a report carried out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which the Ortega administration has ignored.
“We believe that the report was not rash, it is not prejudiced nor partial. We believe that (the IACHR) has done a great job,” said the ambassador of Argentina.
The democratic countries of the region, such as Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil and Canada, supported, together with Paraguay, Ecuador and Uruguay, the report of the IACHR.
The US ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujllo, went further and emphasized that mere condemnation of the violence is not enough, since this “must be followed by actions,” which is why they have already started to apply sanctions against Nicaraguan officials.
“We have revoked 21 visas to government officials who have been responsible for this type of thing,” said Trujillo. In addition, he noted that although he can not reveal the names of those sanctioned, those affected would be officials who “direct or supervise violence against those who exercise their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
In addition to this, he has also applied the Magnitsky Law against three members of the Ortega administration’s elite: Francisco Díaz, the head of the National Police; Fidel Moreno Briones, general secretary of the Mayor’s Office of Managua; and Francisco López Centeno, treasurer of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and vice president of Albanisa, a company created to do oil business with Venezuela.
Currently, the situation appears to be at an impasse, as the Nicaraguan opposition refuses to live under Ortega’s rule, and Ortega has given no indication that he is considering stepping down from office. In the meantime, the brutality of Ortega’s state security forces has shocked the world, as Nicaragua appears to be degenerating in a situation reminiscent of Venezuela’s social and political chaos.