In April, the Nicaraguan people, particularly college students, began leading the country into a series of small protests in an effort to denounce the reign of current president Daniel Ortega. Today, almost four months since the first protest, over 300 people have been killed and thousands more flee the country as the government aims to savagely crackdown on protests.
Today’s turmoil started almost four decades ago. In 1979, then president Anastasio Somoza established a feared dictatorship over Nicaragua. The Somoza family had been in power for over 30 years before Anastasio Somoza held office, but it was Somoza’s regimen that shook and devastated the people of Nicaragua. Somoza was known to be ruthless, corrupt and oppressive. When the people of Nicaragua began to rise against Somoza, Somoza did something brutal – he began to bomb his own people.
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However, on July 19th of 1979, a group of guerrilla fighters, known as the Sandinistas succeeded to bring down Somoza. When the Sandinistas won, a new power was brewing and Daniel Ortega became president and led the leftist government up until 1990. The Sandinistas inspired a fear of communism for many leaders around the world, even scaring our then-president Ronald Reagan. To prevent the Sandinista government’s ideals from spreading, the U.S. government began to aid Nicaragua’s right-wing government known as the contras. In 1990, the Sandinistas held an election, losing to Violeta Chamarro.
Fast forward to 2006 and the Sandinistas win the presidential elections and take the Nicaraguan government again with Daniel Ortega as their leader. However, this presidency was a lot less about revolution and the people and a lot more about business deals, corruption, and power. Ortega made alliances with right-wing politicians, the Catholic church, and conservative leaders. Additionally, Ortega’s wife became the vice president of the country and his children were in charge of large influential media companies. What made Ortega less popular and hated was that he was accused of molesting his stepdaughter. He and his wife (her biological mother) would later go on to deny the accusations and frame her as a liar.
Yeah. There was a long list of reasons explaining why he shouldn’t be president. Sound familiar?
But in April, things changed. And they changed quickly and harshly. For the first time in a long time, Ortega’s government was being challenged. The game changer was the government’s poor handling of a massive forest fire as Ortega rejected aid from neighboring Costa Rica. Secondly, Ortega proposed an unjust social security reform that would require citizens to contribute more to their social security, although they would be receiving fewer benefits when they retired. It was meant to boost the financial situation in the country to fight the current deficit it’s in right now but it was an unjust and oppressive move for the everyday citizen in Nicaragua.
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The difference between today’s unrest in Nicaragua and the uprising (that Ortega contributed to) that helped overthrow the Somoza dictatorship in the 70’s, is that today the world is watching from the streets. Today, the power of social media not only helps spread the word faster but also more accurately. The youth here, in the U.S. is currently battling with their own government that it becomes easier to relate to the youth in Nicaragua. Through the transparency of the violence, there is no denying whether the or not this current leadership is in the best interest of the people. In a government that not only censors the media but also manages it, the only form of communication to the outside world is through social media. Similarly to the documentation of Puerto Rico, many journalists and protesters in Nicaragua have turned to social media to reveal the truth about their situation, to educate the world, and to plea for assistance. Through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, journalists and protesters who risk their lives have been able to expose the violence against civilians.
Through social media, truth can be exposed without politicians getting involved to change the narrative. This avoids the altering of any message, which often happens in battle and in politics. Propaganda isn’t effective when IG Live can capture the turmoil as it is happening. With social media, there is a level of teaching that is occurring, allowing people who are not directly involved to have a deeper understanding of the violence, bloodshed, and cruelty that is happening.
Since April, thousands if Nicaraguans fearlessly took to the streets to demand Ortega’s resignation. But Ortega’s regimen brutally and violently refuses to give up power, leading the clashes to a bloodbath as the death toll rises to 450 and the number of people injured is over 2,000. Most recently, Ortega established an ‘anti-terrorism’ law which directly criminalizes the opposition- primarily made of students. Today, people are fleeing to Costa Rica which now has over 15,000 asylum claims from Nicaraguans.
For Nicaragua, the involvement of the world is necessary.