By Blog Writer Sophia Esquenazi
What began with anti-government demonstrations against newly implemented social reforms, has now become a deadly crisis with escalating levels of violence.
After weeks of social unrest in Nicaragua, protestors across the country continue to demand President Daniel Ortega’s resignation. The conflict began in mid-April when Ortega implemented a controversial reform that increased payroll taxes and decreased benefits in Nicaragua. Employees, who previously contributed 6.25 percent of their salary to social security, were being forced to give up 7 percent. Additionally, employers had to contribute 22.5 percent of their salaries, up from the previous 19 percent, and pensions of retired workers were to be reduced. Following these reforms, several days of violent protests ensued.
According to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, a Nicaraguan-based NGO, at least 25 people were killed and 67 injured, after the announcement in April, as police officers shot bullets, tear gas, and rubber bullets into crowds of protestors who were throwing rocks and setting fires. Clashes between security forces and demonstrators spread throughout the state, with the majority of the disputes occurring in the capital city of Managua.
After several days of protests, President Ortega decided to revoke the reforms, stating, “This resolution that I’m publishing right now, which was just approved by the Social Security Council, has the effect of revoking, meaning, it’s cancelled.”
While the initial cause of the uprisings has been scrapped, demonstrations in the past weeks have continued to intensify with protestors demanding the President’s resignation. Barricades have been created by the activists, with human rights workers claiming that over 270 people have been killed and 2,000 have been injured since the protests began. Although Ortega has blamed the violence on these anti-government protestors, the Nicaraguan government has caused increased bloodshed as a result of their forceful response. Furthermore, the government has cut several television stations reporting the conflict, preventing the circulation of any essential news and coverage.
Currently on his third consecutive term as President, Ortega has refused to accept responsibility for the situation. He has robbed Nicaraguans of their freedom of speech and has failed to put an end to the police’s use of excessive force.
The international community has also responded to the crisis. The United States condemned the government’s forceful actions against the demonstrations and the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua issued an alert, warning U.S. government personnel in the country to remain in their homes. Additionally, travelers have been advised to avoid certain areas of Nicaragua, as uprisings continue. Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado has also called for an end to the violence, claiming that the situation is a source of “daily consternation and concern.” While having made these statements, there has yet to be any intervention in the conflict.
Furthermore, the crisis has recently been compared to that of Venezuela, where President Nicolás Maduro has repressed the efforts of protestors against his corrupt and authoritarian regime. If Nicaragua heads down this same path, it will likely encounter greater animosity and bloodshed between the government and civilians.
The social, political, and economic ramifications of this conflict are far-reaching. With clashes persisting and violence increasing, the Nicaragua crisis is surely a situation to keep an eye on.
Sources and Further Reading:
- Alexis Diao, ‘Nicaragua's President Withdraws Social Security Reforms That Sparked Violent Unrest’, National Public Radio (22 April 2018)
- U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua, ‘Demonstration Alert – U.S. Embassy Managua, Nicaragua (June 7, 2018)’, U.S. Embassy Managua, Nicaragua (7 June 2018)
- Joshua Partlow, ‘At least 100 killed in Nicaragua as political violence intensifies’, The Washington Post (2 June 2018)
- Oswaldo Rivas, ‘Nicaraguans take to streets in protest over social security changes’, Reuters (19 April 2018)
- Spencer Feingold, ‘Nicaragua scraps controversial social security reforms’, CNN (22 April 2018)
- Rico, ‘Costa Rica President Emphasizes Seriousness Of Nicaragua Crisis To OAS’, Today Nicaragua (13 June 2018)
- Kay Guerrero and Theresa Waldrop, https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/15/americas/nicaragua-deaths-protests/index.html (15 July 2018)
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons