Tue, Aug 6, 2019
This year Nicaragua should be celebrating 40 years of progress since the Sandinista movement seized power and ousted the repressive Somoza regime. Instead, in a deep irony, it is marking over a year of a brutal government crackdown on protest against the regime of president Daniel Ortega, one of the authors of the 1979 revolution.
In the 1980s, Nicaragua attracted groups of idealistic young Irish activists, known as brigadistas, who helped the cause by picking the country’s vital coffee crop. In the revolution’s aftermath, the Sandinista movement oversaw redistribution of land, introduction of universal healthcare and an effective literacy campaign. Last month, more than 50 of these brigadistas presented a letter to the Nicaraguan ambassador to Ireland objecting to the violent treatment of unarmed protesters and calling for free and fair elections to be held.
As Human Rights Watch has put it, Ortega’s government has been allowed to commit “egregious abuses against critics and opponents with complete impunity”
It’s estimated that more than 500 people have been killed since protests against cuts to social security benefits began in April 2018. At least 60,000 have fled the country and are living in exile. Many protesters remain in prison, despite a government commitment to release them and amid claims of torture.