You may not have heard much about what is going on in Nicaragua, or you may think it’s over with, but it is very definitely not. We’ve been in touch with all our contacts there, and they have been sending reports and pictures. We will not show you the pictures, since some of them are truly heartbreaking. I will start by assuring everyone that all our girls in Nicaragua are safe and sound, and still studying, since the elementary and high schools in El Sauce have not been closed.
This is a report from a friend of ours who has also been in touch with friends in Nicaragua.
Unfortunately, Nicaragua is still a backwater, as far as the US press seems to be concerned. There has been scant coverage of what is happening here, unless you dig a little for it.
Today, June 14th, a general strike has been called throughout the country. The loose coalition that consists of students, business representatives, church leaders and “campesinos” have called for a complete work stoppage throughout the entire country, in an attempt to force change on the part of the Ortega government. The strike is for a 24 hour period, running from midnight last night to midnight tonight, I believe.
The Nicaraguan press is reporting more turmoil in different parts of the country, as pro- and anti-government groups clash. The press continues to place the majority of the blame on the National Police, on “paramilitary” groups loyal to the Ortega government, and on the “Sandinista Youth”, who are reportedly being paid by the Ortega government. Since the conflict erupted in mid-April, there have now been over 140 reported deaths (NOTE: other reports say it is up near or over 200), many of them unarmed university students, many from gunshot wounds, and over 1,000 injured.
There continue to be reports that some public hospitals have refused to treat protestors, while private hospital staff in different locations have publicly declared their professional commitment to treat everyone, regardless of whether they are pro or anti- government protestors.
There continue to be reports of people being kidnapped, held for a time and released…some people have alleged physical mistreatment at the hands of the government. People are also reported to have been “disappeared”, with no word on their whereabouts.
Acts of violence and vandalism have become commonplace: in Granada, the mayor’s office was burned about 10 days ago. In Masaya, the large artisan market suffered an arson fire and a number of shops were burned out. Many of the remaining merchants quickly closed and promptly removed all their inventory. It would appear that nearly all tourism has come to a screeching halt. In Granada alone, it is reported that 100,000 people are out of work, due to the sudden collapse of the tourism industry there.
Also in Granada, places like Radio Shack and cell phone stores have been ransacked and looted.
The Catholic bishops have once again called for a dialogue with the Ortega government. Daniel has recently signaled a willingness to hold more open elections, but not until 2019. He has also stated his intention to run again, despite what appears to be wide spread resentment and anger against him and his government, and calls from many quarters that he and his wife, Rosario, resign now, and have open and free elections without him ( or his wife) as a candidate for the presidency. ( His voluntarily resigning seems highly unlikely…)
There continue to be “tranques” or barricades set up across many roads in the country, over 50 at last count. These are largely manned by anti-government protestors, and are intended to create such economic chaos that Ortega will be forced to resign. So far that does not seem to be an effective strategy. Instead, the barricades have slowed all traffic, public transportation, commercial traffic, etc., although supposedly emergency vehicles are being allowed through, in most places. I understand that in some areas traffic is held up for an hour, in other places, up to 3 hours or more. This has had the predictable outcome of creating havoc and great inconvenience, but also leading to shortages of food, and other supplies.
In El Sauce, as I am being told, things are quiet and peaceful. However, in the past 2 weeks or so tranques were erected at both the entrance to El Sauce from the direction of Leon, as well as from the northern main route that goes to Achuapa, and on to Estelí in the north.
In a conversation with an El Sauce friend this past weekend, we were told that many of the “pulperias”, or the Mom and Pop neighborhood stores have closed, as have some pharmacies in town, for lack of supplies. She also told me that the new Pali supermarket has had to ration food, and that stocks of just about everything are greatly diminished. People are tense, fearful and anxious, especially the children, of course.
In Managua, many main roads are blocked. There seem to be confrontations between pro and anti-government groups on a daily basis, with reported deaths and injuries almost daily, in Managua and elsewhere. General chaos seems to prevail in our beloved Nicaragua.
There has been international condemnation of what is seen as brutal and repressive actions on the part of the Ortega government against largely peaceful demonstrations, and calls for Ortega to step down. So far, he appears to be largely ignoring these demands.
There is not much that can be done at this point, except to hope and pray that things get better. Help to individuals and families that you may know is of course one tangible action. Western Union and Moneygram seem to be unaffected so far.
All of our girls in El Sauce are still in school. We do know that Karina and Glenda have been unable to attend the university in Leon for months now, since all university classes are shut down. It is likely they will have to repeat the year once school opens again. We will keep you apprised of what is happening in the country that is home to nine of our girls. Please pass this information along to people. We are not hearing a thing about this, and it is seeming more and more like a full-blown revolution. It’s the worst violence since the Civil War of the 80s, and the vast majority of that violence is being perpetrated by the government and their associated forces against largely peaceful protestors.