Hundreds of Nicaraguans who took to the streets over the last eight months to protest President Daniel Ortega's corrupt government have been forced into hiding and, in some cases, to flee the country for their own safety. It's the end result of the Nicaraguan government's crackdown against protesters who voiced their outrage over Ortega's plans to gut the nation's social security system.
From The New York Times:
…many people in this desperately poor Central American nation now live in a bleak new reality. They have exchanged their routine lives as lawyers, engineering majors, radio broadcasters and merchants for one of ever-changing safe houses, encrypted messaging apps and pseudonyms.
They are hiding from an increasingly authoritarian state that is methodically tracking down those who participated in the large-scale and often violent protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
"They are hunting us like deer," said Roberto Carlos Membreño Briceño, 31, a former legal clerk for a Nicaraguan Supreme Court justice, who gave up his law license and fled this year after his bosses saw a photo of him at a protest. He now lives in hiding on a ranch in Costa Rica with 50 strangers, including a ballet dancer who goes by code name "The Eagle."
Instead of listening to the concerned voices of his constituents, Ortega, paranoid, autocratic shitbird that he is, declared that the uprising had nothing to do with anything he was doing. Rather, the protesters were in the street, acting on behalf of "well-financed political parties" who wanted to toss him and his cronies out on their ass as part of a coup. Independent television stations and news websites have been forced to shut down, their editors arrested. Human rights advocates and other NGOs have been expelled from the nation. Under a new law, anyone who's ever taken to the street in opposition, peacefully or through violence, can be charged as a terrorist and arrested.
As The New York Times notes, "Rallies now require a permit, which no antigovernment group receives. People are afraid to carry the flag or sing the national anthem for fear of being viewed as a subversive." Upwards of 60,000 citizens have fled the country. Some are relieved to have escaped persecution. Others wait and organize, looking for the opportunity to return home and continue their anti-government protests.
The United States recently announced sanctions against Nicaragua designed to eat into Ortega's finances–a protest against the civil rights abuses in the nation. More likely than not, the loss of revenue will put Ortega in a desperate position where holding on to the power he has–maintained over the years through cronyism, bribes and fear–will prove more difficult.
The situation in the Central American nation is very likely to get far worse before it becomes any better.
Image: by C recordyus (talk · contribs) – Own work based on: Law About Characteristics And Use Of Patriotic Symbols of Nicaragua, Public Domain, Link