The pressure against Nicaragua’s regime is increasing with the launch of a new national coalition that brings together several opposition organizations to restore democracy in the country. The police has responded by strengthening security to prevent protests against President Daniel Ortega.
“The regime fears a wave of protests as these groups join together. Ortega will no longer have a disperse opposition, but a diverse, organized, and structured opposition,” Eliseo Núñez, former opposition lawmaker and public policy expert, told Diálogo. “In late March , more than 200,000 people will be connected and organized throughout the country. This will completely change the meaning of the fight.”
As the coalition makes progress organizing members, the chances of physically gathering followers in a specific place are higher, Núñez said. The problem today is that the mechanisms to call for gatherings are public, which alert the police, he added.
Despite prohibitions, citizens take to the streets to condemn repression. On February 25, after the creation of a national coalition that seeks to restore liberties and transparent elections, some citizens were able to carry out “express protests” (short protests) in a shopping mall.
Brandishing the national flag, protesters demanded the liberation of political prisoners and the resignation of Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo. A large police deployment dispersed the protest and threatened the press that was covering the event. At the same time, in other areas of the country, groups of young Nicaraguans demanded the restoration of their rights and justice.
“These brief protests will continue, but little by little we’ll see them happening in a more organized way, rather than sporadically,” Núñez said. “Although the conditions to protest are not there, young people coordinate, empowered by their conviction of fighting against a dictatorship,” Francis Machado, president of the Nicaraguan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Mothers of April Association, and who is in exile in Mexico, told Diálogo.
Since September 2018, security forces have prohibited any protest against the regime and have threatened to imprison and take to court anyone organizing new protests, even though the constitution establishes the right to gather peacefully. Authorities arrested several protesters who hoisted the flag or sang Nicaragua’s national anthem.
On social media, the NGO Social Seismology: Observatory of Protests in Nicaragua counted 442 protests against the regime between 2019 and 2020, where hunger strikes and express protests dominated. According to the data, protests decreased by more than 80 percent due to repression, compared to 2018, when 2,123 protests were counted.
As a response, Nicaraguans made stickers with the faces of political prisoners and young murdered victims, containing protest messages “to continue the fight and the resistance,” Machado said. The first stickers appeared in public places in December 2019.
“Every day we see people on social media denouncing the actions of the ‘repressive government’ both at the national and international levels, even ridiculing the regime. Social media play a key role in calling people to join the protests,” Núñez said. “This adds up, because every repressed individual manifestation generates a number of people who need to organize themselves and confront the regime.”
Nicaragua is far from being safe, according to a December New York Times’ article. For its part, the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reminded Ortega that: “The States must act based on the fact that protests are legal and do not pose a threat to public order, with a focus on citizen participation, dialogue, and negotiation.”