Repression in nicaragua: despair reaches as far as berlin

More than 100 people have been killed during protests in Nicaragua. Now exiled Nicaraguans are also demanding President Ortega’s resignation.

Protests against Daniel Ortega began in Nicaragua in April Photo: reuters

Crosses and backpacks. That’s what many of the Nicaraguans brought with them to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin this Sunday. The crosses as a sign for the at least 134 people killed in protests in their homeland since mid-April, according to human rights groups. The backpacks as a sign of solidarity with the students most affected by state repression.

The government of President Daniel Ortega has been repressing students since the 18th of April. When Ortega announced a reform of social security contributions and a cut in pensions on April 1, a nationwide protest formed against Ortega and the police and pro-government thugs’ crackdown on protesters.

Videos on the web show police shooting at demonstrators without warning, and turbas sandinistas, supporters of the ruling FSLN party, hunting down students on motorcycles. The 150 or so demonstrators in front of the Brandenburg Gate want to draw attention to this. They demand an end to the violence – and the resignation of their president. Afterwards, they want to read out the names of all 134 dead.

"Ortega is killing the demonstrators," says Walter Castillo, who has been studying in Weimar for a year and a half. The 28-year-old, like many other Nicaraguans currently studying in Germany, has answered the call of the Europe-wide soli group SOSNicaragua. The approximately 150 people present come from Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg and Halle. In addition to Berlin, protests against Ortega are taking place simultaneously in Vienna, Stockholm and Geneva.

Medics kidnapped for providing treatment

"In Nicaragua, we can’t protest," says Castillo, who holds a cross in the air with a backpack over it. "That makes it all the more important that we can mourn in the middle of Berlin what is happening in our homeland."

For example, he says, two weeks ago, pro-government thugs kidnapped three medical students in the city of Leon because they were treating wounded people on the street. One of them is a friend of Walter Castillo, he says. Human rights groups, journalists and even Nicaraguan bishops have criticized the government for the violence and called on Ortega to engage in dialogue. So far, to no avail.

Ortega has ruled Nicaragua for eleven years

Ortega, who was involved in the overthrow of the then dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle in the 1970s and was already president of the country once between 19, has ruled Nicaragua for eleven years. For his fourth term, he had the constitution amended.

Many Nicaraguans are observing Ortega’s increasingly authoritarian rule of the country. The media are controlled, and opponents of the government are intimidated. The demonstrators in Berlin carried placards comparing Ortega to the decades-long dictator Somoza.

At the rally, they called on the president to allow new elections. Ortega, on the other hand, had so far declared that he would govern until 2021.