Nicaragua’s Congress approved an amnesty law that will offer protection to police and others involved in crimes against anti-government protesters over the past year. According to rights groups, more than 700 people were arrested in demonstrations that erupted in April 2018 when President Daniel Ortega tried to cut social security benefits. More than 300 mostly opposition protesters died in clashes with security forces, while more than 60,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile due to political strife over the last 14 months. The new law was approved by 70 votes from Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the 92-member chamber. It also allows for the release of detainees arrested during the protests, despite the fact that Ortega labelled them “terrorists.” The new law has faced harsh criticism from human rights groups and the UN. (Photo via InSight Crime)
Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally in the Chapare region where he began his career as a peasant leader a generation ago. But the country’s political opposition charges that Morales is defying a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected a fourth consecutive term. The referendum results were later overturned by the Plurinational Constitutional Court—sparking a wave of protest. The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to Donald Trump jointly calling for his “intervention” against Morales’ re-election. (Photo: Apporea)
A group of UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and extrajudicial exections, issued a statement urging the government of Nicaragua to "stop the repression" following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 have been killed and 1,830 injured. "Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalization and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear," the statement said. "We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalized and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as 'terrorism'." (Poto via Noticiias ONU)
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for a law approved in Nicaragua, ostensibly aimed at money-laundering, arms-trafficking and terrorism. The statement warned that the definition of "terrorism" under the law is dangerously "vague," and that it could be used to suppress opposition. The law defines as "terrorism" any damage to public or private property, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called "terrorist operations" can also face up to 20 years. The law was introduced in April, just as Nicaragua's political crisis was breaking out. The OHCHR noted that the law was passed by a National Assembly "almost completely controlled" by the ruling Sandinista party. (Poto via Noticiias ONU)
In Episode 11 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares the legacies of revolutionary struggle in Nicaragua and Syria. The Somoza and Assad regimes were both hereditary family dictatorships. The Sandinistas and Syrian revolutionaries alike have roots in anarchism. Yet Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, again Nicaragua's president, is today himself facing a militant opposition movement, and has betrayed the Syrian revolutionaries in the interests of playing for Russian support in the Great Power game. In Syria, meanwhile, the secular, pro-democratic civil resistance continues to exist in spite of everything, and still governs areas of the country under a model of council-based popular democracy. The Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria is also informed by an anarchist ethic of direct democracy. Yet the Kurds and Arab-led civil resistance have been pitted against each other by Great Power intrigues. How can activists in New York and the United States move past global divide-and-rule stratagems and build solidarity with Syria's Arab and Kurdish opposition alike, as well as the campesinos and grassroots-democratic forces in Nicaragua? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo composition: Today Nicaragua, Waging Nonviolence)
The "Mothers of April" movement condemned the "massacre" that took place during the group's march on Nicaragua's Mother's Day, and called on the business sector to declare a national work stoppage to press for the resignation of Daniel Ortega's government. “They went out to massacre that sea of people who came out to support us in our mourning, in the largest march in the recent history of the country. Therefore, we ask the business people to call a national work stoppage, because although we will suffer from hunger for a few days, it's better than them continuing to kill us," said Rosa Cruz Sanchez, mother of Michael Cruz, a young man killed during the April protests. The Mother's Day march in Managua, demanding justice for protesters slain in the April repression, itself turned deadly when it was attacked by police and pro-government turbas (mobs), leaving 15 dead. (Photo: Today Nicaragua)
In Episode 10 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the re-emergence in the news of three figures associated with the drama that played out over revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980s. Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua then, is again today, and just faced massive protests calling for his ouster. Oliver North, who headed the Reagan White House covert operation to destabilize Nicaragua's Sandinista regime back then, was just named as head of the National Rifle Association. And Luis Posada Carriles the right-wing Cuban terrorist who was part of North's private spy network back then, just died. Historical ironies abound. North, who supported a counter-revolutionary terrorist network in Nicaragua (the "contras"), now baits nonviolent gun-control activists as "terrorists." Ortega, whose government distributed land to the campesinos in the '80s, is now seizing land from campesinos for his monstrous inter-oceanic canal plan. And the conspiracy theory popular among the NRA's white heartland base about the government preparing to disarm the populace and detain resisters in military camps has its roots in the actual FEMA martial law plan drawn up by Oliver North, to be implemented in the event of a US invasion of Nicaragua—with Central American refugees to be detained in military camps. A final irony is the NRA-Russia connection, which comes as Nicaragua is cooperating with a resurgent Russian military presence in the Caribbean. Vladimir Putin recently became the first Russian (or Soviet) leader to visit Nicaragua. So is it possible that we are today so far through the proverbial looking glass that Oliver North and Daniel Ortega are now on the same side? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: Wikipedia)
Ex-CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles, wanted by Cuba and Venezuela for a string of deadly armed attacks, died a fee man in Miami at the age of 90. Exiled from his native Cuba after the 1959 Revolution, Posada Carriles dedicated his life to armed counter-revolutionary activity. He was wanted by Cuba for a string of bombings of Havana hotels, and by Venezuela for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which 73 were killed. The US refused to extradite, and he had been for years living openly in the Miami area. He did face some legal trouble when he was accused of lying to immigration officers about how he got into the US before applying for asylum in 2005, but was acquitted in 2011 and spent his remaining years in a comfortable South Florida existence. In the 1980s, he worked with the CIA in covert resupply operations for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. (Photo: anti-Posada Carriles propaganda billboard in Havana, from CounterVortex archies)
Tens of thousands from across Nicaragua marched on the capital Managua, including large delegations of campesinos from the countryside, in a "pilgrimage for peace" called by Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes following days of angry protests and repression that left some 50 dead. The Catholic Church agreed to mediate a dialogue between the government and opposition over the planned reform of the social security system that set off the protests. But the "pilgrimage" struck a political tone, with marchers calling for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega. (Photo: Nuevo Diario)
The ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of several immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and citizens whose parents have TPS, challenging the Trump administration's revocation of the status for over 200,000 people. The administration has terminated TPS for all people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. The suit contends that the administration's actions are unconstitutional as they interfere with the right of school-aged citizen children of TPS beneficiaries to reside in the country. The young citizens would have to choose whether to leave the country or to remain without their parents. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women march in Nicaragua's capital was shut down by the riot police, who blocked the streets off shortly after demonstrators gathered. The Managua march was emotionally charged, as it was led by Elea Valle—a campesina woman whose husband, son and daughter were killed two weeks earlier in a raid by army troops on their home in the country's eastern rainforest.
A new report from Amnesty International accuses the Nicaraguan government of "placing business before the future of the country and its people," with its inter-oceanic canal mega-scheme "that will affect the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and might leave many homeless." The report also accuses authorities of harassing and persecuting opponents of the project.