Nicaragua has entered a new phase in the political struggle. As Paulo Abrão, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) explains, the repression of protesters started with, “….traditional repression with a disproportionate use of police force against the demonstrators.” The second (phase) was what the government called a “clean-up operation” in which it sent pick-up trucks of highly armed anti-riot police and hooded paramilitary forces together with a bulldozer to destroy the roadblocks on the highways and barricades at the entrance to cities and neighborhoods, and to kill, wound or scatter the people protecting them. ….We are now in a third moment, a process of criminalizing the demonstrators by using the institutions and justice system to detain them and promote judicial actions and processes against them.”
Below are comments from NHLSCP staff about the situation in the Leon area.
“Suddenly you hear in the news of kidnappings, murders, or persecutions of people or friends you know…. It is a moment where you break emotionally and ask “to stop all this!”. However, we have to continue and fight for this situation to change, …. in our own minds, and with families, friends and the communities where we work.”
“The economic situation is affecting us greatly, and many things have gone up in price. The moms who are in charge of buying the food for school lunches tell me, “…. everything is more expensive, but we are looking for a way for the kids to eat.” Doña Melania and many other women lost their domestic jobs in Leon; some who are merchants are no longer selling the same amounts; and other women like Darling who is a mother, are thinking of migrating to Costa Rica to get more income.”
“At the same time, emotional problems are aggravated by not having sustenance in their homes, causing depression and stress among adults. There are more episodes of family violence now, with people not knowing how to handle the situation. Parents are also more vulnerable to being manipulated by necessity by politicians.”
“People continue to live in fear because of the criminalization of protest. There’s now fear of working openly with others and with civil society groups defending human rights. The state of Nicaragua is criminalizing peaceful protest, free organization and meetings, judging the people and organizations that support these initiatives…..But we continue to work on the ideological empowerment of women, so that they can have a critical vision in any situation of violence, abuse and injustice.”
“Laws here are now created at the pleasure and whim of the central government, to centralize more information and to control the different economic actors in Nicaragua.
The political instability is not only reflected in the economy. There have also been an innumerable seizure of private lands by people who claim to be sympathizers of the ruling party. The occupiers point out that they are allowed by authorities to enter private lands and this creates terror for the entrepreneurs who own those lands and fear they were targeted for supporting the groups that demand freedom and democracy in Nicaragua. In the community of Troilo there have been two serious cases, and two properties were taken by these people.”
Excerpt October Amnesty International Report: “From the beginning of June, the government of President Daniel Ortega intensified its strategy for repression in a so-called “clean-up” operation, targeting protesters with arbitrary arrests, torture, and the widespread and indiscriminate use of lethal force by police and heavily armed pro-government groups….Released six months after a state crackdown began in response to public protests over social security reforms, the new report Instilling terror: From lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua documents grave human rights violations and crimes under international law that the Nicaraguan authorities committed between 30 May and 18 September.”
In the midst of this crisis, the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project continues to support the right of Nicaraguan people to choose their own government and create the future direction of their society without hostile interference from other states or non-state actors.
NH/LSCP Board Statement Regarding Recent Violence and Protests in Nicaragua
The New Haven/Leon Sister City Project has developed in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people for over 30 years. Our mission is deeply rooted in the advancement of social justice. Nicaragua has recently experienced a very concerning surge of repression and violence.
• The New Haven Leon Sister City Project condemns violence against all people and supports a comprehensive dialogue that promotes peace and respects universal human rights as defined by national and international law.
• The New Haven/Leon Sister City Project values freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly as fundamental rights in an autonomous democratic society.
• The New Haven/Leon Sister City Project supports the right of Nicaraguan people to choose their own government and create the future direction of their society without hostile interference from other states or non-state actors.
• The New Haven/Leon Sister City Project proudly continues to stand in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua.
El Proyecto de las Ciudades Hermanadas New Haven León se ha desarrollado en solidaridad con el pueblo
nicaragüense por más de 30 años. Nuestra misión está profundamente enraizada en el avance de la justicia social. Nicaragua ha experimentado recientemente una ola de represión y violencia muy preocupante.
• El Proyecto Ciudades Hermanadas New Haven León condena la violencia contra todas las personas y apoya un diálogo integral que promueve la paz y respeta los derechos humanos universales definidos por las leyes nacionales e internacionales.
• El Proyecto valora la libertad de expresión, la libertad de asociación y la libertad de reunión como derechos
fundamentales en una sociedad democrática autónoma.
• El Proyecto Ciudades Hermanadas New Haven León apoya el derecho de los nicaragüenses de elegir su propio gobierno y crear la dirección futura de su sociedad sin la interferencia hostil de otros estados o actores no estatales.
• El Proyecto de las Ciudades Hermanadas New Haven León orgullosamente continúa en solidaridad con la gente de Nicaragua.
Intern Jen Levine – a Clean Energy Summer organizer – putting up posters drawn by City summer camp participants.
Post by Jen Levine
Coming into my first morning at the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project I knew that my work would have something to do with climate change, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would entail nor what skills I would need. During our first meeting, I was assigned the Clean Energy Summer Campaign. The goal of the campaign would be to get as many people to switch to renewable energy as possible, but it was up to Luiza Livingston, a coworker, and I to come up with the rest. Our first step was creating a website with a straightforward description of how to make the switch. Neither of us had done so before, and there was certainly an adjustment period to using new software. However, cleanenergynhv.org was up and running within a week. Luiza and I then created a Facebook page to attract our first set of viewers to the website, and we were able to share it on the New Haven Climate Movement’s (NHCM) page and improve our reach in the community.
We soon began several projects to garner more interest before our launch with Mayor Toni Harp on July 5th. Luiza and Jamie Friedman, another co-worker, began painting two thirty-foot banners to hang above busy areas in New Haven. A video was created by Jennifer Stock and Geremy Schulick, along with several Yale students, to be presented at Friday Flicks through the Parks Department. Jumana Aryan, another coworker, and I were able to reach out to the Yale community through a contact at the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Robert Dubrow helped us spread the word through mass emails and newsletters and connected us to other schools such as the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES). We were especially successful through another friend of NHCM, Gabrielle Stack, who was able to reach out to her friends in the postdoctoral community at YSM and switched several to renewable energy. Our success within Yale’s community will continue as a student at FES will be creating a sub-campaign on campus this fall with the goal of converting at least 20 units to renewable energy.
My favorite part of the campaign was working in ten of the City Camps run by the New Haven Parks Department. Through our visits, Luiza and I learned how little climate change education there is in the Greater New Haven school systems. When asked to give a quick definition of climate change, many campers came up with “a change in the weather.” While this is accurate, we broke the definition of climate change down into two parts: good climate change: the natural progression of the four seasons and the small variations in day-to-day weather, and the climate change we were discussing: global warming, destruction of habitats and ecosystems, ocean acidification, and other issues. To get the campers to further understand what this all meant, we asked them to tell us their favorite animals and then explained how those animals were affected by climate change. We went on to ask them what they thought humans were doing to cause such destruction. Here the students excelled no matter the age. They all understood that throwing trash in the ocean, cutting down trees, driving cars, and other actions are harmful to the environment. It gave me hope that they were able to recognize some of the problems, and might come away from our activity trying to change their ways.
We could not simply leave them with all of the harmful things they were doing, so we brainstormed a list of actions they could take to help the environment. The ideas conjured up at the various camps ranged from turning off lights when you leave a room and recycling to getting solar panels and riding your bike instead of driving a car. Luiza and I also gave students another simple way to support the campaign: coloring in posters and bringing home flyers to inform their families about how to make the switch to renewable energy. The students were eager to help and enjoyed having their pictures taken with their posters. The pictures were then posted on our Facebook page and drew a lot of interest to the project.
Overall, my experience working with the campers as well as creating the campaign was rewarding and educational. I will certainly take all of the skills I gained into my future positions, and I look forward to seeing the continued success of my projects as well as what NHLSCP creates in the future.
Jen Levine is a rising sophomore at Davidson College and is from Easton, Connecticut.
Photo: From left to right Agusto Donaire, Jorbin Baquedano, Fany Osejo, Mario Rivas. These young people were able to attend the Afterschool Program every day for five years.
When the Afterschool Program was started almost 12 years ago in the community of Goyena, we knew that it would be a challenge for all involved. In the socio-economic context that the community is located, they lack basic necessities. For many parents who never attended school or managed to enter but did not finish even primary school, the main need is to provide families with daily food, and for this the support of their children was fundamental. With large families and few decent employment opportunities, the only option for fathers and mothers was to work in the cane and peanut plantations. The older children are often taken to help them in the fields and the girls stay at home taking care of the younger children.
However, with the commitment of all and trainings for parents, the Afterschool Program has been a great help for both children and parents. In the Program, they are helped to do their homework, have fun and learn from the teachers, participate in a lunch program. Through the Program, parents and children were convinced that education is the main tool for personal development and for the community as a whole.
The four young people in the photo – after attending the Afterschool Program every day for five years – finished high school in 2016. For many of us living in urban areas this would not be a special achievement, but just a further step in our process to achieve higher education. However for many of these young people, staying in school has meant many sacrifices. For them it has not been so simple, and many of their friends who are their own age, already work, have children and have failed to finish their primary education.
In the years they attended the Afterschool Program, their parents were also involved in order to raise awareness of the importance of education. This work had positive results since they all managed to finish secondary school and currently intend to enter the public university.