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.