From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
San Francisco—On Aug. 11 about 100 Nicaraguans called attention to their country’s unfolding tragedy. The many small flags placed in front of the rally stood for the protesters killed by the Daniel Ortega government. Below we print what one demonstrator told News & Letters, as recorded by Urszula Wislanka.
Anastasio Somoza was the president of Nicaragua. He was a dictator. He passed the government to his son. People were upset over many issues: people who wanted freedom and democracy were being killed. Those in power enriched themselves.
FREEDOM’S NEED CREATES REVOLUTION
It created the necessity for revolution. In 1979 the revolutionaries, the Sandinistas, stood for people’s rights. Many youth were happy to be on the street fighting for rights. We wanted freedom, to walk without fear. No one wanted a dictator. When the revolution won, all communities were happy. It was amazing!
I was very young, but I participated in the militias. We went to rural places teaching people to read. It brought together people from the city and the rest of the country.
The revolution was for poor people, now it is only for rich people. The former communists are the new people with money. Ortega created a new elite.
Ortega empowers the police; the army belongs to him, the newspapers belong to him, most industrial development belongs to him. The youth now say, no more! Students again are taking to the streets. They don’t have guns. They are “fighting” with the Nicaraguan flag.
People do try to help the students, they feed them, give them water and medicine after clashes with police since hospitals are closed to those who may have been wounded during demonstrations. I know of one 15-year-old who was shot and could have survived, but he was left to bleed out on the street.
Today we cry because a student we know was assassinated. Tomorrow we cry because other children have been killed. This is about our humanity. How can I go to my bed having done nothing? I don’t see much difference if someone is kicking you or someone is kicking me. We would both be in pain.
THE PROTESTS KEEP SPREADING
Anti-government protests are spreading all over the country. People cannot celebrate the memory of a famous mobilization from Managua to Masaya. Masaya is a place of resistance, it opposed Somoza. But people of Masaya now feel betrayed by the revolution. They are standing up. Masaya is mostly indigenous and has gotten no support from the government, no schools, no hospitals, nothing. It is the same with the Black population. You don’t hear much about them, but they are suffering.
I am part of Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses (Association of Nicaraguan Women). We are resisting with everything. An organization in Nicaragua is called Mothers of April 19. April 19 was when the first of the protesting students were killed. It was a shock. When we ousted Somoza we never would have thought that the revolution would kill people! We now say “Ortega, Somoza, es la misma cosa” (Ortega, Somoza, it’s the same thing.)
Even though the government has the police and the army, they are creating paramilitaries: people who cover their faces and terrorize protesters. They are calling them “volunteers.” But where do those “volunteers” get weapons? Why do they shoot people?
Our weapon is communication. We have recorders, videos and pictures. We don’t need another 50,000 people killed to establish a new government.