Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Nicaraguans demand Ortega's resignation (April 24, 2018)

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguan protesters marched yesterday demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega. The demonstrations, which characterized Ortega and his wife, vice president Rosario Murillo, as dictators, came after six days of protests in which human rights organizations say 27 people died. (See yesterday's post.)

Today the United Nations called on Nicaragua's government to investigate the crackdown on protests, saying that a number of the killings may have been "unlawful," reports AFP.

The protests started in relation to social security reform last week, but are now tapping in to wider discontent with the president, now in his third term since being elected in 2007. Though Ortega announced a reversal in the policy which would have decreased pensions and increased payments by workers and employers, the streets show no signs of quieting down. In an editorial the opposition La Prensa said it's the first time the FSLN party has lost control of the streets.

Yesterday's protest, which occupied seven kilometers in Managua, was ignored by government supporting news channels, but broadcast by independent organizations, some of which have been censored since unrest began last week, reports EFE. Yesterday's march, called by the country's largest business lobby, COSEP, was however more peaceful than those of previous days, notes the Financial Times. And police stayed back from the crowds, according to Al Jazeera.

It was the largest protest so far in Managua, and was led by university students, who called for a release of demonstrators detained over the past week in addition to Ortega's resignation, reports Reuters. The Nicaraguan Center of Human Rights (CENIDH) said yesterday that 120 people had been arrested.

In an attempt to calm waters, Ortega and Murillo held a press conference promising to free those arrested, in order to create space for dialogue, reports AFP

Yesterday's march ended at the Politechnical University campus, which has become a focal point of disturbances and clashes with security forces, report the Associated Press and Univisión. Late last night police raided the campus for the second night in a row, according to AFP. At least one person was killed in clashes there on Sunday night, reports El Confidencial.

In the midst of the ongoing unrest, the U.S. State Department ordered nonessential employees and all embassy family members to leave Nicaragua yesterday, a sign that Washington sees the situation as dangerously unstable according to the Miami Herald.

Yesterday Silvio José Báez, auxiliary bishop of Managua, tweeted that the sides remained too far apart to talk. “I see no conditions for any dialogue with the government of Nicaragua,” he posted. Over the weekend Ortega invited Catholic Church officials to participate in dialogue between the government and business leaders.

News Briefs

Gender-sensitive drug policies in Bolivia
  • A new report by WOLA and the Andean Information Network focuses on the success of gender-focused initiatives to reduce prison populations in Bolivia. Together with poverty reduction and increased state support for mothers, these contributed to an 84 percent decrease in the number of women incarcerated for drug offenses between 2012 and 2017, write authors Kathryn Ledebur and Coletta Youngers. They also note that this is counter to the regional trend of increasing rates of incarceration for women on drug-related offenses.
Colombia accused of detaining social leaders
  • Human rights organizations protested the arrest of 30 people in Colombia's southern Nariño state. Authorities say those arrested have links to the guerrilla ELN group, but various social organizations said they were community leaders with links to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, reports El Espectador.
Cuba's new president
  • Cuba's presidential hand-over was mostly focused on the theme of continuity, leading some commentators to wonder if all the excitement about the first non-Castro leader in 60 years was somewhat overblown. But the significance of the generational transition should not be underestimated, argues William LeoGrande in World Politics Review. "The new leaders take office in the face of economic distress and popular impatience that will test their mettle immediately, revealing who is up to the job and who is not."
  • Miguel Díaz-Canel's ascent marks the first time the island's government is led by somebody with no influence over the Armed Forces, and opening a potential area of dispute between Cuba's formal leaders and its economic power, argues Carlos Manuel Álvarez in a New York Times Español op-ed.
  • Paraguay's new president elect, Mario Abdo Benítez has expressed regret for human rights violations committed by dictator Alfredo Stroessner, but has refused to condemn the long authoritarian regime outright. But the country's young voters, who represent more than half the population don't see much relevance in that history, reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Hundreds of members of Brazilian indigenous communities are camping out in Brasilia to ask President Michel Temer to request more favorable policies towards native peoples, reports EFE
  • A new report last week from rural violence watchdog Comissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT) showed there had been at least 70 killings related to land and resource conflicts in 2017, the bloodiest year on record since 2003, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Corruption investigations affect at least 15 of the 20 potential presidential candidates for Brazil's October elections, reports Folha de S. Paulo.
  • Mexico's presidential debate on Sunday was a wash, and demonstrated the disconnect of the country's leading politicians from reality on the ground, argues Emilio Lezama in a New York Times Español op-ed. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • There were few ideas of substance in relation to insecurity and homicides in the debate, reports InSight Crime.
  • The Mexican peso has plummeted as investors fear that leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador will win July's election, reports Bloomberg.
  • Mexican authorities said they detained the alleged killer of Veracruz journalist Javier Valdez, reports AFP.
  • U.S. President Trump said that forcing Mexico stop undocumented migrants traveling towards the U.S. border could be a condition for a new NAFTA deal, reports AFP.
 Rectifying colonial canards
  • Archeologists in Antigua hope say early colonial accounts of savage cannibal tribes in the Caribbean are false, based on new evidence from excavations, reports the Guardian.
All that's fit to print
  • A group of transgender Bogotá sex-workers are publishing a newspaper, focused on security, health and local issues, reports the Guardian. The most popular edition? The one taped up to street corners for sex-workers to read while waiting for customers.
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take?  Let me know ... 

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