Thousands took to the street across Nicaragua this weekend to protest against President Daniel Ortega (and his wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo) whom they accuse of being a dictator.
The rallies began on Saturday in Managua, where paramilitaries fired on a protesters’ barricade at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN). At least two demonstrators were killed and 11 others wounded, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH).
Protesters were also out in the streets in other cities, including Leon, Masaya, Matagalpa, Tipitapa, Jinotega and Granada, among many others.
“I’m here because I want to see my Nicaragua free. It hurts that children like me have died, but we must continue fighting to get this dictator out,” AFP quoted a 15-year-old student as saying.
The rally, called “Marcha de las Flores (Flowers March), was held to honor the more than 285, mostly young, allegedly killed in more than two months (since mid-April) of anti-government protests.
Ortega, 72, along with his wife, is being accused of using “lethal force” to repress the demonstrations. The couple is also accused of establishing nepotism, a dictatorship, and practicing brutal repression, calling protesters “vandals” and “terrorists” who are trying to destroy the country.
The sentiment is shared by supports of the Ortegas, however, not all Sandinistas. Many will quickly tell you that they are Sandinista, but not Orteguistas, that is they continue to support the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front), a democratic socialist political party, led by Daniel Ortega, but not the current policies of repression and violence by Ortega.
The opposition group and the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (ECN) have, as a mediator between the opposition and the government, have called on Ortega to call early elections, setting a date of March 2019.
Ortega, whose third consecutive term (and Murillo’s first) ends in January 2022, has refused demands for early elections or to step down.
On social media, comments against Ortega will quickly note “This is a fake president that took over the revolution and made it (Nicaragua) his own gold mine”. The La Prensa newspaper refers to Ortega as “presidente designado’ (president designated).
In contrast, supporters of Daniel Ortega say, “What an ungrateful people. It was the same president who fought to preserve our country that is not owned by the rich American corporations (…).”