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Political crisis leaves 528 dead and a “shattered” economy

The NGO increased the number of victims; economic experts say the Central Bank could face illiquidity in the next two months.

The non-governmental Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights raised to 528 the number of people killed since the protests against President Daniel Ortega broke out six months ago, while the government admitted today that the serious political crisis “destroyed the economy” of the country.

An anti-government protester is dragged away and arrested by police as security forces disrupt an opposition march coined “United for Freedom” in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga)

The most recent count of the Asociación Nicaragüense Pro Derechos Humanos (ANPDH), published on its Facebook page, from April 19 to October 20, (158 calendar days), also includes 4,012 injured and 105 seriously injured and permanently injured, as well as 1,609 citizens captured by vigilante groups.

The report increase by 16 the number of victims with respect to the previous report issued on September 24 and which reported 512 dead and 4,000 injured.

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The NGO clarified that the data is in the process of investigation and monitoring.

The crisis in Nicaragua began with a protest by university students on April 18 and spread to other social sectors after the violent action of the police and paramilitary groups. The Government has officially said the number of deaths to be 200, while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reports the number to be 325.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s Finance Minister, Iván Acosta, said on Monday on the official television channel 4 that what happened since April “was an earthquake for the economy, which had a profound impact on the economic capacity of the country and that is reflected today in the public finances “.

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“Up to one day before April 18 (when the first protest by university students against a Social Security reform occurred) we had a (projected) growth of 4.9%,” Acosta said.

The crisis “destroyed the economy,” he admitted.

After the protests and the subsequent refusal of Ortega to resume the dialogue, the Government has not been able to reactivate sensitive areas of the economy such as tourism, trade and foreign investment.

“It was what we were warning, because tourism generated US$400 million dollars a year”, equivalent to almost 10% of the country’s total exports in 2017, he said.

Last week the World Bank warned that Nicaragua’s GDP will fall this year to -3.8% due to the political crisis.

For economist Néstor Avendaño, director of the NGO Consultores para el Desarrollo Empresarial (Copades), the economic debacle will not be resolved until Ortega “does not return to dialogue and seeks a political solution to the political conflict”.

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In the opinion Avendaño, if the crisis persists in 2019 “the construction and non-metallic mineral companies will be swept away. The first will fall by 76% next year,” the expert told the news portal Confidencial.

Added to the above, gross international reserves also fell due to the massive flight of deposits from private banking entities and, according to Avendaño estimates, the Central Bank could face illiquidity in the next two months.

To that end, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will visit the country from October 24 to 30 to meet with members of the economic cabinet and the business sector.

Adding to the impact of the crisis on victims and economic damages, the Government of Costa Rica reported that at least 30,000 Nicaraguans have entered that country since April. The director of Costa Rica’s immigration service, Raquel Varga, said in an interview on Sunday on “Esta Semana” broadcast on Nicaragua’s private television channel 12 in Managua, that more than 23,000 of these migrants have requested refuge.

Meanwhile, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts for Nicaragua (GIEI), created by the IACHR to support investigations into violence in Nicaragua, announced that in December it will present the final report of its six-month mission in the country.

Peruvian sociologist Sofía Macher, who is a member of the GIEI together with three other foreign specialists, who arrived in the country on July 2, told reporters in Managua that the report is being prepared with testimonies from the victims, given the refusal of the government to provide them official information.

She revealed that the government offered to support them by sharing lists of detainees, court records and reports of legal medicine, but none of that happened. “They have not even let us enter (witness) an oral trial,” Macher lamented.

A similar complaint had been raised by members of the GIEI on August 16. Its mission in Managua also includes supporting the design of a “reparation program” for the victims of violence.

“In the absence of official information we have collected (through interviews) with the largest number of victims of human rights violations and their families,” said Macher. They have also received support from local humanitarian agencies and the IACHR itself.

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