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Why speaking out in Nicaragua is getting tough

From encrypted messages with people in hiding, to clandestine meetings in secret locations – speaking openly in Nicaragua is becoming tough.

The eldest son of this family of four was abducted after armed pro-government forces stormed their home

The simple task of talking to those affected by the country’s deep-seated political crisis is increasingly complicated, as so many fear for their wellbeing.

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In many cases, their fears seem justified too.

Some of the testimonies to emerge are reminiscent of the worst years of military governments in Latin America during the 1970s.

Take the story of Maritza Castellon and her husband, Juan Pablo Garcia, for example. A blind couple, they have represented Nicaragua in chess and Paralympic marathon running respectively.

Earlier this month, armed pro-government forces entered their home in the dead of night and took away their teenage son, Engel, for allegedly organizing anti-government protests.

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The men never identified themselves or produced any arrest warrant and Maritza says they stuck a gun into her chest.

“It was terrible,” she told me as they sought word from the authorities on Engel’s whereabouts.

Protestors have remained defiant despite the threat of violence

“As blind people, we didn’t know who they were or what they look like. My youngest son was crying and saying, “Mum, they’re wearing balaclavas”. There was a man kicking in the back door saying ‘It’s up to you, either get out of the way or I’m going to shoot it in’.”

The government of President Daniel Ortega denies any wrongdoing by its forces.

Still, there is evidence of paramilitary gangs now operating with impunity and government support. Scores of students have been jailed as terrorists.

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Little wonder people are remaining in the shadows.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45918060

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