SCIAF is shocked and gravely concerned by the violent repression of the peaceful demonstrations in Nicaragua, which have left more than 200 people dead. We in SCIAF stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua. We have been working with poor communities in the country for more than 30 years through local partners, supporting children with disabilities, helping families to grow more food and earn an income, and providing vocational training for young people.
Since April 18, public protests against reforms to the national social security system have been violently attacked by the Sandinista government and pro-government paramilitary groups.
Although the government later announced the cancellation of the proposed reforms, the non-violent protests continued and escalated as the population demanded: justice for those who were killed, democracy in the country’s political system, and the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo.
The protesters have been supported by the church, private sector, women’s movements, and civil society and human rights organisations. The peaceful protests have included marches, demonstrations, roadblocks and the occupation of public universities by students.
The government’s response to the protests has included beatings, arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearances, persecution and assassination. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has expressed alarm about the situation and strongly condemns the use of force by the state.
The Mother’s Day March on May 30, led by the April Mothers’ Movement composed of women whose sons or daughters have been killed, was the biggest march ever seen in Nicaragua, at which 15 people were massacred.
The Catholic Church is playing a key role supporting the Nicaraguan people. The Catholic Bishops Conference has led calls on the government to end the repression and violence. It has accepted the role of mediator in a process of national dialogue aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. Some particularly critical bishops have been persecuted and received death threats.
Often at great personal risk, church representatives – priests, bishops, and staff – have also played crucial roles in dioceses and parishes to defend and protect human rights, and respond to humanitarian needs by making their churches, cathedrals and offices available as shelters for sanctuary against the violence, and providing food, water and basic emergency medical care to those in need. It is essential that the church continues to provide this care throughout the crisis.
Despite an agreed ceasefire between the government and opposition, violence has continued.
The violence is greatly reducing our partners’ ability to reach the communities they support. Some have even been forced to put their vital life-changing work on hold. This is making the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the country much harder.
We stand in solidarity with the Nicaraguan Church and its calls for peace, dialogue and reconciliation. We are monitoring the changing situation day by day and looking at how best to support our partners and the communities they work with at this difficult time.
We urge the Nicaraguan government to respect the right to peaceful demonstration, and all sides to immediately stop all acts of violence.
We urge the UK government and international community to do everything they can to insist that the Nicaraguan government respects the right to peaceful demonstration, and immediately stops all acts of violence by armed forces, the police and civilian groups related to the government.
Please keep the people of Nicaragua in your prayers at this difficult time.
What is happening in Nicaragua?
Tuesday 10th JULY 2018, 5pm
University of Edinburgh
Room 1.20, Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AD