Since Wednesday, Nicaraguans have been protesting a pension reform law that would have increased contributions while lowering benefits by about 5 percent. On Sunday, President Daniel Ortega announced on TV that “we are revoking, canceling, putting to the side the resolution.” However, for protesters, this announcement was not necessarily a call for victory.
The demonstrations began as a protest against the new pension reform law, but quickly revealed underlying issues. Independent TV stations were censored after broadcasting a live stream of the events. Also, protesters claimed that government supporters were inciting violence, according to the Wall Street Journal. Michael Shifter from the Inter-American Dialogue believes the president still has a big problem on his hands.
“It won’t be easy for Ortega to regain control of the streets. The chaos of the past few days has revealed a desire for change in Nicaragua.”
Student protesters and a business group called COSEP have demanded the release of the protesters that were arrested over the past few days. However, Ortega has declined to do so and said he plans to prosecute them. Also, TV stations are still being censored. COSEP also said that they refuse to come to the table to discuss future pension reforms with the government until the protesters are allowed to demonstrate in peace and to exercise their rights to free speech.
WHY isn’t the media talking about Nicaragua?? PEOPLE, THE ARE KILLING US, SHOOTING US, STEALING ALL THE FOOD AND MEDICINE, KILLING PEOPLE THAT WANTS TO HELP. And you can stop it by spreading it, help US. @CNN @nytimes #SOSNicaragua #sosinss #PrayForNicaragua #HELPNICARAGUA pic.twitter.com/442Lp8xxbk— #SOSNICARAGUA (@_pizzacloud) April 22, 2018
Many attribute the protests to “pent-up frustration,” with critics saying Ortega is becoming more authoritarian, instead of fostering a democracy. Ironically, some believe Ortega is trying to instate a dictatorship that mirrors the one that he overthrew in 1979. Some of the unpopular moves that Ortega has made include abolishing term limits and manipulating government branches, detailed the New York Times.
Day 4 of the protests in Nicaragua. I don’t think anyone realized how fast this would escalate, how violent it would turn, how fast things fall apart. #SOSNicaraga pics by @laprensa pic.twitter.com/7i0Peih5yC— Tim Rogers (@nicadispatch) April 22, 2018
By the time Ortega made his announcement about revoking the pension reform, the damage had been done. The death toll, which has risen to at least 26, includes a journalist that was killed on-screen as he reported via Facebook Live. The government reported damage to city blocks, government buildings, and widespread looting at grocery stores. However, many people aren’t buying it, saying the property damage and looting were staged in order to allow the police to use excessive force against protesters.
Pope Francis and U.S. officials are calling for an end to the violence. However, it appears, for the time being, that neither the violence, nor the protests are coming to an end.