On April 19th, one day before we were scheduled to travel to Nicaragua with a group of volunteers to build a school, peaceful protests led by university students, were met by violent police and paramilitary forces. Students died that night and in response, Nicaraguans of all classes and communities, the Catholic church and business groups rose in protest. Those protests were met with even more deadly force, to the point that three months later over 270 people, mostly students, have been killed and many more have been injured by police and masked paramilitaries.
The population of Nicaragua is about six million, slightly lower than the population of the Greater Toronto Area. Can you imagine the outcry if police and their associated gangs in the GTA shot and killed 270+ students and tortured even more?
International organizations including the OAS (Organization of American States), Amnesty International and recently the UN, strongly condemn President Daniel Ortega and his government, including the Vice President - his wife Rosario Murillo, for instigating, propagating and deigning the violence. Nicaraguans continue to protest and face deadly response while demanding to negotiate an end to the violence, justice for the dead, and the acceleration of democratic reforms including an early election.
While there has been spotty media coverage outside Nicaragua, the international community has been mostly unaware of the situation on the ground. My own information comes from a combination of traditional media, social media, and live updates from friends on the ground involved in the activities in Nicaragua. The US history of clandestine involvement in Central America, particularly Nicaragua in the 1980s, means that US intervention will be unlikely, but recent sanctions by the US government against several prominent Nicaraguans linked to the violence has been welcomed. Other countries should join the US in more sanctions.
So, why am I writing this post after weeks of “sharing” the posts of others? Nicaragua has a special place in my heart. Since 2014, I’ve travelled there five times on service trips and supported over $100,000 of investment in building schools, libraries, community centres, irrigation systems, technical training and even built a windmill. In Nicaragua, $100,000 goes a very long way! The people of Nicaragua got under my skin. I’m proud to call many Nicaraguans my friend.
My son, Andrew, has been with me on two trips. On his second trip, he made a short film to capture his positive experience about the magic of the Nicaraguan people. He submitted this film as part of his portfolio to be invited, on scholarship, to join Ryerson University’s film studies program in September. I cannot imagine the anguish that parents of Nicaraguan students face on a day to day basis as students continue to be the front line in this conflict.
I encourage you to Google the situation in Nicaragua, watch this film, and share this message with your networks so that together we can raise the awareness of the crisis in Nicaragua with the international community.
As Andrew heads off to university in the fall, inspired to be a filmmaker partly due to his time in Nicaragua, I can’t stop thinking how lucky we are to live in a peaceful country where we can disagree but still enjoy peace and freedom of expression. I wish, hope, and advocate that our friends in Nicaragua will soon have that freedom.
If you wish to help, share this post. If you want to make a difference, reach out to your Member of Parliament and encourage him or her to raise this issue in the House of Commons. If you want to really want to gain perspective, join me when we return to Nicaragua when things quiet down.