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Protests in Nicaragua hit close to home for junior

Protesters+gather+carrying+Nicaraguan+flags+and+dressing+in+the+national+colors%2C+blue+and+white.+
Protesters gather carrying Nicaraguan flags and dressing in the national colors, blue and white.

Protesters gather carrying Nicaraguan flags and dressing in the national colors, blue and white.

provided by Fernanda Martinez

provided by Fernanda Martinez

Protesters gather carrying Nicaraguan flags and dressing in the national colors, blue and white.

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For years, the Central American country of Nicaragua has suffered through decades of unrest. Recently, more than 40 people have been killed in the midst of political turmoil with college students taking to the streets to call for social justice and change.

Although this conflict is more than 2,000 miles away, it hits home for junior Isabella Santiago who is of Nicaraguan heritage and has family living there.

We want a justice committee–a neutral justice committee coming from the United Nations and other international organizations that work with human rights, that they come and they need to clarify what exactly happened in this massacre.”

— Nicaraguan resident Fernanda Martinez

“I’m definitely nervous, especially because I do have family that’s participating in the peaceful protests,” Santiago said. “I also do have family that’s visiting right now and it’s kind of difficult because they’ve stopped flights going in and out so they’re stuck there right now.”

After recent changes were made in the Nicaraguan social security system, thousands of Nicaraguans took to the streets to express all their complaints with the country’s current state.

“Since many years ago, there has been violation against human rights, violation against the law; specifically speaking about the parliament laws and since last year it was known to everybody that the national social security was in bankruptcy,” Santiago’s cousin and Managua resident Fernanda Martinez said. “This year in April, there was news in which they stated that they were going to change the national security system, which means that you as an employer will have to pay more for each employee that is working for you and you as an employee will have to pay more, because both parties pay. On top of that, due to people that are already leaving from their pensions, they will have to pay a 5 percent tax based on the money that they get per month.”

Despite the ongoing violence, government protesters are still speaking out.

provided by Fernanda Martinez
The Nicaraguan flag flies at half-staff in honor of the dozens that have been killed in the protests from recent weeks.

“It makes me really sad that this is happening because lots of people have died and there’s lots of violence that’s been happening on the government side and there’s different groups of people; some are peaceful and some aren’t,” Santiago said. “At the end, it really makes me just proud to be Nicaraguan because I see all these people coming together and protesting peacefully and doing things the right way and that makes me really proud, I hope they get somewhere with it and I hope like they can achieve their goals.”

The protests have escalated quickly, leaving few spared from the violence that has been sweeping the nation.

“This is the the outcome of several things that have been happening since many years ago. It’s just that now people have said ‘enough’. There was a big social uprising in which many people from the society participated, but unfortunately it costed 63 deaths,” Martinez said. “From these 63, 60 are students and one of them was only 15-years-old. He was a high school student that didn’t go to to school one day because his school was closed and he said, ‘okay, I’ll buy water and I will bring some water and some things to eat for the students in the university nearby my house and he was shot dead.”

After living through a war torn childhood, Martinez is disheartened at the lack of progress in her country.

“Honestly speaking, I feel destroyed and extremely sad because as a child I lived in the war in Nicaragua and more than 50,000 people die during this period. In my school, I saw young people dead, I saw the brothers of my friends dead. They were brought dead to the school because at that time there was not enough money to deliver the corpses to their houses and I saw it with my eyes,” Martinez said. “So in 1990, when the peace arrived again in Nicaragua throughout the election process and we were in peace I never thought I was going to see what I just saw so I feel destroyed because that means that there is not a democratic process taking place in Nicaragua, not anymore.”

Having participated in the protests, Martinez wants bring the issue to a global level and bring the situation to light for others to understand.

provided by Fernanda Martinez
Fernanda Martinez (left) stands with a fellow protester in solidarity.

“But the most important thing that you can do is to be informed and I want to say that the positions of the different journalists and the position from different independent media organizations are extremely important because we lack freedom of speech in this country,” Martinez said. “So one thing that you can do, and I have been doing is to share information outside the country that other newspapers can publish what exactly is going on here. We want a justice committee–a neutral justice committee coming from the United Nations and other international organizations that work with human rights, that they come and they need to clarify what exactly happened in this massacre.”

Despite living in a turbulent society, Martinez believes carrying on in peace is what will bring real change.

“It’s really important that you keep yourself calm and you become an instrument of peace because even though you have a lot of hatred inside of you,” Martinez said. “If you meditate, if you pray, it doesn’t matter from what religion you come if you keep yourself in peace, you can give peace and just remember, remember that you have to be the change you want to see.”

Although coming from different walks of life, Martinez hopes that the Nicaraguan people will unite under a common identity trying to achieve a common goal.

In my school, I saw young people dead, I saw the brothers of my friends dead. They were brought dead to the school because at that time there was not enough money to deliver the corpses to their houses and I saw it with my eyes.”

— Fernanda Martinez

“What we want is a dialogue table where all society sectors are represented,” Martinez said. “That means from indigenous communities that live in the east of the country to the owners of companies, big investors, rich people to the different chambers of commerce, which we have many to the private investment sector; we want them all to be there and especially the students. At the end of it, we want a restructuring process in the election court.”

Ultimately, Martinez, like many other Nicaraguans, hopes democracy will finally arrive, relieving the nation of all the injustices they have faced for so long.

“For the time being, it’s really tough to find peace in between the current situation,” Martinez said. “What we really want is peace and I see people organizing themselves from different parts of the society with ambition. We want a democratic state in which your voice, my voice, and the voice of everybody has the same value for everybody.”

In the end, Santiago hopes that the Nicaraguan people will have the chance to have the freedom of expression that many here take for granted.

“It makes me very sad to know that they don’t have basic human rights that I experience everyday,” Santiago said. “The people of Nicaragua deserve to be able to speak out on their feelings and beliefs like all people in the world do.”

About the Writer
Melody Tavallaee, Managing Editor
Melody Tavallaee is a senior who joined Wingspan during her sophomore year. One of her greatest passions is iced coffee and you can almost always find Melody chugging unhealthy amounts of iced macchiatos while daydreaming of all the places in the world she would like to travel to. Melody is also very passionate about exploring...
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Protests in Nicaragua hit close to home for junior