CBSN

Nicaragua undergoing "worst political crisis" in country's history, journalist says

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Nicaragua is experiencing the "worst political crisis" in the country's history, says investigative journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, who has been following recent unrest on the ground. Speaking on CBSN Tuesday from Managua, Nicaragua's capital, Chamorro said many Nicaraguans consider President Daniel Ortega incapable of governing and believe he should step down.

In April, the country saw a wave of protests against social security reforms. Human rights groups say dozens of people were killed or went missing during the protests when police and Sandinista youth groups violently suppressed demonstrations. 

Chamorro said more than 40 people died, including university students, a 15-year-old and two policemen. "This has been a bloodbath," he said.

Ortega abandoned the social security overhaul that sparked the protests. The rescinded reforms would have increased contributions and reduced pensions. But the protests, which have been largely led by university students, had expanded beyond the original opposition to the social security overhaul to include broader anti-government grievances. 

A "Peace and Justice" march on Saturday called by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua brought in students, representatives of the private sector and opponents of the construction of an interoceanic canal. It drew tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, and was the second massive demonstration in less than a week following the wave of deadly protests.

Francisca Ramirez, a leader of the anti-canal movement, said "it is time for Daniel Ortega to understand that he cannot continue doing whatever he wants with this country." 

"It has been enough. We want peace but with justice for the murders," Ramirez added. 

Similar demonstrations were held Saturday in other cities such as Matagalpa and Leon. 

People take part in a protest march to demand an end to violence in Managua

People take part in a protest march to demand an end to violence at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Managua, Nicaragua, April 28, 2018.

JOSE CABEZAS/REUTERS

Chamorro, the journalist, described the unrest as a peaceful uprising.

"There are no armed groups, there's no even visible leaders or organization," he said. "This is a spontaneous, popular revolt against a dictatorial government, and everybody [is] hoping in Nicaragua that we will be able to achieve a peaceful transition." 

Chamorro said, however, there is no indication that Ortega "has understood the dimension of this crisis." He said Ortego organized a demonstration of support on Monday.

Ortega, a former guerrilla fighter, began his third five-year term in office last year. His wife, Rosario Murillo, is Nicaragua's vice president.

Last week, the government's Sandinista Front party released a statement in which it blamed the rise of violence on students, The New York Times reported. It said protesters went after officers with mortars when authorities sought to clear a highway blocked by students. It also said the demonstrations were not spontaneous and that the two universities where the protests started were religious institutions "subsidized by the state."

On Friday, National Assembly president Gustavo Porras announced the creation of a truth commission to look into the deaths and violence during the clashes.