Nicaraguan Police Forces Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protesters
The World Movement for Democracy condemns the use of indiscriminate violence by the Nicaraguan police forces on March 16, when they attacked a demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners and arrested 164 protesters. Among those arrested was World Movement Steering Committee member Sofia Montenegro.
The attack started just before 2:00 in the afternoon, when police began arresting anyone carrying a Nicaraguan flag in the vicinity of the demonstration, which was organized by the Blue and White National Unity coalition. In addition, police attacked and arrested journalists who were covering the protest. Many who were wounded during the attack lay in the streets for hours, because Red Cross personnel in the area were unable to move them to hospitals for fear of being attacked themselves. Those arrested were released late Saturday night to a large crowd of family members and friends. “It was a moving thing, [seeing] how the people at that time of night went out to the streets to receive us,” said Sofia Montenegro.
Government violence against civil society has become ubiquitous in Nicaragua since protests first broke out in April 2018. Over the past year, hundreds of citizens have been killed and independent media organizations have been attacked. Civil society leaders have been particularly targeted, such as Felix Madriaga, executive director of Instituto de Estudios Estrategicos y Politicas Publicas (IEEPP), whose attack by a Sandinista mob was detailed in last year’s DemocracyAlert. Since then, the Steering Committee of the World Movement has spoken out against these attacks and has urged the international community to hold the Ortega government accountable.
On December 28, 2018, the World Movement Steering Committee Chairperson and former United Nations (UN) Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, issued a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling for concrete action towards the government of Nicaragua in defense of democracy and fundamental freedoms. In late January 2019, World Movement Steering Committee member Ana Gomes led a European Parliament special mission to meet with Nicaraguan political prisoners, journalists, and civil society members. While there, she published interviews with political prisoners at La Esperanza women’s prison.
The World Movement continues to call for the release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua and urges the diplomatic community to take action in defense of Nicaragua’s citizens, journalists, and civil society.