Four student leaders from the 19th of April Student Movement in Nicaragua met with former President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias on Tuesday.
The students, Victor Cuadras, Francisco Martínez, Valeska Valle, and Zaida Hernández, were invited to attend a one-week training session by the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. The students say their goal in Costa Rica is to bring awareness to the crisis in Nicaragua and get help from the international community in denouncing Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
“Our purpose here isn’t just to denounce the humanitarian crisis in Nicaragua on a global stage with important people: we want every Costa Rican to realize what’s really going on in Nicaragua and who’s causing it,” Martínez said
The students said that Arias was the best person to help their cause. Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his role in helping end civil wars that ravaged Central America in the 1980s. One of those wars was in Nicaragua, where Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas were fighting the U.S.-backed Contras.
The war ended in 1989, and Violeta Chamorro defeated Daniel Ortega in the presidential elections the following year. Ortega has been less willing to cede power since his re-election in 2007.
“Regrettably, Nicaragua stopped being a democracy a long time ago,” Arias said. “In no democracy do you persecute your opponent, take them to prison or deport them.
“Nicaragua took the route of Cuba and Maduro and what worries me the most is that these students, who have come here just to listen to our opinion about what’s going on, will face reprisals.”
Cuadras said that their group has calculated that there are more than 1,000 political prisoners in Nicaragua. They estimate the number of dead to be at 450 but say they lost count of how many students have gone missing. The last number they had was 120.
Despite the dangers, the students are dedicated to going back to Nicaragua.
“Yes, we’re going back, because we’re not running away,” Hernandez said. “And we’re not abandoning the fight in our country.”