Luis Ojeda cannot forget the “atrocity” witnessed during the 2018 protests against the government of Daniel Ortega that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. Dozens of exiled Nicaraguans, like him, gathered in San Jose on Wednesday to honor those who died five years ago.
In Nicaragua, hundreds of opponents were arrested in the crackdown that followed the 2018 protests against Ortega, who has been in power since 2007 and has been successively re-elected in contested elections. The protests were violently suppressed, resulting in a death toll of more than 350, according to the UN.
Ojeda, who has been exiled in Costa Rica for five years, said, “This is something that vindicates our struggle and helps us remember what happened in 2018, which was an atrocity for all Nicaraguans.”
The demonstrators gathered in the center of the Costa Rican capital with Nicaraguan flags and photos of their loved ones who were killed during the social uprising against Ortega. They recalled the names and dates of their deaths.
Nineth Calero, 37, said, “I remain firm and tell the dictatorship and all the henchmen who are still in power that I will not rest until I see a free Nicaragua.” She expressed her dream of a “clean, healthy Nicaragua with no more dictatorship,” which is shared by “all Nicaraguans who rose up for 2018.”
The Ortega government, which claims that the 2018 protests were part of a failed coup promoted by Washington, called for a march in Managua on Wednesday to commemorate the so-called “Day of Peace,” which marks the anniversary of the protests.
On the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the anti-government protests, Amnesty International denounced that Nicaragua is employing “new patterns” of human rights violations. The humanitarian organization expressed that the Ortega and Murillo government resorts to excessive use of force, criminal laws, attacks against civil society, and forced exile to silence its critics.
Elvin Peralta, 36, an exile and human rights activist, said, “As of today, Nicaragua is a prison for all Nicaraguans. In Nicaragua, you cannot protest, you cannot raise your voice and say, ‘long live free Nicaragua’ without being exiled or arrested and prosecuted for raising your voice against tyranny.”
The arrests of opponents have continued in the following years. On February 9, Managua released 222 political prisoners, expelled them from the country, confiscated their assets, and deprived them of their nationality. Days later, another 94 exiled opponents were deprived of their nationality, including writers Gioconda Belli and Sergio Ramirez, who was Ortega’s vice-president in the 1980s.