The Revolution that was initiated by the Grandparents

By: EntreMundos Staff

They mistreated our elders and for them to do that was as if they had crossed the sacred boundary of respect for our people”, a Nicaraguan activist said during a discussion-brainstorming session last year in Quetzaltenango.  During the meeting she denounced the abuses committed against the Nicaraguan people by Daniel Ortega’s government.  More than a year has gone by since the Nicaraguan political/social conflict began (the 18th of April 2018) and because the situation has developed so many levels of complexities, to discuss it, is like untangling the knots of a skein of wool.

The on-going discontent which initiated the current situation occurred when the Ortega government issued a decree which reformed the social security system.  It not only ordered a 1.25 % increase in workers’ contribution, but also reduced by 5 % retirees’ pensions based on the argument that the INSS, Nicaragua’s Social Security Administration, was facing economic problems.  Reactions were not slow in coming and immediately people began to protest through the usual channels.

Nevertheless, this, perhaps, was only the tip of the iceberg.  Because Daniel Ortega, who had for many years had the support of most Nicaraguans, was little by little creating reservations among the people because of the power he had — which he still holds onto.  In 2013 a protest by various senior citizens, gathered together by the National Union of Older Adults in front of the offices of the INSS (Nicaragua’s Social Security Administration), demanded restitution for their suspended pensions.  The demonstrators occupied the INSS in Nicaragua but a few hours later were aggressively removed by members of the police force.

Grandfather and child in Granada, Nicaragua. Foto: Elaine Faith’s Flickr.

Naturally, this provoked a wave of indignation and solidarity with the demonstrators by various sectors of society.  And although it didn’t generate an immediate outburst like the one that occurred in 2018, it did contribute to the growing discontent.  Other problems such as censorship of the media, suppression of freedom of expression, and disregard for human rights were added onto the original issue.

Even though Ortega vetoed the decree which sparked the conflict, it was already too late.  The demonstrations continued and to date, the number of dead has reached hundreds, with thousands injured and some detained—all due to this violent response—a response originating with the police and carried out by them and armed groups serving the government.

Daniel Ortega served as president from 1979 to 1990 and then in 2007 he, again, took the position.  In 2017 his wife, Rosario Murillo, joined the government as vice president.  Both not only have control of the government but also control of the majority of media outlets.  Recently Human Rights Watch requested international sanctions against Daniel Ortega and other officials responsible for the conflict in Nicaragua, taking into consideration that there has been no punishment for their actions, they could repeat it all again with future consequences being even worse.

In May 2019 Amnesty International requested the release of journalists being held. They finally were freed this past June based on the controversial law which “permits the release if and when they do not resume protesting”.  The situation in Nicaragua was addressed recently in the Assembly of the Organization of American States in Medellin, Colombia, but the road to solving the problems will be a very long one.  And that which began as a revolution of “the grandparents” is now the entire society’s battle.

Cover photo: Nicaragua’s flag, picture taken from Karen Welsh Flickr.