In July 1979 the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza DeBayle and marched triumphant into Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. Thirty-nine years later in July 2018, masses of Nicaraguans have gone to the streets of Managua to protest the once-revolutionary Sandinista government for massacring its own people – much as Somoza had done years ago.
Once celebrated as a hero, the Sandinista president Daniel Ortega now faces foreign scrutiny and domestic rebellion for stealing from the nation’s social security funds, raising taxes to make up for the losses, and now violently repressing months-long protests against his corruption.
As of July 18, the government-backed paramilitary has murdered 351 people to punish the resistance and to instill fear in the general population. Many more have been injured.
Amongst the wounded is the Managuan Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Báez, an outspoken leader against President Ortega’s corruption and oppression. The Vatican reports that paramilitary forces punched Bishop Báez in the stomach, cut his arm, and stole his pectoral cross. The violence has not altered Báez’ activism. He continues to remain outspoken:
“A State cannot proclaim to be victorious over its own people, who it has oppressed and massacred; a people should not feel defeated when they have recovered their dignity and their historic role to build a new society.” ~ Bishop @silviojbaez https://t.co/brPBlNeRx6
— Carmelite Quotes (@carmelitequotes) July 19, 2018
Only a few days later, a Danielista paramilitary troupe pointed its weapons towards the Catholic Church of Jesus of the Divine Mercy, where a priest housed 100 students and journalists who were escaping from violence. The police-soldiers opened fire on the church in a 12-hour siege that killed two student protesters. The New York Times has reported on the incident, and the United Nations has called for an immediate end to the violence. The Catholic bishops of Nicaragua have encouraged the Danielista regime to move up elections to 2019 so that the Nicaraguan people can quickly and democratically remove Ortega from power.
The Society of Jesus and its institutions in Nicaragua have not been silent about the Ortega government’s corruption and oppression, nor have they been spared the violence. In late May, Rector José Alberto Idiáquez of the Jesuit Central American University of Nicaragua offered 5,000 protesters a place of refuge on campus as they were fleeing from gunshots. He also called Ortega “irrational” and shared in a public interview with El País that the president will go down in history as a murderer. For his comments, the rector has received death threats. Additionally, America has reported the murder of a Jesuit high school student Álvaro Manuel Conrado Dávila, who was killed while protesting Ortega’s corrupt social security reforms in April.
To respond to these incidents, I would ask all to write their senators and representatives to urge the U.S. government to develop a peace-oriented plan to end the violence. And pray for peace!