Women-lead commemorative protest blocked by police
On 6th February 2018, police reportedly used excessive force to disperse a group of farmers protesting the low price of onions. According to the press, demonstrators blocked a street and only allowed cars to pass every five minutes. Police later arrived and used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters and prevent the blockade. At least 20 demonstrators were detained.
On 21st February, a local initiative of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and environmental rights groups reported that police prevented a group of women from arriving at the place where a commemorative protest was supposed to begin. The protest was to commemorate the 84th anniversary of the assassination of General Augusto César Sandino who fought for Nicaragua's sovereignty when the country was under U.S. military occupation. Such a strategy of police prevention of protests has been used by President Ortega's government during rallies against the building of the Great Canal. It was also reported that police officers attacked WHRDs - Mónica López, Haydee Castillo, Arlen Centeno and Rosario Rugama.
#AlertaDefensoras NICARAGUA / Agreden y reprimen libertad de tránsito y derecho a la protesta de defensoras nicaragüenses: https://t.co/jm045SlsRj @INDefensoras @popol_na @cenidh @MonicaLopezBalt @MarusiaLC @ErikaGuevaraR @MarciaAguiluz @cejil @laprensa @BiancaJagger @Montesof pic.twitter.com/5O6h27KdCQ— IM-Defensoras (@IM_Defensoras) February 23, 2018
As reported on the Monitor, Nicaragua held municipal elections on 5th November 2017, during which there were reports of political violence and irregularities in the electoral process.
The indigenous and political organisation Yatama released a statement on 11th January 2018 condemning rights violations that occurred around the elections. Yatama denounced the illegal imprisonment of 90 of its youth and other activists before and after the elections, the closure of some polling stations, and counter-protests used to disrupt the organisation's peaceful protests. The statement declared that:
"Our organization has been a victim of this scourge of corruption and electoral fraud in the regional elections of 2014 and in the municipal elections of November 5th, in which we did not recognize the results due to the customary practice of shameless manipulation..." (Translated from Spanish)
Two UN Special Rapporteurs visited Nicaragua in February 2018. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, visited the country for academic purposes, since the government would not permit an official UN-related visit. As a result, he was not able to produce a report or assessment of the situation for human rights defenders in Nicaragua. His visit was limited to a conference and a few meetings with civil society. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, visited the country but not in an official capacity. Indigenous communities claimed that her visit was controlled by government officials who presented a false image of the country and the situation for indigenous peoples.
Niegan acceso a periodista de LA PRENSA en los Juzgados de Managua https://t.co/nj2OdwrjK5— Silvio Pilarte C (@SilvioPilarteC) February 24, 2018
As reported on the Monitor, journalist Martha Vasquez has been prevented from entering the Supreme Court. This occurred again when the journalist attempted to cover a public hearing at the Supreme Court. She was told by the security guards that she was prohibited from entering the building. La Prensa, where Vasquez works, claims that this action is in retaliation for her articles on a corruption scandal in the Supreme Court.