Protests against Ortega and Canal continue to face repression

Peaceful Assembly

On 1st and 2nd December protestors gathered in public to continue their opposition to the construction of the Great Canal. Protestors also demonstrated their unhappiness with the re-election of President Daniel Ortega. All of these protests were repressed by police, 12 people were arrested and 20 went missing.

In addition to the disruption of ongoing demonstrations, in the days preceding the protests the police erected roadblocks throughout the country to prevent demonstrators from reaching meeting places. Several people were injured as the police used tear gas and rubber bullets against them at roadblocks. Peasants also had their vehicles seized by the authorities.

Peasant leader Francisca Ramírez expressed her disappointment at the OAS Secretary General's decision not to criticise the Nicaraguan government for its repression of the protests and human rights violations.

Expression

During the December protests, police officers beat Julio López Chavarría, a journalist with the independent media outlet Onda Local. Police also seized his cellphone, and returned it to him with the footage deleted.

On 10th December the OAS Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Edison Lanza, expressed concern about the situation of the freedom of expression in Nicaragua, which he described as compromised by two factors: on one hand, media concentration in two conglomerates held by private investor Angel Gonzalez and by President Ortega’s family; and, on the other hand, the use of official advertising to reward or punish media speaking out for or against the government.

Association

Expectations of reform were high as talks began between OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and the Nicaraguan government. A statement by Nicaraguan NGO Hagamos Democracia, indicated that civil society had expected the dismissal of the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC), which had flagrantly violated the freedom of association when removing 16 representatives from the National Assembly last June. Similar demands, including a call for new elections, the derogation of the Interoceanic Canal concesssion, and full respect for the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly were made by the main political opposition.

The agreement reached by the government of Nicaragua and the OAS, however, did not address many demands, including the replacement of the SEC magistrates. Both Rosa Marina Zelaya, former SEC President, and Dionisio Palacios, former Director of the National Registration System, expressed concern over the agreement's failure to address topics including the situation at the SEC, free elections and political pluralism, as well as over the transparency of the agreement.