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It’s been 6 months since the worst crisis to face the Nicaragua population in the last few decades began. It all began in mid April with peaceful protests against Ortega’s plan to introduce a reduction of seniors’ pensions and social security and higher taxation for the Nicaraguan workers. Massive protests began and Ortega’s crackdown on peaceful protesters have left more than 500 dead, thousands wounded, the national economy in shambles, tourism almost non-existent and thousands upon thousands in exile fearing not only repercussions but ultimately fear for their lives, as the great majority of them have voiced their discontent with the government. And even though the protests continue to this day, asking for the president and his wife–, who is also the self-appointed Vice-President of the Central American country– to end the violence and leave the country, the Ortega-Murillo power couple refuses to step down.

As TodayNicaragua.com reports, the violence of the past 6 months has forced more than 23,000 people to leave the country, “because they believe their lives are in danger, after participating in anti-government protests…to protect themselves from any repression for participating in protests.” A great majority of those seeking refuge elsewhere are university students, as it has been in the country’s universities where a great number of protests have been initiated. Violence since the 19th of April, when the protests began, is said to be 325, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees U(NHCR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights(IACHR). Unofficially that number exceeds 500 dead, plus tens of thousands wounded, hundreds disappeared and more than 300 of what the government calls “political prisoners”, which in reality are unarmed protesters grabbed from the streets or whose government-sympathizing neighbours point fingers to (and whose houses are being marked, according to unofficial sources) so that the police can come, arrest them and take them to local prisons. Amnesty International is calling out the government for what they call “arbitrary detentions, torture and use of indiscriminate force” against peaceful protesters.

And in spite of it all, and even though the Ortega-Murillo dictators are firmly planted in power and they refuse to even acknowledge a great majority of people don’t want them there anymore, the unrest continues and the mainly unarmed Nicaraguan protesters continue to risk their lives as they plan and attend anti-government demonstrations week after week. Police brutality against these men and women who fearlessly continue to demand the dictators step down has increased, as it can be clearly observed by official and unofficial social media channels who have taken it upon themselves to report to the world the atrocities the country is facing. Images posted on all social media (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) are heartbreaking, especially to those of us who left Nicaragua in the 1980s in the exact same circumstances, escaping the violence and political unrest of the 1980s that left many of us with the loss of fathers, brothers and friends, who lost their life in many instances defending these power-hungry pseudo-revolutionaries who in the end showed their true colours. The present only shows that the revolution replaced a dictatorship for an even more corrupt power-hungry couple, who stubbornly refuse to allow democracy decide who should govern, and who don’t care how much blood is shed to keep them in power.

So when will Ortega go? Will he go? According to the Economist, he has very few choices and those include to become an outright dictator or to hold early elections, if he doesn’t want the bloodshed to continue. “The alternative to continued repression is to accede to the opposition’s demands for an early election, probably in 2019, two years before it is due. A fair vote would probably end Mr Ortega’s rule. His foes will not participate in an election if he runs. His candidacy would only be legal because the national assembly scrapped presidential term limits at his bidding in 2014. The opposition would also boycott the vote if Mr Ortega nominates his wife, Ms Murillo, to run in his stead.”

As the article states, the last time the Sandinista leader lost an election they didn’t go quietly. What Nicaraguans denominated “La Piñata” took place: Sandinista sympathizers took off with millions of dollars on the eve of the official transition of power to elected president Violeta de Chamorro. Government officials stole what they could and left their offices empty. Chamorro inherited the nation’s empty coffers. Ortega learned his lesson and has steadily ensured that the government apparatus will work in his favour if an election were to be held today. Him and Murillo are not beneath deep political corruption. This time around he’s showing it won’t even get to that point, unleashing a violence and fury so vile and vicious against the population that many Nicaraguans observe it wasn’t even seen during the Somoza dictatorship. The regime’s downfall this time around is the opportunity social media presents for the world to bear witness to the atrocities committed against the Nicaraguan population. Nicaraguans in exile have united their voices in support of those who continue to live under these dangerous life-threatening circumstances, in a country where the death is imminent, the economy is collapsing, violence is increasing and even nature is contributing to the suffering of a people that is being attacked from all flanks, with incessant rain causing deaths and huge financial loss in the last few weeks.

As Nicaraguans continue to live (or not die, really) in these horrific and unimaginable circumstances, hope for change is the only thing that’s keeping them moving forward, defiant in their desire for change from a corrupt and blood-thirsty government. As observers from the safety of Canada, where we arrived under eerily similar circumstances as our fellow Nicaraguans face today, the hope is that civility will prevail, deadly violence will decrease (if not disappear altogether) and the people will come together in agreement, so they are able to get up and bring the country back from the ashes. There will be a crucial need for strong and inclusive leadership, for a plan towards a resolution that includes all Nicaraguans. There will be a vital need for compromise and for a desire for peace and democracy to persevere. As it stands right now, with Nicaraguans killing Nicaraguans, that hope is all that remains.

Anti-government protests continue.