A Year After Nicaragua’s Uprising, Women Of All Ages Are Leading Resistance
It’s been one year since Nicaragua’s civic uprising, and women, who have been uniquely impacted by political violence, are still fighting back.
On April 18, 2018, protestors took to the streets throughout the Central American country, demonstrating against Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s government, particularly the president’s social security reform proposals, in a mass rally that sparked an even bigger and longer anti-government movement.
Since then, the government has responded to the mass opposition with violence. Police and paramilitary groups are often sent to rallies to intimidate protestors and deter observers from joining protests. On April 19, authorities’ shots claimed the lives of two young men, Darwin Manuel Urbina, 29, and Richard Eduardo Pavón, 17. A year later, more than 300 are dead, 700 are in jail and 62,000 in exile.
These deaths have directly impacted women — their mothers, partners, siblings and friends — who are turning their pain and anger into fuel for their political fight. Throughout the nation, women have been playing key roles in the opposition movement.
Last year, when Ortega denied there had been any student killings, 21-year-old Madelaine Caracas read out the names of all those deceased, gaining instant repute.
She’s not alone.
A group called Mothers of April, which bands the mothers of those who were killed, jailed or disappeared, has since formed. Together, they offer each other support and make demands, like ending repression, disbanding paramilitary groups and holding elections earlier than those scheduled for 2021.
One of the mothers is Yardira Cordoba, whose son Orlando was shot during a Mother’s Day march in May 2018 when snipers killed 19 people. He was just 15 years old. According to his mom, Orlando, who played drums at his church, left his high school to attend the march on his own. When Cordoba, 45, learned of his presence and that he was wounded, she rushed to the hospital, where he died. “I fell on the floor, crying,” she told Al Jazeera.
The mom, who then faced harassment by pro-government supporters, was forced to move across town. Another of her sons lost his government job because of the publicity and moved to Costa Rica. Long scared to speak out, she joined the mother’s group, seeking support and change.
“I want justice, for my son and all the others,” she said.
Long-time feminist activists in the country are also leading efforts. At 69, Marlen Chow, a sociologist who carried an AK-47 in the Sandinista revolution that overthrew United States-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, has since taken on the government that succeeded him.
She was arrested last October for protesting. When police asked her which group she was representing, she said “Pico Rojo,” or red lipstick, igniting the hashtag #SoyPicoRojo, with women and men protesting Ortega and showing their solidarity with Chow by posting photos of themselves in red lipstick.
The women’s efforts have helped ignite some change. Ortega has agreed to release some prisoners, allow people to practice their legal right to protest and let media report on demonstrations and Nicaraguan politics freely. However, human rights officials at the United Nations have said that the president hasn’t followed through on all of his promises.
Until he does, he can count on women to be on the frontlines of resistance.