Chichigalpa, Nicaragua is home to the popular Flor de Caña, the country’s largest and best-known rum, exporting to over 40 countries. It’s owned by Carlos Pellas, the country’s first billionaire. Pellas is also known as the “Sugar King.”
In the same town, citizens are dying at an incredible rate. There’s actually 3 to 4 deaths a day in a community of only 60,000 people. Most of the people who die are sugarcane field workers. Their deaths are caused by chronic kidney disease [CKD].
Fieldworkers are subjected to work in 100 degree weather with no shade and very little water to keep hydrated. In fact, “one day of sugarcane cutting can be compared to running half a marathon, in terms of physical efforts”, says Lieneke Wieringa, advocacy manager for Fairfood International.
Since workers get paid per ton of sugar cane they cut, which is less than a dollar per ton, they work as much as possible with little rest or proper hydration for six months straight to earn a decent wage that they can’t get anywhere else….they will choose literally work themselves to death.
Read more about what people are doing to help sugarcane workers in Nicaragua here.
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The crisis in Nicaragua keeps escalating, with journalists, students, and anyone who stands up to the dictatorship are risking their lives to speak up. Nicaraguans are using the hashtag #SOSNicaragua to get the attention of the world to help their fight for libertad.
Some background: the current President Daniel Ortega, was a a student leader in the Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), which overthrew then-dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Today, a new uprising of students are reclaiming the Sandinista name and spirit that ousted the last dictator and their target is Ortega.
In April 2018, President Daniel Ortega announced a “comprehensive social security reform.”
CREDIT: @nicadispatch / Twitter
Translation: workers and employers would have to contribute more to their social security and expect 5 percent less of the benefits. Protesters fled to the streets, only to be met with militarized police attacking citizens.
The protests weren’t simply about the social security announcement, as much as the policy change was the last straw. Many Nicaraguans are upset over government corruption and believe that government officials have been using citizens’ social security savings as their own petty cash.
More than 400 people are reported dead since the violent conflict began.
CREDIT: @nicadispatch / Twitter
“We are in the streets asking for Ortega and his wife to go. This has already gone beyond the social security issue. Here there have been dead, wounded, and he does not even apologize for his killings or the savage repression against the people,” Mauri Hernandez, one of thousands of demonstrators at a central rotunda told NBC News.
The scale of the police response has prompted even more unrest.
CREDIT: @Midori1900 / Twitter
Imagine if Trump set police on protestors at #FamiliesBelongTogether marches and you were actually risking your life to speak up? It would create a widespread crisis by anyone’s standards, and it would not be OK.
On top of that, anti-Sandinistas have created a paramilitary that is backed by Ortega.
CREDIT: @BlueLaurita / Twitter
Ortega contradicts himself in multiple statements regarding his aiding the paramilitia who have wounded or killed Nicaraguans, but the fact remains: the National Police and these armed gangs are working side by side.
Plus, a picture’s worth a thousand words.
Ortega cancelled the social security reform but, for months, citizens continue to call for Ortega to step down.
CREDIT: @twosixxx / Twitter
The movement is largely student-led, and the deaths are heart-wrenching. Even Oretega’s own hermano, who once led the Nicaraguan military, called for Ortega to disband the paramilitary just last week.
Then, last week, this happened:
CREDIT: @BretBaier / Twitter
FOX News gave Ortega a platform to speak into President Trump’s ear, and to millions of Americans. When asked why paramilitary are involved in protests against his government, he responded, “Turmoil has stopped and matters are becoming more normal, and there have been some demonstrations both in favor and against the government.”
Nicaraguans and Nicaraguan-Americans are using #SOSNicaragua to call attention to the crisis.
CREDIT: @CDiriangen / Twitter
Brett Baier actually responded to several people, and he did follow through on his promise to grill the leader, who did exactly as expected. He claimed that the people who have died reacted violently, and their murderers were not affiliated with his government.
Nobody bought it.
CREDIT: @nicadispatch / Twitter
One Nicaraguan even tweeted this photo and said, “Someone thought it would be a good idea for Daniel Ortega to give an interview to @BretBaier on Fox News. Someone was wrong. Ortega appeared demented, mendacious and cagado. #sosnicaragua”
Some people tried using Trump’s favorite social media platform to convince him to take action.
CREDIT: @OpaKoukla / Twitter
Y’know, since Trump just parrots everything he hears on FOX News, and Ortega called the paramilitary attacks “terrorism” in an effort to distance himself from the groups. In response to seeing a video of mothers crying over their sons’ bodies, he basically said it’s propaganda to scare people.
The White House responded with a resolution to sanction officials under the Ortega regime.
CREDIT: @MarcoRubio / Twitter
Marco Rubio aided in getting a resolution passed that would prevent Ortega officials from visiting the United States, while allegations of officials poisoning the food and water of students and journalists, and the continued state-led violence ensues.
It’s something, but it’s not enough.
Plus, there’s some confusion over what to call the rebels.
CREDIT: @roxana54755021 / Twitter
Some Nicaraguans consider themselves anarchist Sandinista, holding root to the original intent of the party, which was to overthrow corruption and dictatorship. But since Ortega ran under the Sandinista party, we’re not sure what the U.S. government means by this statement.
Protests escalated when an armed gang took over a Catholic church in Masaya, the battleground for freedom.
CREDIT: @vivanicaragua12 / Twitter
This video shows an armed gang beating down the iron gates of a church raiding it, while students and priests hide behind home-made barricades, meant to block the open fire of the pro-government militia.
After the event in Masaya, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans poured into the streets to support the Church.
CREDIT: @inesanma / Twitter
Catholic officials have been outspoken against Ortega while this brutality has taken place, and Ortega has blamed the Church for encouraging the protests. The Nicaraguan Catholic Church maintains that they are only encouraging dialogue and peace.
Which is why the U.S. decided to have an opinion.
CREDIT: @VoCommunism / Twitter
Thousands of people brutally injured and killed y nada ni nada from the U.S. government, but once a Priest is involved, then they’re humanized. Protestors kept chanting, “Queremos a nuestros Obispos como mediadores!” which means “We want our bishops as mediators!”
Nicaraguans who can’t be there on foot, are doing what they can using the #SOSNicaragua tag.
CREDIT: @rickJMoncada / Twitter
@rickJMoncada is tweeting this at anyone who has a platform to raise awareness around the crisis. Since April, more than 400 people are dead and more than 2,000 injured for resisting Ortega.
Others will carry the flag wherever they go.
CREDIT: @structures3 / Twitter
When you’re Nicaraguense, no matter how far away you are from the crisis, el dolor goes with you.
Nicaraguans at home are doing the work that journalists barely can…because they’re dying.
CREDIT: @NavyBullDog79 / Twitter
If you’re using the #SOSNicaragua hashtag, it’s because you’ve run out of options. If you’re tagging POTUS, Rubio and Pence, it’s because you’re so desperate for help from the country that has always helped free democracy in the past.
Public hospitals are allegedly refusing to treat anti-government protestor’s for their injuries at the hand of the paramilitary.
CREDIT: @gueguensa / Twitter
There was an instance when eight doctors were allegedly fired after they did treat injured protestors, in direct violation of the new rule. The government is turning its back on Nicaraguans.
Meanwhile, women have been at the front of the rebellion.
CREDIT: @brujamistica / Twitter
Oh, did we mention that last year Ortega announced that his wife would become his vice president? His 15 year term comes to an end in 2021, but many fear that she will proceed her husband, and he would still control the government.
Women are straight up defending their rights and turf however they damn well please.
CREDIT: @ComandanteMacha / Twitter
Because es la verdad que la revolución es feminista. Women are actually shooting mortars out into the walls of police officers.
Todavia, Ortega has refused to step down.
CREDIT: @_pizzacloud / Twitter
People continue to die. Mothers continue to bury daughters. Fathers continue to mourn their sons. Just like the revolution that started 40 years ago, young people are fighting for their lives, and many are losing. Nicaragua needs our help.
While we expect the violence to continue, we pray for paz en Nicaragua.
CREDIT: @AJEnglish / Twitter
What can we do? Raise awareness. Share this article, or any article that is telling the story of Nicaragua. Call your representatives and demand that the U.S. takes action. If corruption, nepotism, and authoritarianism can happen in Nicaragua, then it can happen here.
At least 10 people are dead–among them two children — and 20 were injured on Sunday by police and paramilitaries that targeted the Nicaraguan city of Masaya. Police and authorities used lethal force against civilian protesters over the weekend says the United Nation’s human rights office as it called for an end to violence. Civil unrest in Nicaragua has only worsened in the two months since protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega began.
The U.S. State Department and the United Nations have condemned the continued violence that began in April.
This past weekend there was attacks against more than 200 Nicaraguan university students. The students had sought refuge in a church after police forced them out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, which had been occupied during two months of protests against the government of President Ortega.
Rupert Colville, the United Nations human rights office spokesman, said the turmoil in the streets must end. “The violence is all more horrific as armed elements loyal to the government are operating with the active or tacit support of the police and other state authorities.” he told the LA Times.
Police have launched raids to clear protesters in the city of Masaya, the battleground of the uprising in Nicaragua.
We strongly urge President Ortega not to attack Masaya. Continued gov’t-instigated violence and bloodshed in #Nicaragua must end immediately. The world is watching.
According to Al Jezeera, government forces began advancing on Masaya’s Monimbo neighborhood and had largely regained control of it for the first time since massive protests began. The Monimbo neighborhood holds special significance in the Nicaraguan consciousness because it was the place of the Sandinista Revolution in the 1970s. That revolution was led by President Ortega and has now become the epicenter of anti-government sentiment again.
Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is Ortega’s wife, said Monday it was necessary to clear out Monimbo and Masaya. The U.S. warned Ortega against pursuing the assault on Masaya as it called for a halt to the deadly crackdown on anti-government protests.
The violence in Nicaragua has gotten global attention with many asking for peace in the streets.
“The Nicaraguan government must stop the massacre of students and civil society,” tweeted Carlos Trujillo, the U.S. representative at the Organization of American States. “Those who are responsible for crimes against humanity will be held accountable.”
President Ortega’s government has dismissed opponents as delinquents.
People have taken to the streets demanding President Daniel Ortega step down, in the bloodiest protests in Nicaragua since the country’s civil war ended in 1990. The unrest began, when Ortega proposed reducing pension benefits to ease budgetary pressures. Though the plan was later dropped, it started large protests and calls for Ortega to step down over his government crack down on demonstrators.