Things That Matter

Priests In The Nicaraguan Catholic Church Are Supporting Anti-Ortega Demonstrators Calling For His Removal

After two weeks of violent and deadly protests, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has scrapped a proposed social security reform plan which would have increased taxes to workers and employers and reduced retired workers’ pensions. In response, the Nicaraguan Catholic Church called for peaceful marches. The church is also taking the position of mediator to address the cause of the protests. More than 60 people have died and over 400 have been injured in Nicaragua due to anti-government protests and most of the victims are students.

Many leaders in the country’s Catholic church support anti-Ortega protestors taking to the streets.

“The government has just one month to come through. If it doesn’t, the people will be told that it couldn’t,” Leopoldo Brenes, a cardinal in Nicaragua’s catholic church, told The Washington Post. Human rights groups have denounced the country’s response to protesters which has led to National Assembly president Gustavo Porras calling for the creation of a truth commission to look into the deaths and violence during the clashes.

The Nicaraguan government has not confirmed or denied casualty figures which has been estimated to include at least 60 dead and almost 400 injured.

Nicaraguans are demanding Ortega’s resignation and that of his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, describing them as oppressive and corrupt violators of human rights, civil rights and the freedom of the people. President Ortega who has held a tight grip on power since his election in 2007, has also seen his share of supporters who took to the streets on Monday to rally in his support.

“We must say no to death, no to destruction, no to violence, no to barbarity!” Ortega said to supporters during the rally, according to The Miami Herald. “Yes to life, yes to dialogue, yes to work , yes to peace!.”

Young people have been at the center of protests calling for the resignation of the President Daniel Ortega.

The protests were started by students at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua in the capital city Managua. Peaceful protesters were attacked by police in an attempt to stop the students from voicing their discontent. This led to nationwide protests against the current government instead of just about the proposed social security changes.

As protests continue, the world is watching to see if Ortega and his wife will leave their position of power.

President Ortega has been in power for 17 years. First from 1984 to 1990 and he resumed power again in 2007 until now.

“He either lives in a civil way, obeying the law and stopping the brutality and the corruption, or he becomes the Nicaraguan version of the Ceaușescu,” Nicaraguan journalist Alvaro Cruz, editor of the Salvadoran newspaper Diario El Mundo, told the Miami Herald.

The reference of Ceaușescu is of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the last Communist leader of Romania. He and his wife were overthrown in 1989 by a revolution. They were tried and convicted by a court for their crimes against the Romanian people and were among the last people executed in Romania.


Read: Political And Civil Unrest Has Been Raging In Nicaragua After A Change Was Made To The Social Security System

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A Quick Explanation About What Is Happening In The Dominican Republic

Things That Matter

A Quick Explanation About What Is Happening In The Dominican Republic

josejhan / Instagram

Dominicans across the world are protesting in unison to demand transparency in the recent elections in the Dominican Republic. The protests stem from a recent municipal election that many are calling into question. Faulty voting machines and a lack of transparency have set off a warning call within the global Dominican community fearing election tampering and a power grab. Here’s what we know so far.

Dominicans are demanding answers about irregularities in the latest election on the island.

Four hours into the voting process, the Dominican government reported irregularities with the voting machines. According to officials, 60 percent of the voting machines were experiencing the same issue of showing voters incomplete ballots. Many showed just one party on the ballot. That’s when the government, in an unprecedented move, suspended the Feb. 16 elections.

People across the island have joined in taking to the streets to protest against the government’s decision to suspend the elections.

Tensions are flaring on the island about election tampering and voting after one party has ruled the presidency for 24 years. It is also three months until the general elections and Dominicans don’t trust the process after the latest snafu.

“The electronic vote failed us that morning,” Electoral Board Presiden Julio César Castaños Guzmán, said at a press conference.

Yet, Casatños Guzmán admitted that the Dominican government was warned that they knew of the issue before the elections began but were under the impression that they could be fixed when the machines were installed. The elections proved that the issue was not corrected.

Concerned Dominicans are desperately trying to shine a full light on what they consider an imminent dictatorship.

“The Dominican people are under a dictatorship disguised as democracy,” Alejandro Contreras, a protester in New York told NBC News. “We will be demanding the resignation of all the members of the electoral board, as well as a formal public explanation on the impunity and corruption within the government, among other issues.”

The protests and election fears come the same week as the Dominican Republic’s independence day.

On Feb. 27, 1844, the Dominican Independence War led to the imperial independence of the Dominican Republic from Haiti. The number of casualties from the war are unknown but Haiti is estimated to have lost three times more soldiers than the Dominican Republic.

The fears of a dictatorship are real on the island who was under a dictatorship for 31 years in the 20th century. Rafael Trujillo ruled the island with a brutal fist from February 1930 until his assassination in May 1961. He was president of the island for two terms covering 18 years from 1930 to 1938 and again from 1942 to 1952. After the last term, he ruled as an unelected military man keeping the island in fear.

All eyes are on the Dominican Republic and their government as Dominicans across the world fight to preserve its democracy.

Credit: @sixtalee / Twitter

Sigue luchando. El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido. Viva la democracia.

READ: After A Year Of Bad Press, The Dominican Republic Launches Campaign To Bring Tourists Back

Using Social Media, Russia Is Accused Of Being Behind The Massive Protests Across Latin America

Things That Matter

Using Social Media, Russia Is Accused Of Being Behind The Massive Protests Across Latin America

Marcelo Hernandez

For months now, Latin America has been facing a political crisis as country after country has seen massive populist protest movements that have destabilized the region. From Chile to Puerto Rico, Bolivia to Ecuador, governments have struggled to respond to growing inequality – which has forced millions of Latinos to take to the street.

Many of these protest movements lack obvious leadership but they do share a few common threads. For one, they want to see more government accountability and actions against corruption. They also share a desire to fight growing income inequality which has stifled economic development for the region’s most vulnerable populations.

Now, a new report has tied many of these massive protest movements to Russian bots – which are seen as instigating and magnifying the region’s unrest.

The US has reportedly tied Russian bots to increased protest movements across Latin America.

Although the protest movements across Latin America share a few common threads, the majority of them are overwhelmingly different. In Chile, protests started over a planned increase in public transport fares. In Bolivia, it was against alleged voter fraud by then-President Evo Morales. In Puerto Rico, it was to fight back against alleged corruption and to hold leaders accountable for homophobic and misogynistic texts.

According to the US State Department, however, they’ve identified one theme they all seem to have in common: Russian interference.

In Chile, nearly 10 percent of all tweets supporting protests in late October originated with Twitter accounts that had a high certainty of being linked to Russia. While in Bolivia, tweets associated with Russian-backed accounts spiked to more than 1,000 per day – up from fewer than five.

And in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile over one 30-day period, Russia-linked accounts posted strikingly similar messages within 90 minutes of one another.

Senior diplomats from the US believe that Russia’s goal may be to increase dissent in countries that don’t support Maduro’s presidency in Venezuela.

Russia’s alleged campaign to help tap support for Maduro’s regime has resulted in mixed reviews. It’s not obvious how successful the campaign has been.

With the support of more than 50 other countries, the Trump administration has imposed bruising economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro’s government in Venezuela over the last year. The coalition is backing Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, whom most of Latin America and the rest of the West views as the country’s legitimate president.

Russia is working to expand its presence in Latin America, largely at Washington’s expense.

The US State Department frequently keeps tabs on Twitter traffic worldwide to monitor for potentially dangerous activities, like the proliferation of fake pages and user accounts or content that targets the public with divisive messages

“We are noting a thumb on the scales,” said Kevin O’Reilly, the deputy assistant secretary of state overseeing issues in the Western Hemisphere. “It has made the normal dispute resolutions of a democratic society more contentious and more difficult.”

Souring attitudes toward the United States throughout the region over trade and immigration issues, the rise of populist candidates, and the deepening internal economic and social challenges facing many Latin American countries create favorable circumstances for Russia to advance its interests.

About a decade ago, it became obvious that Russia was launching an online campaign to destabilize the region using new technology and social media.

There are Spanish-language arms of two Russian-backed news organizations that have been found to spread disinformation, conspiracy theories and, in some cases, obvious lies to undermine liberal democratic governments.

According to one state-financed group, RT Español, they’ve reached 18 million people each week across ten Latin American counties and have more than a billion views on YouTube. This is huge liability for the truth.