People in Nicaragua took to the streets today to mark one year since deadly protests there. Events in solidarity are planned in cities around the U.S. later this week.
A series of reforms to the social security system in 2018 triggered widespread demonstrations against President Daniel Ortega that year. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports that more than 320 people were killed. More than 2,000 were injured, hundreds detained and thousands forced to flee, according to Amnesty International.
Among the detainees was human rights activist Haydee Castillo. She’s worked for many years with the Sister City Project linking Hartford and Ocotal, Nicaragua.
Castillo is currently living in exile after threats on her life. She’s in Connecticut this week speaking out about present day struggles in Nicaragua.
Speaking in Spanish she told Connecticut Public Radio, “although I am not in my country I continue to defend human rights. I stay in touch with what’s happening, document violations and speak to the international community so they can help us find a way out of the current political crisis and continuing violation of human rights.”
Castillo said years ago she supported Ortega and the Sandinista political party’s overthrow of Nicaragua’s long-ruling dictatorship. But she gradually began to distance herself from what she saw as the government’s increasingly corrupt policies, and said she was stunned during last year’s demonstrations to witness Nicaraguan police firing against unarmed university student protestors.
“The emotional impact was terrible,” she said. “It's so difficult to see history repeating itself. One realizes that they can come from the left. They can come from the right. They can come from the center. But when one’s ambition is money and power, people are capable of terrible things.”
With much of the world’s attention focused on Venezuela, Castillo is asking the international community not to lose sight of the ongoing political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Nicaragua.