Nicaragua: Truth Knowledge And History Of This Troubled Central American Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)

 

Nicaragua

Introduction The Pacific coast of Nicaragua was settled as a Spanish colony from Panama in the early 16th century. Independence from Spain was declared in 1821 and the country became an independent republic in 1838. Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978 and resulted in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979. Nicaraguan aid to leftist rebels in El Salvador caused the US to sponsor anti-Sandinista contra guerrillas through much of the 1980s. Free elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, saw the Sandinistas defeated, but voting in 2006 announced the return of former Sandinista President Daniel ORTEGA Saavedra. Nicaragua’s infrastructure and economy – hard hit by the earlier civil war and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 – are slowly being rebuilt.
History Pre-Columbian history

In Pre-Columbian times the Indigenous people, in what is now known as Nicaragua, were part of the Intermediate Area located between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions. This has recently been updated to include the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures met.

Nicaragua was inhabited by Paleo-Indians as far back as 6000 years ago.[2] This is confirmed by the ancient footprints of Acahualinca, along with other archaeological evidence, mainly in the form of ceramics and statues made of volcanic stone like the ones found on the island of Zapatera and petroglyphs found in Ometepe island. At the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous peoples related by culture and language to the Mayans.[3] They were primarily farmers who lived in towns, organized into small kingdoms. Meanwhile, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples, mostly chibcha related groups, that had migrated from what is now Colombia. They lived a less sedentary life based on hunting and gathering.

The people of eastern Nicaragua appear to have traded with and been influenced by the native peoples of the Caribbean, as round thatched huts and canoes, both typical of the Caribbean, were common in eastern Nicaragua. In the west and highland areas, occupying the territory between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Coast, the Niquirano were governed by chief Nicarao, or Nicaragua, a rich ruler who lived in Nicaraocali, now the city of Rivas. The Chorotega lived in the central region of Nicaragua. These two groups had intimate contact with the Spanish conquerors, paving the way for the racial mix of native and European stock now known as mestizos. However, within three decades an estimated Indian population of one million plummeted to a few tens of thousands, as approximately half of the indigenous people in western Nicaragua died from the rapid spread of new diseases brought by the Spaniards, something the indigenous people of the Caribbean coast managed to escape due to the remoteness of the area.

The Spanish conquest

In 1502, Christopher Columbus was the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua as he sailed south along the Central America isthmus. On his fourth voyage Columbus sailed alongside and explored the Mosquito Coast on the east of Nicaragua.[5] The first attempt to conquer what is now known as Nicaragua was by Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila,[6] whose Central American exploits began with his arrival in Panama in January 1520. González claimed to have converted some 30,000 indigenous peoples and discovered a possible transisthmian water link. After exploring and gathering gold in the fertile western valleys González was attacked by the indigenous people, some of whom were commanded by Nicarao and an estimated 3,000 led by chief Diriangén.[7] González later returned to Panama where governor Pedrarias Dávila attempted to arrest him and confiscate his treasure, some 90,000 pesos of gold. This resulted in González fleeing to Santo Domingo.

It was not until 1524 that the first Spanish permanent settlements were founded.[6] Conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded two of Nicaragua’s principal towns in 1524: Granada on Lake Nicaragua was the first settlement and León east of Lake Managua came after. Córdoba soon found it necessary to prepare defenses for the cities and go on the offensive against incursions by the other conquistadores. Córdoba was later publicly beheaded following a power struggle with Pedrarias Dávila, his tomb and remains were discovered some 500 years later in the Ruins of León Viejo.[8]

The inevitable clash between the Spanish forces did not impede their devastation of the indigenous population. The Indian civilization was destroyed. The series of battles came to be known as The War of the Captains.[9] By 1529, the conquest of Nicaragua was complete. Several conquistadores came out winners, and some were executed or murdered. Pedrarias Dávila was a winner; although he had lost control of Panama, he had moved to Nicaragua and established his base in León. Through adroit diplomatic machinations, he became the first governor of the colony.[8] The land was parceled out to the conquistadores. The area of most interest was the western portion. Many indigenous people were soon enslaved to develop and maintain “estates” there. Others were put to work in mines in northern Nicaragua, few were killed in warfare, and the great majority were sent as slaves to other New World Spanish colonies, for significant profit to the new landed aristocracy. Many of the indigenous people died as a result of disease and neglect by the Spaniards who controlled everything necessary for their subsistence.[6]

From colony to nation

In 1538, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established. By 1570, the southern part of New Spain was designated the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The area of Nicaragua was divided into administrative “parties” with León as the capital. In 1610, the Momotombo erupted, destroying the capital. It was rebuilt northwest of what is now known as the Ruins of Old León. Nicaragua became a part of the Mexican Empire and then gained its independence as a part of the United Provinces of Central America in 1821 and as an independent republic in its own right in 1838. The Mosquito Coast based on the Caribbean coast was claimed by the United Kingdom and its predecessors as a protectorate from 1655 to 1850; this was delegated to Honduras in 1859 and transferred to Nicaragua in 1860, though it remained autonomous until 1894. Jose Santos Zelaya, president of Nicaragua from 1893-1909, managed to negotiate for the annexation of this region to the rest of Nicaragua. In his honour the entire region was named Zelaya.

Much of Nicaragua’s politics since independence has been characterized by the rivalry between the liberal elite of León and the conservative elite of Granada. The rivalry often degenerated into civil war, particularly during the 1840s and 1850s. Initially invited by the Liberals in 1855 to join their struggle against the Conservatives, a United States adventurer named William Walker (later executed in Honduras) set himself up as president of Nicaragua, after conducting a farcical election in 1856. Honduras and other Central American countries united to drive him out of Nicaragua in 1857, after which a period of three decades of Conservative rule ensued.[10]

In the 1800s Nicaragua experienced a wave of immigration, primarily from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium generally moved to Nicaragua to set up businesses with money they brought from Europe. They established many agricultural businesses such as coffee and sugar cane plantations, and also newspapers, hotels and banks.

United States involvement (1909 – 1933)

In 1909, the United States provided political support to conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua’s potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya’s attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of Zelaya. The U.S. justified the intervention by claiming to protect U.S. lives and property. Zelaya resigned later that year. U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933,[11] except for a nine month period beginning in 1925. From 1910 to 1926, the conservative party ruled Nicaragua. The Chamorro family, which had long dominated the party, effectively controlled the government during that period. In 1914, the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was signed, giving the U.S. control over the proposed canal, as well as leases for potential canal defenses.[12] Following the evacuation of U.S. marines, another violent conflict between liberals and conservatives took place in 1926, known as the Constitutionalist War, which resulted in a coalition government and the return of U.S. Marines.[13]

From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, who withdrew upon the establishment of a new Liberal government. Sandino was the only Nicaraguan general to refuse to sign the el tratado del Espino Negro agreement and then headed up to the northern mountains of Las Segovias, where he fought the US Marines for over five years.[14] The revolt finally forced the United States to compromise and leave the country. When the Americans left in 1933, they set up the Guardia Nacional (National Guard),[15] a combined military and police force trained and equipped by the Americans and designed to be loyal to U.S. interests. Anastasio Somoza García, a close friend of the American government, was put in charge. He was one of the three rulers of the country, the others being Sandino and the mostly figurehead President Juan Bautista Sacasa.

After the US Marines withdrew from Nicaragua in January 1933, Sandino and the newly-elected Sacasa government reached an agreement by which he would cease his guerrilla activities in return for amnesty, a grant of land for an agricultural colony, and retention of an armed band of 100 men for a year.[16] But a growing hostility between Sandino and Somoza led Somoza to order the assassination of Sandino.[17][18][15] Fearing future armed opposition from Sandino, Somoza invited him to a meeting in Managua, where Sandino was assassinated on February 21 of 1934 by the National Guard. Hundreds of men, women, and children were executed later.[19]

The Somoza Dynasty (1936 – 1979)

Nicaragua has seen many interventions by the United States. It has also experienced long military dictatorships, the longest one being the rule of the Somoza family for much of the 20th century. The Somoza family came to power as part of a US-engineered pact in 1927 that stipulated the formation of the National Guard to replace the small individual armies that had long reigned in the country.[20] Somoza deposed Sacasa and became president on Jan. 1, 1937 in a rigged election.

Nicaragua was the first country to ratify the UN Charter,[21] and declared war on Germany during World War II. No troops were sent to the war but Somoza did seize the occasion to confiscate attractive properties held by German-Nicaraguans, the best-known of which was the Montelimar estate which today operates as a privately-owned luxury resort and casino.

Somoza used the National Guard to force Sacasa to resign, and took control of the country in 1937, destroying any potential armed resistance.[23] Somoza was in turn assassinated by Rigoberto López Pérez, a liberal Nicaraguan poet, in 1956. After his father’s death, Luis Somoza Debayle, the eldest son of the late dictator, was appointed President by the congress and officially took charge of the country.[15] He is remembered by some for being moderate, but was in power only for a few years and then died of a heart attack. Then came president Rene Schick whom most Nicaraguans viewed “as nothing more than a puppet of the Somozas”.[24] Somoza’s brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who succeeded his father in charge of the National Guard, controlled the country, and officially took the presidency after Schick.

Nicaragua experienced high economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s largely as a result of industrialization,[25] and became one of Central America’s most developed nations despite its political instability. Due to its stable and high growth economy, foreign investments grew, primarily from U.S. companies such as Citigroup, Sears, Westinghouse and Coca Cola. However, the capital city of Managua suffered a major earthquake in 1972 which destroyed nearly 90% of the city creating major losses.[26] Some Nicaraguan historians see the 1972 earthquake that devastated Managua as the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for Somoza. The mishandling of relief money also prompted Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente to personally fly to Managua on December 31, 1972, but he died enroute in an airplane accident.[27] Even the economic elite were reluctant to support Somoza, as he had acquired monopolies in industries that were key to rebuilding the nation,[28] and did not allow the elite to share the profits that would result. In 1973 (the year of reconstruction) many new buildings were built, but the level of corruption in the government prevented further growth, and the ever increasing tensions and anti-government uprisings slowed growth in the last two years of the Somoza dynasty.

The Nicaraguan revolution

In 1961, a young student, Carlos Fonseca, turned back to the historical figure of Sandino, and along with 2 others founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).[15] The FSLN was a tiny party throughout most of the 1960s, but Somoza’s utter hatred of it and his heavy-handed treatment of anyone he suspected to be a Sandinista sympathizer gave many ordinary Nicaraguans the idea that the Sandinistas were much stronger.

After the 1972 earthquake and Somoza’s brazen corruption, mishandling of relief, and refusal to rebuild Managua, the ranks of the Sandinistas were flooded with young disaffected Nicaraguans who no longer had anything to lose.[29] These economic problems propelled the Sandinistas in their struggle against Somoza by leading many middle- and upper-class Nicaraguans to see the Sandinistas as the only hope for removing the brutal Somoza regime. On January 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the national newspaper La Prensa and ardent opponent of Somoza, was assassinated.[30] This is believed to have led to the extreme general disappointment with Somoza. The planners and perpetrators of the murder were at the highest echelons of the Somoza regime and included the dictator’s son, “El Chiguin”, the President of Housing, Cornelio Hueck, the Attorney General, and Pedro Ramos, a close Cuban ally who commercialized blood plasma.

The Sandinistas, supported by much of the populace, elements of the Catholic Church, and regional and international governments, took power in July of 1979. Somoza fled the country and eventually ended up in Paraguay, where he was assassinated in September 1980, allegedly by members of the Argentinian Revolutionary Workers Party.[31] The Sandinistas inherited a country in ruins with a debt of U.S.$1.6 billion dollars, an estimated 50,000 war dead, 600,000 homeless, and a devastated economic infrastructure.[32] To begin the task of establishing a new government, they created a Council (or junta) of National Reconstruction, made up of five members – Sandinista militants Daniel Ortega and Moises Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado (a member of Los Doce “the Twelve”), businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro). The preponderance of power, however, remained with the Sandinistas and their mass organizations, including the Sandinista Workers’ Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women’s Association (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), and the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos).

Sandinistas and the Contras

Upon assuming office in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting Marxist revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. His administration authorized the CIA to begin financing, arming and training rebels, some of whom were the remnants of Somoza’s National Guard, as anti-Sandinista guerrillas that were branded “counter-revolutionary” by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish).[33] This was shortened to Contras, a label the anti-Communist forces chose to embrace. Eden Pastora and many of the indigenous guerrilla forces, who were not associated with the “Somozistas,” also resisted the Sandinistas. The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south.[33] As was typical in guerrilla warfare, they were engaged in a campaign of economic sabotage in an attempt to combat the Sandinista government and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua’s Corinto harbour,[34] an action condemned by the World Court as illegal.[35][36] The U.S. also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo.

U.S. support for this Nicaraguan insurgency continued in spite of the fact that impartial observers from international groupings such as the European Union, religious groups sent to monitor the election, and observers from democratic nations such as Canada and the Republic of Ireland concluded that the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984 were completely free and fair. The Reagan administration disputed these results however, despite the fact that the government of the United States never had any observers in Nicaragua at the time.

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras (The Iran-Contra Affair).[40] When this scheme was revealed, Reagan admitted that he knew about the Iranian “arms for hostages” dealings but professed ignorance about the proceeds funding the Contras; for this, National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North took much of the blame. Senator John Kerry’s 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra-drug links concluded that “senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems.” According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel Noriega, a Panamanian general and the de facto military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989 when he was overthrown and captured by a U.S. invading force. He was taken to the United States, tried for drug trafficking, and imprisoned in 1992.

The Reagan administration’s support for the Contras continued to stir controversy well into the 1990s. In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance, linking the origins of crack cocaine in California to the Contras.[44] Freedom of Information Act inquiries by the National Security Archive and other investigators unearthed a number of documents showing that White House officials, including Oliver North, knew about and supported using money raised via drug trafficking to fund the Contras. Sen. John Kerry’s report in 1988 led to the same conclusions; however, major media outlets, the Justice Department, and Reagan denied the allegations.[45]

1990s and the post-Sandinista era

Multi-party democratic elections were held in 1990, which saw the defeat of the Sandinistas by a coalition of anti-Sandinista (from the left and right of the political spectrum) parties led by Violeta Chamorro, the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. The defeat shocked the Sandinistas as numerous pre-election polls had indicated a sure Sandinista victory and their pre-election rallies had attracted crowds of several hundred thousand people.[46] The unexpected result was subject to a great deal of analysis and comment, and was attributed by commentators such as Noam Chomsky and S. Brian Willson to the U.S./Contra threats to continue the war if the Sandinistas retained power, the general war-weariness of the Nicaraguan population, and the abysmal Nicaraguan economic situation.

Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in 1990 became the first female president democratically elected in the Americas.

On the other hand, P. J. O’Rourke wrote in “Return of the Death of Communism”, “the unfair advantages of using state resources for party ends, about how Sandinista control of the transit system prevented UNO supporters from attending rallies, how Sandinista domination of the army forced soldiers to vote for Ortega and how Sandinista bureaucracy kept $3.3 million of U.S. campaign aid from getting to UNO while Daniel Ortega spent millions donated by overseas people and millions and millions more from the Nicaraguan treasury . . .”

Exit polls of Nicaraguans reported Chamorro’s victory over Ortega was achieved with only 55%. Violeta Chamorro was the first woman to be popularly elected as President of a Latin American nation and first woman president of Nicaragua. Exit polling convinced Daniel Ortega that the election results were legitimate, and were instrumental in his decision to accept the vote of the people and step down rather than void the election. Nonetheless Ortega vowed that he would govern “desde abajo” (from below),[49] in other words due to his widespread control of institutions and Sandinista individuals in all government agencies, he would still be able to maintain control and govern even without being president.

Chamorro received an economy entirely in ruins. The per capita income of Nicaragua had been reduced by over 80% during the 1980s, and a huge government debt which ascended to US$12 billion primarily due to financial and social costs of the Contra war with the Sandinista-led government.[50] Much to the surprise of the U.S. and the contra forces, Chamorro did not dismantle the Sandinista People’s Army, though the name was changed to the Nicaraguan Army. Chamorro’s main contribution to Nicaragua was the disarmament of groups in the northern and central areas of the country. This provided stability that the country had lacked for over ten years.

In subsequent elections in 1996 Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas of the FSLN were again defeated, this time by Arnoldo Alemán of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC).

In the 2001 elections the PLC again defeated the FSLN, with Enrique Bolaños winning the Presidency. However, President Bolaños subsequently charged and brought forward allegations of money laundering, theft and corruption against former President Alemán. The ex-president was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement, money laundering, and corruption.[51] The Liberal members who were loyal to Alemán and also members of congress reacted angrily, and along with Sandinista parliament members stripped the presidential powers of President Bolaños and his ministers, calling for his resignation and threatening impeachment.

President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, Celebrating May 1, 2005, in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. President Ortega is currently serving his second term.

The Sandinistas alleged that their support for Bolaños was lost when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Bolaños to keep his distance from the FSLN.[52] This “slow motion coup” was averted partially due to pressure from the Central American presidents who would fail to recognize any movement that removed Bolaños; The U.S., the OAS, and the European Union also opposed the “slow motion coup”.[53] The proposed constitutional changes that were going to be introduced in 2005 against the Bolaños administration were delayed until January 2007 after the entrance of the new government. Though 1 day before they were enforced the National Assembly postponed their enforcement until January 2008.

Before the general elections on 5 November 2006, the National Assembly passed a bill further restricting abortion in Nicaragua 52-0 (9 abstaining, 29 absent). President Enrique Bolaños supported this measure, but signed the bill into law on 17 November 2006,[54] as a result Nicaragua is one of three countries in the world where abortion is illegal with no exceptions, along with El Salvador and Chile.

Legislative and presidential elections took place on November 5, 2006. Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency with 37.99% of the vote. This percentage was enough to win the presidency outright, due to a change in electoral law which lowered the percentage requiring a runoff election from 45% to 35% (with a 5% margin of victory).

Geography Location: Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
Geographic coordinates: 13 00 N, 85 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 129,494 sq km
land: 120,254 sq km
water: 9,240 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than the state of New York
Land boundaries: total: 1,231 km
border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
Coastline: 910 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate: tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
Terrain: extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources: gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Land use: arable land: 14.81%
permanent crops: 1.82%
other: 83.37% (2005)
Irrigated land: 610 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 196.7 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.3 cu km/yr (15%/2%/83%)
per capita: 237 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes
Environment – current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification
Geography – note: largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
Politics Politics of Nicaragua takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
People Population: 5,785,846 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.6% (male 1,019,281/female 981,903)
15-64 years: 62.1% (male 1,792,398/female 1,803,133)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 82,840/female 106,291) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 21.7 years
male: 21.3 years
female: 22.1 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.825% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 23.7 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 4.33 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 25.91 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.06 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.21 years
male: 69.08 years
female: 73.44 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.63 children born/woman (2008 est.)

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘They Wanted To Kill Us All’: Nicaragua Reels After Bloody Church Siege

A student who had taken refuge at the Church of the Divine Mercy amid a barrage of armed attacks is embraced by a relative on Saturday after he was transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

Nicaragua saw another weekend of deadly violence, as forces in support of President Daniel Ortega besieged student protesters in a church and attempted to assert control over several areas outside the capital.

Students have been at the center of anti-government demonstrations since they began April 18. What started as a “protest against now-rescinded changes in public pensions” became “a full-fledged call to end the authoritarian rule,” reporter Maria Martin tells NPR. The government has responded with brutal force.

Overnight Friday, protests at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in the capital took a dramatic turn, ultimately leaving at least two people dead and several others injured.

For two months, students at the university in Managua have set up barricades during protests that have drawn the wrath of pro-government forces. On Friday, about 200 students on the sprawling campus were pinned down by police and paramilitaries into a nearby Catholic church that they had been using as a field hospital.

The Washington Post’s Joshua Partlow, reporting on the protests, was trapped in the Church of the Divine Mercy along with the students. He described what he saw:

“Not long after 6 p.m., with several high-pitched cracks, the mood took a dark turn. The faraway shooting was suddenly nearby. The paramilitaries had appeared, cutting off the only exit from Divine Mercy and firing at the remaining barricade just outside the church.

“It became clear that everyone inside — dozens of students, at least two priests and two doctors, neighbors, volunteers and journalists, including me — would not be going anywhere.

“Most of the students accepted this realization with stoicism and remarkable calm. Many had been taking sporadic fire on and off for the past two months, and they seemed accustomed to it. They carried the wounded into the Rev. Raul Zamora’s rectory and put them on chairs or on the blood-spattered tile floor. Outside, at the barricade, other students shouted and fired their mortars against the unseen ­assailants.

“Over the next hours, the fighting ebbed and flowed. A flurry of gunfire would force everyone indoors, then people would drift into the courtyard. At times, they chanted ‘Viva, Nicaragua,’ shot their mortars in the air and vowed to never leave their posts. Around sunset, dozens of them knelt in a circle, held each other and prayed.”

The siege stretched on for some 15 hours, ending when members of the clergy negotiated for the students to be allowed to leave. They were transported to the Managua Metropolitan Cathedral, according to the Post.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said two students were killed during the confrontation, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners attend the wake of Nicaraguan university student Gerald Vasquez who was killed over the weekend when police forced students out of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.

Cristobal Venegas/AP

“It was a really hard night. They discharged their entire heavy arsenal against stones and mortars,” a sobbing young man who was afraid to given his name told the AP. “They wanted to kill us all.”

Sunday saw more violence, just outside Managua, Reuters reported. The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights said at least 10 people were killed when security forces and paramilitary groups loyal to Ortega attacked people in the city of Masaya and communities of Monimbo.

In Masaya, pro-government forces were trying to take down barricades and reassert control over the area in what the government was calling “Operation Clean-up,” according to the BBC. The government says the “blockades are harming businesses and disrupting the lives of Nicaraguans,” the broadcaster reports.

The weekend violence is part of a brutal crackdown that human rights groups say has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 people.

Human rights groups have criticized the Nicaraguan government for its tactics. For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has accused the government of “excessive and arbitrary use of police force,” as well as using paramilitary groups called “shock groups” to put down protests. It has called for the groups to be dismantled.

The BBC described “hooded and masked men opening fire on protesters” during recent protests, and says that “the government says the protesters are trying to stage a coup d’etat against Mr Ortega.”

At Least 25 Killed In Nicaragua Protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

#SOSNicaragua: At least 25 killed in Nicaragua protests, including one journalist, say human rights groups

Protesters killed in Nicaragua, confirmed by independent news site Confidencial. Photo compilation by Confidencial. Individual photos via various social media channels.

In Nicaragua, what began as demonstrations against social security reforms have become a national outcry against corruption, censorship and overall repression.

In just five days of demonstrations, the government has carried out a violent crackdown. While state sources are reporting a death toll of 10, human rights and protest groups estimate that at least 25 people have been killed in protests, with many more injured, and dozens detained or disappeared. One journalist and one police officer are among the dead.

Multiple TV networks have been banned from broadcasting the demonstrations. Access to Confidencial, a local independent news site reporting on the protester death tollwas faltering shortly before this article was published.

On April 18, the government – led by President Daniel Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo, who is also the vice president – unilaterally adopted an executive decree reducing the pension allowance by 5% and implementing additional social security taxes to employers and employees.

In response, retirees and students organized peaceful demonstrations to voice their disagreement but were met with anti-riot police forces and members of the Sandinista Youth parastatal group. Chaos erupted from there. Clashes have since turned violent and some protesters have reported that police are using live ammunition.

Video journalist Ángel Gahona was shot dead on April 21 while live broadcasting a protest through Facebook Live.

Sandra Cuffe@Sandra_Cuffe

Nicaraguan journalist Angel Eduardo Gahona spent the last four minutes of his life covering youth protest and incoming riot police tonight in Bluefields. He was streaming live on facebook when he was shot and killed. This was his last broadcast: https://www.facebook.com/ElMeridianoBluefields/videos/1525050757617208/ 

Other journalists have been attacked and assaulted, and have had their equipment stolen. In parallel, at least three TV channels were banned from reporting on the protests.

In a country where media freedom is fleeting, censorship has not deterred Nicaraguans, who are live broadcasting, tweeting and video blogging about the crisis on the ground.

Hashtags such as #SOSNicaragua, #SOSINSS and #QueSeRindaTuMadre have gone viral on Twitter and Facebook, and raw videos are being uploaded on Dropbox. Through online activism, Nicaraguans are pleading for international support — though they are specifically asking the US not to intervene.

Demonstrators in Managua. Screenshot from Euronews video.

While college students are the face of the movement, Nicaraguans from across the political spectrum are actively supporting them, starting with feminist and peasant groups, retirees, and students’ parents. This is why demonstrators stress they are not linked to a specific political party, but are making demands in the name of human rights and democracy in Nicaragua. The protestors call themselves “the self-organized, self-summoned.”

Journalist Wilfredo Miranda filmed a demonstration where protesters ironically shout “here is the minority,” in reference to Vice-President Murillo’s belief that the outcry only represents a minority of Nicaraguans.

Wilfredo Miranda Aburto@PiruloAr

“Aquí está la minoría”, le responden a Rosario Murillo

Since students have born the brunt of police killings and aggression, civilians are gathering supplies and medicines for them in universities and in the Managua Cathedral, as the Church backs the upheaval.

In a video posted to Facebook by Franklin Leonel, we see students and doctors caring for the wounded in university halls. In a caption, he writes:

They are not criminals!!! #SOSNicaragua they’re killing our students!!!

The government’s official position has been shifting in public statements, but the state-enforced violence seems to continue.

President Ortega publicly ignored the protests for three days, before making an appearance on April 21. Military troops multiplied on the streets thereafter. Later, he declared that he was open to a dialogue with the private sector, who accepted the invitation under certain conditions, such as inviting other sectors of society at the table. President Ortega did not reply and instead repealed the social security reform altogether on April 22.

But the protests now have expanded beyond the cause of the social security reform. Demonstrators are demanding justice for those who have been killed by police and military gunfire, and are demanding an end to government corruption. Some are calling for the overall dissolution of Ortega’s government.

On Facebook, protest supporter Leonor Zúniga posted a video explaining the situation:

…the people are tired. It’s been 11 years that we’ve been in a very authoritarian [state], where we’ve been constantly repressed, where state decisions are made in secret, where we’re never taken into account.

[…]

I think that [the social security reform] was the last straw.

The now-repealed social security reform was, as Zúniga says, the last straw in a decline of government accountability, economic conditions, environmental degradation (including recent wildfires in the Indio Maíz nature reserve) and democratic institutions at large.

Nicaragua, a country of six million people, lived under the Somoza authoritarian regime until the Sandinista Revolution toppled the government in 1979. In the 1980s, a civil war raged between the Sandinista regime and the “Contras”, opposition fighters financed and armed by the US government. Daniel Ortega, a former guerrillero and member of the Sandinista National Liberal Front (FSLN in Spanish) was elected president in 1985. He remained in office until he lost a reelection bid in 1990, which brought about the end of the civil war.

Ortega was reelected in 2007 and has remained in power ever since. His tenure has been marked by the abolition of presidential term limits, an increasingly muzzled press, opaque business deals, and direct control over the police, the military and both the judiciary and legislative branches of government.

Former Iranian Hostages Should Not Be Compensated With American Tax Dollars

Former Iranian Hostages Should Not Be Compensated With American Tax Dollars

 

For those of us who are old enough to remember the Iranian hostage debacle where the American embassy in Tehran was over ran by ‘students’ loyal to the new Islamic Revolutionary government in the fall of 1979 was the beginning of the end for one Demon and the rise of the Devil who took his place. Now our President with the stroke of his pen has brought this event back into the news concerning payments to all the former hostages and their families is just another slap in the face of the American tax payers. For those of you who are too young to remember this event that lasted 440 days, ending the day Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush was sworn into office (January 20th, 1981) you need to crack open the history books and enlarge your knowledge of this event. This was a major black eye to all Americans and it did hasten the downfall of President Jimmy Carter as our President.

 

I do not blame the people of Iran for being livid with the American government for their (our) backing of their Dictator the Shaw of Iran. This monster murdered thousands of his own countrymen and imprisoned and tortured many thousands more. Our government had a long track record of backing people like him and Saddam as long as our government got things like a listening post, Airfields or Bases that we could have access to, we turned a blind eye to the murders and torturing of the citizens. Plus the fact that this gave our military industries here in America extra customers that was worth many billions of dollars to their stock holders and did help create and keep thousands of Americans employed in well-paying jobs. We had no moral high ground when it came to propping up these blood thirsty foreign leaders, it is/was no wonder that the people of Iran hated our country. But there again is the issue of reality, we the people didn’t know what was going on in Iran, but our governments security agencies did know and they still gave the Shaw the weapons to kill his own people with. It is quite stupid to believe that a countries people (here in America) should be held at charge for what they had no knowledge of yet we do teach that a person or people are (guilty by association). When a government is evil (aren’t they all) it is easy to paint the citizens of that country with the same brush their leaders are painted with. This is ignorant yet we humans do still make this mistake often in our everyday laws.

 

When a person takes a job with the government and you are assigned to one of our embassies you know very well that you just became a target for those who hate your flag and that your position comes with dangers. The people working at the Tehran embassy knew their lives could be in danger for working there yet they accepted the jobs they had and the pay checks and benefit packages that came with their position. Then there is the matter of the Marines who were guards there at that time, they darn sure knew the dangers of that job before they ever stepped foot into the compound. What I am saying is that what happened back then was part of the job that they all knew could happen, or even worse, do you remember Benghazi Libya just a few of years ago?

 

Buried deep in a federal spending bill that President Obama signed was an allocation of money to be given to those 53 former hostages (only 36 are still alive) and their families. I hate what those people had to go through at the hands of those so-called students but you and I should not have to pay each of them 4.4 million dollars as compensation plus $600,000 to each of their surviving spouses and grown kids (97) of them. If anyone should have to pay this bonus to these people it should be the then Vice President in waiting George H. W. Bush and his estate. Why should he have to pay this money? My answer to that is simple, Mr Bush (study your history) who coined the phony phrase “America doesn’t negotiate with terrorist” cut a deal with the government of Iran to keep those Americans as hostages until he and Mr Reagan took office. We (American government) gave the Iranian government missiles and other weapons to keep our people as hostages because he (Mr Bush) did not want the Carter Administration getting the credit for their release. In my opinion, Mr. Bush’s actions were criminal as well as treasonous just as his Iran Contra actions a couple of years later where we sold weapons to Iran for the cash to support our illegal (Congress said so) attempt to over through the government in Nicaragua. Now do you see why I believe that if anyone should have to put money out-of-pocket to cover these ‘bonuses’ it should be the Bush estate not the American people. Mr. Bush also signed off the hostages ‘right’ to sue the Iranian government for their country’s actions, nice caring ‘leader’ huh?

 

I am going to end this article with some numbers for you to digest. To the former hostages themselves we the tax payers are paying those 53 people a total of $233,200,000.00 plus the $600,000.00 to another 97 spouses and children totaling $58,200,000.00. Folks that is a total of $291,400,000.00 that you and I have to cough up in order to pay this bill. I as a person like seeing these people getting this life altering amount of cash, good for them, their children, and their grandchildren but you and I should not have to pay this bill. These poor souls suffered a lot during their time of being kidnapped by this Demonic Iranian horde but the fact still remains that they received their pay checks while in the employment of the American government during and after this event. Mr Bush being he is the one that negotiated with these terrorists I believe if anyone should have to cough up that money it should be the Bush family, not we the people.

 

 

Lasers Reveal a Maya Civilization So Dense It Blew Experts’ Minds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

Tikal, home to temples and palaces, is one of the best known Maya sites in northern Guatemala.CreditJustin Lane for The New York Times

They were hidden there, all this time, under the cover of tree canopies in the jungles of northern Guatemala: tens of thousands of structures built by the Maya over a millennium ago.

Not far from the sites tourists already know, like the towering temples of the ancient city of Tikal, laser technology has uncovered about 60,000 homes, palaces, tombs and even highways in the humid lowlands.

The findings suggested an ancient society of such density and interconnectedness that even the most experienced archaeologists were surprised.

“Everywhere that we looked, there was more settlement than we expected,” said Thomas Garrison, a National Geographic explorer and an archaeologist at Ithaca University. “We knew there was going to be more, but the scale of it really blew our minds.”

Researchers found the structures by shooting lasers down from planes to pierce the thick foliage and paint a 3-D picture of the ground below. The technology is called Light Detection and Ranging, or lidar.

200 MILES

Gulf of

Mexico

Maya

Biosphere

ReserveGuatemala

Beli

Caribbean

Sea

MEXICO

BELIZE

GUATEMALA

HONDURAS

EL SALVADOR

Pacific

Ocean

NICARAGUA

The method has been used elsewhere, including around the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. But this lidar project is the largest ever undertaken. More than 800 square miles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala’s Petén region have been mapped, according to an exclusive report by National Geographic, which is airing a Feb. 6 television special about the project.

Continue reading the main story

“This world, which was lost to this jungle, is all of a sudden revealed in the data,” said Albert Yu-Min Lin, an engineer and National Geographic explorer who worked on the television special. “And what you thought was this massively understood, studied civilization is all of a sudden brand new again.”

The lasers are only the first step, he added, noting that he and archaeologists still had to trek through jungles to verify the data while contending with thick undergrowth, poisonous snakes, swarms of killer bees and the odd scorpion.

Photo

Lidar data highlighted about 60,000 structures that had been hidden in the jungle for hundreds of years.CreditWild Blue Media/National Geographic

The project was started by Pacunam, a Guatemalan nonprofit organization, and carried out with help from the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, which is based at the University of Houston. The lidar technology essentially allows researchers to spot bumps in the landscape. Most of the ruins look like rocky mounds — even in person, and to the naked eye — but experts can often identify a collapsed quarry, palace or street.

The Maya culture was known for its sophisticated approach to agriculture, arts and astronomy. The peak era for the civilization, which some archaeologists refer to as the Classic Period, is generally considered to have lasted from around A.D. 250 to 900.

The total population at that time was once estimated to be a few million, said Diane Davies, an archaeologist and Maya specialist based in the United Kingdom. But in light of the new lidar data, she said it could now be closer to 10 million.

Dr. Davies was not involved in the lidar project but considered it “really big, sensational news.” She said the data should encourage people not only to re-evaluate Maya civilization, but also to learn from it.

“To have such a large number of people living at such a high level for such a long period of time, it really proves the fact that these people were highly developed, and also quite environmentally conscientious,” she said.

Among the structures uncovered were roads, built wide and raised high above the wetlands to connect fields to farmers and markets to metropolises. There were also small dwellings, quarries and intricate irrigation systems. “We’re seeing the spaces in between, and that’s where really interesting stuff was happening,” Dr. Garrison said.

He added that in addition to changing people’s perception of the Maya culture, lidar represented “a sea change” in the field of archaeology.

“I don’t think you see a lot of discoveries happening across the sciences right now that sort of turn a discipline on its head,” he said. “It’s exciting to know that it can still happen.”

Magnitude 7 offshore quake shakes Central America, no damage seen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Magnitude 7 offshore quake shakes Central America, no damage seen

By Nelson Renteria | SAN SALVADOR

A strong earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Central America shook the region on Thursday just as a hurricane barreled into the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but there were no immediate reports of any quake damage.

Emergency services in El Salvador said on Twitter it had received no reports of damage at a national level, but urged those living along the country’s Pacific coast to withdraw up to 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) away from the shore.

The 7.0 magnitude quake, initially reported as a magnitude 7.2, was very shallow at 10.3 kilometers (6.4 miles) below the seabed, which would have amplified its effect.

Its epicenter was located some 149 km (93 miles) south-southwest of Puerto Triunfo in El Salvador, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center warned that tsunami waves of up to 1 meter (3 feet) could hit the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and El Salvador after the quake, but later said that available data showed the threat had passed.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a state of emergency due to the quake and Hurricane Otto, which landed on the country’s southeastern coast earlier on Thursday, his spokeswoman said.

“We were serving lunch to the lawmakers and the earthquake started and we felt that it was very strong,” said Jacqueline Najarro, a 38-year-old food seller at the Congress in San Salvador. “We were scared.”

(Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu in Guatemala, Gustavo Palencia in Honduras and Ivan Castro in Nicaragua; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Sandra Maler and Simon Gardner)

Rare hurricane bearing down on Nicaragua, Costa Rica

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Rare hurricane bearing down on Nicaragua, Costa Rica

How to prepare for a hurricane 01:00

Story highlights

  • Otto is the latest-in-season Atlantic hurricane since 2005
  • Storm is expected to make landfall Thursday near the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border

Atlanta (CNN)The Atlantic hurricane season may be coming to an end, but not before one last storm brings some rare and significant impacts.

Hurricane season officially ends on November 30, and while the month of November can have named storms, the season is generally winding down. Impactful storms are infrequent occurrences, especially this late in November.

Peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic

Otto formed in the southern Caribbean early this week as the National Hurricane Center closely monitored the area. The storm has steadily strengthened and on Tuesday afternoon became the 7th hurricane of the season in the Atlantic basin. Otto is developing later in the season than any Atlantic basin hurricane since Hurricane Epsilon in 2005.
Additional strengthening is expected, and Otto could become a category 2 storm before making landfall near the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border on Thursday. While the Caribbean is one of the few areas with warm enough water to support a hurricane this late in the season, a storm making landfall this far south is extremely rare.

2016 Named storms of the Atlantic season

Otto is expected to be the southernmost hurricane landfall since Irene hit Nicaragua in 1971. If it makes landfall in Nicaragua it will be the first hurricane to do so since Ida in 2009.
And most impressively, if Otto makes landfall in Costa Rica, it will be that country’s first hurricane landfall in recorded history (since 1851).
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Track the latest weather story and share your comments with CNN Weather on Facebook and Twitter.

This portion of Central America is unaccustomed to hurricane landfalls. It also has steep terrain, which makes the area prone to flooding and landslides from a slow-moving storm.

Former Iranian Hostages Should Not Be Compensated With American Tax Dollars

Former Iranian Hostages Should Not Be Compensated With American Tax Dollars

 

For those of us who are old enough to remember the Iranian hostage debacle where the American embassy in Tehran was over ran by ‘students’ loyal to the new Islamic Revolutionary government in the fall of 1979 was the beginning of the end for one Demon and the rise of the Devil who took his place. Now our President with the stroke of his pen has brought this event back into the news concerning payments to all the former hostages and their families is just another slap in the face of the American tax payers. For those of you who are too young to remember this event that lasted 440 days, ending the day Ronald Reagan/George H.W. Bush was sworn into office (January 20th, 1981) you need to crack open the history books and enlarge your knowledge of this event. This was a major black eye to all Americans and it did hasten the downfall of President Jimmy Carter as our President.

 

I do not blame the people of Iran for being livid with the American government for their (our) backing of their Dictator the Shaw of Iran. This monster murdered thousands of his own countrymen and imprisoned and tortured many thousands more. Our government had a long track record of backing people like him and Saddam as long as our government got things like a listening post, Airfields or Bases that we could have access to, we turned a blind eye to the murders and torturing of the citizens. Plus the fact that this gave our military industries here in America extra customers that was worth many billions of dollars to their stock holders and did help create and keep thousands of Americans employed in well-paying jobs. We had no moral high ground when it came to propping up these blood thirsty foreign leaders, it is/was no wonder that the people of Iran hated our country. But there again is the issue of reality, we the people didn’t know what was going on in Iran, but our governments security agencies did know and they still gave the Shaw the weapons to kill his own people with. It is quite stupid to believe that a countries people (here in America) should be held at charge for what they had no knowledge of yet we do teach that a person or people are (guilty by association). When a government is evil (aren’t they all) it is easy to paint the citizens of that country with the same brush their leaders are painted with. This is ignorant yet we humans do still make this mistake often in our everyday laws.

 

When a person takes a job with the government and you are assigned to one of our embassies you know very well that you just became a target for those who hate your flag and that your position comes with dangers. The people working at the Tehran embassy knew their lives could be in danger for working there yet they accepted the jobs they had and the pay checks and benefit packages that came with their position. Then there is the matter of the Marines who were guards there at that time, they darn sure knew the dangers of that job before they ever stepped foot into the compound. What I am saying is that what happened back then was part of the job that they all knew could happen, or even worse, do you remember Benghazi Libya just a few of years ago?

 

Buried deep in a federal spending bill that President Obama signed was an allocation of money to be given to those 53 former hostages (only 36 are still alive) and their families. I hate what those people had to go through at the hands of those so-called students but you and I should not have to pay each of them 4.4 million dollars as compensation plus $600,000 to each of their surviving spouses and grown kids (97) of them. If anyone should have to pay this bonus to these people it should be the then Vice President in waiting George H. W. Bush and his estate. Why should he have to pay this money? My answer to that is simple, Mr Bush (study your history) who coined the phony phrase “America doesn’t negotiate with terrorist” cut a deal with the government of Iran to keep those Americans as hostages until he and Mr Reagan took office. We (American government) gave the Iranian government missiles and other weapons to keep our people as hostages because he (Mr Bush) did not want the Carter Administration getting the credit for their release. In my opinion, Mr. Bush’s actions were criminal as well as treasonous just as his Iran Contra actions a couple of years later where we sold weapons to Iran for the cash to support our illegal (Congress said so) attempt to over through the government in Nicaragua. Now do you see why I believe that if anyone should have to put money out-of-pocket to cover these ‘bonuses’ it should be the Bush estate not the American people. Mr. Bush also signed off the hostages ‘right’ to sue the Iranian government for their country’s actions, nice caring ‘leader’ huh?

 

I am going to end this article with some numbers for you to digest. To the former hostages themselves we the tax payers are paying those 53 people a total of $233,200,000.00 plus the $600,000.00 to another 97 spouses and children totaling $58,200,000.00. Folks that is a total of $291,400,000.00 that you and I have to cough up in order to pay this bill. I as a person like seeing these people getting this life altering amount of cash, good for them, their children, and their grandchildren but you and I should not have to pay this bill. These poor souls suffered a lot during their time of being kidnapped by this Demonic Iranian horde but the fact still remains that they received their pay checks while in the employment of the American government during and after this event. Mr Bush being he is the one that negotiated with these terrorists I believe if anyone should have to cough up that money it should be the Bush family, not we the people.