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On my trip through Nicaragua last week I witnessed the largest street protests the country has seen since the civil war ended in 1990. Students and civilians have been protesting since mid-April against President Ortega’s reforms to the country’s social security system. He implemented a controversial pension reform resolution intending to halt the growing deficit. The changes increased contributions by workers and employers and reduced retired workers’ pensions.
Foto: Celia Mendoza, VOA
The peaceful protesters were met with excessive force by the Nicaraguan government that also shut down media outlets covering the recent protests. As of today at least 68 people have died. Talking to some of the Nicaraguans along the way the sadness, fear and anger about the brutal reaction of the government could be sensed in our conversations. Many are now committed to Ortega’s resignation.
While many Nicaraguans are joining the protests to reclaim their rights, most tourists have left the country, which is a problem for the country’s economy. Before the protests Nicaragua was known as the safest Latin American country for travelers. This has changed rapidly in view of recent events.
I decided to stay anyways and made my way to the Corn Islands, a group of beautiful islands in the Caribbean, far away from the protests. I was lucky enough to stay safe and spent some wonderful days in this little paradise on earth. Only few other tourists had the same idea; most of them visited Costa Rica or El Salvador instead.
My hope for Nicaragua is that people find peace and justice as soon as possible without any further victims. I also hope that tourism picks up again very soon, as it is hugely important for the livelihood of so many Nicaraguans.