Central America
Hurricane Eta

Villagers abandoned in Eta’s deadly aftermath

Some 150 are dead, with remote indigenous and campesino communities left stricken and without aid, a week after Hurricane Eta tore through Central America. Eta made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 storm. Two gĂĽiriseros, or artisanal gold-miners, were among the first killed, as a landslide inundated the mining camp of Tigre Norte in Bonanza municipality of Nicargua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Far worse was follow in Guatemala, where officials have called off the search for dozens believed to have been buried when a mountainside collapsed, engulfing the hamlet of Queja. Ovidio Choc, mayor of San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, said the site of Queja will probably be declared a cemetery. Elsewhere in Guatemala’s Maya Highlands, villagers have had to mobilize their own rescue and recovery efforts, effectively abandoned by the government. (Map: National Hurricane Center)

Central America
Maria Elena Cuadra Movement

Nicaragua: sweeps target opposition activists

Over 30 opposition figures were detained by the National Police in nationwide sweeps across Nicaragua. Most were released after questioning, but some are still being held. The majority of the detained were members of a newly formed opposition body, the National Coalition, which brings together three political parties and several dissident organizations. Among the detained were 17 indigenous Rama and Kriol (Afro-Nicaraguan) activists from the Caribbean coast, including Kriol environmentalist Princess Barberena and Jaime McCrea Williams, president of the Territorial Government of Rama & Kriol. In Managua, police surrounded the offices of the Maria Elena Cuadra Movement, which advocates for the rights of working women, and interrogated the group’s representative Sandra Ramos when she arrived on the scene. Ramos told reporters she believed the group was targeted for its work representing the mothers of political prisoners since the protest wave of 2018. “We’re not a terrorist organization or anything resembling one,” said Ramos. “We’re a shitload of women who defend other women.” (Photo of Sandra Ramos confronting police via Nicaragua Confidencial)

Central America

Indigenous rainforest dwellers massacred in Nicaragua

Six members of the Mayagna indigenous people are dead and another 10 missing following an attack by gunmen on a community within the UN-recognized Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua’s eastern rainforest. The autonomous Mayagna Territorial Government reported that some 80 armed men entered the community, firing indiscriminately on residents and setting homes on fire. The statement described the assailants as colonos, or peasant colonists who have been invading the reserve in growing numbers, illegally clearing forest and settling on indigenous lands. (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)

Central America

Nicaragua approves police amnesty law

Nicaragua’s Congress approved an amnesty law that will offer protection to police and others involved in crimes against anti-government protesters over the past year. According to rights groups, more than 700 people were arrested in demonstrations that erupted in April 2018 when President Daniel Ortega tried to cut social security benefits. More than 300 mostly opposition protesters died in clashes with security forces, while more than 60,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile due to political strife over the last 14 months. The new law was approved by 70 votes from Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the 92-member chamber. It also allows for the release of detainees arrested during the protests, despite the fact that Ortega labelled them “terrorists.” The new law has faced harsh criticism from human rights groups and the UN. (Photo via InSight Crime)

The Andes

Bolivia: did opposition call for US ‘intervention’?

Bolivian President Evo Morales launched his campaign for a fourth term with a massive rally in the Chapare region where he began his career as a peasant leader a generation ago. But the country’s political opposition charges that Morales is defying a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected a fourth consecutive term. The referendum results were later overturned by the Plurinational Constitutional Court—sparking a wave of protest. The campaign begins amid controversy surrounding accusations that opposition lawmakers have sent a letter to Donald Trump jointly calling for his “intervention” against Morales’ re-election. (Photo: Apporea)

Central America

Nicaragua ‘witch-hunt’ against dissent: UN experts

A group of UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and extrajudicial exections, issued a statement urging the government of Nicaragua to "stop the repression" following 100 days of unrest in which at least 317 have been killed and 1,830 injured. "Reports indicate that there has been an increase in targeted repression, criminalization and alleged arbitrary detention, which is creating an atmosphere of fear," the statement said. "We are appalled that many human rights defenders, journalists and other opposition voices are being criminalized and accused of unfounded and overly punitive charges such as 'terrorism'." (Poto via Noticiias ONU)

Central America

UN protests Nicaragua ‘anti-terrorism’ law

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for a law approved in Nicaragua, ostensibly aimed at money-laundering, arms-trafficking and terrorism. The statement warned that the definition of "terrorism" under the law is dangerously "vague," and that it could be used to suppress opposition. The law defines as "terrorism" any damage to public or private property, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, anyone found guilty of directly or indirectly financing or aiding so-called "terrorist operations" can also face up to 20 years. The law was introduced in April, just as Nicaragua's political crisis was breaking out. The OHCHR noted that the law was passed by a National Assembly "almost completely controlled" by the ruling Sandinista party. (Poto via Noticiias ONU)

Central America

Podcast: Syria, Nicaragua, revolutionary parallels

In Episode 11 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg compares the legacies of revolutionary struggle in Nicaragua and Syria. The Somoza and Assad regimes were both hereditary family dictatorships. The Sandinistas and Syrian revolutionaries alike have roots in anarchism. Yet Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, again Nicaragua's president, is today himself facing a militant opposition movement, and has betrayed the Syrian revolutionaries in the interests of playing for Russian support in the Great Power game. In Syria, meanwhile, the secular, pro-democratic civil resistance continues to exist in spite of everything, and still governs areas of the country under a model of council-based popular democracy. The Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria is also informed by an anarchist ethic of direct democracy. Yet the Kurds and Arab-led civil resistance have been pitted against each other by Great Power intrigues. How can activists in New York and the United States move past global divide-and-rule stratagems and build solidarity with Syria's Arab and Kurdish opposition alike, as well as the campesinos and grassroots-democratic forces in Nicaragua? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo composition: Today Nicaragua, Waging Nonviolence)

Central America

Nicaragua: ‘Mothers of April’ call national strike

The "Mothers of April" movement condemned the "massacre" that took place during the group's march on Nicaragua's Mother's Day, and called on the business sector to declare a national work stoppage to press for the resignation of Daniel Ortega's government. “They went out to massacre that sea of people who came out to support us in our mourning, in the largest march in the recent history of the country. Therefore, we ask the business people to call a national work stoppage, because although we will suffer from hunger for a few days, it's better than them continuing to kill us," said Rosa Cruz Sanchez, mother of Michael Cruz, a young man killed during the April protests. The Mother's Day march in Managua, demanding justice for protesters slain in the April repression, itself turned deadly when it was attacked by police and pro-government turbas (mobs), leaving 15 dead. (Photo: Today Nicaragua)

Central America

Podcast: Nicaragua and political deja vu

In Episode 10 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the re-emergence in the news of three figures associated with the drama that played out over revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980s. Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua then, is again today, and just faced massive protests calling for his ouster. Oliver North, who headed the Reagan White House covert operation to destabilize Nicaragua's Sandinista regime back then, was just named as head of the National Rifle Association. And Luis Posada Carriles the right-wing Cuban terrorist who was part of North's private spy network back then, just died. Historical ironies abound. North, who supported a counter-revolutionary terrorist network in Nicaragua (the "contras"), now baits nonviolent gun-control activists as "terrorists." Ortega, whose government distributed land to the campesinos in the '80s, is now seizing land from campesinos for his monstrous inter-oceanic canal plan. And the conspiracy theory popular among the NRA's white heartland base about the government preparing to disarm the populace and detain resisters in military camps has its roots in the actual FEMA martial law plan drawn up by Oliver North, to be implemented in the event of a US invasion of Nicaragua—with Central American refugees to be detained in military camps. A final irony is the NRA-Russia connection, which comes as Nicaragua is cooperating with a resurgent Russian military presence in the Caribbean. Vladimir Putin recently became the first Russian (or Soviet) leader to visit Nicaragua. So is it possible that we are today so far through the proverbial looking glass that Oliver North and Daniel Ortega are now on the same side? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Image: Wikipedia)

The Caribbean

US-sheltered terrorist dies a free man

Ex-CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles, wanted by Cuba and Venezuela for a string of deadly armed attacks, died a fee man in Miami at the age of 90. Exiled from his native Cuba after the 1959 Revolution, Posada Carriles dedicated his life to armed counter-revolutionary activity. He was wanted by Cuba for a string of bombings of Havana hotels, and by Venezuela for masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which 73 were killed. The US refused to extradite, and he had been for years living openly in the Miami area. He did face some legal trouble when he was accused of lying to immigration officers about how he got into the US before applying for asylum in 2005, but was acquitted in 2011 and spent his remaining years in a comfortable South Florida existence. In the 1980s, he worked with the CIA in covert resupply operations for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. (Photo: anti-Posada Carriles propaganda billboard in Havana, from CounterVortex archies)

Central America

Nicaragua: ‘peace pilgrimage’ after protests

Tens of thousands from across Nicaragua marched on the capital Managua, including large delegations of campesinos from the countryside, in a "pilgrimage for peace" called by Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes following days of angry protests and repression that left some 50 dead. The Catholic Church agreed to mediate a dialogue between the government and opposition over the planned reform of the social security system that set off the protests. But the "pilgrimage" struck a political tone, with marchers calling for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega. (Photo: Nuevo Diario)