Dozens Killed In Protests In Nicaragua
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This weekend there have been more burials in Nicaragua. According to human rights groups, at least 100 people have been killed in protests that seek to force Nicaragua's president, Daniel Ortega, to resign. Demonstrators accuse the government of violent repression. On Wednesday, during a march led by mothers of protesters who have been killed, gunmen opened fire on the crowd, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens more. We're joined now from Granada, Nicaragua by Xiomara Diaz, a restaurant owner. She was at that march on Wednesday, and she's been to other protests.
Welcome to the program.
XIOMARA DIAZ: Thank you, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me what the situation is like where you are right now.
DIAZ: Well, a lot of the cities in Nicaragua right now are under a lot of stress, under a lot of violence, insecurity. Granada, particularly, experienced a lot of violence in the first two weeks. We have been able to control it. However, that has not been the case for the capital, Managua, especially for Masaya, which is a neighboring city. We have seen how human rights have just continuously been violated from day one, when this protest began, as a way to demand that the pension reform not be passed. Today, it's not about pension reform anymore. It is about human rights.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We've heard stories, and - as you mention, of insecurity, looting, stores being burned across the country and these violent confrontations. What are people feeling? What are they saying?
DIAZ: There's definitely a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion. But it's very clear to most Nicaraguans that this chaos has been generated by the government. We have seen people getting murdered, even, like you said, after a very peaceful march that hundreds of thousands of people went to and which I took part in. We saw pregnant women. We saw children. We saw pets. We saw older people walking there. And to end that march and get attacked, we know that there is something absolutely wrong with this.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Daniel Ortega, the president, has been in power for three terms. He controls all the levers of government. What would you like to see at this point? You say this is about human rights. Would you like to see him resign? What would you like to have happen in Nicaragua?
DIAZ: At this point I think there is no return to continue under a government that is clearly not securing human rights and one that has clearly weakened the opposition and any possibilities for transparent elections, especially in the last two terms that he has ran. I think it's time that we seek a solution for this and as immediately as possible. Definitely a resignation, I think, would be in place. I think it would allow him to still be remembered for some of the good things that he did do in the past and not as a person who massacred his people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Talks have been suspended between the government and civil society groups that were being mediated by the Catholic Church. Is there a way out?
DIAZ: I think there is still a lot of action that especially the large private enterprise in Nicaragua can do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mean the business community and the business class?
DIAZ: Yes. And I'm speaking about the large companies, the large corporations because they have been the ones who have had access to this government. They have been the only ones who have been sitting at the table who have big interests and also big pressure on this government. So I think although it's not only their responsibility and it's not only in their hands, they are the ones with the most amount of power to be able to do something.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Xiomara Diaz is a restaurant owner in Granada. Thank you so much for joining us.
DIAZ: Thank you, Lulu, appreciate it.
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