Nicaragua: Students defy death threats to fight Daniel Ortega government | News | DW | 24.07.2018
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Nicaragua: Students defy death threats to fight Daniel Ortega government

Student leader Lesther Aleman told DW about how the Ortega government wants to make him "disappear." His interview coincided with yet another student death and opposition demands to disarm pro-government paramilitaries.

As the Nicaraguan government pushes to quell an unyielding anti-government movement, students at the movement's forefront demanded Tuesday that persecution and jailing of the opposition end and that paramilitary groups disarm before any further peace talks take place.

Nicaragua as been stuck in a deep political crisis since April, when citizens took to the streets to reject a pension reform plan.

While the government of President Daniel Ortega dropped the proposal, fatal repression from government forces against the civilian demonstrations unleashed a wider wave of opposition that has yet to abate.

Students face death threats

Student leader Lesther Aleman spoke to DW about the death threats that members of the student movement are currently facing for having confronted the Ortega government.

"The National Police has an unofficial internal order to capture me and make me disappear," said Aleman. Speaking to DW from an undisclosed location, the 20-year-old went into hiding after receiving death threats. He has not seen his family in more than 10 days.

Nicaragua student leader Lesther Aleman (DPA/Carlos Herrera)

Lesther Aleman says there is an unofficial police order to aprehend him and "make him disappear."

Aleman views the student movement as a phoenix rising from the ashes of political apathy: "We are a generation tired of being oppressed by a generation that grew up under an unchanging political pattern," he said.

"We, the young people, are here. We're tired of a dictatorial regime, and we're here to tell the international community to exert pressure on our government to effect change," Aleman asserted.

Ernesto Medina, head of the American University in Managua (UAM) and adviser to the student movement, expanded on the opposition's demands. The university rector told dpa news agency that the opposition will not return to the negotiation table with the Ortega government until certain demands are made.

"This illegal and unjust persecution must end immediately and the government must disarm the paramilitaries," Medina said.

Read more: Nicaragua's student protest leaders determined to win back democracy

Ortega rejects early election calls

The opposition wants President Ortega to resign and to allow for early elections in 2019. It is also fighting back against illegal detentions and the staggering death toll, which human rights groups say has reached as high as 350 people since the unrest began in April.

The government has acknowledged fewer deaths.

Read more: Notorious Nicaragua jail holds new generation of political prisoners

The Nicaraguan president remains defiant. In an interview with US broadcaster Fox News, Ortega vowed to stay in power. "Our electoral period ends with the elections of 2021, when we will have our next elections," he told the news channel.

"To move up the elections would create instability, insecurity and make things worse," he added. Ortega doubled down on his denial that he controlled pro-government paramilitaries and asserted that "none of the peaceful demonstrations" had been attacked by security forces

Nicaraguan students have faced-off with security forces using makeshift barricades and rock cannons.

Nicaraguan students have faced-off with security forces using makeshift barricades and rock cannons.

Read moreNicaragua 2.0: Will history repeat itself?

Brazilian student the latest victim

Despite the president's assurances, four more deaths were registered in Nicaragua in relation to continuing anti-government unrest, including a 32-year-old Brazilian student who was shot dead in her car by suspected paramilitaries.

The death prompted the Brazilian government to issue a statement of "profound outrage," demanding that the Nicaraguan government clarify whether or not she died at the hands of pro-government paramilitaries.

Brazil then restated its condemnation of the "disproportionate and lethal use of force, as well as the use of paramilitary groups in operations with security teams" in Nicaragua.

jcg/cmb (dpa, AFP)

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