Tell Congress to Support Dialogue in Nicaragua, not Impose More Sanctions

House Resolution 981 calls on the U.S. government to more aggressively employ the Magnitsky Act as a means to sanction individual members of the Nicaraguan government, while also condemning violence in Nicaragua. The stated goal is to support democracy, but the text of the resolution is not based on a balanced accounting of what has transpired in the country over the last three months. If serious about supporting democracy in Nicaragua, Congress should support the process of dialogue and join with other international organizations in calling for “all political actors” to halt the violence and work toward a negotiated solution.

Contact your member of Congress and tell them to vote against H. Res 981, support the dialogue, and allow the people of Nicaragua to determine their future without the further intervention of the United States.

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121, or send an email directly to your representative using the Alliance for Global Justice’s email platform here.

Background

The House International Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere voted the Resolution out of Committee on July 12. It will be taken up by the full committee in the coming days before going to the House floor for a vote.

The Magnitsky Act is a mechanism that allows the Trump administration to level sanctions against individuals in other countries that it determines have violated human rights or have been involved in corruption. The Magnitsky Act was first employed in Nicaragua to apply sanctions against Roberto Rivas, head of the Supreme Electoral Council last year (he has since resigned). Last week further sanctions were announced against Francisco Diaz, deputy chief of the national police, Antonio Moreno Briones, secretary of the Managua mayor’s office, and Francisco Lopez, vice president of Albanisa (a joint venture between Nicaragua and Venezuela). The individuals sanctioned seem to have been targeted for the perception that they are close to Ortega – not because of specific incidents they are directly responsible for during the last three months of turmoil.

For the past three months, Nicaragua has been in the throes of a political crisis unlike anything witnessed since the 1980s. While the spark for protests in April was an announced reform of the social security system, violence over the next several days led to the deaths of nearly 50 people. Though investigations of the violence make clear that police were not acting unilaterally – as opposition groups burned buildings throughout the country and fired upon police (one of the first deaths was a police officer killed by a shotgun blast), the media has continued to present all of the deaths as the result of state forces firing on peaceful demonstrations. The government annulled the reforms and launched a process of national dialogue, mediated by the Episcopal Conference of Bishops.

As the weeks have gone by, the dialogue has moved forward in fits and starts, with opposition groups blockading major roads and eventually building smaller blockades within cities throughout the country to impede travel and disrupt commerce. The blockades have become the sight of further violence. In international media, accounts all of the violence has been blamed on the police and parapolice forces. However, it is clear that opposition forces have utilized extreme force as well. At least 20 police officers have been killed and hundreds wounded. A Sandinista student representative from the Polytechnic University who was taking part in the dialogue was beaten, shot, and left for dead in a ditch in Managua. Independent analysis of reported deaths over the past three months indicates that many are not related to the demonstrations at all, that opposition forces are responsible for dozens of killings, and that many people have died for simply being near skirmishes between the opposition and pro-government groups. 

Against this backdrop, the dialogue has made some progress. Agreements have been reached to allow investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UN High Commission for Human Rights, and the European Union to work alongside domestic investigators to document the violence. An agreement was reached to organize the dialogue around three tables of discussion – human rights, security, and democratization. While there are clearly major differences between groups at these tables about how to proceed, working through the process for as long as possible to reach an agreement is the only way out of the crisis. The United States should not be adding to the polarization at this time by taking a hardline position on the outcome.

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Read more of our coverage on Nicaragua here.

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Here are those missing documents from the DOJ’s July 3rd Press Release

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III celebrated Independence Day by issuing a press release touting his decision to rescind 24 guidance documents related to juvenile justice, immigration, school safety, and racial discrimination. 

When reporters and lawyers went to work searching for these documents on agency websites, several had already been removed.

As a service for those interested, we have embedded those missing documents below in order of their appearance on the DOJ’s July 3rd press release, with their original item numbers as listed. A list of all of the other rescinded documents, with for-now-still-working links, is available here

  1. March 17, 2011, OJJDP Memorandum re Status Offenders and the JJDPA.
  1. June 17, 2014, Revised Guidance on Jail Removal and Separation Core Requirements
  1. Disaggregating MIP Data from DSO and/or Jail Removal Violations: OJJDP Guidance for States, 2011
  1. OJJDP Guidance Manual: Audit of Compliance Monitoring Systems

    8. BJA State Criminal Alien Assistance Program Guidelines, 2016

We’ll do our best to update as necessary.

Inquiries: (301) 699-0042 or jessica@quixote.org

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Is Rap More Dangerous Than Rape?

Last month, a priest in Kenya, Father Paul Ogalo started his year-long suspension, his offense: rapping during Mass. In an attempt to connect with the youth in his area, Father Ogalo began using the art of rap music to “attract a young people to his church and using it to spread the message against drug abuse.” Although Father Ogalo has been using rap to bring community members “closer to God” for some time now, it was only recently, when a video of him rapping in his robe went viral, that it caught the attention of his boss, Bishop Philip Anyolo, causing him to lose his position in the church. When interviewed about the situation Bishop Anyolo stated this: “We have just barred him from preaching using rap music to allow him time to change his ways.”  

The speed with which Father Ogalo was punished is remarkable in comparison to that of the priests and bishops who have committed or been accused of sexually abusing members of their congregation, whose punishment has been administered very slowly. So slowly in fact that it’s almost non-existent. In the latest sexual abuse scandal, an Australian archbishop was sentenced to home detention for covering up sexual abuse incidents committed by a fellow priest forty years ago; by covering for the priest, the archbishop said he “was protecting the church and its image.”  But even with his disgraceful actions and the conviction, the Vatican continues to allow the archbishop to keep his position; although he is no longer the head of the archdiocese, he still has the title of archbishop. Why hasn’t the Vatican reacted to this issue in a more just manner?

All religious institutions have standards and models of integrity and the Catholic church is no different. But when comparing the two stories one must ask: is rap music really more dangerous than rape? What kind of model is the Catholic church promoting if they punish clergyman for rapping but not for being involved in sexually abusing individuals? These questions definitely need answers. 

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Immigration: In the wake of Trump’s executive order, we still have a lot of work to do!

Last Wednesday Trump signed an executive order to end the policy of separating children from families at the border. The order still mandates that children be put in detention with family members, and does not apply to the over 2,300 children who have already been separated in recent weeks – in total, over 10,000 children are currently in detention. Some of these children may never see their parents again. The temporary stay on this brutal policy is surely a response to the enormous backlash the policy has generated and speaks to the power of mobilization. However, in typical Trump fashion, the stay is also a disingenuous ploy to put pressure on Congress to adopt anti-immigration legislation that gives him what he wants: a wall, even tougher enforcement measures, and limits on legal immigration. If Congress fails to act, it is likely that the nightmare will begin again in a few weeks.

As story after story reveals the true horror that is our immigration enforcement system, we are confronted by the reality that this system has deep roots and has been built over decades by both Democrats and Republicans. The result of this embeddedness is a wide variety of corporate interests who profit from the detention and the monitoring of migrants. The parallels with the expansion of the prison system are enormous. From the companies that build and/or manage private facilities, to the companies that provide “services” in these facilities and get paid to monitor people on parole, the United States has created an enormous private carceral infrastructure worth tens of billions of dollars a year. This system, already in place, was tragically handed off last year to a demagogue, who daily trades in racist and xenophobic rhetoric, magnifying the injustice inherent in making criminalization profitable.

The magnification also makes it impossible to any longer deny the fundamentally inhumane system we have built. And so, we must dismantle it. The mobilization of rage at this system, manifested in the protests against family separation, must continue. The system remains outrageous and the interests that profit from it are wealthy and have extensive reach in Congress. This is a long fight. Where to begin (or continue)?

TAKE ACTION!

A first priority is to insist that government support efforts to reunite children with their parents. The Texas Civil Rights Project is currently representing 300 families – and has only been able to find 2 children!!  “Either the government wasn’t thinking at all about how they were going to put these families back together, or they decided they just didn’t care,” said Natalia Cornelio, with the organization. [Update: Tuesday night, the ACLU won a national injunction against family separation that requires the government to reunite all children who have been separated with their parents within 30 days; for children under 5 within 14 days! A huge victory – but sure to be appealed, so we must keep the pressure on!!!].

Take a moment to call and insist that the government do everything it can to support the reunification of families:

  • White House (202) 456-1414
  • Department of Justice (202) 353-1555, (Attorney General Jeff Sessions)
  • Department of Homeland Security (202) 282-8495, (Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen)

There are a number of organizations working on the frontlines of the crisis. If you are in a position to help support their work, every little bit helps.

If you are in the Maryland, D.C., Virginia area, consider volunteering with Sanctuary DMV. Several of our staff in Maryland volunteer with the organization.

Consider one of the many Families Belong Together marches being organized around the country this Saturday, June 30.

Keep posted, and keep engaged. We are in this for the long haul!

 

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Guidance for Jeff Sessions and other news

Yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released a Policy Memorandum offering guidance for border officers in dealing with asylum cases, in accordance with Jeff Sessions’ ruling that domestic violence and gang violence will no longer constitute credible fears for asylum applications. The memo can be read here, the ruling here, and some news coverage here.

A couple of weeks ago, Sessions recounted some of the ugly crimes committed by MS-13 members while defending the family separation not-exactly-policy-but-definitely-not-law. Trump invokes them nearly every day to stoke the fires of his base and create straw-men for politicians and journalists. The problem with this tactic is that it shines a spotlight on the administration’s (a) lack of logical consistency and/or (b) blatant race-based hypocrisy. Trump and Sessions want to revel in the heinousness of the crimes in order to demonize the very people seeking asylum to escape those crimes.

Is the gang violence bad? Yes? Then asylum is a legitimate claim. Is asylum from gang violence legitimate? No? Then the violence must not be that bad. In case he is a more visual learner, I have created this helpful flowchart that Sessions might want to consult in order to understand that he cannot have it both ways.

By denying asylum to those fleeing gang violence, Sessions is telling us that Central American parents should just accept the fact that their children will either likely be recruited to commit such crimes or be killed in a manner he deems unacceptable – at least for (non-Central) Americans.

Frankly, the only framework in which Sessions’ argument is coherent is one that sees Central Americans as a virus to be subjected to quarantine until it dies out and children from these countries as less deserving of the protections we seek for kids in the United States; in other words, a racist framework. (Laura Bush wrote an op-ed comparing family separation and detention to FDR’s Japanese American internment camps during WWII.)

In other news:

  • CLINIC and ASAP released a study on In Absentia removal of asylum seekers.

  • Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, stated that the facilities for kids who have been taken from their parents by the government are “one of the great acts of American generosity and charity.”

  • Paula White, Trump’s “spiritual advisor,” said:

“I think so many people have taken Biblical Scriptures out of context on this, to say stuff like, ‘Well, Jesus was a refugee.’ Yes, he did live in Egypt for three-and-a-half years. But it was not illegal. If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah.”

Setting aside the significant historical and theological problems with her statement, we are still left to ask: Is she suggesting that babies can be criminals? And is this part of her “spiritual advice” to Trump?

  • And finally, ICYMI, Sessions doesn’t mind joking about family separation:

 

 

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Silencing Victims, Condoning Abuse: Trump, ICE, and 287(g)

Prince Gbohoutou, Marta, and Alejandra.  These are the names of a few publicized individuals whose presence was not silenced by ICE, thanks to community support. They shouted loud enough for the world to hear and send their “thoughts and prayers.” But their concerns are not 5-minute TV segments that we can switch when we want to watch something different. These are real stories of abuse, abandonment, and mistreatment at the hands of U.S. government agencies that believe that escaping a world of hardship is a crime that should be met by physical abuse, harassment, and imprisonment. We each have someone in our life who comments on our actions without living through our pain. This current administration is degrading asylum seekers without understanding the environment they are coming from. An environment they themselves couldn’t/wouldn’t even survive. In fact, they probably would not be able to survive the most impoverished neighborhoods in America. Ask yourself this: have those who are verbal abusing immigrants at mandatory weekly check-ins at the 24 ICE offices around the nation or affiliated ISAP offices ever been persecuted? Have they ever had to fear for their lives? Or do they relish in the fact that they make up rules to apply to “the other,” mainly people of color, in order to create fear and chaos to keep their power?

At the end of the day, the Trump Administration is feeding off of ignorance and those who comply with these cruel human rights violations are just as guilty. For visualization purposes, let’s draw a parallel between employees compliant in this behavior and the #MeToo movement. In this movement, stories came out about how employees of the abuser created an environment (through the help of assistants, etc.) that allowed for their bosses to sexually assault women and men. The Trump Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are the abusers and ICE and local jails that are part of the 287(g) program are the employees that are helping to solidify an environment of abuse.

Treating this issue as a TV segment feeds our fear and ignorance, but we can change that. To address fear as well as ignorance, band together with sanctuary organizations in your community such as ACLU-People Power, Central Virginia Sanctuary Network, Sanctuary DMV, and the like to build a strong community of support; to end fear, fight to end the presence of 287(g) in your communities.

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Update on Nicaragua: The National Dialogue is back on…for now

Following fighting between the Nicaraguan government and protestors in mid-April during which nearly 50 people were killed in four days, the National Dialogue was set up as a means to discuss the conflict and work toward justice for the victims of the violence. At the table are the government, representatives of the national university system, labor unions, and the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, composed of students from the April 19th Movement, the Superior Council of Private Enterprises, and representatives of “civil society” organizations. Catholic Bishops from the National Episcopal Conference are working as mediators in the talks – they have largely sided with the Civic Alliance in setting the agenda for discussions. The Dialogue was launched on May 16 – but then suspended on May 23, as the opposition refused to remove blockades throughout the country, and the government refused to talk until they did.

After several intense weeks of conflict in the streets, the National Dialogue reconvened on Friday, June 15 with the intention of addressing two broad themes: 1. Human rights and justice for victims of the violence and 2. Democracy. The discussions held in a plenary session in front of cameras did not yield an agreement. However, behind closed doors on Friday and into Saturday agreements were reached on the first theme, including:

  1. Formal invitations to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission, the Organization of American States, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, and representatives of the European Union to participate in investigating the violence that began in April, leaving 170+ people dead and over 2,000 wounded.
  2. Creation of a Commission for Verification and Security, represented by members of the government and the opposition Civic Alliance, to participate in the investigation.
  3. Creation of a second commission, also represented by members of the government and the opposition Civic Alliance, to work to guarantee the security and human rights of all the people of NIcaragua.
  4. Beginning the process of taking down the blockades that have been erected around the country (though the opposition later recanted on this point – clearly seeing the blockades as an important bargaining chip. It is also not clear that the people at the table actually have control over the blockades).

On Monday, the Dialogue broke down again, when the opposition Civic Alliance walked out on the discussions, citing the government’s unwillingness to share official letters of invitation to the international organizations mentioned above, while also refusing to address the ongoing issue of the blockades. The government later made the content of the letters public and international organizations have since verified receipt and acceptance of the invitations.  As of Thursday, June 21, the Dialogue is scheduled to resume.

When the Dialogue gets back underway, the discussion will focus on proposals to end to the political crisis. From the opposition side, members of the Civic Alliance have indicated they will simply demand that Ortega resign, and that an interim council be established to oversee new elections – the council drawn from the ranks of the opposition. Breaking with members of the Civic Alliance, the Superior Council of Private Enterprises (COSEP) joined with the Bishops, who are acting as “mediators” in discussions, to propose that elections be moved up to March of 2019 for all levels of government; the new government then taking office in April. Finally, the government has countered that it is already in the process of reforming the electoral system with the Organization of American States, and that a package of reforms will be ready in January. Elections should be held as scheduled (2021 for national elections), not moved up.

It is hard to read where this will all go at the moment. If the Civic Alliance withdraws its demands that Ortega resign and joins in the call for early elections (their original position), it will put a lot of pressure on the government to agree. However, it will also split the opposition. Some student leaders, for example, have indicated that they want Ortega out and may well continue protests regardless of what the people at the table decide. The resignation scenario – at least as proposed – would be a direct violation of Nicaragua’s constitution. The president can, of course, resign, but the National Assembly has the constitutional responsibility for selecting an interim president, and he or she would certainly come from the ranks of the Sandinista Party. Which is to say, the opposition is essentially arguing for the government to bypass the constitution, and in essence, agree to a coup d’etat. This seems unlikely.

The early elections proposal seems to be where the momentum is heading. This has its own pitfalls. Again, presumably the National Assembly would need to affirm a new elections calendar. If the government agrees to this at the Dialogue, the vote in the Assembly would likely follow suit. However, left out of the discussion at this point are representatives of other political parties in the county, who are not officially represented at the National Dialogue. For example it is not clear where the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC), Nicaragua’s second largest party, stands on this process. They currently control 15% of the seats in the National Assembly and several municipalities. Perhaps they will see a chance to gain more seats, but they may also view the Civic Alliance as a threat to their position if the Alliance runs its own slate of candidates. Of course, there is also a strong chance that if early elections are held, the Sandinistas will win again. They remain the largest political party in the country, facing an opposition with no clear ideological framework or cohesion.

The United States government has now begun pressing for early elections as well. Florida Senator, Marco Rubio called for a referendum on Ortega’s government, to be followed by new elections next year. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a “transitions” expert, who advised the opposition to press for early elections. The State Department joined in the call and on Tuesday dispatched the U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, to Nicaragua to meet with Ortega and opposition leaders separately, where he also indicated that early elections were the way out of the crisis.

As the United States has not been invited to play any kind of mediating role, taking sides in the Dialogue strikes me as an inappropriate (if far from surprising) intervention. Indeed, whatever other role the U.S. may have played in the current unrest behind the scenes, out in the open it has steadily distorted the electoral process in Nicaragua through financing opposition organizations for over 30 years. It is hard to imagine that this has not contributed to the polarization we are seeing today. And of course, the U.S. has most recently been helping opposition voices build an online messaging machine for which the international media has adopted the role of stenographer since the conflict began in April.  

As the National Dialogue continues, we remain hopeful. The Quixote Center is not advocating for a particular outcome, but we do believe the process should be determined by the people in Nicaragua – not Washington, D.C.  

 

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The Gospel According to Sanders

Yesterday, Sarah Sanders stood at the White House podium in her most realistic ‘person-suit’ and defended the Trump administration’s family separation policy, saying, “It is very biblical to enforce the law, that is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

Given that she was being asked to comment on Jeff Sessions’s words (of which Sanders said she was “not aware of the Attorney General’s comments or what he would be referencing”) the day before, let’s just give a quick look at that theological tire fire here:

Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

Let’s briefly begin with Sessions’s comments:

  1. What the #%@?!
  2. That usage of “cite,” though accurate, is weird – and antiquated enough to sound wrong. Just say  “I would cite” without the “you to.” Constructive criticism.
  3. The administration’s concern about context does not seem to extend to the biblical text. Any theologian worth his or her salt would point out that, according to the New Testament, Christ is the “Lord of all creation” (Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1, IV/4) and as such while Christians are subject to the law of the land, the law of the land is itself subject to the law of Christ, which is love, and therefore when the law of the land violates the principles of Christ, Paul’s exhortation to obey the law cannot apply. 
  4. Paul goes on to talk about paying taxes. Where are those tax returns again?  Tsk, tsk.
  5. Separating families is not the law. If biblical scholar Jeff Sessions is doing this because Constitutional scholar Donald Trump says it’s the law, and if Trump says it’s the law because the democrats made it so (false, by the way) then both Sessions and Trump are behaving in an uncharacteristically submissive way to the minority democrats. (Could this be insincere posturing?) Note: Trump undid DACA, instated by a democratic president, but he and his Jeff are utterly helpless in the face of this made-up law that recent Trump crony Jesus Christ is supposedly now commanding them to enforce? Mmm, I’m skeptical.

Moving on to Sanders:

  1. It is “very biblical to enforce the law” – this statement is very vague. Which law is she referring to? Does she mean the law of the Deuteronomist? If so, it is incumbent upon me to point out that Jesus said that thing about rescuing sheep from wells that one time – in violation of Sabbath laws, noting that laws must be violated when someone is in need, including…“animals.”
  2. I realize you’re busy, but isn’t “being aware” of Sessions’s comments sort of part of your job?
  3. Insulting the intelligence of the reporters in the room in order to deflect attention from your own moral embarrassment –  well, that sounds pretty… feckless … don’t you think?

Ugh. This week has been a sh…feces tornado for immigration policy – so much so that we’ve been unable to keep up with it on our blog. However, we will provide further updates and analysis next week … so watch this space.

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What the media is getting wrong about violence in Nicaragua

The situation in Nicaragua seems to worsen with every day, and the framing of the conflict in international media has worsened with it. Despite overwhelming evidence of violence and intimidation being employed by opposition groups, articles in the Miami Herald, The Atlantic, the BBC and elsewhere continue to talk about protesters as if all were non-violent students under the gun by a thuggish government. The only violence discussed is then blamed on the government – mostly through alleged support for para-police forces. The goal here is not to deny that the government has at times engaged in violent tactics. But this is far from the whole story.

Certainly the worst day since the original demonstrations in April was May 30, when someone opened fire on the Mother’s Day March in Managua. In that attack and other conflicts Masaya, Esteli, and Chinandega 16 people were killed. In an article that appeared on The Atlantic‘s website, the author claimed the police opened fire indiscriminately on the march and that “government snipers went headhunting.”

But there is no evidence that the police fired “indiscriminately” at protesters – no one I’ve read other than this author has claimed this. Some people at the scene blamed “turbas Sandinistas,” or Sandinista mobs, for the conflict that erupted when people leaving a Sandinista rally ran into the Mother’s Day March. However, no one knows who was doing the shooting. One theory is that pro-government/para-police forces fired on the crowd, a competing narrative is that it was armed groups affiliated with the political opposition. No one – including the Amnesty International statement that was presented as “evidence” of this claim – is able to say “government snipers” went “headhunting.”

Sixteen people were killed that day – but throughout the country. In Managua the death toll was 8. Other people who died included Sandinistas who were killed in Esteli when a caravan trying to get to Managua for a peace rally was attacked. Of course, the political affiliation of many of the people who died that day is actually unknown. They were, however, all men – which strongly suggests that no-one was firing “indiscriminately” but, to the contrary, quite purposefully.  The point is that even on this day, the violence was coming from multiple directions. 

Two-Weeks of Violence

During the two-week period since the collapse of the National Dialogue on May 23, nearly 60 people have died in Nicaragua – bringing the death toll since the original demonstrations were launched on April 16 to 139.  I reviewed local press reports of 41 of the deaths during this two week period and there are a few discernable patterns. Firstly, in only one case was a police officer directly implicated. A witness reported that a police officer shot someone twice, killing him during conflicts in Masaya on the night of June 2 that left 5 people dead. The rest of the deaths in Masaya that night were attributed to fighting between pro and anti-government gangs. This is the case for most of the deaths reported in the last two weeks.  

Secondly, this speaks to a larger pattern in which many deaths have occurred in conflicts in and around the “tranques,” or blockades that have been set up throughout the country by opposition groups. Who is responsible for these deaths is not clear. There is a pattern of armed gangs riding around on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, firing into groups at tranques. This is a tactic that has been blamed on government supporters by some local human rights groups – though the latest victim, Marcos González Briceño, was a police officer, killed on June 10. It is also becoming increasingly evident that organized criminal gangs are involved in staffing the tranques in some areas. 

Thirdly, while many of the people killed are of traditional age for students, many are not, suggesting that many are not students at all. Of the 19 reports of deaths during this two week period where ages were given, 11 people were 25 or older, and 8 of those were over 30 years old. In addition, the people who are dying are not all simply anti-government protesters.  Indeed, a gang attacked the police station in Mulukuku Monday morning (June 10), killing two more police officers. Police have died (three officers killed in one day). Sandinista activists have been killed. And people associated with local government have been killed and beaten. Some people have been killed just for being near a tranque when guns were fired.

It seems obvious that the violence is coming from multiple directions – and not simply state-supported. It is hard to find such discussion in international media accounts.

Beyond Killing

When the Mother’s Day March on May 30 broke up, some of the “non-violent” protesters in Managua tried to burn down Radio Ya, a Sandinista affiliated radio station, while people were still inside (arsonists finished the job the next night, burning what was left of the station to the ground). They also burned the offices of the ALBA Caruna near the University of Central America. These points are missing from IACHR report on that day’s events, though they do mention an attack with rocks on opposition media outlet, 100% Noticias.

Arson has become a tool of opposition groups throughout the country. Just a few examples from the past two weeks include: gangs burned the municipal offices in Granada, burned a high school and family courthouse in Masaya, burned down the Radio Nicaragua station, threw molotov cocktails in the national revenue building in Masaya, burned down a tax office in Esteli, and have set fire to numerous private homes of people affiliated with the Sandinista government. These attacks never register in international media accounts.

Of course, if there is a strategy that will come to define this historical moment, it is the “tranques,” or roadblocks. Setting up a roadblock as part of a protest is not a violent act. Setting up dozens of blockades in just one city, stifling commerce, causing food shortages, making it difficult, if not impossible, for people to receive medical assistance, stopping people at the point of a gun (or home-made mortar) to ask for papers, and then beating and or humiliating people suspected of being pro-Sandinista, on the other hand, has passed the bounds of nonviolence.

The tranques are no longer just roadblocks to disrupt inter-city travel, but have been set up within towns in increasing numbers – over a hundred in Masaya alone – with growing numbers in Managua, Esteli, Leon, and Chinandega. El Nuevo Diario reported Sunday that 4,000 trucks are now halted at the borders with Honduras and Costa Rica because they cannot travel through the country – tranques are not just impacting the domestic economy, but also intra-regional trade.

On Monday, June 11 the government began taking some tranques down in Managua. Though the police were accused of mobilizing alongside “turbas” in some neighborhoods, and of firing guns, no one in was reported to be seriously injured. Certainly in parts of Managua the process of taking down the tranques and cleaning the streets went smoothly.

Responsibility

To raise such points is to be dismissed as an Ortega apologist or some unreconstructed leftist who missed the memo on the neo-liberalization of the Sandinista Party. Meanwhile people who have consistently served the interests of opposition parties throughout the years are read as objective, and their ideas repeated by international media outlets unchallenged. To be clear, whether Ortega ultimately stays or goes is not my concern. My concern is that the simplistic, and ultimately false, narrative resounding in international outlets is feeding the violence. It gives cover to the opposition to continue to employ these tactics, which in turn is making any effort to restart a process of dialogue nearly impossible; unless, of course, Ortega meets opposition demands and pre-emptively agrees to step down.

At this point, the government has agreed to adopt recommendations by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and establish the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to investigate the violence. The Organization of American States received testimony last week after which it issued a resolution calling on “all political actors” to stop the use of violence. On Friday, Bishops in Nicaragua delivered a letter to Ortega giving their conditions for re-starting the National Dialogue. As I am writing on Tuesday afternoon, everyone is waiting for his response. There seems to be a small window of opportunity here before the situation blows up completely.

In the end, where the government has committed human rights abuses, the people responsible should be held to account. Non-state actors responsible for the majority of the killing, must also be held to account. However, by presenting such a one-sided narrative, the international media is undermining any chance that either of these things will happen. That should concern everybody interested in the truth and in reconciliation, whatever one thinks of Ortega.

UPDATE, June 13, 2018

After publishing this I read that 10 more people were killed yesterday in Nicaragua. El Nuevo Diario covered the deaths in relationship to the mobilization of the police and “fuerzas de choques” (shock troops) to attack blockades in Managua and several other cities. However, the details, as much as are available, make clear that more was going on.

Of the four people killed in Managua: one was murdered while driving to work by armed men in a truck (not at a blockade), another was a man accused of being one of the “choques,” and the two other deaths are unclear (may or may not be related to the protests). In Carazo two more so called “choques” were shot in the head. In Jinotega a member of the Sandinista Youth was shot and killed. A young man was killed during fighting in front of the police station in Diriamba – story does not indicate how he died. In the community of La Bodega on the Atlantic Coast another man was killed in a drive by shooting. An unidentified body was also found in Jinotega. All of this is surely tragic – and yet cannot all be laid at the feet of the government.

 

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287(g) and the Community

In an effort to become more effective advocates on questions related to immigration, several team members at the Quixote Center have joined Sanctuary DMV as trained acompañantes. Accompaniment involves showing up to support our immigrant neighbors when they must engage with government authorities – or even private contractors – to comply with their immigration proceedings. For those neighbors, anything can happen when they reach the ICE office for their check-ins, including being detained in prison, being forced to wear an ankle monitor, driven to an airport and forced onto a plane out of the country, or leaving unscathed only to undergo this ordeal again before the month is over. 

Accompaniment is bringing us closer to the everyday realities lived by immigrant neighbors and one such miserable reality is captured in the legalistically labeled “287(g)” program.

287(g) is a program authorized under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 that allows state and local police officers to collaborate with the federal government in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. This collaboration consists primarily of renting out jails and prisons to house immigrants and allowing deputized officers to question and arrest alleged non-citizens if they believe that an individual has violated federal immigration laws (American Immigration Council). According to ICE, there are currently 78 local law enforcement agencies in 20 states that have a 287(g) agreement, including three counties in Maryland: Anne Arundel, Fredrick, and Hartford.   

The 287(g) program allows the federal government to intrude on the sovereignty of states while also exposing the public to the enormous risks of racial profiling. Moreover, if immigration violations fall under civil law, why are all sorts of immigrants (including those with green cards, seeking asylum, etc.) being arrested and treated like criminals? Yet these abuses are a consequence of law enforcement officials – whether intentionally or not – viewing “others” through a racist lens that perceives any non-caucasian who lacks an “American” accent as having entered the country illegally and who may therefore be subject to detainment. 

ICE officials and their “deputies” (aka local law enforcement) are rounding up immigrants, particularly Latinx migrants, who are being branded by this administration as a threat. They are forcing them to wear ankle monitors not only to keep track of them but also to publicly brand and shame as well as ostracize them. They are utilizing propaganda and the politics of fear by calling them criminals and “animals” to garner public support for policies that justify their abuse. And they are separating families and sending immigrants to forced labor camps or prisons

287(g) has become a conduit for the continuation of America’s racist history and local governments involved in this program risk paving the way for genocide or ethnocide. We can stop this from happening by ridding ourselves of this toxic program. The 287(g) program is allowed because communities allow it, as a local option, but not a mandate, which is why your voice is so important.

Here’s how you can take action against 287(g) in your community and nationwide:

Locally – Strongly urge local law enforcement agencies to terminate their 287(g) agreements with ICE. Law enforcement agencies are not being forced into these agreements.

Nationally –  Reach out to your representatives and encourage them to support the PROTECT Immigration Act of 2017 (H.R.1236/ S.303) as well as the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act (S.2849).

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)