In mid-April 2018, anti-government protests erupted in Nicaragua opposing a pension reform bill. The protest was just the beginning of a string of protests demanding that President Daniel Ortega and his government step down. The protests, which have continued until now have amassed a death toll of around 127 people.
The manner through which the police and the government are trying to stop the protests has been called a violation of human rights. Ortega is accused of using authoritative and paramilitary officers who are administering “lethal force” to crack down the protests.
The protesters, which are mainly Nicaraguan students are opposing Ortega’s 11-year presidency. They are against the president’s control over courts, Congress, the military, and the electoral boards as well as the limited option to change the country’s political party in elections.
As a response to these events, the U.S is imposing visa restrictions on Nicaragua officials. Heather Nuaert, the U.S State Department spokesperson stated that these visa restrictions were for “individuals responsible for human rights abuses or undermining democracy in Nicaragua.”
She did not comment on specific officials that the visa restrictions were imposed on, but stated that they include a group of municipal government officials, national police officials, and an official from the ministry of health.
“The political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, shows a blatant disregard for human rights and is unacceptable. We are sending a clear message that human rights abusers and those who undermine democracy are not welcome in the United States,” she said.
The crisis in Nicaragua is bound to continue unless a solution is agreed upon by both protesters and the government. The Nicaragua Catholic Church has been trying to act as an intermediary in talks to end the crisis.
At the end of May, the Church stated that they would halt the discussions because the people of Nicaragua “continue to be repressed and murdered”. However, on Thursday, the Bishops of Nicaragua met with President Ortega with a concrete proposal, which he said he needed time to reflect on.
This marks a difference in the Trump administration’s tone towards the protection of human rights. Until now, the administration’s decisions have been debated for their anti-human rights approach.
Recently, officials ended Temporary Protected Status for many countries in crisis, including Honduras and U.S Attorney General, Jeff Sessions wrote a ruling whereby victims of domestic abuse and gang violence are prohibited from seeking asylum in the U.S.