Nicaragua marks Sandinista revolution amid protests

Nicaragua marks Sandinista revolution amid protests
Nicaragua marks Sandinista revolution amid protests

Pro-government supporters in Nicaragua celebrated the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution Thursday as protesters continued to call on the country’s leadership to resign.

On July 19, 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the government of Anastasio Somoza Garcia and assumed power, bringing ex-guerilla Daniel Ortega to power for the first time.

President Ortega and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo invited officials from Venezuela and Cuba to observe the celebrations. Photos published by the government showed crowds of people commemorating the event with red and black Sandinista banners and white and blue Nicaraguan flags.

The National Telecommunications Institute said in a notice that all television and radio stations were required to broadcast Ortega’s speech during the ceremony live.

“There are people, but not as many as previous years,” Wilfred Miranda, a journalist for local newspaper El Confidencial, said on Twitter while covering the event.

July 19 also roughly marks the three-month anniversary of the start of massive protests against 72-year-old Ortega, who has been in power for 11 years after previously ruling the country between 1979 and 1990. The protests began on April 18 when the Nicaraguan government announced social security reform and quickly transformed into a movement calling for Ortega and his wife to step down.

But Ortega has remained aloof toward the opposition, rejecting a demand by protesters for early elections in 2019 instead of 2021, when his third consecutive term is scheduled to end.

He has ordered a violent backlash against the protesters, and earlier this week, pro-government forces launched an operation to take control of the rebel stronghold of Masaya, a city located 30 kilometers south of the capital, Managua.

Paramilitary forces are reportedly going door to door looking for the leaders of the protests.

The anti-government protests and violent repression have left at least 280 dead and more than 1,800 injured, according to the UN High Commissioner.