More than 110 people have been killed, and thousands have been injured, in widespread anti-government demonstrations in Nicaragua. Activists are demanding that President Daniel Ortega be removed from office immediately amid the bloody police crackdown. We speak with Alba García, who is demanding justice after her 22 year-old son Moroni López was shot and killed by police at a demonstration in Managua in April.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of students shot, I want to turn to the story of 22 year-old Moroni López, who was killed by police during a nonviolent protest in Managua in April, just weeks ago. Moroni was linking arms with other demonstrators to form a human chain, when he was shot and killed by the police. A series of videos captured the final moments of his life. Moroni joined the protests after watching video of police hurting elderly protesters. So, this week, I got in touch with Moroni López’s mother, Alba García. She told me about her son’s death.
ALBA GARCÍA: [translated] I asked him, “What are you doing there?” And he told me, “Mom, I’m here helping.” I told him, “Son, come back here.” And he told me, “No, I can’t leave, because we’re surrounded by police. The police have surrounded us in the cathedral.” And I told him, “Please, be careful. Be very careful,” because I had a premonition. And I couldn’t finish talking to him, because there was a big explosion. I don’t know if they were shots or what, but we got cut off. Then I couldn’t get in touch anymore. A half-hour later, I got a phone call telling me, “Your son is wounded.” And I asked them, “Are you sure he’s only wounded?” And they said, “Yes, he’s wounded.” Ten minutes later, I got another phone call, because he died at 3 p.m.
AMY GOODMAN: In these protests of the last few months, the Nicaraguan military and paramilitary forces have killed more than 100 people. The government says they’re not using live ammunition.
ALBA GARCÍA: [translated] I would ask Daniel then, “How is it that my son is dead? How is it that the sons of other moms are dead? How did those two bullets come through his chest? How did those three shots enter the bodies of the other two kids?” Because there were three shots that were right on target—two in the chest and one in the neck, one in the head. They’re not going to do that with handmade mortars. That’s false. How is it that more kids are dying? And how is it that the people who disappear return dead with signs of being tortured—without eyes, without teeth, with their bones broken? Who is doing that, then? I would like Nicaragua, the country that is crying, to explain to me why this is happening. Explain to me: How is it possible that my son left alive, and now he’s dead?
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Alba García—we reached her at her home in Ciudad Sandino—speaking about the death of her son, 22-year-old English student Moroni López, in Managua. She had told him, “Don’t go out.” But when he saw the older people who were protesting, he said he wanted to go out and be with them. Steve Hellinger, you’re president of The Development GAP. You’ve lived and worked in Nicaragua for a long time in solidarity with the Sandinistas. Your thoughts as you listen to what is taking place and you follow it?
STEPHEN HELLINGER: Well, it’s very sad. But it’s probably inevitable. Most everybody was really shocked that the explosion of protest took place in April, because the conditions were there, but it was the repression that brought everybody out into the street. And now I cannot overstate just how chaotic the situation is in Nicaragua. The police have withdrawn. Ortega said he would withdraw the police because there were so many protests against the police violence. But they are, behind the scenes, operating to support the paramilitary. And those people are—and they’re—people say the police are actually the ones who are acting as snipers. They’re driving the trucks that are taking the paramilitaries around the country. The paramilitaries are being armed by the police, undoubtedly. That’s the general belief. I’ve been in touch with people all over the country, and the story is the same every place. It’s chaos, lawlessness. I think that the government is trying to create a situation where people want law and order. And people don’t go outside after dark. Taxis don’t run. It needs immediate resolution.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, McClatchy is reporting a number of Nicaraguan student activists are in Washington, D.C., seeking support from the Trump administration and Congress. McClatchy reports the students have met with Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Meetings have also been set up with the State Department and USAID. Steve, could you comment on that? Were you aware of these meetings?
STEPHEN HELLINGER: Yes, we knew things were going on behind the scenes, and now they’re more in the open. I think the U.S. is very hesitant to act openly, because Ortega is blaming a lot of this on U.S.-supported right-wing people. And this—everybody in the country knows that’s not true. But also, the business class in Nicaragua would like to see a resolution that keeps things more or less as they are, because they’ve been very comfortable. And so far, however, what is being proposed by the OAS and in a U.S.–joint U.S.-Nicaraguan statement, as Alejandro said, is far from what is needed. Maybe three months ago that would have been fine. Now, people are dying every day, and they need immediate help.
AMY GOODMAN: Mónica López Baltodano, your mother was a fighter with a Sandinista Liberation Front. Can you talk about what the students are demanding now? Your thoughts on them coming to meet with Republicans in Congress and appealing to the Trump administration, and what you think is going to happen now in Nicaragua?
MÓNICA LÓPEZ BALTODANO: Yeah, the people on the streets are not appealing to any force outside from our own. We are quite clear that the strength of this struggle is on the streets and on the organization of people in the streets. Of course, it’s relevant to make everyone outside Nicaragua understand the level of hate the government is portraying against Nicaragua’s population, the level of violence, the use of mechanisms that are unseen for my generation. Most of the youth that is outside could be called grandchildren of Nicaragua’s revolution. Most of them were born in the ’90s.
The people that are blocking streets, that are putting barricades, that are taking the universities’ campuses, all of those people are saying quite clearly, “We do not want any arrangement under the table. We want Ortega and Rosario Murillo out of power as soon as possible. We need to do a profound change in Nicaragua’s constitution and institutions in order to suppress all of these repressive mechanisms that are being used by the government,” but also because we are quite clear that the arrangement between big corporations and capital in Nicaragua with the government are both co-responsible for what’s going on in Nicaragua.
So, people are very clear on this hand. We don’t want anyone trying to push for what they call an easy solution, which would mean Ortega stays in power more time. For us, every day is a day that people lose their lives. Every one of us, our life is at risk. And we are not willing to sustain any arrangement that is done on the back of the people. So people are very clear: We want justice, we want them out, and we want a profound reform in Nicaragua’s constitution and institutionality.
AMY GOODMAN: And who would replace? You talked about Ortega and the vice president, his wife, Rosario.
MÓNICA LÓPEZ BALTODANO: Yeah, but it’s important to understand also about the phenomenon in Nicaragua is that this is not being led by any political party. In fact, all of the political forces in Nicaragua are completely—are completely—have been destroyed because of this politics of doing arrangement with Ortega’s regime.
Right now what we are seeing is a civic popular rebellion. We are in the process of organizing these different expressions of social protest. We are claiming, quite clearly, that in the process of defining who will be in this provisional government board, there should be a clear representation of the people on the streets, but also the fact that in the process of organizing new elections, we need to have the possibility of people joining the electoral process without representing political parties, because Nicaragua—in Nicaragua, population does not back up any of those political parties.
AMY GOODMAN: Mónica López Baltodano, we want to thank you very much for being with us, human rights activist on the ground in Managua; former Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.N. Alejandro Bendaña, speaking to us from Abuja, Nigeria, where he’s visiting; and Stephen Hellinger, here in New York, at The Development GAP, [Group] for Alternative Policies.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Mexico City to hear about a stunning judicial decision to throw out the investigation done of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students. Stay with us.