On past April 18 began the demonstrations in Nicaragua against the reforms to the Social Security system. Although the government was forced to step back with its proposal, the demonstrations continued and gained more strength, confronting not just a reform but also the leave of the government led by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
By Lena Souza and Jessica Barquero.
Women have been an essential part of this struggle, occupying more and more spaces. From the support that they initially gave, guaranteeing food, health care for injured, participating on the demonstrations and mounting the trenches, to the direct confrontation in each of those spots, defending themselves with artisanal mortars and bombs.
This is not by chance. In 1978, when the fight against the Somoza dictatorship began, it was women who mobilized in the neighborhood of Mnimbeo, in Masaya, to confront the National Guard. The violent repression they suffered made other fighters join them, and the insurrection against Somoza began. It is 40 years later that the history of the brave Nicaraguan people repeats, this time to confront the FSLN government.
Women on the lead
Many women, most of them young, joined the different fronts of struggle. We recently talked with one of them, who told us, “I’ve raised my hand with a mortar; I’ve participated of all demonstrations; I moved from one place to the other and I’ve been in the front, too; I’ve fought. (…) But I say this as a woman: it is hard. I cannot deny it scares me a bit, but at the moment you see someone hurt or injured, shot, that’s when you gain more strength and courage to say “I want to be here, I will not leave.”
Unfortunately, when the government increases the repression, women become a target and sexual violence is used consciously and freely as a war weapon, as a practice to intimidate and create terror. This has raised the number of young women raped or sexually abused in the last days.
Mothers take the streets
On May 30, Mothers’ Day in Nicaragua, a giant demonstration took place through the streets of Managua and other departments in support to the mothers that lost their children before the government’s repression. It was an act of resistance and solidarity to the April Mothers.
The call was categoric: unlike previous years, the typical music with marimbas, so characteristic of this celebration, were not part of it. May 30 of 2018 was not a celebration day. It was a day of fight.
While president Ortega talked about peace in his speech in tribute to the mothers, in the demonstration in Managua there were shots, leaving several seriously injured and many dead.
Yet, the courage that today moves women to fight hand in hand with their male comrades is the reaction to decades of oppression and attacks that they have been suffering.
In the Ortega-Murillo Nicaragua, women lost rights
The self-called “progressive” government of Ortega-Murillo proves, once again, that it is not enough with having women in power, as it depends on which class those women rule for.
On International Women’s Day, the vice-president of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo Zambrana, known as “Chayo”, made a statement highlighting the report of the World Economic Forum, which classified Nicaragua as one of the six countries with most gender equality.
This classification is based, mainly, in the presence of women in Ministries and the National Assembly, where women hold 46% of the seats. According to Chayo, the Ortega government brought “restitution of women’s right and, overall, the promotion of respect to women’s strength and capability.”
However, as some Nicaraguan women organizations question with reason, such information masks the true policy of the government regarding women’s rights.
In 2012, the Nicaraguan National Assembly passed the law 779, named Integral Law Against Violence Against Women. But in 2013, the same law was reformed by the back-then president Ortega.
The main modification reduced the “femicide” to the private sphere, so it only recognizes a femicide when the violence suffered by women comes from a direct relationship, not in the public sphere.
The article 9 of the law established: “it is a crime of femicide when the man, in the frame of unequal relationships between men and women, causes the death of a woman, be it in the private or public sphere.” [Our translation.]
The modification taken ahead by Ortega established that femicide is “a crime committed by a man against a woman, in the context of an interpersonal romantic relationship, that has, as a result, the death of the woman in the circumstances established by the law.” [Our translation.]
According to Azahalea Solís, from the Autonomous Women’s Movement, this is “a proof of the totalitarianism we live in Nicaragua” and that the consequence of the new orientation of this law is “more violence against women because the aggressor feels protected by the State.”
To Bertha Inés Cabrales, from the Itza and Centers’ Alliance Collective, this is “going backward in time, (…) it closes the road of protection before violence against women.” [Our translation.]
And they both come to a conclusion: the goal of the modification is to mask the numbers of violence, hiding the femicides in the public sphere.
Is it any similarity between the self-called “progressive” governments, in the use of this method, a mere coincidence? It does not seem like it, as this practice repeats when the numbers that show the reality of the oppressed and poor segments are evidenced. As what they want is to improve capitalism, and such thing is impossible, they just disguise the real numbers.
Other modifications to the law were also denounced by women organization in Nicaragua, like the definition of punishment to fathers that do not comply with the obligation of alimony.
Also, like in other countries, police stations for women were closed and the investment in shelters was cut, reducing the possibility for women to denounce violence against them.
In Nicaragua, since 2006, the abortion is fully prohibited, even in cases of rape, incest, risky pregnancies or malformation. Punishment goes from one to two years of prison for women and one to six years for the health professionals that perform it.
After over 150 years (between 1837 and 2006) of access to therapeutic abortion in the country, the FSLN, that since 1990 stopped making it available in the public health system, forbade it definitely in 2006.
This decision was taken by the FSLN through Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, that defended such step back with the goal of winning the support and votes of the religious sectors. They used the drama of a 12-year-old indigenous girl that got pregnant after she was raped. Despite the child’s health was at risk, the authorities denied the therapeutical abortion several times. The girl gave birth through c-section, and this was used by Ortega to win the reelection. In this occasion, Rosario Murillo affirmed, “we have worked in accordance with the believes and traditions of the majority in Nicaragua, in defense of life.”
The same Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, that were romantic partners for many years, married in the Church in 2005 to show their reconciliation and change. The speeches of the couple are loaded with allusions to religious motivations, used to justified their policy against women’s rights. The big banners on the streets say “Christian, revolution, supportive revolution” as the FSLN slogan.
The setback is also clear among the deputies, serving their own reelection. The bill project that bans abortion was voted in 2006, with 59 favorable votes and none against. Seven deputies abstained, and 29 did not show. As we can see, those who once were in favor of abortion, “chickened out” and did not vote (or voted against it) because of the fear to lose their electoral support.
A resolution that is irresponsible with women’s lives, proper of those who were completely co-opted by electoralism, as Nicaragua lives a serious situation in this regard. The country has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Latin America.
According to a research by IPAS, in 2016, “annually, there are about 1600 birth of teenager mothers, who is about the proportion of women that were pregnant after a rape – number that reaches 10 thousand women per year.” The same study claims that the Nicaraguan case can be considered an epidemic-endemic due to these numbers. Also, the punishment forces abortions to be performed in a clandestine, unsafe mode, which in cases of complications avoids women to look for health assistance, as they might be sentenced to two years of prison if they do so and are turned in by the doctors that provided such assistance.
In 1998, Zoilamerica Narváez, Rosario Murillo’s daughter and adoptive daughter of Daniel Ortega, denounced Ortega publically for sexual abuse that began when she was 11. The case was taken to the court, but Judge Juana Méndez, who later became the magistrate of the Supreme Justice Court, filed the case alleging prescription.
Years later, Ziolamerica denounced that the designation of her mother as vice-president was a kind of payment that Daniel Ortega made to his wife for covering him up. The candidature of his wife was justified by Ortega as if he were complying with the law 50-50, that poses gender equality for public offices.
Since then, other accusations of sexual abuse against Daniel Ortega became public, and women organizations keep denouncing the way those were handled.
Rosario Murillo’s Role
Next to Ortega is his inseparable partner, Rosario Murillo, who played an essential role in this government, being his spokesperson, and vice-president since 2017. Although at the time she was a figure with high popular support, the recent mobilization evidenced the anger of the population against her.
The demonstrations all over the country began with the fall of metallic structures with the form of trees that decorate the streets in the country. Every metal structure is 14 meters tall and 6 meters wide and costs about 30,000 dollars. The so-called “life trees” are also known as “chayopalos” [Chayo-sticks] because they were Rosario Murrillo’s (Chayo) idea.
Thus, to take down one of those chayopalos is not just to take down an expensive ornament, but it represents the decline a symbol of the Sandinista government who people is rebelling against.
The cries of “Yes, we can!” that accompany each one of this “falls” are also a cry against Murillo, who ruled against the interests of poor and working women in Nicaragua.
Full Support to Nicaraguan Women! No More Dialogue with the Dictatorship!
As the Nicaraguan Committee of the IWL-FI says, “there will not be a Nicaragua nor justice for the martyrs if the Ortega-Murillo do not leave the power.” All our support to and solidarity with working and young women in Nicaragua that join and strengthen the struggle for the Ortega-Murillo fall. Only through organization and unity of working men, women and youth, it will be possible to take this dictator government down, to move forward with a program that frees the working class and allows to take effective measures to free young and working women from male-chauvinist oppression.
 Spanish: https://litci.org/es/menu/mundo/latinoamerica/nicaragua/mujeres-no-tenemos-miedo-las-balas [Our translation.]
 Spanish: https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2016/02/24/nacionales/1991455-corte-suprema-cerceno-de-hecho-ley-779-en-nicaragua
 Spanish: https://www.hrw.org/es/news/2017/07/31/nicaragua-prohibicion-del-aborto-supone-riesgo-para-la-salud-y-la-vida
 Spanish: https://confidencial.com.ni/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ESTUDIO2016.pdf