Pedro Molina has been an editorial cartoonist in Nicaragua for more than 20 years. A crackdown by Nicaragua’s President, Daniel Ortega, threatens Pedro and other journalists who dare report the truth about the brutal regime. I asked my friend Pedro to write a column about the situation for us. – Daryl Cagle
Cartoonists often complain that politicians are unfair competition because they can be crazier than our cartoons. This is particularly true in Nicaragua, where I live and work as a cartoonist.
We have a government formed by a married couple: President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The only time they venture out of “El Carmen,” their private housing complex, is for ceremonial events that are covered by most television and radio media in the country, which, by the way, they own.
Despite calling themselves “socialist revolutionaries,” the Ortega family are actually multimillionaires (thanks to Venezuela’s oil business) with a special taste for things like Mercedes Benz cars, Rolex watches and caviar. Our first lady, Murillo, the most extravagant of the duo, has filled the country with huge ridiculous metal “trees” she calls “Trees of Life” at the price of $ 25,000 each; we have hundreds of them! In the second poorest country in Latin America!
As you can imagine, Nicaragua was a cartooning paradise, with lots of potentially funny material for political cartoonists like me … until April 18 of this year.
After several years of suffering electoral frauds, curtailment of rights, selective repression, attempts to censor the internet and mismanagement of environmental disasters, the last straw was the enactment of the country’s social security law that curtails the rights of current and future pensioners.
Protests began timidly in a country where protests, however small, are crushed by mobs like the JS-19 (a paramilitary arm of the government) and the police. This time, the killing of college students made peaceful protests spread like a wildfire. Dozens were killed while Ortega’s wife, in the style of George Orwell’s Big Brother, referred to war as “peace” and violence as “love.”
Protests and killings continued. May 30 is national Mother’s Day in Nicaragua. People took to the streets to honor the mothers of all the victims of the repression since last April (numbering 86 dead at that time). The Mother’s Day march became the biggest public demonstration against this government, ending when the paramilitary and police forces of Ortega and Murillo opened fire against the crowd. It was a massacre.
At the time I write this, the number of protesters killed by the regime since April 18 is over 146. It is clear that Ortega and his wife, after 11 years in power, will not resign by their own will.
There are brutal regimes around that world, why should Americans care about Nicaragua?
In early June, Nicaraguans were expecting the General Assembly of the Organization of American States to deliver an energetic condemnation about the massacre conducted by Ortega’s goons. Surprisingly, we learned that the Ortega regime and the Trump administration made some type of agreement on a softer statement, avoiding the stronger condemnation that was needed and expected.
The question is why. Why is president Trump doing favors for a thug like Ortega? Is this another favor from Trump to Ortega’s comrade, Vladimir Putin? Is it because Trump identifies with an egomaniac that clings to power no matter what? Is it in exchange for support from Ortega against Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela?
There are many questions, but few answers.
I hope these questions find a way into Americans’ hearts and minds. Why is Trump aligned with a genocidal leader like Ortega? Congress is discussing Nicaragua now, and readers can take action to help us stop the killings. Please call your representatives in Congress and urge them to care about Nicaragua. Why? Because of our shared humanity; or perhaps because instability in Central America could mean many more immigrants trying to get into the USA soon. Please call your congressman and spread the word that what is happening in Nicaragua is NOT a war; this is an armed state murdering unarmed citizens.
– Pedro Molina, editorial cartoonist, Nicaragua