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Consequences of Violence in Nicaragua
Since April 2018, the citizens of Nicaragua have been protesting against its government. What started originally as a movement against changes to the social security program quickly turned into an opposition movement demanding President Daniel Ortega and his wife’s resignations. The protests turned violent when anti-government protesters clashed with pro-government protesters and police. As a result, these protests resulted in the killings of more than 300 people and about 2,000 people becoming injured. Here are the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua.

Human Rights Concerns

One of the consequences of violence in Nicaragua has been the concerns surrounding human rights abuses by the government. According to Human Rights Watch, the Ortega administration has violated Nicaraguan citizens’ human rights by “[banning] public demonstrations by any group critical of the government, (…) [stripping] nine non-governmental organizations of their legal registration, [shutting] down media outlets, [prosecuting] journalists under the anti-terrorism law, and [expelling] international monitors from the country. The Ortega government has harassed and threatened the media, human rights defenders and other members of civil society.”

Additionally, it appears that the Nicaraguan government is not only denying its people the freedoms they are entitled to, but it is also retaliating against the reports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published. This becomes especially apparent by the government’s reactions to the release of these reports: “Following the high commissioner’s first report, the Ortega administration failed to hold perpetrators accountable for abuses and instead promoted senior officials who bear responsibility for killings and torture of demonstrators. In response to the high commissioner’s second report, the government has even defended the armed pro-government thugs that participated in repressing protests.”

Forced Migration

Additional consequences of the violence in Nicaragua is the forced displacement of 80,000 Nicaraguan citizens who are no longer able to live in their home country. Many are seeking asylum and refuge in neighboring countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico and the United States. Of the 33,000 asylum requests that Costa Rica received in this past year, the country has only processed about 4,900 leaving more than 28,000 people to seek refuge elsewhere. Due to the mass displacement of these Nicaraguan citizens, many must survive on temporary employment or none at all, leaving them to suffer as a result.

Limited Access to Resources

One of the major consequences of violence in Nicaragua is the limited access to necessary resources such as food and health care as a result of the unexpected roadblocks that continually appear throughout the country and the capital, Managua. It is rather unclear whether these roadblocks are government-sponsored or a result of government opposition leaders, however, these often lead to detours and inconveniences when Nicaraguans are attempting to access grocery stores and gas stations. Additionally, government hospitals across the country have begun denying treatment to those who they suspect of being a part of the anti-government movement, which has led to people being unable to receive any kind of treatment for their injuries.

Economic Growth Concerns

In the past, Nicaragua has maintained a steady economic growth rate. In 2017, the growth rate was 4.5 percent. However, in the last year, since the outbreak of violence and political unrest, the economy has contracted about 3.8 percent and the World Bank suspects that this contraction will grow up to 5 percent in 2019. These violent protests have caused many to lose their jobs, while also causing a decrease in consumer and business confidence. As a result, some fear that the violence in Nicaragua will cost recent progress the country has made in poverty reduction efforts.

During the years of 2014 and 2016, poverty rates in Nicaragua had fallen from 29.6 percent to 24.9 percent due to the support of international organizations such as the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Additionally, the extreme poverty rate also dropped from 8.3 percent to 6.9 percent in the same timeframe. It is too early to predict what the poverty rates will be for Nicaragua in 2019, but there is speculation that poverty rates will rise again.

Efforts by International Organizations

After six weeks of protests, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the situation in Nicaragua by asking the government to consider allowing the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to visit the country. On many occasions, the U.N. has established its willingness to resolve the situation by acting as a mediator in “national dialogue efforts to strengthen the rule of law, respect for human rights and the peaceful resolution of differences.” Additionally, there have been requests for the government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to bring much-needed justice and peace of mind for victims’ relatives.

Furthermore, representatives for Amnesty International have spoken out condemning the Nicaraguan governments’ repression of its people. They also suggested the creation of a committee in order to prosecute those guilty of serious human rights violations and crimes. In a report released by Amnesty International titled “Shoot to kill: Nicaragua’s strategy to suppress protest,” there appears to be evidence of Nicaraguan paramilitary forces using lethal weapons against protesters, of which many were students. This report sheds light on the situation in Nicaragua and hopes to bring international awareness in order for others to take action against the repressive forces of the Nicaraguan government.

The consequences of violence in Nicaragua range from human rights concerns to limited access to health care and even issues regarding Nicaragua’s economic growth rate. Though there appears to be no end in sight, there is hope for Nicaragua’s citizens as international organizations attempt to raise awareness and investigate the ongoing crimes committed against the Nicaraguan people. The situation is far from resolution but as it gains more international interest, there is hope that efforts will not be in vain and that the country can find a peaceful resolution.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Education in Spain
Education in Spain was hit hard by the financial crisis of 2008, leaving one in three children in poverty — nearly 2.7 million children — and has one of the highest jobless rates in Europe. Since the financial crisis, the government has been trying to recover, but they have not succeeded in improving education in Spain.

The school drop-out rate is the highest in the EU. In 2014, the drop-out rate was nearly 25 percent. Compared to other countries in the EU, Denmark’s drop-out rate was eight percent, and France’s drop-out rate was 9.7 percent. Only 57 percent of adults in Spain have completed upper secondary education, which is lower than the average 76 percent, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). This number has been increasing slightly, but it still continues to be the lowest in the EU.

An education bill was introduced in 2013 that has gained controversy. It was passed in 2014 by the conservative Popular Party, which controlled Spanish parliament, despite opposition from other political parties. The bill increased the number of annual exams, organized school funding based on students’ test scores and reintroduced religion as a mandatory subject.

Many Spanish students have protested against this education bill and the subsequent increased costs for college tuition. In 2016, thousands of university students participated in protests in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.

During the years 2012-2013, there were massive budget cuts on education amounting to 2.2 billion euros. Higher education in Spain took the bulk of the cut at 62.5 percent. The budget cuts led to increases in college tuition, which led to the student protests. The overall investment in education was 21 percent lower than in previous years.

Education in Spain

However, even after the last few years of disarray with education in Spain, the Spanish government is trying to make improvements. In 2016, the government increased the education budget by 10.8 percent even after the large cuts in previous years. The early school leaving percentage is also falling, even as it remains the highest in the EU. The Spanish government has also been reforming the basic vocational education and training (VET) system to improve the chances of gaining employment after graduation for young people. The process seems to be working. The employment rate is one of the lowest in the EU but has risen from 40.9 percent in 2013 to 54.9 percent in 2015.

According to Article 27 of the Spanish Constitution, “Everyone has the right to education.” Therefore, the people of Spain have the right to affordable education to achieve opportunities. Education in Spain still has a chance to improve.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Venezuela_Food crisis
Venezuela, a country on the northern coast of South America, is well known for its lush forests and beautiful coastal view. Unfortunately, the breathtaking scenery does little for combating the growing concern of hunger in Venezuela.

Since Nicolás Maduro’s assumption of the Venezuelan presidency in 2013 after Hugo Chávez’s death, polls have found that 87 percent of citizens do not have enough income to provide food for their families.

Of their measly income, 72 percent is spent on food alone. To afford enough food to feed a family, the Center for Documentation and Social Analysis estimated a family would need the equivalent of 16 minimum-wage job salaries.

Inflation has also risen to over 180 percent since December 2015. This is partly because of a drop in oil prices that reduced Venezuelan foreign earnings by two-thirds. However, it also caused in part by the formation of Local Committees of Supplies and Protection (known locally as CLAP).

CLAP regulates when people can go shopping at the supermarket and even what they are allowed to buy based on the last digit of their identity card. For instance, if the identity card ends in a zero or one, a citizen might be able to buy groceries on Monday. They receive staples such as flour, pasta, and soap at a controlled price; the government controls even hunger in Venezuela.

These regulated shopping trips are not enough for struggling Venezuelans; lately, protests have become more widespread and even physically violent. In Cumaná, protestors marched on a supermarket, defying the grocery-shopping schedule implemented by the government, to empty the entire supermarket of food.

Riots like the one in Cumaná have occurred across Venezuela, with as many as 50 riots in the span of two weeks.

In addition to growing participation in supermarket riots, citizens have been calling for President Maduro’s resignation, blaming his socialist policies and exploitation of farmers for the current food crisis. Maduro’s response has been to blame bordering countries for hoarding food and bombing Venezuelan power plants.

Keep an eye on the Borgen Project for more information on hunger in Venezuela and developments in the Venezuelan food crisis.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Flickr

Students in South AfricaSouth African universities have recently faced many violent disruptions due to conflict over tuition prices. Buildings have been set on fire while student factions continue to clash. This is the second year of conflict between Students in South Africa and their universities over the high costs of tuition and the low pay for university staff.

The government budget for the past year only temporarily fixed the financial issues being protested, and violence continues. Students at the University of the Free State were attacked during their protest by rugby spectators, while students at Pretoria University have burned buses and artwork in clashes over language instruction policies.

A possible solution to the issue would involve allotting more funding in the next budget for public education and universities. If tuition prices were lowered, more students in South Africa would be able to attend university, thus beginning to dispel the conflict over tuition prices.

Protests began at Tshwane University of Technology, where students were unable to register for courses because of their outstanding debt. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was incapable of meeting its funding commitments, causing a wave of anger amongst the students when their education was disrupted by this failure of the NSFAS. Additional funding for NSFAS was included in the 2016 budget in attempt to dispel protests, but the protesters are still active and escalating in violence.

Education continues to suffer in South Africa due to the unaffordable costs of higher education. A majority of the funding to remedy the protests has gone to North-West University, where academic activities were suspended for over a month.

The shadow higher education minister, Belinda Bozzoli, claims that “radical student groups” had “directed money away from the legitimate needs of thousands of poor students.” She says that though some of the damages can be covered by insurers, universities are suffering and unable to provide adequate education while under attack.

Inequality in South Africa is a major cause for the protests. Approximately 70 percent of South Africans are paid so little that they qualify for free state housing. These citizens cannot afford university tuition fees.

Students in South Africa in poor financial situations can apply for a bursary to fund part of their education. However, students must pay off a portion of debt before graduating and pay their loans in full immediately upon graduation.

As a result of the conflict over tuition prices, the government has continued to freeze the increasing tuition prices for two years—a short-term solution for a long-term, foundational issue.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

While the world looks at Brazil in excitement for the FIFA World Cup, national dissatisfaction persists among many of its citizens. People from all walks of life are taking part in demonstrations, strikes and riots to have their voices heard.

The protesters had several specific issues they want dealt with but were able to agree that the common factor amongst their concerns was rooted in the economics of hosting the tournament. Many believe Brazil should not be hosting the World Cup when its economy is too weak to uphold the country’s needs.

Citizens’ discontent regarding the decision to host was made clear at the Confederations Cup (a World Cup “dress rehearsal”) in 2013, at which over a million people protested in dozens of Brazilian cities to demand better public services.

Since then, protests have increased in number and severity, with many being organized by unions, leftist parties and activist groups. In the weeks leading up to the opening games, police, teachers, bus drivers and bank security guards have gone on strike due to World Cup related issues.

On May 26, protesters surrounded the World Cup squad’s hotel and later the squad’s bus when en route to a training camp. The protesters chanted things like “There will be no World Cup, there will be a strike” and placed stickers on the team’s bus.

On May 27, about 1,500 people were part of a demonstration that blocked one of the main roads near the National Stadium. Once the police intervened, the streets were filled with a variety of people, including cops on horseback, indigenous leaders with bows and arrows and dissatisfied teachers. A popular chant was “Who is the cup for? Not us! I don’t want the Cup, I want money for health and education.”

Groups of educators have been on strike since May 12, believing that the $11 million budget for the month-long tournament should be allotted to more worthy causes, such as education for the children or better working conditions and pay raises for the teachers.

Recently, the indigenous population of Brazil has decided to use the protests to bring light to their problems. Around 100 ethnic groups joined in the demonstrations to fight for the protection of the Amazon Rainforest. They have accused President Dilma Rousseff’s government of stalling the demarcation of their ancestral lands in order to pursue large-scale farming.

The protests are not expected to let up any time soon, so the government is increasing the police force and security, with 157,000 soldiers and police dedicated to maintaining order during the tournament. The added security has caused additional economic controversy, with the civilian police force requesting an 80 percent pay raise during the World Cup.

Brazilian soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo expressed that citizens should not blame the country’s problems on the World Cup when they existed beforehand:

“This is what people should understand: it’s down to governments. The governments they have elected. It’s nothing to do with football or the World Cup.”

A slightly different angle is expressed by Eric Cantona, former soccer player, stating that he believes the protests will continue despite FIFA executive committee vice president Michel Plantini’s requests, but that “people just need to be heard, and they will be heard thanks to the World Cup.”

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: Daily Mail, ESPN FC, BBC 1, BBC 2
Photo: Sports Illustrated

Protests in Venezuela
Months of goods shortages, allegations of corruption, a sky-high inflation rate of 56.2 percent and rising crime have left thousands of Venezuelans dissatisfied with the government of Nicolás Maduro, the successor of the late Hugo Chávez of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, (PSUV.) This dissatisfaction culminated in violent protests in Venezuela against the Maduro administration that took place in many large cities across Venezuela, including the cities of Maracaibo and Caracas, the capital.

On Thursday, three protesters were killed and dozens more were injured in clashes between the disgruntled and disaffected youth and the police and troops from the National Guard. Around 1,000 protesters lit bonfires and blockaded the streets in an effort to draw attention to their demands. It is relatively unclear what the protesters want, however. Some are calling for Maduro to resign; others simply want an end to the uptick in the crime rate.

In an effort to quell the protests, on Saturday Maduro called for a “ban” on further protests and prohibited media coverage of the protests. After promoting a position of “peace and tolerance,” Maduro denounced the protesters as “fascists” who sought to overthrow the government. He further attempted to maintain his grasp on his power by suggesting that “the people are in power.”

One leader of the opposition, Leopoldo Lopez tweeted support for non-violent protests, and addressed Maduro in a message in which he called the president “a coward…who cannot make me or my family submit to you.”

Proponents of the peaceful protests in Venezuela have stated that government-sponsored motorcycle gangs known as colectivos seek to incite further violence in order to thwart the legitimacy of the movement. Since Wednesday, 99 people have been arrested and released, with 13 remaining in jail.

Maduro has found it increasingly difficult to continue riding the wave of the Chavista movement following the death of Hugo Chávez in March of last year. After narrowly winning a presidential election in April 2013 that the center-right opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, denounced as fraudulent, Maduro has struggled to appear as a legitimate successor to the charismatic Chávez. As such, he has blamed the opposition movement for the country’s economic woes, which includes a high inflation rate and a shortage of basic goods such as toilet paper.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: Reuters, The Daily Beast, Reuters, AlJazeera, BBC
Photo: Tempo

Ukrainian Government
Following new legislation that outlawed the right of protest in Ukraine, people have taken to the streets in a display of anger and violence. The situation seems to have gotten out of hand for Ukrainian police and officials, as they are unable to peacefully control the protests. Resorting to brute force to hinder the people, the international community is beginning to call the situation a human rights violation for the people of Ukraine.

International leaders such as United States Vice President Joe Biden are stepping in to urge Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov to resolve the issue peacefully. Biden also went on to state that relations between Ukraine and the U.S. may be hurt as a result of the Ukrainian government’s treatment of the issue. Unfortunately for Azarov, the people are calling for the resignation of Azarov as well as other government leaders.

Opposition and government leaders have met multiple times to try to reach agreements on the issue, but no progress has been made as of yet. After meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko states that the President disagreed to the demands of resignation for both he and his cabinet members. Nevertheless, Yanukovych is determined to continue negotiation talks to reach a resolution.

Recently, news sources in Ukraine reported Yanukovych “has promised a government reshuffle, an amnesty to detained activists and other concessions, after protests against his rule engulfed Ukraine.” However, opposition forces have denied Yanukovych’s offers and seek to continue protesting.

In the city of Lviv, hundreds of protestors gained control of regional governor Oleh Salo’s office and forced him to sign off a resignation letter. Opposition movements in various cities across Ukraine have also sought to gain control of regional government offices but have not been as successful.

Although negotiation talks have stalled, what is certain is that opposition forces are not expected to give in quietly to Yanukovych’s offerings. The protesters are calling for early elections to replace their government and until then, protests are expected to continue.

Jugal Patel

Sources: Voa News, CNN, FOX
Photo: Microsoft