For years, Nicaraguans seemed to tolerate the growing authoritarianism of President Daniel Ortega in exchange for stability and growth. That pact is now crumbling.
Massive protests and riots have rocked the foundations of the Sandinista government over the past week. The demonstrations were triggered by changes to the country’s social security system, but protesters have since demanded that Ortega resign and that Nicaragua’s democratic institutions be restored.
Dozens of protesters have been killed, according to human rights organizations. The United States has shut down routine operations at its embassy in Managua and pulled diplomats’ families from the country. On Saturday, a Nicaraguan journalist was shot dead in the coastal city of Bluefields while broadcasting on Facebook Live.
This is a critical moment for Nicaragua, one in which the U.S. could play a vital role. Instead of isolating the Ortega regime, the U.S. and other countries in the region should pressure the government to undertake immediate democratic reforms. Without a clear path forward, this Nicaraguan Spring may meet the same fate of protest movements past: lasting instability, violence and even more repression.