Paying the Price

Now in the fourth month of discord in Nicaragua, there is no end in sight.  Statements and actions of the president indicate no capitulation to the demands of the protesters.  The demonstrators show no weakening of will or purpose in their stand against the government.  Other voices from outside the country weigh in on both sides.  But there are other voices, unheard, who are paying a steep price indeed for the impasse that is Nicaragua today.

There’s an entire population, urban and rural alike, which survives hand-to-mouth in the Nica economy, and the upheavals that have occurred over the past several months have all but quieted those hands.  Tourism, an important component of the economy everywhere in the country, has ceased.  Rural producers, who have labored hard and diligently sought to learn improvements for their yields and their markets, have watched their momentum slip away once again, not due to rainfall or drought or crop infestation, but from politics.  The improved road infrastructure throughout Nicaragua was rendered inaccessible for long periods of time during the protests, as barricades achieved what they sought to achieve: the halt of commerce.  Markets demand goods, and goods must make their way from the farms.  As a result, credit obligations have sometimes not been met.  Materials for a new harvest cycle cannot be bought.  Collateral has been called.  Sources of credit have evaporated.

In the words of Sergio Ramírez, former Vice President for Daniel Ortega:

“The universities have been closed for three months and the high schools as well. 10% of the public schools are functioning, no parent thinks about sending their child to school. Life ends at 5pm, everyone looks to get home. There is no night life in Managua, being out on the street after 6pm is putting your life at risk. Social life has changed a lot, so it is a situation of seclusion.”

This is not a life of vibrant progress, but of loss.

To be sure, some of these voices have joined the chorus either in support or defiance of the government.  But the “silent majority” of Nicaragua, as usual, has little opportunity to speak its reality.  As always, those in the countryside are paying an enormous price for that reality.  The disappointment must be immense; hard work perhaps does not always pay off.   Still, they persevere.  What else is there?

The litany of matters which have oppressed and stalled Nicaraguans for portions of two centuries are long and diverse.  Some were natural disasters. Others were the result of outside forces seeking to own the beauty and the richness of the country.  And often the sources of the inequities and the impoverishment were the legacies of leaders who could not envision leadership without autocracy.  As the saying goes, “There’s always something.”

There is likely a limit to human resilience for most of us.  These is a saturation point beyond which even our tenacity and determination will not permit us to go.  I worry about Nicaragua a lot these days.  I anxious for the lives of those who are on the front lines for a cause in which they believe, for whatever reason.  My heart aches for the places I have come to love in Nicaragua, some now relegated to battlegrounds once again.  But my greatest fear is for the steadfast endurance of those in the countryside, for whom every day is both a blessing to be celebrated and a threat to be confronted.

The number of physical victims in the Nicaraguan turmoil of the past three months continues to grow.  Some estimates have the number of dead at more than 300, the number of “disappeared” at more than 750  and many thousands of others injured from the attacks from paramilitary forces.  No matter what the actual count, the costs have been extensive thus far, with no end in sight.  These are the dramatic affronts that deserve our tears and our prayers.  But the price being extracted is strangling all Nicaraguans….

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