A mockery of democracy: The international community must maintain firm pressure on Nicaragua

On 7 November 2021, Daniel Ortega was re-elected President of Nicaragua after months of government repression and violence against protesters. On 10 January 2022 he was inaugurated. This long read on the government’s history of repression against the citizens of Nicaragua was informed by testimonies from several individuals whose names have been withheld for security reasons.

In the first week of June 2021, the political landscape of Nicaragua transformed overnight when police arrested five opposition candidates who were on the ballot for the country’s November 2021 elections. What began as covert government repression of opposition candidates in the election burst into the open as many of them were suddenly detained.

In Nicaragua, the will of a repressive leader is above the law.

The most flawed election in Nicaragua’s history

Since the re-election of Daniel Ortega on 7 November 2021, analysts have contended that the electoral process was one of the most flawed in the country’s history as a democracy, as it was characterised by the arrests of numerous opposition candidates. To many, the scenario for Nicaragua seems hopeless.

Continue reading “A mockery of democracy: The international community must maintain firm pressure on Nicaragua”

Christmas Eve in the Dark

Christmas Eve night. Millions of people around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of a baby, a king and saviour, 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Jesus Christ was born to be a light to the world.

Over 1,000 miles away from Jerusalem, a mother tends to her new-born baby in total darkness. She lives in the community of El Encanto, Las Margaritas Municipality in the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico. Her name is Rebeca Vasquez Cruz. Like many others in the community, her electricity supply has been cut off because of her faith. She will celebrate Christmas Eve in the dark.

A culture of abuse and impunity

The Roman Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America and particularly in Mexico. The religious hegemony of the past centuries has led to a lack of understanding about other religions, and in particular the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). In an increasingly diverse religious landscape, with 11.2% of the Mexican population identifying as Protestant Evangelical in the latest census, FoRB violations are common and widespread in Mexico.

Continue reading “Christmas Eve in the Dark”

Living in exile: “As long as the same government is in power I do not dare to return”

Samuel[1] is a Nicaraguan teacher and lawyer who was forced to flee his country in April 2019 after being repeatedly arrested in retaliation for his reporting on human rights violations committed by government forces.

For the latest instalment in our Living in exile series, CSW spoke with Samuel to hear his story.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

“I am a Nicaraguan citizen from the Department of Chontales. I am a teacher and a lawyer. I am currently in exile in Panama as a “Refugee in Process”, and have been since 16 April 2019 through Executive Order No. 5 for the Protection of Refugee Applicants from the Government of Panama, through the National Office for the Attention of Refugees (ONPAR).

Continue reading “Living in exile: “As long as the same government is in power I do not dare to return””

Living in exile: “I am not less than any other human. I just want to be heard and seen”

Ali* is an Iranian Christian convert who was reported to the police after some of those close to him discovered he had changed his religion. In 2015 he fled to Cuba via Armenia because it was the easiest place for him to get a visa as an Iranian.

Ali hoped to be resettled quickly in an anglophone country because of his fluency in English. He has been recognized as a refugee by the UNHCR and is in the resettlement process, but this has been slowed significantly because of political issues and the COVID-19 pandemic. CSW spoke with Ali who told us of his experiences of living in exile.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

“I’m a young Iranian Christian citizen who has been stuck in long and exhausting limbo against my will for more than half a decade in Cuba. I’m a refugee, away from all the loved ones and abandoned in a foreign land with no sense of ‘belonging.’ I’m a university graduate with an impressive background in sales and business management that has been achieved with dedication and hard work at international companies in my country.

Continue reading “Living in exile: “I am not less than any other human. I just want to be heard and seen””

Tearing down Cuba’s ‘wall of fear’

No single fundamental human right exists in isolation. There is a significant overlap and interlinking of all rights, exemplified in the relationship between freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. These three rights sit side by side in Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Over the past year, and especially in recent months, these related rights have increasingly come under attack in Cuba, as members of independent civil society including artists and journalists, some of whom identify with a particular religion or belief, have maintained calls for legal and political reform, in particular coalescing around protests of Legal Decree 370 and Legal Decree 349.

Legal Decree 349 came into force in 2018 and gave the government extensive control over all artistic expression on the island, including mandating that any artistic activity had to be approved in advance by the Ministry of Culture. At the time, many Cubans expressed concern that the law would essentially stamp out freedom of expression in Cuba by only permitting the existence of government approved ‘art’. The same year a group of Cuban artists, journalists and academics came together and formed the San Isidro Movement to peacefully and creatively protest official censorship of artistic expression on the island.

Continue reading “Tearing down Cuba’s ‘wall of fear’”