Nicaragua: Holy Week between official manipulation and repression

Nicaragua: Holy Week between official manipulation and repression

Published on 18 Apr 2023

Ortega's Regime vs. the Church

During 2022 the Nicaraguan regime prevailed in the digital conversation on Twitter in the country, representing 75.40% of the trends (with 95 tags) and 90.15% of the tweets (600,158 tweets) with campaigns promoted by users coordinated inauthentically as “La Tropa Sandinista”, talking about the “support of the people” to Ortega, ephemeris of the Revolution and “the great governmental management” in the country.

Civil society also participated in the 2022 conversation with digital protest, highlighting 6 trends linked to the defense of the ecclesiastical sector due to the persecution of church members in the country as well as the siege and subsequent imprisonment by the regime of Bishop Rolando Álvarez. Some examples of the campaign carried out by civil society last year can be seen in hashtags such as #Sébaco, #SOSIglesiaNi and #SOSIglesiaNic (SOS Nicaraguan church).

So far in April 2023, we have followed the reactivation of citizen protest in Nicaragua, mainly in the context of the commemoration of the demonstrations and the political crisis suffered in the country in April 2018. Although civil society only accounted for 31 trends and 9.85% of registered tweets (65,597 tweets apx), 88.68% were generated by real users organically.

What happened in April 2018?

Older adults came out to protest against reforms to social security that deducted 5% from their pensions and increased the contribution fee for workers and employers; the State’s response was repression.

Upon observing the National Police mercilessly beating the elderly, dozens of young people were filled with indignation and joined the protests, provoking a citizen insurrection in Nicaragua; however, they were also savagely repressed. The demonstrations spread the next day and the unexpected happened, three young people were killed. Demonstrations of rejection and indignation spread throughout most of the country and as the days passed, the number of murders continued to increase.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 355 people died during the protests. Crimes against humanity were committed in Nicaragua, the UN Group of Experts on Human Rights in Nicaragua recently concluded. Five years later there has been no access to justice, impunity continues and persecution continues to increase.

Reality vs. Fiction: April 2023

Between April 01 and 05 we registered how accounts linked to the regime twice posted #VeranoVidaAlegria (summer of life and joy), accumulating about 5,800 tweets. In this hashtag, pro-government sympathizers commented on the alleged security campaigns of the regime during the festivities, without echoing the Catholic celebration, but commemorating the “arrival of summer”.

Despite this perception of normality that the regime tried to sell on social networks and in official media in April 2023, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the civic insurrection in Nicaragua, civil society positioned April 01 as a protest #SOSNicaragua and #AbrilNoSeOlvida (April does not forget), adding together approximately 5,400 messages that started since March 31 to talk about the events of 2018 and remember that the country is still under a regime that systematically violates human rights. However, political violence escalated again.

The regime banned all religious activities of the Catholic Church during Holy Week and imprisoned those who tried to defy the ban and leaders linked to the protests. According to Azul y Blanco monitoring, between April 1 and 9, 21 people were arrested, including journalist Victor Ticay, correspondent in the municipality of Nandaime (southern Nicaragua) for Canal 10 (the largest television station in Nicaragua), for reporting on a traditional Holy Week activity.

In addition, between April 2 and 9, two trends promoted by the Venezuelan Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information (MIPPCI) were positioned in Nicaragua, both talking about the Catholic celebration. On Sunday, April 2, the MIPPCI promoted the hashtag #DomingoDeRamos (Palm Sunday) with close to 752,000 tweets and on Wednesday, April 5 #PuebloEnOraciónYPaz (people in prayers and peace) with approximately 1,210. This not only reflects the presence of the Venezuelan pro-government narrative in the country, but also how religious messages were positioned from Nicaragua to promote Venezuelan trends and the contradiction that this implies due to the persecution of the Ortega-Murillo regime against the church.

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