Since the mid-1990s, industrial growth has been mainly in the economic free zones, where the government attracts companies with promises of tax exemption and cheap labor. The number of compound factories, maquilas, has increased significantly since then.
In 1994, about 4,000 Nicaraguan people worked in the maquilas factories and in 2012 they had over 100,000 employees. Most people who work in these factories are young women and wages are low. Most of the companies have Asian owners and mainly produce clothing for the markets in the US and Europe, but also shoes and jewelry.
The traditional industry consists of the manufacture of textiles, leather goods, chemicals, rum, beer and tobacco products and food processing. Growth is hampered by low demand in the domestic market. In addition, the industry is subjected to fierce competition from imported goods.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Nicaragua. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Human rights experts are expelled
The government has two expert groups from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The message comes the day before one of the expert groups would present a report on the human rights situation during the first weeks of protest this spring. A few days earlier, in a raid, the police closed an independent daily newspaper and two radio channels at the same time as Parliament banned Nicaragua’s human rights center (Cenidh) and four NGOs dealing with the same issues.
US sanctions against the Vice President
US faces sanctions on Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is accused of corruption and human rights violations. Murillo, who is the wife of President Daniel Ortega, is considered to have influence over the youth organization of the Sandinists, who have been guilty of extrajudicial executions, torture and kidnappings. Sanctions are also being directed against Presidential Security Advisor Néstor Moncada Lau, who is accused of paying armed groups to attack government opponents. (See also July 5, 2018)
Protesters are released after criticism
About 30 protesters arrested in connection with a demonstration are set free after two days. The arrests were motivated by the lack of permission for the demonstration, but have triggered widespread criticism from, among others, human rights organizations, OAS and Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado. Hundreds of people arrested earlier during the wave of protests are still detained, according to human rights groups.
Continued protests are prohibited
The government will not allow violence to flare up again, says the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Valdrack Jaentschke during a visit to the UK. The day before, the police have issued a ban on demonstrations. According to Jaentschke, the country was “besieged” for 51 days before the roadblocks were lifted in July, in order to “avoid war”. The government has described the uprising as a coup attempt by terrorists.
Thousands of trains towards Ortega
Several thousand people take part in a protest in Managua demanding President Ortega’s departure. The protesters also demand that hundreds of people arrested during the last six months of protests be released.
UN alarm about MRI crime
The UN Human Rights Commissioner accuses the government of serious violations of human rights in connection with the wave of protests that shake the country. Among other things, the police are being subjected to violence, including extrajudicial executions, as well as disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture. “The violence and impunity over the past four months have exposed the weakness of the country’s institutions and the rule of law,” the report states. A few days after the report was published, President Ortega orders the group of four people representing the Human Rights Commissioner to leave the country.
New protest marches
According to police, a supporter of President Ortega was shot dead in connection with a protest march in Matagalpa. Media, on the other hand, reports that the loyalist militia opened fire on the protesters. During the day, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans participate in protest marches in several cities, demanding that detained protesters be released. At the same time, government supporters are bidding and calling out slogans of retaliation against the opponents.
Refugee wave to Costa Rica
Nearly 23,000 Nicaraguan have sought asylum in Costa Rica since the unrest in Nicaragua erupted in April, UNHCR reports. Panama, Mexico and the United States have also received an increased number of Nicaraguans seeking asylum.
Ortega refuses to leave
In an interview with the US news channel Fox, President Ortega says he does not intend to resign to the demands that he resign, which has been brought up in protests that have shaken the country over the past three months. He also does not want elections to be held prematurely, which has been proposed as a solution to the conflict. He says that there are paramilitary groups in the country behind the protests and violence that have now harmed about 300 lives. These groups, in turn, are supported by the political opposition and drug cartels, according to Ortega. However, human rights organizations place blame on armed government-loyal groups. According to the Nicaraguan human rights organization Cenidh, between 400 and 500 protesters must have been detained. Thousands of students demonstrate in support of Ortega on the streets of Managua,
The military regains control of Masaya
The government announces that the military has regained full control of the city of Masaya, where armed government opponents barricaded themselves. According to a spokesman for the Nicaraguan human rights organization ANPDH, government forces have been fighting against insurgents for hours. At least two people must have been killed, one of whom was a police officer. A representative of the government says it is a coup attempt that has been rejected.
Over 280 killed in the protest wave
The unrest that has been going on since the end of April has claimed more than 280 people’s lives, reports the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Over 1,800 people have been injured in the clashes between protesters demanding President Ortega’s departure and the president’s support troops. Two students are killed on July 12 when security forces disperse protesters gathered at a university campus in Managua. Dozens of people are killed when security forces strike on July 14 against protesters and oppositionists in the city of Masaya and its suburbs in southeastern Nicaragua. Six of those killed are protesters, four are soldiers.
US faces sanctions on Nicaragua Police Chief
The United States decides to impose sanctions on Chief of National Police Francisco Javier Díaz Madriz and Fidel Antonio Moreno Briones at the mayor’s office in Managua for the role they played during the last months of violence. Díaz Madriz is charged with extrajudicial executions and Moreno Briones for burning a house on fire, which resulted in the death of everyone in a family of six, including two children. Sanctions are also being leveled against José Francisco López Centeno, head of the country’s state-owned oil company, who is accused of taking advantage of his position to obtain government contracts for companies owned by his family, and for transferring millions of dollars to himself and the country’s political leaders. The three are thus not allowed to have any financial transactions with Americans.
The government is trying to take Masaya back
Police and faithful militia launch an attempt to regain control of the city of Masaya, a few miles from Managua. Bishop Silvio Báez appeals to the government to hold back and “respect people’s lives”. But the day before, talks under the auspices of the Catholic Church have once again collapsed, as both bishops and protesters accuse the government of failing to live up to promises to allow international organizations to investigate the violence.
Commodity trading in the region threatened
Around 7,000 trucks with goods are estimated to have become stuck in Nicaragua due to the ongoing unrest which has led to many roads being blocked off. The number of roadblocks tripled on June 9, to 126, since the government side resorted to violence against protesters in Managua, Jinotega and Masaya. Most of the trucks are on the borders of Costa Rica and Honduras. The Panama government has ordered that stops for new truck transports to Nicaragua and several companies in the northern countries have suspended transports. All neighboring countries are affected by the disruptions. Particularly troublesome is the location of Costa Rica and Panama, which normally exports a lot of agricultural goods by road to the United States.
A 24-hour general strike has been announced and prompted many residents to bunker gasoline and food. Shortly before the strike begins, the country’s influential bishops state that immediately afterwards they will try to get the parties to the conflict to resume negotiations to put an end to the chaos that has come to characterize the entire community. More than 150 people have been put to death during two months of unrest.
Civil disobedience to the government
Pressure against the government is growing when salespeople at the Mercado Oriental in Managua, Central America’s largest market, declare that they are in “civil disobedience” in protest of government repression. Earlier, the country’s Academy of Sciences (ACN) and the Academy of Law and Political Science (ANCJP) have announced the same. They have proposed measures such as withholding tax until the government resigns.
The Pope calls for dialogue
Pope Francis urges the Nicaraguans to keep the dialogue alive, as new violence led to at least seven deaths.
The dialogue is interrupted after a violent blow
Another 15 people are killed over two days when a mass protest in support of the “April Mothers” – Mothers of Victims – meets with fire from government supporters. Up to 90 are damaged. The number of dead since the riots broke out in mid-April is now reported to be 100. After what is called a “massacre,” the bishops are interrupting the national dialogue that has been going on for two weeks. The bishops and the protesters’ organization (Alianza Cívica por la Justicia y la Democracia) have demanded that the violence against protesters be raised. Requirements for new elections are growing.
“Government cooperates with gangs”
Amnesty International accuses the government of using semi-military groups against the student-led protests. The militia-like gang, largely comprised of government-loyal students and motorcyclists, use semi-automatic weapons and coordinate their attacks with the security forces. The Human Rights Commission IACHR has concluded that extra-judicial executions appear to be occurring, but Amnesty goes a step further, claiming that the deadly violence is likely to be carried out with President Ortega’s good memory.
The national dialogue conducted during the church mediation leads to a settlement of “ceasefire” during the weekend. The settlement means that the police and government militia must be withdrawn, while the protesters – mainly students – must lift roadblocks that caused chaos in traffic. At the same time, a delegation from the IACHR Human Rights Commission has begun to investigate the deaths that occurred since the protests erupted in mid-April. IACHR has opened offices in Managua, Masaya and Matagalpa where relatives can report deaths and disappearances. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights reports that 63 people have died and over 500 injured, and an unknown number of people are missing.
National dialogue should start
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes states that a national dialogue aimed at paving the way for a democratization can now be started, with the country’s bishops as mediators. This can happen after President Ortega agreed to allow representatives of the OAS human rights body IACHR to enter the country, which the bishops set as conditions. The protests continue in several cities, with tens of thousands of people demanding justice for those killed during the unrest and an end to the violence. Requirements for President Ortega to resign are also made.
The military distances itself from Ortega
An army spokesman calls for an end to the violence and says the military will not participate in action against participants in demonstrations against the government. Over 50 people have now died in the unrest that lasted for a month. The security forces are accused of assaulting the protesters. “We have no reason to oppress anyone,” said spokesman Manuel Guevara.
Truth Commission is appointed
The National Assembly decides to establish a Truth Commission to investigate the at least 45 deaths that occurred since the riots broke out on April 18. The Commission’s five members are given three months to submit a report.
Continued protests against the government
Tens of thousands of people continue to take part in protests around the country, demanding justice after the harsh attacks on protesters. In addition to the students, the business community and the Catholic Church are behind the protests. Business representatives have withdrawn their support for Ortega because of the violence perpetrated by the security forces against the residents. Managua’s bishop gives the government a month to show genuine will to dialogue to solve the problems that led to the unrest, which has now claimed the lives of 43 people.
Violent protests stop social insurance reform
President Ortega withdraws a controversial change to the social security system after four days of violent protests that are said to have claimed around 25 people’s lives. When the protests broke out, the government deployed the army, silenced independent media, attacked journalists, and mobilized government-led counter-protesters. Extensive looting occurred and many residents began hoarding goods of concern to ensure the unrest was prolonged. Among the dead are a journalist and several minors. The outbreak of violence is the most serious so far in the eleven years that have passed since Ortega returned to power. Students play a prominent role in the protests and say they intend to continue demonstrating until Ortega resigns.
UN court decides boundary dispute
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is moving the border offshore between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, off both coasts. Furthermore, the ICJ orders Nicaragua to demolish a military camp near the San Juan border and to pay damages for environmental destruction in the area. However, the sum of $ 380,000 is significantly lower than the $ 6.7 million requested by Costa Rica. Both parties say they are satisfied with the outcome (see also Foreign Policy and Defense).