In a video that has circulated on social media, a young Nicaraguan woman makes a tearful apology as her life is in imminent danger: “Mom, forgive me. I came to defend my country.” The fear in her voice is palpable, and as someone who has seen it firsthand, it’s also not unfounded. In the early weeks of April, I joined a group of friends in protests meant to raise awareness of the environmental crisis occurring in the natural reserve of Indio Maíz. But with President Daniel Ortega implementing pension reforms, the protests evolved. We joined forces with other student, feminist, and social justice organizers and tied environmental issues with corruption, colonization, and a lack of transparency in Ortega’s government. I left Nicaragua about a month ago, with plans to return in mid-July. But now I don’t know when or under what conditions I’ll return to my country.
Up to that point, I formed part of several on-the-ground communities, networks, and committees organizing safe houses, transporting medical supplies and food, documenting protests, setting up refugee networks in Costa Rica for refugee, and supporting the students that had occupied universities. As a young queer organizer in Managua, I could identify with the other folks who joined this fight; we had similar visions and hopes of a feminist, inclusive, anti-capitalist future for Nicaragua. For us, the protests were our best opportunity to expose and confront a crooked, neoliberal, and authoritarian government that has concentrated power and wealth for an elite few at the expense of systematically marginalizing rural women, Indigenous communities, and working-class students.
When I realized I could no longer continue my job as a bilingual interpreter and lecturer in Nicaraguan history (US mission groups and students suspended trips to Nicaragua), I flew to Los Angeles for a short-term work opportunity, hoping to return with a bit of extra cash and ready to resume the fight. But during the month of June, the crisis only worsened; human rights groups estimate more than 350 murders at the hands of the Orteguista police, which has espoused nationwide insecurity. I started to grow accustomed to learning that my friends were moving out of the country indefinitely – some to Spain and others to the United States. My support network in Nicaragua no longer exists, and it is too dangerous to continue my work as a young organizer in the pro-government neighborhood where I reside. I have chosen to remain in the United States under self-imposed exile. I have the privilege of having family and friends in the United States who can help me. While several thousands expose themselves to danger as they take to the streets to protest for a better future for Nicaragua, I write from the safety of my new home.
But as I settle into this unexpected life, I am now left with one question: How can we support the liberation of Nicaraguan from the United States?
Whether you’re unfamiliar with Nicaragua and its history, a Nicaraguan who, like me, has sought refuge in the United States, or you land somewhere in between, here are eight things you can do to become an ally to the land of lakes and volcanoes.
Learn about United States' interventionism across Latin America.
For more than a hundred years, the United States government has overthrown democratically elected presidents and installed dictatorships in its place in order to extract resources and politically control the territory at all costs. This has come at the expense of Indigenous community leaders and environmentalists.
It’s a lot to brush up on, but knowing more about Efraín Ríos Montt, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua, and Augusto Pinochet in Chile will help you understand how the US has supported violent dictatorships. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, a good place to start is School of the Americas – a US-based combat training school for Latin American soldiers. Now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the institution teaches Latin American soldiers in US-style of combat. Critics have described it as a school for “dictators, torturers and assassins.”
Learn about the US' involvement in Nicaragua.
In order to understand what is happening today, it’s important to understand the revolutionary struggle and how it shaped multiple generations. The lives of all Nicaraguans are tied to a long history of war. The US alone has intervened several times in Nicaragua, stemming back to the 1850s when William Walker usurped the Nicaraguan presidency and continuing with the Marine occupation in the 1910s, to Somoza’s decades-long military dictatorship, to more recently, illegally funding the Contras and inciting a civil war in an effort to control the spread of communism in Latin America. The United States has been invested in Nicaragua because of our geographical location and access to resources.
Confronting the legacy of United States intervention in Nicaragua and Latin America will force us – in the US – to stop thinking of this crisis as something that’s disconnected from our everyday lives.
Read up on what's happening in Nicaragua right now.
Protests and attacks are taking place all over the country. And because it’s changing and moving so quickly, it’s important to read up as much as possible. Here are some sources in both English and Spanish.
Visibilize Nicaraguan stories and narratives.
To be an ally, you must prioritize the voices of those affected. Share news and updates about the situation in Nicaragua. Start a conversation with your friends and families. When trying to decide what kind of stories to share, make sure you stay away from one-dimensional pieces that chalk up socialism as the root cause of Nicaragua’s issues. Instead, look to feminist, decolonial, and anti-capitalist critiques of Ortega’s government.
Read and study about Latin American resistance movements.
These movements have inspired around the world. Particularly, you should study the resistance of Indigenous groups, environmentalists, feminists, leaders in the labor movement, and artists. This is where we turn to for ways to organize ourselves, and you should, too.
Organize in your community.
This is general advice, but in the case of Nicaragua, you can show solidarity for the country by getting together and protesting the government or raising money for those fighting back in the Central american country. There’s power in organizing locally.
Prevent the United States' intervention in Nicaragua.
This weekend, many pled with Marco Rubio to help Nicaragua, but people like him – and many other US politicians – do not have Nicaragua’s best interests at heart. Grassroots organizers are hesitant to call on the United States, given the current administration in power and the country’s past of imposing its agenda on other nations. As such, we should respect the wishes of people on the ground, who have a keen understanding of what they’re fighting for and what the country’s future looks like.
On the flip side, if the US does interfere, it’s important to put pressure on the Trump Administration to stay away. Often, when the US sanctions other countries, it end up targeting the people and not the government.
Offer financial support.
An easy and effective way to support local families and organizers is through financial contributions. This is extremely helpful because Nicaragua is one of the poorest country in the hemisphere, so international financial support goes a long way. $20 can buy a lot of supplies. And with the Ortega government consolidating all resources, crowdsourcing has become increasingly necessary.
Here are three trustworthy GoFundMe account managed by amazing people:
Fundación Nicaragüense para el Desarrollo Económico y Social (FUNIDES), a foundation assisting victims, is also another place you can turn to. Hundreds of people have lost their jobs, homes, and life savings because of State repression. FUNIDES as an organization with years of experiences is the largest economical effort to support these families. Click here to help.