Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
Nicaragua's new government uses violence against poor
By Toby Mailman, via NY Transfer News Collective, 5 February 1997
MANAGUA, Feb 4--On February 1, among screams and tears, more than 300 families were violently evicted by members of Nicaragua's National Police from a settlement on the outskirts of Managua, called, ironically "Change is Coming" (El Cambio Viene).
Despite promises by the new Liberal government that property disputes would be settled peacefully, and assurances from President Arnoldo Aleman that the poor would have their properties legalized, officers and riot police arrived at El Cambio Viene last Saturday with a court order requested by an alleged owner of the property, and began to violently remove the residents and tear down their poor shacks. The materials with which the shacks were built, wood, plastic sheeting and zinc sheets, were taken in trucks belonging to the municipality of Managua to an undisclosed location. Twenty-seven of the settlers were arrested for, among other charges, "disrespect of the police." At least one person was hospitalized with serious injuries received from police during the confrontation, and there were unconfirmed rumors of three dead.
Many of the settlers lost their personal belongings during the struggle and eviction. "This situation is sad, it's terrible to be poor," said Johana Chavarria, who, according to a report in the February 3 La Prensa, was brutally hit in the stomach by a policeman when she refused to leave her house. Another resident, Silvia Martha Mendoza Montano, said "If we didn't have to live on a little piece of land with our children, we wouldn't have to put up with these humiliations and abuse." Some of the residents said they voted for Aleman in the recent presidential election in hopes that their properties would be legalized, and are now demanding that the new president fulfill his campaign promises.
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) Secretary General Daniel Ortega Saavedra said during an interview on February 2 that the violent evictions, among other actions the new government has taken, reflects the truth about Aleman's supposed willingness to discuss these problems in a dialogue. A law suspending the evictions was passed by the last National Assembly, but was annulled by a Supreme Court decision in January. Despite the fact that Aleman said during the campaign that the settlement of the property question was one of his priorities, the National Assembly, headed by Aleman's Liberal Alliance, has yet to put the topic on its agenda.
Meanwhile, there is a campaign by the Managua mayor's office, under the administration of Liberal Alliance mayor Roberto Cedeno, to rid Managua's traffic lights of street vendors. Last Saturday police began to chase vendors away from six of the main intersections where they are accustomed to selling everything -- from sunglasses to cold water to kitchen towels and clocks -- to drivers and passengers waiting for the light to change. The reason behind the plan, police say, is to stop thieves from stealing jewelry, glasses, pocketbooks and other belongings from people in the cars as they wait at red lights, with windows open in the stifling daytime heat of Managua. The vendors respond, saying they are not thieves, and that in fact they help people in the cars by identifying who the thieves are.
Interviewed on a radio news show on Saturday morning, vendors talked about their situation, saying this was their only income. Some are women whose husbands have been unemployed for long periods of time. One vendor said they were told they would be relocated to an old abandoned market in Managua, which is now out of use precisely because the vendors there could not sell their wares at that location.
NY Transfer News Collective * A Service of Blythe Systems