MANAGUA—An anti-government youth activist group known as the Broad Opposition Front (FAO) is denouncing political persecution after a series of violent attacks against protesters, one of whom lost her pregnancy as a result of injuries suffered during a beat down on Sunday.
Lisset Sequeira, an outspoken young woman who was also attacked last month for participating in the FAO’s ongoing protest in front of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), was released from the Bertha Calderon Women’s Hospital this morning after being treated for a miscarriage resulting from a beating on Sunday. The hospital’s discharge report shows that Sequeira was treated with a manual vacuum aspiration (MVA), a medical intervention to treat incomplete abortions or miscarriages.
Sequeira was reportedly returning home from the CSE protest Sunday morning to bathe and change clothes when she was allegedly intercepted in the street by unknown assailants who forced her into a taxi at knifepoint. Sequeira was then beaten by two men and dumped in Ciudad Sandino, north of Managua, according to testimony from her friends and family. Sequeira was first taken to the Hospital Alemán and then to the women’s hospital for treatment, according to feminist leader Azahálea Solís, of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM).
Sequeira was eight weeks pregnant, according to her husband.
The victim reportedly tried to file a police report afterwards, but wasn’t allowed to because she doesn’t have a state ID (cédula). Sequeira reportedly had her cédula stolen on July 19 when she and other protesters in her group were beaten and forcibly removed by “250 men dressed in municipal worker uniforms,” according to protest organizer Jairo Contreras.
The youth activists—including Sequeira—returned to protest late last week when they reestablished their makeshift protest camp, which they call “camp dignity,” on the sidewalk in front of the CSE. The protesters remain under the careful watch of police guarding the CSE and a group of municipal workers who appear to be tilling the soil and leaning on shovels in the park across the street. The municipal workers have been fussing about with some slow-motion park beautification project ever since they ousted the protesters from the area two weeks ago.
Now the protesters are back, living in tents on the sidewalk directly in front of the CSE, in the cross-stares of the police and municipal workers.
“After a 15-day retreat to regroup, we are back here in front of the CSE to protest. They removed us from the park so now we are even closer to this institution and we will remain here,” protest leader Contreras told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “The days of being afraid are over.”
Activists Denounce Persecution
Political activists argue the two attacks against Sequeira are part of a campaign of intimidation and political persecution. The left-wing Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) said in a statement that the attack on Sequeira has “the signature of the regime’s thugs.”
“The MRS’ Women’s Network energetically condemns this cowardly act,” the women’s group said, noting that the act of violence should be sanctioned under the new Integral Law against Violence against Women (Law 779). “We demand that the police take action on this matter.”
Sequeira isn’t the only one denouncing political persecution. Denis Torres, a community organizer for the group Hagamos Democracia, which has been supporting the youth protest in front of the CSE, says he too was attacked in the street last week as he returned home from bringing food to the protesters.
“I was hit in the head in the right eye and got knocked out. I didn’t even have time to react,” says Torres, still sporting a shiner under his right eye.
Torres, 53, says at first he thought it was an act of common crime, but several things happened afterwards to change his mind about his assailants’ motivation. First of all, Torres says, he wasn’t robbed, just attacked in the street. That seemed odd to him. But he became convinced his attack was politically motivated four days later, when a strange man visited his home on Sunday claiming to represent “the presidential office for the Executive Secretary of the Law for Democratic Security.”
“I have no idea what that even is,” Torres says; “but he wanted to question me about the attack.”
Torres became even more suspicious when he discovered the strange “investigator” already seemed to know most of the details, including the fact that Torres works for Hagamos Democracia.
“I was suspicious about why this guy was investigating since I hadn’t even filed a police report. I asked him how he had heard about the attack, and he told me he saw it on my Facebook account, which I knew was not true because I hadn’t posted anything on Facebook,” Torres says. “So I asked him to leave my house.”
Torres now thinks that the combination of the attack on Sequeira, his beat-down in the street and curious follow-up visit by the mysterious investigator are all part of a targeted political persecution.
“They are persecuting us individually,” Torres charges.
The activist says his group is going to appeal to the police, the media and human-rights organizations for protection.
Next, Part II: who is the FAO? What are their demands? And what do they hope to gain from their protests?