The Nicaraguan Protests 2018

Brief Overview of the Crisis

 The protests in Nicaragua. Photo taken from Twin Engine Coffee Facebook page.

The protests in Nicaragua. Photo taken from Twin Engine Coffee Facebook page.

Last Thursday

Changes to social security structure in Nicaragua have launched the country into violent protest. Day two of that protest was covered in a Reuters article this past Thursday stating,

Students in the capital Managua took over of the National University of Engineering, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails as they faced off with riot police, who responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Reference: Reuters (Oswaldo Rivas) - Nicaraguans take to streets in protest over social security changes

Today

We had a listener reach out to us from Nicaragua and ask us to share this information with our listeners. Communication has been spotty as you can imagine because the situation is dangerous and requires constant attention on their part. Below is an email interview with our listeners Colin Ganley and Andrea Woolverton:


What is it like right now in Nicaragua?

Tense. Nobody is clear about what is going to happen. There have been arson attacks on various city halls across the country. Many people have been killed by a variety of means. And much of it can be seen with your own eyes on twitter. So everyone here is watching the events in horrible detail. 

How close is the violence to your employees and place of business?

Our roasting and packaging is located in the city of León which has had some of the worst arson and quite a bit of the other stuff as well. Most of the physical conflicts have occurred very close to the city center. The city hall, universities, and social security administration were the focal points. The closest it got to our facility was about half a mile down the same street when a police truck was torched and people fired mortars. 

Although there was half a mile or more distance between that and our place, one of our employees lives just a few blocks from that. She is a single mother with a tween son. Fortunately, they stayed inside the house and were safe. She came to work today and was not really shaken up. Her son is a great kid. We send him to English classes. I’m very happy that they are fine. 

So, how close? Extremely close. When you’re talking about shooting mortars and fires, you don’t have to be very close to suffer. 

The farms are a bit more shielded from this event because it has been an urban affair. But since many farmers and laborers live in the cities and travel to the farms only during the day, it is impacting us there too. Fortunately everyone working for us and who works with us in the farms are also safe. 

How are you responding to the conflict?

Today is the first day since it began that we asked people to come back to work. It has been quiet in the mornings and I wanted to see everyone, to look in their eyes and see how they are coping. 

Every work day, our staff comes to our home to have lunch together. Today was a special one. We gave people advances on their salaries, added money to their cell phone accounts, and told them that if they feel at risk, they can come to our home. Because of the march taking place now, we sent everyone home at 2pm so that they had time to get home before the beginning. 

Can you explain the reason behind the conflict from your perspective?

I’m a resident of Nicaragua and so I am prohibited from commenting politically. But I think that it is safe to say this. Some large number of Nicaraguans are frustrated with various policies and actions of the national government. The spark that ignited the powder was a law decreasing the social security benefits to retired people and increasing the tax on both employees and employers for social security. It is especially the decrease in benefits to the elderly that made people upset. 

But once the marches began, people who had other frustrations with the government joined them, some even calling for the overthrow of the current government. 

The conflict really escalated when people decided to counter-protest and these groups collided. I can’t get into this too much but many people are discussing it now in newspapers and other places. 

So every night for the past 4 nights there have been violent conflicts. I recommend searching for the videos to understand how horrible it has been if you are interested. You will see people being shot, attempting to ignite buildings, rock throwing, fistfights and many terrible things. The injuries vastly outnumber the deaths. And from my bedroom it has sounded like the 4th of July every night for hours except that the explosions are molotov cocktails, mortars, and guns. Imagine hearing that as you put your child to bed.

What can people (like our listeners) do to help Nicaraguan people in this time?

This conflict is really a domestic issue. It is generally not advisable to get involved in another country’s domestic affairs.The concerns and challenges are complex and clumsy altruistic action often has the opposite effect. But that does not mean that there is nothing to do. From a coffee perspective, we (coffee producers) are the largest employers in the country and the more Nicaraguan coffee you buy, the more jobs we create and the more stable this country will be. 

If you can find coffee roasted inside the country you will not only be supporting the farmers but also the roasters, transporters, packagers, designers, administrators, and many more people. There are a few brands making coffee in that way. But purchasing Nicaraguan coffee now and in the future is a great way to send a message to the people of Nicaragua that you the fruits of their hard labor and that they should continue to focus on and produce rich specialty grade coffees.

Anything else we should know?

Remember the people. This conflict is not just a death statistic. It is something affecting real people, today. These same people with various political beliefs have families, friends and jobs. 

We have temporarily had to shift our focus from producing the best coffee we can to making sure that our people and ourselves are safe today and in the future. This has certainly changed the way that my wife and I will forever view our staff and friends here in Nicaragua.  

Saludos, Paz, y Buen Café - Health, Peace and Great Coffee,
Colin Ganley and Andrea Woolverton


Action

You heard the action plan from Colin and Andrea,

the more Nicaraguan coffee you buy, the more jobs we create and the more stable this country will be.

Our recommendation? Share this story, buy Nicaraguan coffees, and remember the people in the industry. Check out Twin Engine Coffee at their website.