Voting with the Feet
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Jose Galeano, 35, has a degree in veterinary medicine. In his home country of Nicaragua, however, where poverty, corruption, and the suppression of political dissent are commonplace, he has worked as a farm laborer. So recently he took out a loan on his house to pay smugglers to help him leave, with the hope of getting to the United States.
“I’ve never been on such a long journey and I’m scared,” he told Agence France-Presse.
He may end up becoming another one of the massive numbers of migrants pouring across the US border with Mexico. Officials processed 572,500 Cubans, Venezuelans, and Nicaraguans in the fiscal year 2022, wrote CBS News, eclipsing the number of El Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans who crossed into the US – historically, that latter triad usually makes up the bulk of migrants crossing the border. A total of 2.4 million migrants entered the country over the same period.
Most migrants flee for better opportunities. Galeano, however, was also fleeing Nicaraguan politics.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front won control of all 153 municipalities in Nicaragua’s elections this month, a success that was incredible because it probably wasn’t true, the Associated Press reported. For one thing, President Daniel Ortega has jailed most opposition figures, making it hard for his rivals to mount campaigns.
Rosario Murillo, who is Ortega’s wife and also vice president, said the elections confirmed how Nicaraguans were united. “We had an exemplary, marvelous, formidable day in which we confirm our calling for peace,” she said. The United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that Ortega’s government has cracked down on free speech, using excessive force against social activists who might have challenged Murillo’s assertions.
Similarly, National Assembly President Gustavo Porras told the Cuban state-owned news outlet Prensa Latina that the elections show how Nicaragua was building a new kind of democracy. Jailed opposition leaders, meanwhile, were on hunger strike in the country’s notorious El Chipote prison while their families feared for their lives. The Catholic News Agency, noting that several priests were held in El Chipote, called it the “torture prison.”
In response, the US has cracked down on the country’s gold and mining industry and barred certain American trade with the country, Al Jazeera explained. The European Union has similarly declared Ortega’s envoy to Brussels to be “persona non grata” after Ortega expelled the EU’s ambassador for criticizing Ortega’s dictatorship. Writing in El Pais, New Jersey Congressman Albio Sires called for the International Monetary Fund and other entities to stop financing Ortega’s rule.
Ortega stands alone. But he’s still standing, even as his people wave goodbye.