WHY USAID/OTI WAS IN NICARAGUA
On April 18, 2018, peaceful protests erupted throughout Nicaragua by citizens opposing policies and decisions of President Daniel Ortega’s government. Police and government-supported paramilitary groups responded with force and violence, repressing democratic protest.Independent human rights organizations estimate that, since April, at least 322 people have been killed, thousands injured in protests, and between 400 and 500 persons detained and held without cause. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country, with estimates of more than 25,000 Nicaraguans seeking protection in Costa Rica.
The United States has supported democratically-minded actors who are working to build a more peaceful and just Nicaragua. Independent civil society, independent media, and human rights defenders needed agile and adaptive assistance mechanisms to respond during moments of crisis. New political spaces for democratization might emerge at any time, and Nicaraguan civil society will need to move rapidly to take advantage of such opportunities.
USAID/OTI’S ROLE IN NICARAGUA
At the request of the USAID Mission, USAID/OTI initiated a limited engagement in September 2018 to bolster support for a democratic Nicaragua and a peaceful exit from the current political crisis. This commitment was activated using a regional programming option under the USAID/OTI Honduras program.
Specifically, USAID/OTI assisted by:
- Working with existing and emerging civil society actors to ensure that they had sufficient ability and capacity to operate and coordinate, while building and strengthening new relationships and alliances among them.
- Supporting actors who were critical to the functioning of a democratic society in continuing their operations with sufficient agility to adapt their roles during the crisis period.
- Finding opportunities for action research, learning, and analysis to inform adjustments to USAID’s broader strategy in this context.
This small-scale engagement provided several important benefits to the U.S. Government response. USAID/OTI provided fast and flexible assistance to various actors on the ground, including new, emerging actors that had not received U.S. Government assistance before. The program specialized in testing, learning, and rapidly adapting activities based on lessons learned and changes in the political context. Finally, OTI also advised the USAID/Nicaragua Mission on how it could adapt its own programming in a period of uncertainty.
USAID/OTI partnered with independent media to operate and produce more targeted digital content during the political crisis. The program enabled independent media to preserve and promote democratic discourse, absent further economic destabilization or dramatic state intervention.