Nicaraguans in Miami eager to provide aid to their home country are planning to deliver medical supplies to those in need.
Recent anti-government protests in Nicaragua have caused the country to nearly shut down, and injured protesters do not have access to proper medical care, according to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. The United Nations human rights office has asked Nicaragua's government to let it enter the country and gather evidence about the deaths of protesters, many of whom were students. Over 800 people have been injured, according to IACHR.
Agence France Press and former Nicaraguan army major Roberto Samcam report that President Daniel Ortega denies government security forces have killed civilians.
Last weekend, Miamians collected over 30 large boxes of rubbing alcohol, bandages and pain-relievers for wounded victims of state violence in the Central American country. According to the organizers, injured protesters in Nicaragua are not able to receive standard shipments of medical supplies.
Because of concerns about severe restrictions on shipments from outside the country, Nicaraguan-American businessmen Dimitri Largaespada and Norman Fitoria plan to fly to Costa Rica next week and physically take supplies across the Nicaraguan border. Their plan represents a significant effort among Nicaraguan-Americans in Miami who are organizing to help family and friends suffering in their home country.
According to a June 1 report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is a part of the Organization of American States, 97 people in Nicaragua had been killed since April 18.
“The supplies are needed, the people are dying because they don’t have supplies as simple as Aspirin and Advil," Largaespada said.
On Monday, Fitoria learned that Nicaraguan Customs officials would not accept shipments of medical supplies from outside the country. Fellow Miami resident and organizer Francisco Larios also said sending supplies through Nicaraguan Customs would fail.
“They are going to extremes to prevent any medical help from reaching these kids,” Larios said. Sending medical supplies means “you run a high risk that they would be lost,” he said.
These barriers prompted Fitoria and Largaespada to decide to bring the supplies through Costa Rica.
Recent days have seen an increase in deaths in Managua, including one U.S. citizen. Over the weekend, parts of the colonial city Granada were burned down. Largaespada said that many doctors have decided to open clinics in homes to tend to those hurt by state police. These makeshift clinics are in need of supplies.
From May 17-21, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a working visit in Nicaragua to assess the situation, speaking to hundreds of witnesses. In a report published on May 21, the IACHR said that many victims of state violence were afraid to seek medical attention for fear of reprisals.
The report also states, "there were administrative orders in the public hospitals to restrict access to care for the wounded and to obstruct access to information." The report details complaints of restricted access to care from five hospitals in particular, one of which is part of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute. The other four hospitals all belong to the Ministry of Health.
On Wednesday, officials at Miami’s Consulate General of Costa Rica told Largaespada and Fitoria that cargo marked as “in-transit” would arrive in Costa Rica without much hassle. From there, they will take the supplies to the Nicaraguan border using a truck, or on a fleet of motorcycles.
“If we get to Costa Rica, we expect that the people will support us,” Largaespada said.
Fitoria said he's optimistic, because "the people at the border likely disagree with the violence that’s happening."
If they are not able to cross into Nicaragua, Fitoria and Largaespada will set up a makeshift clinic at the border and tell victims to travel to them.
They estimate it will cost $5,000 to bring the supplies to Costa Rica, which they will pay mostly out-of-pocket.
Both men travel frequently between Miami, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and are not perturbed by the possibility of violence.
“Why should we be afraid?” Largaespada said. “When you do the right thing, and you have the right values, and you’re fighting for freedom and you’re fighting for the people, there’s nothing to be afraid about.”