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18-Month-Old Killed in Nicaragua Protests as Violence Fuels Refugee Surge in Mexico

Students with homemade mortars remain at a barricade in the face of ongoing attacks from riot police and members of the Sandinista Youth, in the surroundings of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), in Managua on June 23, 2018. - Nicaraguan police and paramilitary forces on Saturday opened fire …
MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images

Refugees fleeing from violence in Central and South American nations like Venezuela, Honduras, and Nicaragua are pouring into Mexico, with an eye toward applying for asylum in the United States or reuniting with family members who live in America.

Conditions in Nicaragua have become especially hellish, as one young refugee currently living in Mexico told Diario Del Sur (with apologies for any errors in translation):

The majority of people are leaving Nicaragua, I am 25 years old, and I already have two bullets in my body, because the same government shot me, it was the policemen who shoot everyone, so my mom only told me that “Get out of here.” I do not know if I’m staying in Mexico or if I’ll get to the United States, what I know is that I want to live and I do not want to return to my country to die.

According to the student, Mexico has tough refugee policies that make it difficult to remain there long term, and in any event, he felt it would be far better for the international community to address the violence in Nicaragua so it would not be necessary for so many people to flee to safety:

He said that the Mexican government, through the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, informed him that he has to wait 45 days until he is given an opinion where he is accepted or not as a refugee, so “if he helps you, they give you a legal stay for 45 here, and can be treated medically, but we also need an opportunity to work, but imagine me, to whom I ask, or tell him to help me, if there is no food in my country, there is no help.”

He considered that the support of the international community is needed to stop the deaths of civilians in Nicaragua, since he considered that the authorities of his country “are a genocidal government, we do not have the need to emigrate coming from such a beautiful country, but many Nicaraguans seek to live, because we have a genocidal government while President Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo are in charge of it.”

Nicaragua’s notorious “security forces” — which include pro-government vigilantes and paramilitary militia forces — opened fire on a protest in the capital on Sunday and killed four demonstrators, including a baby. The police denied firing the shot that killed the 18-month-old, even though his mother witnessed the killing personally and blamed it on security forces.

The death toll over the past two months has exceeded 200 people as the Ortega government struggles to crush protests over cuts to benefit programs. The Nicaraguan opposition has called on Ortega to step down or move up the 2021 election, while Ortega accuses his opponents of staging a coup.

The horrors of the Mexican refugee trail are cataloged in detail by NPR, including criminal gangs preying on migrants, who face “sexual assault, theft, and kidnapping” as regular occurrences on the trail northward. The Mexican government has attempted to control the flood of refugees by deploying military troops to support its immigration police, arresting half of the 400,000 Central Americans coming over the border and deporting almost 80,000 of them per year. Deportations are said to have increased 50 percent in the first quarter of 2018 alone.

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