The fear of leaving their homes after dark is experienced daily by thousands of Nicaraguans, as well as the Costa Rican diplomatic staff working in Managua.
The Costa Rica Ambassador in Nicaragua, Eduardo Trejos, says that shootings and explosions have happened very close to the offices where he works, but so far none of the (Costa Rican) officials have been injured. Even so, the delegation experiences the anguish of seeing how every week the number of wounded and dead increases during the protest, which have been ongoing for almost three months.
In this period, facing the crisis has become the priority of the Embassy, which is experiencing a substantial increase in visa applications to travel to Costa Rica.
Trejos will be leaving his post in Managua on July 31, returning to Costa Rica, to assume the leadership of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Seguridad (DIS) – Directorate of Intelligence and Security.
Trejos spoke to La Nacion of his personal experience on how it is living in Managua during the conflict, as well as the measures that diplomatic mission has activated to face it.
Trejos: “What I perceive, because these are very personal comments of the experience, two years after arriving, is that the Nicaragua to which I arrived no longer exists. It is another country, with a very different reality, not only for those of us accredited diplomats before the Nicaraguan government, but for the population in general.
“Everything that two and a half months ago was normal, as in any city in the world, and now in Nicaragua, it is not. It is very complicated and more complicated for people who have lost their jobs, for people who have lost their businesses, people who have lost their lives. That is the most painful thing of all, and well, the general affectation in Nicaragua is very big and we have a lot of pain”.
The Costa Rican diplomat said he has had to take measures to protect himself and the embassy staff.
“We do not have an additional security staff, we have the same as always, which is a combination of private and public security contracting. We have varied the hours of attention (to the public) according to the marches or the blockades, because we want the officials to be as early as possible in their homes and not to be caught moving at night, so we have modified the schedules so that the operation allows them to they arrive (home) during the daylight.”
The ambassador explained that both the Embassy and Consulate, which are in separate place, are very close to the road to Masaya, where most of the public gatherings and protests have taken place, they have had to modify working hours. For examples, when there are marches, like last week, they usually start at 3 in the afternoon, “we have to try everything possible so that staff is home or on the way (before that hour)”.
Up to now no Embassy staff has experienced any problems. What is happening is delays, such as processing requests that before would take up to 90 minutes, now take up to a day and a half or more. ”
There is a lot of fear at night, there is a kind of self-imposed state of siege. (…) After six or seven at night, it is very difficult to see movements (of people). Lately it has happened that there where the Embassy is, in the evenings, bullets, bursts of gunfire and some explosions have been reported. That, of course, brings a lot of fear to the population of all of Nicaragua,” said Trejos.
For the people in Costa Rica, it is very difficult to have a sense of the confrontations that take place in Nicaragua, the demonstrations here (in Costa Rica) are very peaceful, the police here practically only observe, almost never intervene.
“In Nicaragua its a totally different thing. There are blockages in many different communities in Managua and in the departments (provinces). That (the blockades) makes the population in one way or another feel more secure,” according to Trejos.
“They use the paving stones of the streets to make the barricades, and people are afraid. Many of them are hooded or wearing helmets. So it is a very high level of violence on one side and on the other. But it is a situation that today, for example, I am informed that there are three dead yesterday, two seriously injured, more than twenty detainees, we have more than 320 deaths. That is, there are very, very strong levels of aggression to the Nicaraguan population because they are all sons and daughters, parents, or brothers of someone and it is a tragedy”.
According to the Ambassador, people fear going out at night, not wanting to get involved. But they are. The most difficult areas right now are Masaya, Diriamba, Jinotepe, and León, a few weeks ago it was also Granada.
Have you had reports of a Costa Rican with problems, in addition to the citizen who was injured in the first weekend of protests, Trejos was asked.
“Affected yes, those with dual citizenship, Costa Rican and Nicaraguan,” said Trejos, adding of one report of a death, but could not provide details given they have yet to receive official documents.
The ambassador reconfirms that the relationship between Costa Rica and Nicaragua has not changed in the past few months. “The relationship with Nicaragua is, was and will be key for our country, it is the highest priority of any government, not only of this one. It is understood the current situation in which the Nicaraguan people are living and the desire of the government is obviously to reach agreements that allow them to return to an institutionality, to solve the problems they want to solve in terms of democracy or institutions or that they decide and that violence ceases,” said Trejos.
Trejos added that the government of Costa Rica does not have a position on the proposals made Daniel Ortega to end the crisis. “The (Costa Rica) government’s position is that they have to make the decisions that help them strengthen the objectives they negotiate. And that is a decision that falls to them, what they decide to do at a negotiating table we will respect.”
The situation in Nicaragua has led many to seek legal travel to Costa Rica. According to Trejos, the consulate is processing 575 visas daily in Managua and 350 in Chinandega.
In Costa Rica, thousands of Nicaraguans in the country illegally make like at the immigration offices in La Uruca seeking asylum. Currently, the immigration processes only 200 refugee claims daily, as the lines run blocks deep.
Many of the claims are from Nicaraguans in Costa Rica well before the start of the conflict.
Nicaraguans crossing the border illegally into Costa Rica have to make their way to San Jose to file a refugee claim, given that the process is not available at the border crossings of Peñas Blancas and Las Tablillas.