It’s time for us to separate our nostalgia for the Sandinista Revolution from the personality that is Daniel Ortega.

A Letter to my Fellow U.S. Americans:

It’s time for us to separate our nostalgia for the Sandinista Revolution from the personality that is Daniel Ortega. Nicaraguans did so long ago. That nostalgia, combined with our shame over the U.S.’s completely atrocious involvement in Nicaragua’s Contra War, is paralyzing us into inaction at a time when many Nicaraguans are asking the global community for solidarity.

Perhaps you haven’t heard.

Since April 19th more than 360 Nicaraguans have been killed and more than 2,000 injured in what can only be described as a violent government crackdown on unarmed civilians who have been exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest and who have been demanding Ortega’s resignation since the government violence began. People continue to die nearly every day that the crisis continues.

Police and pro-government militia armed with AK47s and Dragunov sniper rifles have been fanning out throughout towns after breaching citizen-raised protective barricades, and shooting into residences with children and elderly inside in a hunt for anyone who has participated in or supported the protests. People have been killed for carrying the Nicaraguan flag in their car, which has become a symbol of the anti-Orteguista uprising. Former Sandinista revolutionaries have lost their children to government bullets. Pro-government forces have assaulted priests, ambushed and defaced churches, burned families alive, and transported weapons and paramilitaries via ambulance. Public hospitals have denied medical attention to the wounded, leaving them to die.

The economy is shrinking, businesses are closing, and hundreds of thousands of people are without work. Food is scarce and prices are rising. People are withdrawing money from banks at accelerating rates. Some experts warn that if the crisis continues through August some banks could fail, the economy risks collapse, and the country could experience hyperinflation.

Just months ago, Nicaragua was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Central America. It has not been plagued by gang violence as its neighbors to the north. This could change as Ortega employs and arms pro-government mobs to instill chaos and fear, unleashing a beast that he may eventually be unable to control. The barrier that once sat between the cartels and Costa Rica could weaken. Costa Rica has already experienced a flood of refugees from Nicaragua. Further destabilization in the region could exacerbate an already overwhelming refugee crisis here in the U.S.

But don’t listen to me. Listen to Nicaraguans.

Listen to the more than 360 dead who can no longer speak but whose absence screams, “Presente!”

Listen to the university students, who were the first to lose their comrades in peaceful protest and who have been at the helm of this uprising. Listen to the more than 500,000 Nicaraguans who took to the streets on Nicaragua’s Mother’s Day, May 30th, in solidarity with the mothers who have lost their sons and daughters to state-sponsored violence. Listen to the farmers, who have been organized in peaceful protest for more than five years to resist a government concession to a foreign company for a canal that would remove them from their land, and who joined in solidarity with the university students after the initial police attacks. Listen to regular civilians, who raised more than 170 roadblocks on highways throughout the country to pressure Ortega to resign.

#SOSNicaragua #GritoporNicaragua #ProhibidoOlvidar

Listen to the Nicaraguan diaspora that has organized rallies in more than 100 cities around the world and continues to spread the word. #SOSNicaraguaGlobal

Listen to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of American States, Amnesty International, the European Union, and the United Nations, who have all, along with the U.S., condemned the Nicaraguan government for the violence.

Why has the coverage in the major English language press been so scant? What can you do?

Read news from independent media in Nicaragua and use a translator tool.

Join with English language speakers around the world who are trying to learn more about the Nicaragua crisis and make Nicaraguan news accessible to English speakers. #StandWithNicaragua, Stand With Nicaragua English Facebook Group

Join the Global Day of Mourning for Nicaragua on July 19th, marking three months since this violent crackdown began. Wear black, light candles, and bring flowers, signs or Nicaraguan flags to a public space in your community. Take photos and share them on social media to let Nicaraguans know you #StandWithNicaragua.

#SOSNicaraguaGlobal #GritoporNicaragua #ProhibidoOlvidar

Nicaraguans are asking the global community for solidarity, not a savior. It’s critical that Nicaraguans maintain complete control of their democratization process. But they can’t do that until the violence stops, and the violence must stop immediately. Please help spread the word, and continue to listen to Nicaraguans, as their needs may change with time.