The Nicaraguan government denies that the contras are back

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Photo credit: Tiomono

By Ashli Molina

Current Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega owns most of the country, controlling elections, Congress, the police, the media, and fuel companies. But Mr. Ortega was once a regular man. He was once a revolutionary, a part of the Sandinistas who helped topple the Somoza dictatorship during the 1960s and 1970s. Now, he is compared to the Somoza government he vehemently criticized in 1979.

The contras, the rightist anti-revolutionary militant group heavily funded by the U.S.A and the Soviet Union during the 1980s, are still alive and fighting in the countryside. Back in the 80s, the Reagan administration funded the contras to overthrow Mr. Ortega’s leftist government. Today, the contras are doing so on their own.Without international support, however, their efforts are met with little success. However, they continue to launch skirmishes. Just last week, the contras planned attacks around the country that left police officers and civilians dead.

In 2014, a caravan of Sandinistas was attacked by gunmen—five were left dead and 19 were wounded. Authorities pointed fingers to “criminal groups.” Known contras and Sandinistas are occasionally attacked and killed. The most well-known contra leader was gunned down, and his successor was found dead in a ditch in Honduras.

Even when these attacks and massacres occur, the government and authority figures perpetually deny that the contras exist in the country. “There are no armed groups in this country,” said Julio César Avilés, the army chief.

According to the New York Times, a rebel leader posted a video on Facebook last month stating that “at least 45 different groups had taken up arms and would attack state institutions until the Ortega administration held fair elections.”

One goal of the rebels? Expose the Ortega administration and its allies for their overly extravagant lifestyle and riches. “The Ortega-Murillo family is getting richer while the country people starve,” said a rebel who goes by Commander Rafael told the NYT.

Though rebels are increasingly skeptical about the Ortega-Murillo wealth, lower-income individuals are willing to overlook it because they’re experiencing an improved living situation. Over 35,000 houses have been distributed among the poor in the past two years. World Bank statistics show that the poverty level dropped six percentage points from 2005 to 2009, and in January, the organization estimated that the country’s economy will grow by 4.2 percent in 2016, one of Latin America’s highest rates.

“Our No. 1 goal is to take this country out of poverty,” Bayardo Arce, the president’s economic advisor, told the NYT. “Who decided that the person who believes in social justice has to be barefoot?”

The Central American country might not want to withstand another tumultuous war, but even so, the rebels aren’t convinced by the government’s riches and its work.

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