They are 16 to 25 years old. They are university students who share dreams, ideas and friends who were killed. And they have no intention of compromising with the current government. For the students, the reform of the pension system was what finally set them off, but the explosion was brewing for some time. They are tired of feeling manipulated, of standing quietly by while public money is wantonly squandered, and of having to accept the inscrutable vagaries of Vice President Rosario Murillo.
One visible example are the Arboles de la Vida (“Trees of Life”), gigantic tree-shaped metal structures that Murillo ordered built throughout the country, each around 20 meters high and weighing seven tons, bearing 15,000 lightbulbs and at a cost of $25,000 each. Perceived as a symbol of presidential power, these have been burned and knocked down by protesters in recent days.
“Ever since Ortega won the elections in 2007, an apparatus of power has been constructed that uses intimidation as a weapon, as a social deterrent,” says Eduardo Flores Arroliga, a professor of philosophy at the Central American University. “Over the years, the problems and the more or less subtle repression have all built up, now reaching the point of murdering the protesting students.”