April 20 protests in Managua
Benjamin Witte


Nicaragua's crafty caudillo, Daniel Ortega, has weathered the storm — for now at least. But his grip on power is certainly not what it was before the dramatic developments of the past two weeks.

The student-led protests that erupted on April 18 against changes to the country's pension system left 46 dead after a violent crackdown by state security forces and pro-government thugs. The victims include several teenagers and a journalist, who was gunned down while streaming live on Facebook.

For the moment, protests have quieted after the country's embattled leader changed course on his original pension decision and agreed to a "national dialogue" proposed by the Catholic Church. The standoff, as a result, "is moving from the streets to the negotiating table," the Miami Herald reported on Tuesday.

Tensions remain high, however. And the outcome of the upcoming talks is anything but certain. The president's opponents say that after 11 straight years in power, Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, need to go. And yet, few have any real hope that the veteran Sandinista — who also led the country in the 1980s, first as head of a post-revolutionary junta government, then as president — will heed that call.

There is still a gaping leadership void among the Nicaraguan opposition.

Ortega and Murillo control every branch of government, along with the police and armed forces and many of the country's media outlets, and are virtually unchallenged with regards to formal political opposition. Control over the hearts and minds of the Nicaraguan people, as the recent unrest demonstrated, is another story. That was the message the students and others involved in the unexpected wave of protests delivered so resoundingly.

"The demonstrators haven't just lost their fear of the regime. They've also stolen its symbols — all of them," Carlos Dada, co-founder of the award-winning Salvadoran news site El Faro, wrote on April 30. "They march singing songs of the Sandinista revolution; they've torn down the trees of life sculptures the government erected in the capital Managua to plant real ones; they recite poetry by Ernesto Cardenal."

The fact remains, however, that there is still a gaping leadership void among the Nicaraguan opposition. Can mobilized university students take on that role? The history that they themselves helped write demands that they do, according to Dada. "They ought to give shape to the improvised revolt, but they're tired, infiltrated and suspicious of each other," the journalist wrote.

The other question moving forward is what, if anything, will be the consequences of dozens of people killed last month. It was a "bloodbath," Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of the Nicaraguan news magazine Confidencial, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday. "And it shouldn't go unpunished." And yet, so far there's little to indicate that authorities will seek accountability. That question, indeed, may wind up weighing far more heavily on Ortega's destiny than pension reform ever did.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.


"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."


Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.


It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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