Saturday, June 2, 2012

Veterans protest lack of benefits in Nicaragua

The Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) was the military established in 1979 by the Sandinista government to replace the US-trained blood-thirsty army of dictator Anastasio Somoza following his overthrow. The EPS fought to defend the Sandinista government led by Daniel Ortega against the US-backed Contra army. After the Sandinistas were electorally defeated in 1990, the EPS was demobilized & the army reformed into the National Army of Nicaragua. While many EPS officers were given a retirement package of land, pensions, healthcare, & job training, the rank & file soldiers received nothing except a salute. The new National Army does however receive pension benefits. The government has repeatedly promised to address this inequity & actually started benefits during the election campaign in 2011, but following Daniel Ortega’s reelection last November, the programs stopped abruptly. Last March, EPS veterans blocked traffic on major northbound highways for a few weeks to pressure the government to address their demands. The roadblock ended after the government promised to provide social benefits. EPS veterans were out again yesterday in a coordinated campaign of protests against the government’s refusal to comply with those promises. Protestors blocked a highway, protested outside the parliament, & attempted to occupy the Managua international airport. Nicaraguan riot police used extreme violence against the veterans to disperse them. This veteran with a severe head wound is being arrested & ushered to a paddy wagon, not an ambulance. After all, he’s not entitled to medical benefits. (Photo by Esteban Felix/AP)

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