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Ortega Faces Student Opposition Online

It appears that Nicaraguan cyber communities are taking part in growing opposition to the Ortega presidency. Ortega’s administration recently disqualified two opposition parties from participating in local November elections (Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense and Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista), a move that has stirred many young citizens to angry online protest.

Nicaraguan students have participated in the growing opposition movement through social networking channels like Facebook. When former Sandanista rebel leader, Dora Maria Tellez, began a hunger strike to protest the “dictatorial intentions” of the Ortega administration, a small number of Managua’s students formed a Facebook group entitled “We Support Dora Maria Tellez.” Cyber protests against Ortega policies have since grown on Facebook. A new group has been created entitled “Daniel Ortega no mi representa!!!”, which has attracted over 1600 members. The Facebook group has been an organizational platform as well as portal to other websites related to the opposition. The “cyber-savvy” youth have also made use of Youtube to post videos of recent demonstrations.

Nicaragua is one of a group of Latin American nations whose citizen youth are taking advantage of social media to further democratic causes in their countries. This past year, young Colombian activists used Facebook to campaign against the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). In Venezuela, students organized on cyber platforms to protest a proposed Constitutional reform that would have broadened the powers of President Hugo Chavez.

Student protest is nothing new in Latin America, however. There is a strong history of university-based political activism in these countries, and it most often reaches beyond democratization movements. In the past, students have been engaged in populist and pro-Marxist pursuits, challenging everything from education reform to free trade and globalization policies.

But youth activism in Latin America has adapted to this digital age. The Internet has changed the tactics and mobilization methods of many activist groups, as students capitalize on digital media and social networking sites in order to spread the word. Traditionally, student activism in Latin American countries has been confined inside the university structure. In many universities, student government itself is associated with certain political parties, and students can participate in political movements through the highly organized party machines on campus. But as more online platforms open up in Latin America, some student activists are shifting the locus of their campaigns to the Web. The Internet offers cyber-savvy youth a chance to operate outside institutional structures, and it appears that many students are taking advantage of this opportunity.

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