Exiled Nicaraguan activist: 'People here could make connections between global issues'
Feminist human rights advocate Magaly Castillo has been living in Barcelona since June 2018 due to unrest in her home country
Nicaragua has been home to a severe political and social crisis since April 2018 when demonstrations against pension reform were violently suppressed by Daniel Ortega's government, although there had already been years of protests against the construction of a Chinese-financed interoceanic canal and its negative environmental impacts.
Crackdown on demonstrators lead to over 300 dead as well as many 'disappeared', with many others internally displaced. Some 60,000 Nicaraguans ended up leaving the country, the vast majority of whom sought refuge in Costa Rica.
"I had to flee because I feared for my life and the work we were doing. All of my colleagues are also in exile in different countries," says Magaly Castillo, a human rights activist who has been living in Barcelona since June 2018 and is a member of the Feministas Autoconvocadas collective of Nicaraguan and Catalan feminists.
But not only has Nicaragua been home to unrest sparked by the 2018 pension reform, it is also a country in which, since 2006, abortion is illegal under all circumstances and where violence against women and girls is widespread.
Castillo, who is also an actor and who participated in the Fall 2019 edition of the 'Cities defending human rights' project, explains some of the issues affecting women in the Central American country: "Women who suffer from gender-based violence do not have access [to standardized public assistance], those needs are covered by the feminist movement."
Although many of these problems pre-dated 2018's events, Castillo argues that they have gotten worse.
"There is an environment of insecurity in general and for women, all of the issues they faced before are now worse, more serious, but there are no institutions where they can report anything or receive any support or keep them safe because it is the police themselves who are repressing people."
Magaly Castillo · Nicaraguan feminist activist
As for the problems she has encountered while living in Catalonia, Castillo believes it is racism and xenophobia that prevent locals from bothering to look into what is happening in countries throughout Latin America.
"The conflicts taking place are not made known," the activist laments, which according to her are interconnected issues: "There is a logic of expropriation of resources, of dismantling the rule of law, of appropriating democracy. I think that people here could make connections between global issues and not only see us as people who come to take up space or steal rights."
Part of the solution, she claims, is dismantling "racist and populist discourse." Catalans, and more broadly speaking, Europeans, should realize that "people who flee Latin America do so to save their lives, and that is right that can't be violated anywhere in the world."