Half of Nicaragua’s population wants to emigrate according to study

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By LatAm Reports Editor

Nicaragua is currently facing a significant exodus, as a new study reveals that about half of its 6.2 million population is considering emigration due to a mix of economic decline and political repression. This figure marks a stark increase from five years ago, when only 35% expressed such intentions.

The study, conducted by AmericasBarometer and released recently, indicates a growing sense of desperation among Nicaraguans. Isabel Lazo, a 42-year-old lawyer, embodies this sentiment. She lost her job at a university shut down by President Daniel Ortega’s government and is now employed at a nongovernmental organization (NGO), which she fears will also be closed soon. Her husband, Guillermo Lazo, 52, a systems engineer, also lost his job at the University of Northern Nicaragua due to government closures.

The Ortega government has been accused of targeting educational institutions and NGOs, having closed 26 universities and over 3,000 civic groups. These actions are part of a broader conflict with various societal sectors, including the Roman Catholic church. The Nicaraguan Red Cross was also ordered to shut down, under allegations of contributing to unrest during anti-government protests in 2018.

The Lazos, representative of Nicaragua’s educated elite, are currently awaiting a decision on their application for humanitarian parole to the United States. This program allows up to 30,000 individuals each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to enter the U.S. Isabel Lazo expressed her frustration at the lack of job prospects despite having advanced degrees, a sentiment shared by many in her position.

This trend is not unique to the Lazos. Many educated Nicaraguans, such as 24-year-old psychologist Rosemary Miranda, are also considering leaving. Despite her qualifications, Miranda’s salary at a microfinancing firm in Managua is insufficient to cover basic living expenses, pushing her to reconsider her decision to stay in Nicaragua.

The situation in Nicaragua has been tense since 2018, when anti-government protests were violently suppressed by security forces. President Ortega has described these protests as an attempted coup with foreign backing. As economic conditions worsen and political repression intensifies, an increasing number of Nicaraguans are looking for opportunities abroad, signaling a potential brain drain and further challenges for the country’s future.