by Tom Phillips (in Managua)
“Nicaragua’s upheaval has claimed hundreds of lives and changed everything for Valesk a Valle, Lesther Alemán and Douglas Costa.” – Tom Costa
Three months ago, Valeska Valle was a church-going dance freak whose best friend was her dog.
Douglas Costa plotted to take a master’s at the University of Oxford.
And Lesther Alemán was a communications student who harboured not-so-secret dreams of donning his country’s blue-and-white presidential sash.
Then came the outbreak of what some call the Nicaraguan spring on 18 April – and everything changed.
“I’m no longer the same Valeska I was on 17 April,” said Valle, during an interview at the Managua hideout to which she and her fellow student protest leaders have retreated since their uprising against Daniel Ortega began almost 12 weeks ago.
The upheaval – which has so far claimed more than 300 lives and looks set to intensify this week with three-days of protests and a nationwide strike – has transformed Valle, Costa and Alemán into reluctant renegades and, in doing so, turned their lives upside down.
Valle, who is 22, said relatives had shunned her since she announced she was popping out to buy Coca-Cola on 18 April but instead slipped off to take a front-line role in the struggle against the man she calls “el Tirano”.
“Most of my siblings have turned their backs on me,” said Valle, a final year accounting student who was born and raised in Masaya, a one-time Sandinista stronghold that has become one of the key focuses of resistance. “Of my seven brothers and sisters, five told me it would be better if I said I was an only child. Most of us here have been rejected by our families.”