That effort was short-lived. In a fiery speech in July, Ortega accused the Roman Catholic bishops organizing the mediation of being “coup mongers” seeking his ouster and said they were unqualified to be mediators. The talks have not restarted.
With control of the country’s universities and other opposition bastions now firmly in government hands, Ortega, who has been in power since 2007, has vowed to remain in office until at least 2021, when his latest term ends. He has dismissed those who participated in the protests as “terrorists” manipulated by outside forces.
These days, Bonilla spends his time holed up in his hideout, trying to prepare for the day when talks with the government might resume. He reads political economy texts, studies negotiation tactics and absorbs as much as he can about Nicaraguan history online. He has changed safe houses twice since June.
Still, Bonilla’s situation is better than some.
He is still in Nicaragua and slips out in the open, his face masked by a bandanna, to participate in the sporadic, smaller protest marches that continue despite the arrests and mounting death toll. Other students were locked up for days in a shed or forced to hide at the bottom of a well while government forces searched for them.
There is now a tense calm in Managua, following the violent government crackdown. The stone barricades the students and other government opponents erected at the height of the protests on major highways and outside entire neighborhoods have now been removed by government forces. But there is little activity after nightfall; many restaurants are shuttered and people rush home at dusk, fearful of the masked armed civilians working in coordination with the police who patrol the city’s streets.
In the moments when they aren’t worried about being discovered or where their next meal will come from, many of those in hiding grow despondent over an unraveling future.
“We want to go on with our normal lives,” Bonilla said.
One 25-year-old woman, who had been working on a master’s degree at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua before she joined the student resistance movement, is already in her second country of exile. Early this month, she fled to Costa Rica, where she had hoped to establish a network of support for those in hiding in Nicaragua. But rumors of government informants among the Nicaraguan exile community there forced her to take off again. Now she is in a third Central American country.
“I don’t see my future,” said the woman, speaking on condition of anonymity because she hopes to return to Nicaragua one day. “I had planned this year to start classes to finish (the degree), but now I’m directionless.”