Metro residents flee violence in Nicaragua, asking for help for violent Central American nation

RAYTOWN, Mo. -- Political protests in Nicaragua have turned deadly, and the effects of that uprising are being felt in the Kansas City metro.

Last week, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega proposed drastic reductions to that country's social security system. The people of Nicaragua responded by rioting in the streets, sometimes squaring off with the national police.

One foreign news agency is reporting 27 people have died in the violence that has raged since loudly since the weekend.

No one imagined the bloodshed in Nicaragua that`s mounted since last week -- certainly not Arturo Hernandez, 22, who is studying to become a Catholic priest. The Shawnee Mission West High School graduate flew home to Kansas City on Sunday night after his two-week Catholic mission trip to help children in need was cut short by public rioting.

"The family I was staying with, they were telling me, 'You need to get out of the country and go home,'" Hernandez told FOX4.

Hernandez, who left his native Mexico when he was 11, said he was staying in Leon, a city that sits approximately 90 minutes from Managua, the nation's capital city and the epicenter of the violence.

On Sunday, when Ortega wanted to virtually eliminate Nicaraguan social security, people took to the streets, demolishing structures and starting fires. Hernandez said there is also violence in other areas of the country.

"There were mothers in the streets calling out for their children. They didn't know if they were dead or injured or what had happened to them," Hernandez said.

BBC reports from Monday said anyone who had ties to nations outside Central America was advised to leave. Hernandez was one of many who had to hide from the national police and from rioters while depending on local benefactors for rides to the airport. Hernandez said his host family's leader drove down a road staked out by the authorities, risking danger to help him escape.

"The husband of the family said, 'We cannot stop. They're going to rob us, and they're going to kill us,'" Hernandez said.

The concern is just as strong in nearby Overland Park, Kansas. Francisco Litardo, whose daughter is en route back to Kansas City from Managua, has been on the edge of his seat.

Oksana Litardo, 22, recently graduated from Vanderbilt University and since then has been working on a relief mission to Nicaragua. Her dad said she's been working with pregnant woman in impoverished areas and on projects related to reduction of the spread of the Zika virus.

"It's completely different world," Francisco Litardo said Monday. "She's privileged to be able to leave. The people she's leaving behind can't do that."

Oksana, the second of his three daughters, is coming home on Monday night. Francisco Litardo said her airplane is due to land at Kansas City International Airport around midnight.

"The first thing we understood was her concern for the people of Nicaragua. It pains her to see people have to protest for government decisions that are really not good for the people," Francisco Litardo said.

"They deserve for us to amplify their voices," Oksana Litardo said in a video message sent to FOX4. "If you know any Nicaraguan immigrants or have any friends who are Nicaraguan, please just ask how their family is doing, how they're doing. That could be a really great help."

Both families said they`re happy to escape or to see their loved ones do so, as unrest in Managua rages on. However, the homecoming is bittersweet since both families said they want peace for Nicaragua, and they can't be there to help bring it.

Relatives of the U.S. Embassy staff in Nicaragua have been ordered to leave the country. Ortego has since reconsidered eliminating social security altogether. This period is said to be the most violent time in that country since the Nicaraguan Civil War in the late 1970s.