After five days of violence and chaos, part of the sad balance of Nicaragua is: app. 30 dead, among them a journalist and three policemen, at least 100 injured, many disappeared, others held back by the police, lootings of supermarkets and commercial centres, plundering of medical supplies of the Ministry of Health and pharmacies, fires, vandalism: of Sandinista (govn.party) installations, symbols, police-stations, the offices of the Institute (Ministry) of the Sandinista Youth, and many other institutions.
The list is long.
A social security or pension reform triggered the protest, but it goes far beyond that; it is about 11 years of discontent from a part of a big part of the population, in spite of amazing economic growth, social reforms and attendance – for the first time ever – to the poorest big part of the population.
In my eyes, it is less about the ruling Sandinista government, led by Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo, but more about a political culture which the rulers of Nicaragua – or Central America – have not been able to leave behind/modernize, after the colonialization.
The youth are at the heart of the protest, both those of the opposition, as well as those of the pro-government segment. It is difficult to distinguish between the actors: both parties are belligerent, aggressive and fight for what they mean are their rights, and many of them look like pandilleros – gang members, and throw morteros – molotov cocktails.
Who is who in this crazy violence?
This guy, for instance? Who would he be? A student? A trouble-maker, infiltrated among the students from the opposition? Or a brought-in pro-government trouble-maker? A representant of the Juventud Sandinista, the young sandinistas?
He is actually a student from the Jesuit university UCA – or so he said – moments before a clash with the police.
But whoever they are, the young, they are so much more educated than the previous generations and have been born into, and been brought up in, a democracy – perhaps a fragile one – but a democracy. Something good might come out of it. Something totally new.
I will not go into details or analyses now, however, but share with you what we saw this morning, driving around Managua, trying to grasp the situation, after five days of unrest.
Because the sad thing is:
4 tv-stations have been closed
The rest of the local media are almost all biased
International media are not allowed entrance into the country
International media base their reports on material from news agencies > scattered news without context, biased and, and, in the worst of the cases, directly false
We only have social media left, full of conflicts, fake news & rumours
This is what we saw with our own eyes:
Streets blocked, tires on fire.
The local police-station burnt down
The polemic “Trees of Life” (Now the Trees of Death…) of Vice President Rosario Murillo burnt down. In the background one still standing up.
The offices of the Instituto de la Juventud – The Ministry of Youth – burnt down
Grocery stores and shopping centers looted. This old lady tried to find some leftovers…
…but was chased away by the police
People are hoarding food and long lines outside the supermarkets. Also, the gas-stations are full and, in some places, only some diesel is left.
Either this will last for long or will be a collapse – or both. That is what people fear.
The police guard the few of the supermarkets that are still open (although in social media pics of police, themselves poor, have been published themselves stealing and/or helping people to steal)
Some people manage to fill their cars with stuff…
Others wait for hours, perhaps in vain…
The young people have left their messages, across the city: “Daniel Ortega, the president, is the same as previous dictator Somoza”
“Rigoberto, come back”. Riboberto López Pérez killed Anastasio Somoza García, the longtime dictator of Nicaragua. A strong message from the angry youth. May it not come true, may the so wished for dialogue between the parties become reality before it is too late. Before all parties have gone too far.
The next few days will show towards what we are heading.