Information. These days in Nicaragua, it seems like there is either too much information coming at us or not enough of it. Either quantity can make it difficult to make confident family decisions going forward.
As each eventful day and night unfolds here in Nicaragua, social media provides a stream of news, texts, and imagery updating the Nicaraguan revolution in real time. Sometimes that influx of information validates our local experience with civil unrest here on the ground. At other times the news fails to capture the lulls, the normalcy, and the positive social interaction that makes it all feel manageable.
One version of events will impulse me to make new plans to get away. But the other moments remind me of what I love about our lives here and will cause me to hesitate, second-guessing the rush to act.
Between the news that is fed to us by media sources, each other, and our own ordinary experiences, I try to make decisions that make sense. Should we stay or should we go? If we go, then for how long? Will we be able to come back, or will we be stuck on the other side? Will we be stuck here on this side? What kind of time frame do we have to choose?
It used to feel luxurious having weeks to sort through our thinking. We have experienced days when we have felt there were only hours left to choose our next steps. Having said that, we have entered a new period of calm in this past week of Granada that swings the pendulum back towards a wait and see approach.
Here is what we know
Nicaragua is now completing its second month of uprising, showing no signs of dissipation but rather all indications of a successful growing campaign to force a change of leadership and early elections. Each day, the movement grows in its own way with more citizens taking personal risk to pressure the Presidential First Family to leave office.
The ingenious keystone to this campaign was the creation of strategic roadblocks throughout the country that turned the logistical weakness of a minimally diversified road system into a revolutionary strength: bottleneck the few highways that run from the north to the south and the national economy grinds to a slow feed.
When hundreds of additional subsidiary roads and barricades were added into the campaign it was clear that the general population was widely behind the movement and capable of forcing the government’s hand to negotiate.
What does that feel like on the ground?
My twelve year old son and I live in Granada, a sizable tourist town about 45 minutes from the capital of Managua. When news of the uprising in Managua and Masaya began to post around the world, so did the tourist cancellations to visit Granada.
We watched as local streets began to gradually empty of visitors throughout the historic center. Later when Granada began to experience first hand conflict within the city, many nearby businesses that relied almost exclusively on international tourism began to close for safety and for lack of a market.
The precariousness of relying upon tourism is felt throughout the city. Noticeably, long lines at financial institutions have appeared every morning as residents scurry to secure access to cash.
Now that the roadblocks have proven to effectively slow the national distribution of goods, the public has often moved quickly to fill their homes with necessary survival items. If there is a sense of panic regarding supplies, shopping can be a very lengthy experience with long lines to enter the store and to finish checking out.
Our city, like many around us, now has limited access to gasoline, at times dwindling from three petrol stations down to one. Texts and posts fly around the city when a fuel tanker pulls into town and a station gets reloaded.
The tide appears to be changing
The physical conflict in Granada has seemingly ended this week with the police barricading themselves in their own station having alienated the larger pubic and a neighborhood paramilitary group to whom they had failed to pay their salaries (Do you wonder how I know this? Information is freely and widely exchanged in Granada; it would be amazing if you lived here and didn’t know these things).
While Granada nights no longer feature the echos of mortars exploding in a cadence, neighboring cities around us such as Masaya still remain engaged in a daily confrontation with forces belonging to the state (though the people of Masaya have certainly now gained the advantage by surrounding their police station and maintaining a steady siege).
Noticeably, Daniel Ortega has also agreed to early elections in January of 2019, if he is allowed to stay in power until then. None of the groups at the negotiating table of course will accept these conditions (“we don’t negotiate with assassins”) and the compromise is felt to demonstrate a greatly weakened hand.
The National Strike (Paro Nacional!)
A general strike was declared today for June 14, 2018 that called for a cessation of economic activity throughout the country. Granada has been quiet except for every six hours of the strike when Granadinos have gone outside in the streets to make noise and show their commitment to the protest.
Throughout the day, photos appeared of cities throughout Nicaragua with totally vacated streets showing the country engaged in total protest. For me, as I browse through these images that portray the great Nicaraguan cities such as Leon, Managua, Matagalpa, Granada and Estelí acting in solidarity, I sense that there is such a force for change in the nation that the Ortegas have very few days left in office or options left on the table.
It is possible that if they bow out now (albeit in total disgrace) they will find themselves on a plane to somewhere (but really who will take them now?). Alternatively, they will slowly begin to feel an intense tightening of pressure bearing upon the 2 km parameter of security around their house as thousands of Nicaraguans lose patience with negotiations that go nowhere and continue to result in citizen assassinations around the country.
If that is the case, the Ortegas will be at the mercy of the goodwill of the nation to allow them the opportunity to stand trial in a court of law.
Timing is tricky for all of us.
How do you know when it is time to go?
For our family, I still cannot yet say. For another family, time is definitively running out.