Managua Virtually Shut Down by Barricades


“We are going to close everything until they leave”

Barricades close off the main streets in Managua. Photo: Elmer Reyes / confidencial

Cobblestone barricades rise up in the neighborhoods, while roadblocks of different materials are installed at the entrances to the city.

By Franklin Villavicencio  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The main arteries of Managua remain closed. Barricades of cobblestones, mostly guarded by groups of civilians with masks or T-shirts on their faces, prevent vehicule access through the most important avenues of the city. The custodians, almost all young, maintain a firm position: the barricades will be gone when Daniel Ortega leaves.

The normally congested Masaya Highway has ceased to be such during peak hours when it was almost impassable. At kilometer 13 of this road, which connects the capital with several departments of the country, the roadblocks begin. Branches and remains of trees are placed on the street, as a sign that there is no vehicle access from here. Whoever wants to get to Masaya, must walk from this point (over 12 kilometers). Bus transport between the roadblocks is scarce and people at bus stops are less and less.

Franklin Reyes waits at one of the stops along the road to Masaya with three other people. It’s 09:00 in the morning on a Saturday in June. He tells us that he is retired, that he is headed for La Concepción – a municipality of Masaya – and that he is in the capital because he had to do some errands. At this point he is waiting for any vehicle, be it a van, a minibus or any four-wheeled vehicle that can get him home.

“It is part of the process that we are living and we cannot ignore it. There is something that is not right in Nicaragua… It is a sacrifice that the youth are making. I support, morally, because I cannot be out on the street. I think the struggle is just because there have been many young lives that have been lost and it is regrettable,” says Reyes as he awaits his long-awaited transport.

Roadblock at kilometer 14 of the road from Managua to Masaya. People must walk due to total closures. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

Like him, many people must make the same journey to those places. Others, like “Maria”, a woman from Nindiri, feel tired from the long walks and the economic losses they have suffered. She, who prefers not to give us her name, says she wants the conflict to be resolved soon. She went to Managua because in her city “everything is closed.” Banks are not open and supermarkets are in short supply. Maria sees the corner grocery stores as the most viable option in these times of crisis, but in the same way, she fears that they will soon run out of supplies.

“It hurts me to see my city as it is. Everything is destroyed. Everything is closed. It has hurt me to see how they have left it,” she says while dodging tree branches and entering the area between barricades that prevent vehicle access.

The Roadblocks on the Masaya Highway

The barricades at the Ticuantepe turn off begin the blockade of Managua towards the southeast region. It is a key point to travel between Masaya and Managua. It was installed since June 6 and its main motive is to prevent riot police and paramilitary access to Masaya, Granada and Rivas. This closure starts from kilometer 13 and extends with several barricades to kilometer 14.5, one of the limits of the capital.

One of the women who guard the area, asks through a shout if everyone had breakfast. The men, mostly young, answer yes. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are made by women. The people who want to pass through this roadblock are reviewed by a group of people assigned this task. They check backpacks and bags with kindness and then let them pass. Some women pass through giving “blessings” and others hugs in the midst of tears.

The barricades on the Masaya Highway have the purpose of securing the roads that lead to Masaya. Photo: Carlos Herrera | Confidencial

At the Ticuantepe roundabout, there is “La China”. The only thing that can be seen in her face are her dark and bright eyes. China does not beat around the bush. She stops you if you look strange and asks you who sent you and what are you coming for. She does not trust even journalists. But then, when you explain your visit, she lets her guard down.

China takes the opportunity to tell the media about a suspicious plane that has flown low in the area. “I more or less managed to count eight flights throughout the day,” he says. “We had to hide under the bus stop roofs, because we were afraid that they would shoot us.” The plane, according to China, was olive green. She suspects that it was doing surveillance work. In Masaya, a few days ago, villagers also said that small planes were observed flying over the city.

On Saturday they detained five persons captured by the members of the barricade, who said they were shock forces sent by the Ortega government.

Representatives from the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANPDH) arrived with the priest Edwin Roman, considered by many as a “hero” for Masaya, due to his humanitarian work in that city. China explains the situation and before delivering the prisoners, asks for the blessing of the priest. Father Roman makes the sign of the cross on her forehead and then China pulls a rosary from under her shirt. “This was given to me yesterday, father.” The priest murmurs a prayer and blesses it.

Meanwhile, the captured subjects are handed over to the delegates, who affirm that the process will be to leave them in a safe place where their lives are not endangered. The five men are guarded by the priest and the human rights defenders until the exit from the barricade area, while the residents shout “assassins!” And “never come back here.”

China gets lost in the crowd while talking to the other men in the roadblock and coordinates. Her companions do not want to affirm that she is a leader, because “that carries many responsibilities.” At the barricades, there is coordination, but there are no “leaders”.

The giant UNAN University

The streets leading to the UNAN-Managua remain heavily blocked off since June 7.  Photo: Elmer Rivas | Confidencial

After the massacre on Mother’s Day – May 30th – the streets have been silent as dark approaches. Starting at five o’clock in the afternoon, most of the citizens of Managua go to their homes for fear of being the victims of what many users on social networks call a “de facto curfew.” The civic struggle has retreated to the barricades that residents have raised in their neighborhoods as a defense mechanism.

On the perimeter of the UNAN-Managua, one of the university campuses where hundreds of students remain entrenched, the fence is reinforced and the barricades erected. These measures were taken as a result of an attack by Ortega paramilitary groups on June 7th, where Chester Javier Chavarría, 19, died while he was transferred to the Vivian Pellas Hospital.

Not only has the perimeter of the UNAN been closed in its entirety, but also the suspicion of the entrenched has been raised. The young people in the barricades keep constant vigilance. The panic produced by the long sleepless nights and terror when faced with the bullets of the paramilitaries, has led them to take extreme security measures.

Rubenia, one of the main avenues in Managua, is completely closed off. Photo: Elmer Rivas | Confidencial