Managua’s Techno Barricades in the City’s East Side Barrios

Even when no cobblestones are at hand, the young people make creative use of materials on hand to put up barricades to protect their neighborhoods from the Ortega regime. Photo: Maynor Montiel for Confidencial

The national work stoppage on Thursday was celebrated in this part of the capital. 

By Ivan Olivares  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – It seemed like a Christmas or New Year’s party among the kids of the east side of Managua, neighborhoods known for their uprising against the Somoza dictatorship 40 years ago.

Just after midnight on Thursday, June 14, they were celebrating the beginning of the national strike by banging on pots and shooting mortars into the air. These youth, who up until a couple months ago were setting up street soccer games with 2 rocks for goals, today maintain the barricades around the “Ivan Montenegro” market. 

The ritual of the pot-banging was repeated every six hours: at 6 in the morning, at noon, and they were planning to do it again at six in the afternoon and at midnight to demonstrate their conviction: Ortega must go.

The symphony of pots was their way of celebrating the long-awaited call to a national strike, a measure that they’ll continue as long as necessary, although at present it was only called for 24 hours. “We’re staying right here until Daniel and his woman leave,” promised a group of kids who were guarding a barricade in the area around the market’s Fire station.

There aren’t any cobblestones in this area, but that didn’t stop them from finding materials for defending their community: tree trunks, a piece of a fence, construction leftovers, rocks, some broken television sets… anything can be useful for creating a (false) sense of security; they don’t know if it will be put to the test when night falls.

It’s not only a question of reaffirming their rejection of the Ortega-Murillo duo, but also to indicate that they’re ready once more to face the criminals, who hours before arrived swiftly in a number of motorcycles and shot at them from a distance, although without injuring anyone.

The scene repeats itself again and again in this part of Managua that’s given a new historic sense to the designation “eastern neighborhoods”.  These neighborhoods are remembered for their courage during the late 70s in confronting the Somoza dictatorship.  Currently, the term has been extended to include the entire commercial area around the Ivan Montenegro neighborhood and beyond.

The photo of the empty market was a graphic representation of the local population’s massive response to the call to a work stoppage: empty streets; market stalls closed up; vendors absent; those who watch over the parked cars now watching over barricades; bored security personnel protecting economic sites from no one, since the barricades kept out the thieves, who come to the market on motorcycles and pick-ups to steal with impunity.

The only open businesses nearby were a stall that sells pirated movie DVDs, and next door a haircut business; both owners were there waiting for clients who never appeared. A little further down, a woman sat wilting under the terrible Managua sun, waiting for someone to ask her about the price and quality of her cheese.

This scene was repeated in the MaxiPali supermarket (Walmart) on the highway that goes towards the Wholesale Market; again, at the gas station there; and in the supermarket of the Waspan neighborhood.  Inside the Wholesale Market, a few vendors waited for customers who trickled in one by one.  One of the shop owners was Maria Mejia Mercado.

“Pretty much only those from this section of the market opened today. I have to sell these baskets of avocados and bananas before Sunday, because after that they’re overripe and no one’s going to want them,” said Maria Mejia, who’s been selling produce in the markets for 33 years.

Only one gas station that operates under the auspices of the Nicaraguan Petroleum Distributor, an entity administered by a member of the governing Ortega family, was serving the customers who were looking for fuel.  We asked the employee who was pumping the gas a few questions:

Confidencial: What instructions did the company give you about the strike?

Attendant: They didn’t say anything. I don’t know if we’re on strike or not.

Confidencial: Are the prices the same, or did they raise the price of gas this morning?

Attendant: I don’t know

Confidencial:  Have you had a lot of customers?

Attendant: I wouldn’t really know what to tell you.

Along the highway that goes from the Moctezuma motel towards the Subasta zone, fewer vehicles than usual can be seen. Even so, there’s more traffic than what other images of the rest of the country are showing.  It may be because it’s one of the main entrances into Managua, but also because in these days it’s being used as an alternative exit for residents around the Villa Libertad area and further.

As the afternoon wears on, new barricades go up, suddenly isolating the neighbors in their homes or preventing them from returning home. The last militants who remain loyal to a fading Daniel Ortega are filming the young people who are putting up barricades.  In reprisal, these youths threaten those who are threatening them, saying that they’ll take their revenge when everything calms down.

Nightfall is approaching and no one knows if the scenes they see on television, with demonstrators being cut down by the snipers’ bullets, will repeat themselves on the barricades later tonight.