“Commerce has been brutally hit,” but their business leadership remains intact
By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Merchant Irlanda Jerez relaunched the proposal for civil disobedience in Nicaragua, which she calls “one of the lethal weapons we have to boycott the Ortega regime through our own earnings and not continue paying taxes,” in an interview with the program “Esta Noche” (Tonight), broadcast online.
The released political prisoner argues that a consumer strike is one of the forms of civil disobedience, as it encourages people to stop consuming liquor, cigarettes or going out to parties. She recognizes the desires of young people, but recalls that the previous generation had to take up weapons and fight a war risking their lives. She notes that now they are only asked to stop consuming because otherwise “they give oxygen [through taxes] to a regime that kidnaps and kill others. It is a matter of conscience,” she said.
Jerez questions the control that the Sandinista Front maintains over the Nicaraguan Council of Micro, Small and Medium-size Enterprises (Conimipyme), from the moment that it was surprisingly announced that Leonardo Torres assumed the presidency of the entity.
“The offices of Conimipyme are taken by Mr. Leonardo Torres, and four others,” who are the only ones that accompany him,” assured Irlanda Jerez.
Torres and those who accompany him “are working directly for the regime. Merchants know it. Last year we convened a press conference to appoint a new Blue and White business board, which has remained in the shadows to protect their lives and the businesses that remain,” she noted.
Jerez insisted that “Leonardo Torres only represents the regime, that criminal and terrorist organization. He does not represent any Nicaraguan belonging to the micro, small and medium-sized companies.”
The released political prisoner said that, although Torres nominally occupies the presidency of the organization, both the merchants and the rest of the micro, small and medium entrepreneurs recognize the work of their leaders, “which had been done since before April 18, 2018.”
“Torres does not represent the interests of this sector, which comprises more than 80% of the country’s labor force,” has an important economic muscle and a significant population weight. The regime knows it: that’s why it imprisoned me on July 18, 2018,” she said.
Jerez believes that this leadership and representativeness remain intact, despite “commerce being brutally affected, with hundreds of businesses burned: more than 300 in the ‘Mercado Oriental’ alone.”
She says that, “in the course of the insurrection many businesses have been abandoned,” after the stores, or the houses of the owners, were marked with words such as “PLOMO” (Bullets) or “golpistas” (coup mongers), which forced hundreds into exile and increased the number of confiscated businesses.
Recalling how the “pyme” (small and medium-sized companies) sector has led the successful national strikes, Jerez believes that they need to continue taking the initiative in the use of new forms of protests and citizens’ resistance, in the mindset that assuming that leadership does not imply more risks, but rather “determination,” “values and unwavering principles.”
Therefore, although she understands that people have made some decisions to protect their lives and their businesses, she believes that “when we fight for freedom, it doesn’t matter how far we go. We have to do everything in our power in this non-violent struggle,” she stated.
Demand for freedom of political “hostages” in Nicaragua
After travelling to El Salvador to present her testimony before the High Level Commission of the Organization of American States (OAS), which the government of Daniel Ortega did not allow to enter Nicaragua, Irlanda Jerez flew to Costa Rica to participate in the march in which the multitude took the opportunity to demand the release of more than one hundred citizens kidnapped by the regime.
“This march was made specifically” to demand “the full and absolute freedom of all the people,” as well as of the 142 political prisoners who remained in the prisons of the regime until the middle of this week, some of which have been kidnapped for more than 15 months.
For them “the pressure must continue: protests, mobilizations, the cries for freedom, especially to demand the release of political hostages, who are prisoners of conscience that the regime has, always trying to negotiate time.”
Jerez observes similitudes between the regime’s behavior and the irregular forces it relies on, with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), “who kidnapped for money, while they kidnap our brothers to gain time. Time, which is what they need to remain in power,” she specified.
In addition to waiting for the OAS Commission to produce a strong report, which leads to forceful actions, Jerez advocates that the international community finally become aware of the humanitarian crisis experienced by Nicaraguans who sought refuge in Costa Rica, and provide resources to that nation to help them meet the needs of more than 70,000 Nicaraguans that it now accommodates.