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Crisis in Nicaragua: Defending a tranque. Photo credit to 100% Notices Facebook Page

Crisis In Nicaragua: A View From The Neighborhood

In some sense all civil insurrection, like politics, is local.

So I write about the civil insurrection around Diriamba where I live and avoid broad, flashy statements and pithy phrases about what the current crisis in Nicaragua means. I write about my immediate neighborhood.

Bit by bit, things get harder here each day.    

There are now robberies occurring in open daylight in downtown Diriamba. A friend was in the hospital and four people came in for treatment from stab wounds received during downtown robberies at midday.

The police left Diriamba two weeks ago so there is no government or municipal authority at all. It’s the same in the nearby towns of Jinotepe and Dolores.

In the absence of any government or municipal authority, the April 19 Movement is now collecting garbage in the streets.

They shot a student dead this week in Jinotepe and the paramilitaries at Las Esquinas, three kilometers north of Diriamba, are hassling people.

Las Esquinas is where someone else died five days ago, also shot dead.

At the dialogue meeting this week, the government made no reply to the proposal for speeding up elections.    

What makes the government violence so obvious is that everyone here now takes videos on their phones. These videos make official denials of responsibility for deaths difficult and make the government look ludicrous.

Police/paramilitary attacks in several towns left twenty more dead over the weekend and the government continues to gaslight everyone they can.

In one glaring instance of this gaslighting, a pathologist listed the death of a 14-month-old baby from a gunshot wound to the back of the head as a suspected suicide.

Another instance is the person accused of murdering the first American citizen to die in the crisis. He was actually in a coma in hospital, caused by a police bullet to the head when he supposedly killed the American.

And in an example of not the sharpest-of-political-dirty-tricks, the city of Sebaco accused the students of stealing and burning a city truck. The problem is someone with a cell phone recorded a driver for the municipality setting the truck on fire.

For the time being, life is relatively safe here around Diriamba, compared to other places.

But for the past several nights, drive-by shootings have happened less than three hundred meters from my home. White Hilux pickup trucks with masked paramilitaries and no license plates drive to the barricade by the Immaculada school and shoot it up. These white Hiluxes are a common sight all over the country.

Crisis in Nicaragua: Armed paramilitaries in pickup truck
Crisis in Nicaragua: Armed paramilitaries entering Granada in pickup truck / Nicaragua Dispatch Facebook page

Then they go back to San Marcos (I assume), where similar white Hiluxes, with no license plates, often sit in front of the Casa Sandinista.

Protesters already burned down the Casas Sandinista in Diriamba and Jinotepe, which is why I assume San Marcos.

The barricades in Jinotepe are well-constructed.        

The police and paramilitaries have attacked them at least four times in the past ten days. The mortars and machine gun bursts wake us up at night.

Between Diriamba and Jinotepe, the people dug a deep trench, so no vehicles can pass. So the police attack Jinotepe from San Marcos. The word is that those on the Jinotepe barricade have their own weapons, so the police attack them long-distance, shooting AK 47 bursts, and retreating.

To return the favor, the people keep attacking the police station in Jinotepe, five-hundred-meters from the barricade. It’s protected by barricades itself, made out of paving stones by the police.

This has been going on for two weeks. When it will end and with what result, I do not know.

But with nothing happening in the dialogue, it’s unclear when the situation will change. With 285 deaths so far, including children and students, a march to commemorate the deaths of the minors will take place in Managua on Saturday. I hope and pray it passes peacefully.

One rumor that may or may not be true is that authorities are not letting Costa Rican products enter Nicaragua. Among these products are Bimbo bread, Dos Pinos milk products, and Salsa Lizano.

All three of these brands are famous in Nicaragua, and the rumor is Costa Rica’s stance over the crisis has caused the ban on their exports.

I hate to admit it, but I like Bimbo bread and Dos Pinos yogurt. Salsa Lizano salsa, a kind of steak sauce with a bite, is not one of my favorites. But it is necessary to jazz up nacatamales on Sunday mornings.

I hope these rumors are not true. Not having these products available makes difficult times just that little more difficult.

Pat Werner is a longtime resident of Nicaragua, arriving in 1987. He lives outside of Diriamba, Nicaragua with his wife Chilo. More of his work can be found on his Nicaraguan Pathways website.

Pat Werner

Pat Werner

Pat Werner was a longtime resident of Nicaragua since 1987, after having lived there previously in the early 1970s. He exported fish on the Miskito Coast to Costa Rica in 1989 and covered the 1990 election for the Los Angeles Times. He worked as a university professor and administrator for 25 years before retiring in 2014. He is also a historian, archaeologist, writer, occasional gold miner, saddle maker and gem and orchid collector. He has published seven books about the history, archaeology, and botany of Nicaragua and presented over 50 papers at history conferences throughout Central America. He lived outside of Diriamba, Nicaragua with his wife Chilo until his death in December, 2019.