Cities and towns throughout Nicaragua appeared deserted on Thursday, as many Nicaraguans joined in a 24-hour work stoppage and consumer strike.
According to José Adán Aguerri, of the Alianza Cívica, between 60 and 70% of Nicaraguan businesses closed their doors yesterday. This estimate cannot be corroborated or refuted at this time. However, images and videos shared over social media showed empty streets, shopping malls, bank lobbies, and bus stops, all indications of a successful citizen protest.
— Wilmer Madrigal (@Wilmer96M) May 23, 2019
Indeed, Mr. Aguerri, who also presides the largest Nicaraguan trade association — the COSEP — attributed the strike’s success to the participation of the citizenry, in an interview with NTN24.
“Businesses that were threatened and forced to open [did not see many customers]. People did not come. So there was a combination of business closings and a consumer strike,” said Mr. Aguerri.
Retaliation against businesses that participated is expected, as Aguerri pointed out that everyone, no matter the size, had been threatened with some kind of government action if they closed. Small merchants who have stalls at public markets, for example, were threatened with a revocation of their licenses. Banks, on the other hand, were promised fines, which forced them to open their doors.
Intimidation and harassment efforts included a proclamation by a group identifying itself as “Tuiteros Sandinistas” — Sandinista Twitter –. The resolution argued that the Alianza “Cínica” (the Cynical Alliance) had publicly “promoted” the “unjustified temporary closure” of businesses that are “regulated by the laws of the country.” The Tuiteros Sandinistas therefore demand “fines and definitive closure” for over 100 privately-owned businesses, ranging from small mom-and-pop shops to transnational companies. In addition, they demand an investigation of these businesses “for violation of workers’ rights,” and the revocation of “permits, licenses, benefits, exonerations, and concessions.”
The list was compiled by Twitter user ElCuervoNica, who is one of the main Ortega-Murillo influencers on social media. It includes businesses that were reported as open to the public, such as Farmacia Saba. One business, Stop & Go, shut down last year.
Other notable entries on this list include:
- Colegio Alemán Nicaragüense (German-Nicaraguan School): Twenty-two of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s grandchildren attend the Colegio Alemán.
- Librería Gonper: A behemoth in the book retail, school, and office supply business, Gonper has 11 retail stores in Managua, Granada, and Masaya, and one wholesale branch.
- Librería Hispamer: Another large book retailer, Hispamer has five branches, nationwide. The book seller has also branched out into food services and catering, with the opening of Molino.
- La Curacao and Almacénes Tropigas: These two retailers are subsidiaries of Grupo Unicomer, a transnational firm based in El Salvador. Unicomer operates stores in 26 countries in Central, South America, North America, and the Caribbean.
- Supermercados La Colonia: This grocery store chain is part of Grupo Mántica, a Nicaraguan, family corporation. La Colonia has stores in Managua, Carazo, León, Chinandega, Matagalpa, and Estelí. Grupo Mántica also operates two shopping malls and the Isuzu car dealership.
- Optica Matamoros, Optica Munkel, and Optica Las Gafas: These three eye doctor chains essentially control the Nicaraguan market for eye care services. Optical Matamoros, for example, has branches nationwide, including remote and underserved areas, like Bonanza, in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region.
- Farmacias Medco and Xolotlan: This family-owned pharmacy chains offer services in Managua. They are a significant importer and distributor of medical supplies.
- Pizza Hut, TGI Friday’s, Payless, Bayer, Subway, and Pepsi Cola: All of these names are well-established brands.
- Toyota Autonica: This is one of the country’s largest auto dealerships.
- PriceSmart: This membership wholesaler has two branches in Nicaragua, one in Managua and the other in Masaya. The company does business in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Large contributors in Nicaragua pay millions in taxes every year. Closure of these businesses would actually do more harm than good. In addition, since the list also includes a number of schools, restaurants, bake shops, hardware stores, fitness centers, car dealers, pet stores, a funeral parlor, several bars, and a veterinarian’s office, every single aspect of the economy would be impacted, should the Ortega-Murillo government decide to honor this request.
A more likely scenario would be one in which the smallest, mom-and-pop shops will be targeted, either for closure or systematic harassment, in order to send a message to anyone who believes that the success of this strike can be replicated down the line.
Government Issues Addendum to “Action Plan.”
The Ortega-Murillo government has not directly addressed yesterday’s national strike. However, on Friday morning, the government’s negotiating team read another press statement, publicizing an addendum to the “Action Plan” released on May 22.
The Addendum indicates that the government will continue “strengthening the Peace, Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace Commissions” throughout the country. These Commissions were established via the Ortega-Murillo “Reconciliation Law” signed in January.
According to the IACHR, the Reconciliation Law, or Ley para una Cultura de Diálogo, Reconciliación, Seguridad, Trabajo y Paz, does not meet “international standards regarding truth, justice and reparation.”
In addition, the Addendum demands that “All persons involved in the failed coup d’ etat must commit to non-repetition and absolute respect for the Constitution and Laws of the country, thus contributing to Peace, Tranquility, Security, and Reconciliation among all Nicaraguans.” The inclusion of this paragraph should be considered in the context of a country where protest has been outlawed by fiat, and where government entities can threaten privately-owned businesses of all sizes with retaliatory measures, should they choose to close their doors.The Addendum also expresses the government’s intent to legislate in the matter of reparations and support for victims of what they describe as “harms caused by the attempted coup,” and pledges consular support for all Nicaraguans who wish to return to the country voluntarily.
Protests will Continue on Sunday.
This morning, Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (UNAB) held a press conference in Managua, to announce its members would be marching in honor of Eddy Montes, on Sunday, May 26.
The Ortega-Murillo police forbade protest marches in October, arguing that any such mobilization requires a permit. Since then, the police has denied permits to a number of organizations, including UNAB.
@UnidadNic convoca a una marcha para este próximo domingo que saldrá de la Embajada de México en carretera Masaya hacia Metrocentro a partir de las 10 am.#SOSNicaragua #Nicaragua #GritoPorNicaragua pic.twitter.com/v2RCuFl8p2
— Trinchera de la Noticia (@LaTrincheraNic) May 24, 2019
The coalition stated that the march will go forward, with or without a permit. UNAB’s political council stated that, “We know that in the context of this government’s repression, we will not enjoy the [rights] that our laws guarantee us, but that is the reason that civic resistance exists, to defy the regime.”