At least 90% of Managua’s businesses closed on Friday following the call for a national strike by the Civic Alliance with support from the main business chambers, to continue demanding that Daniel Ortega negotiate his peaceful exit from power after unleashing the worst slaughter in nearly four decades in Nicaragua.
Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) described the work stoppage as successful. “This shows for the second time in a month the unity of the business sector around the objectives of ending the repression, and for justice and democratization,” he said.
Aguerri added that “despite the government’s efforts to call their supporters to make a caravan to counter the strike, the response was overwhelming with the vast majority of businesses closed.”
On Friday, Managua was a desolate city. Banks, supermarkets, shopping centers, hardware stores, bars and restaurants remained closed. The government, however, tried to show an image of normality by ordering that the public transport service be maintained, although there were few users at the bus stops in the city.
State institutions functioned normally during the morning, including the immigration offices, although they looked empty compared to previous days, when they have been overwhelmed by thousands of Nicaraguans trying to process their passports to leave the country due to the deep crisis that has left hundreds dead.
In markets in the capital, such as the Mayoreo (wholesale market) and the Oriental, the main distributors also closed their doors. The Mayoreo bus terminal looked almost empty, with a small group of passengers. In this market the vendors that opened for business were mainly those selling fruits and vegetable.
In the Oriental, Managua’s largest market, the strike was almost total, said merchant Ireland Jerez, who described the initiative as successful. “We felt that more people joined than in the previous strike. There is no one in the market, only security guards in the stores, because the owners are terrified of looting,” said Jerez.
Many of the large companies that for contractual reasons cannot close their doors (such as those who operate at the free trade zones, which have export contracts to fulfill); or the banks, whose operating licenses prevent them from closing ‘just because’, but in the end they closed and joined the work stoppage.
The companies located in the Niquinohomo free trade zone as well as in the Las Mercedes industrial park in Managua, preferred to leave their workers free for the day, given the climate of insecurity that exists in the country, especially exacerbated by the realization of an Ortega supporters’ vehicle caravan towards Masaya, reenacting a “tactical retreat” the Sandinista guerrillas carried out in 1979.
For their part, the banks Banpro, Lafise, Avanz, Bac Credomatic, Ficohsa and BDF, took advantage of their profiles on social networks to inform the public that “for security reasons” for their customers and workers, they would not open on Friday the 13th, inviting account holders to make their transactions online. They said they would open as usual on Saturday the 14th.
Financial and commercial activities were also paralyzed in the main cities of the country. In Leon, former legislator Jose Pallais said that the response of Leon to the call to the national strike was “a success” because it was observed, “an almost total closure, of more than 90% of all activities.”
“What we saw is only comparable to a Holy Thursday, when the trade closes for the devotion of Easter Week. This was a similar paralysis: commerce, banks, grocery stores, supermarkets, service companies. The city was totally dead, without the presence of citizens in the streets, and very little traffic,” he added.
Pallais greeted the decision of citizens, to stay home to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the situation in the country and demand a change through this strike. “For any observer the rejection and repudiation of the government of Ortega y Murillo was totally evident,” he said.