The invitation to come out and demand freedom for the political prisoners included an option to demonstrate on foot or by bicycle. However, in the end the response was much broader: people also followed the route on motorcycles, skates, wheelchairs or skateboards. A television commentator even went in a quadricycle. Some of those present pushed their babies in strollers or carried them in baby slings, while others ran with their pets on a leash.
“We’re here for the freedom of Medardo, Pedro, Irlanda, Eduardo. We’re here for all those who aren’t here with us physically, but, yes, in spirit. Freedom!” shouted economist Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, who had been invited to say a few words to open the activity.
“Freedom! Freedom!” responded those gathered.
“We’re going to run these five kilometers in solidarity with these prisoners and in support of the cause of Justice and Democracy,” Chamorro added, recalling that “sports are part of the civic struggle. The request to hold this race has been pending for a while.”
Like many of those interviewed during the activity, Chamorro was sure that they’d succeed in recovering the freedom of all the prisoners. “They’re being held prisoner for thinking differently. We can’t accept that in the twenty first century there are people being detained for criticizing a repressive regime,” he declared.
At the beginning of the activity, the crowd made several loops around the Jean Paul Genie roundabout to warm up. A short time later, the call was made to gather along the north boulevard to sing the National Anthem just before heading out. At that moment, they were asked how many times they’d go around the circuit from the Genie rotunda to the Centroamerica roundabout and back.
Although the decision was to do it “twenty times” – equivalent to over half a marathon or 13 miles, a feat that would require a lot of preparation – in the end, they made two round trips with a brief rest between them.
Between runs, slogans, and songs, a young women incessantly recited the names of some of those being held in prison whose freedom they were clamoring for.
They recalled the Monimbo leader, Cristhian Fajardo and his wife, Maria Adilia Peralta; Glenn Slate and Brandon Lovo, two young people accused of killing reporter Angel Gahona who remain in prison, despite the fact that the family members of the deceased victim have cleared them of blame. Then there was Eduardo Manuel Tijerino, Roberto Cruz and Marilin Roque, arrested in Matagalpa together with two other youth from the April 19th movement.
Then the names of Jorge Vargas, Clifford Bustos, Bayardo Siles, Victor Manuel Diaz, Irma Centeno, Elsa Valle and…
Yes, the message is being heard
As the starting signal was given, masked figures of Chubacca, Guy Fawkes, Darth Vader, a number of Ahuizotl’s and even Spiderman could be spotted at the starting line, all ready to go the distance, which in the end was symbolic. The race was about just that: symbols and messages.
Although it wasn’t a competition, there were those who made a great effort to run the distance in the shortest possible time. One of them was Eddy Cerrato, who took second place. He explained that he ran “because it’s a good way to tell Daniel Ortega’s government that the will of the self-organized is strong. No one’s here for money. We want to demonstrate that athletics, in addition to being a healthy activity, is stronger than the bullets, and that they’re not going to defeat us.”
Although doubt remains whether the leader is listening, this athlete is sure that he is. And not only him, but the shrinking base of unconditional followers that are still left.
“I live in a family that’s loyal to Daniel, and I can assure you that they’re seething. Even though you don’t say anything to them, they’re always making indirect comments. Their actions show us that they’re angry. It’s reflected in their media, where their announcers speak of peace and love, and later they themselves seed discord, blaming us for what they themselves are doing,” he told us.
Assad Estrada came in third, a few seconds behind Eddy Cerrato. He states that he assumed the activity “like another day of training,” knowing that “the principal motive for the race is the political situation in the country, to make it known that the people want changes.”
Alejandro Plata came in first. He’s only 14 and might perhaps have a great future in sports, if the State would stop using its money to cut off the dreams of the youth, and would instead use it to help them reach their potential. Like Assad Estrada, Plata trains with professor Carlos Aguirre, one of the glorious older figures in Nicaraguan athletics.
“I give thanks to God for coming in first. I’ve been training diligently, and a friend told me about this activity and invited me to participate, so I did. It’s true that it’s only a short distance, a little over a kilometer, but it was worth it,” he felt.
Although other young people his age, and even some younger than he, understand what’s been happening in the country since nearly four months ago, Alejandro was unaware why this activity had been organized and excused himself with a smile for not knowing.
A little further on, Naomi Galo, 15, does have a clear idea of why all these people got together in the Jean Paul Genie roundabout on a warm Sunday morning in which rain seemed to hover but, in the end, never fell.
“I practice track at school, and I came here to run for the freedom of my country, and to demand the liberation of people who’ve been unjustly detained, even though they haven’t committed any crime,” she explained.
“I’m also running in protest for so many people who’ve been killed because of this genocidal government. Even though this government seems to turn a deaf ear, we have to keep on with the struggle,” she added.
In the end, whoever wanted to run and could run participated, from the young man with an athletic physique to the young woman with a clearly defined figure, the man with discolored patches of skin, the old man pedaling his bicycle with a Nicaraguan flag on his back, the man who was jogging with his son, and the overweight young girl who pedaled her bike with difficulty; even Kim, a girl who couldn’t make the first round, because when she was ready to get started the rest of the runners were already so far ahead that it would have been dangerous for her to try to catch up to them.
When the second round began and those who ran with their dogs were resting; while the reporters were interviewing the most notable runners time and time again; and the people were shouting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” over and over, Kim got her mojo on and took off ahead of the group, skating to demand Justice.