The Ometepe Island youth movement (Movimiento Autoconvocado Barriada Ometepe (Mabo) is the only group that continues to protest on Ometepe Island, in the department of Rivas, in southern Nicaragua, challenging the police state since April 2018.
They organized because at the outbreak of the protests against the government of Daniel Ortega, police and paramilitaries arrived from Managua to Altagracia, one of the two municipalities of the island, located in Lake Cocibolca. Instead of separating, the group that started with eight young people, now consists of 20.
The regime opponents, who are between 16 and 33 years old, have suffered siege, police harassment and the murder of two of their members. One of them “was running away, they caught him and hung him” and the other “was shot,” recalls “El Pollito” one of the founders of this group.
In the beginning, their first forms of protest were “organizing marches, placing flags and promoting that the traditional December altars to the Virgin Mary were allusive to the blue and white [civic] struggle,” he said.
Today, it has expanded its methods of protests: they organize actions according to relevant dates, they paint on the island’s main road from Moyogalpa to Altagracia, they paint on the public light poles, they place stickers with messages and they explode mortars in the early mornings.
Their most recent protest was on July 19. “We organized to bring down a billboard [of the presidential couple] and put the message: ‘It will always be April 19’”, in reference to the beginning of the ongoing struggle in 2018.
In addition to demanding the release of all political prisoners who remain in the regime’s jails and the departure of Daniel Ortega from power, the message they want to express to Nicaraguans is that “Ometepe will not give up, it will always continue in the struggle”, says El Pollito.
The young man calls for unity because “the more we are the better, to confront this enemy which is quite powerful”. The group also calls on the opposition organizations to help them in order to continue protesting, since the cost of paint and printing stickers, has rested on them.
“El Pollito” assures that they have never had the support of the organizations in Managua, “that don’t take us into account.” “If not for what happened on April 19 of this year, Ometepe would continue to be off the radar of the news and the eyes of Nicaraguans.”
The young man refers to the confrontation between residents and police that left at least two citizens injured and five people imprisoned. The reason was that a group of citizens from Esquipulas commemorated the second year of the April rebellion with an express picket and the authorities’ response was bullets and a wave of arrests.
The siege and persecution of opponents since that date increased, especially in the Altagracia area, since that is “the epicenter of everything, where people rose up,” he notes.
“El Pollito” narrates that “the police pass daily where we cannot sit on the sidewalk in front of our houses because they come and search us, they look for any excuse to take us away, we are never at ease.”
On Saturday, July 18, the Police detained two of them. “Two of the group were beaten and then they left. In half an hour the Police passed again, as part of an act of intimidation so that we stop protesting, but we are determined to continue, despite the fact that in our neighborhoods the CPCs (Councils of Citizen Power) and the toads (Sandinista sympathizers) are in charge of telling the Police the names and addresses of our houses.”
After April 2018, came the arrival of the riot police and paramilitaries, and with the subsequent “Operation Cleanup”, for which they hold responsible the Mayor of Altagracia, Aurora Alvarez, the siege and persecution were at their highest level of repression. Dozens of Ometepe citizens were persecuted and arrested for participating in anti-government protests. Several of the “Mabo” group had to be on the run for months.
Solidarity in the midst of the pandemic
Although the group of opponents pay their own expenses to demonstrate with graffiti in the streets, they have also taken the initiative to organize collections to deliver hygiene kits to people with limited resources, amid the pandemic by covid-19.
Among their contacts they managed to raise money to make a first delivery of 50 hygiene kits, which includes masks, gloves, liquid soap and alcohol.
“El Pollito” hopes that more civic opposition organizations and citizens will support them to continue delivering hygiene kits for Ometepe’s most vulnerable families.