Well initially I felt a little guilty about taking about 2 and a half weeks of vacation down here, but in retrospect, it turns out that I am a certified genius. Election violence is really wild down here, and it's been impossible to get anything done in Managua at all for the past week. I called around to the archives, and most of them are closed, or only open for a few hours a day with limited services. The Sandinistas "won" the municipal elections, but there are widespread accusations of fraud. As a result, riots, demonstrations, violence. So far two people have been killed when riot police fired into a crowd, though much of the violence is lower key than that. Moxita went to León on Sunday and arrived here in Managua this morning, as the demonstrations were so violent and huge that she was effectively trapped in the hostel once she got there. And getting there itself was terrifying, as there were roadblocks, and people kept stopping her bus, boarding it, threatening people, and smashing the bus windows. Finally the police boarded and the driver decided to continue on to León with that added protection, but it was dicey. I'm so relieved she's ok. I checked my email a little while ago and got an Embassy update advising of planned 'demonstrations' (read: riots) in Managua tomorrow (read: all week). This is an excerpt from the report:
U.S. citizens traveling to or already in Nicaragua are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
Violent demonstrations and road blockages continue and numerous injuries have been reported. The situation remains fluid. Street protests and/or clashes are likely to continue in the coming days and can be unpredictable in time, place, and intensity.
Activities observed during protests include, but are not limited to tear gas, rubber bullets, setting off fireworks, rock-throwing, tire burning, road blocks, bus/vehicle burning and some degree of physical violence between law enforcement and protestors or between rival political parties or individuals. Activities tend to intensify in violence beginning in the early afternoon. Passersby and observers are not immune from the effects of these protests.
To make the whole situation a little worse, I've just learned that a friend of mine was killed while traveling up to Guatemala (which Moxita and I had initially planned to do). He was on a bus where I guess somebody was transporting drugs of some kind, though the other passengers didn't know about it. The details aren't clear, but essentially the bus was having problems and turned down a less-traveled road as a short cut to Guatemala City. A drug gang stopped the bus, executed everybody on board (15 Nicaraguan tourists and this guy Rob) and then burned the bus and bodies. It had nothing to do with the current election violence in Nicaragua, but still a sobering reminder of the very real dangers that exist for travelers in some of these places. I still feel pretty stunned. I didn't know Rob well by any means, but we spent a day traveling together in a small group of friends to the Laguna de Apoyo. I remember him particularly because we spent hours talking while floating in the lake, bobbing about in inner tubes. So we wouldn't drift apart, we held hands as we floated, staring up at the puffy white clouds in a blue sky. I still can't believe he's dead, and in such a random and violent way. The guy I held hands with for two hours three weeks ago is dead now.
I'm getting out on the first plane tomorrow morning, and will be cooling my heels on the Atlantic seaboard until the weekend. Again, not sure about internet access, though the hotel did recommend we bring flashlights, which I've interpreted as a clue, so no promises for updates until next weekend.