I visited Managua last Sunday. It was - as my friends were telling me - a disturbing scene, particularly to someone unused to seeing gunpowder outside the hands of professionals.
The polarized election had nearly every telephone pole painted in some variant of each party's colors and many campaign signs were defaced.
There was a FSLN (Sandinista) rally on nearly every traffic circle I passed - two that I passed (near the galleria and metro central) had people equipped with what looked like hand made rocket launchers - short tubes, about 18 to 24 inches in size, with handles. They were shooting off fireworks that mostly went boom rather than had pretty colors. I mean, whooooosh - BOOM. whooosh - BOOOOOOOOOM! whoooosh - KA-BOOOOM!
No mortars, as some reported. But it was early. I didn't stick around after dark.
There were people, young and old, celebrating - lots of flag waving of both the Nicaraguan (blue and white) flag and the FSLN flag (red and black), and music, powered by generator trucks. Members of the opposing parties were notable by their absence, but all those present seemed enthusiastic, and only a very few drunk.
"Big Booms" occurred every few seconds at times. I mean, explosions to rival the best of a July 4th celebration - head-aching booms. As I noted in a previous blog entry, this sort of thing happens all the time in Nicaragua, firecrackers and fireworks are set off on nearly every occasion... but, man, there was an awful lot of it, everywhere, in Managua.
It was disturbing to see the rockets being fired off from within the crowd, and also obvious that the same devices could do a lot of damage if used horizontally rather than vertically. They weren't - but then again, the policia weren't bothering anyone celebrating, just sealing off the streets around the area and re-routing traffic.
I've always wondered: where does all that gunpowder come from? Some latent regulatory sense within me asks: "why does the government let the non-professionals have it?" - and my engineering side then asks "why don't I?" I have plenty of uses for the stuff. I could fix a few roads.
For all that, inside those malls, it was business as usual, no stores closed, no taped entrances. As I left Metro Central around 4 o'clock (I spent a few hours there getting my visa renewed), the front side parking had emptied of cars save my own, and mall guards - in bulletproof vests - were closing off the exits to the main road, where a much bigger rally was assembling just a block away.
We drove out of the mall up to the rally but had to turn around due to the sheer masses of people partying down.
The rest of the day was peaceful. I was amazed at how much the road network between San Juan Del Sur and Managua had improved - aside from a few bumps inside of busy towns, I encountered 0 - zero - potholes - in over 100km of driving - a huge improvement over my first visit 18 months ago, and accounting for a major increase of speed between those two destinations (with a detour in Caterina for pottery).
The airport - business as usual - the hotel - business as usual - otherwise just a normal day - well, one with explosions overhead every few minutes no matter where you went.
On my way out of Managua, I got stopped by some cops expecting a bribe. I had done nothing wrong, but I had broken the speed limit all day - and until a few minutes before was effectively in the country illegally - so it was kind of karmic.
400 cordobas (about $20 US) later my buddy and I were on our way. Having to bribe your way out of an unjustified ticket is just one price you have to pay for living in the third world, but I have to admit those cops made me pretty nervous before settling on an appropriate amount - I was already kind of disturbed and deaf from the day - AND had I not just freshly renewed my (late) visa I might have been in major trouble.
I am trying very hard here to document what I'd witnessed or done vs what I've heard. There are so many rumors swirling around, and the only place I've found approximations of the truth has been on the comment sections of websites such as Nica Living, and the on-going dialog over an economist article.
Several sources claim that Tuesday grew ugly, as Eduardo Montealegre (the losing PLC candidate for Mayor of Managua) staged marches in multiple municipalities and had planned a major march in Managua itself before being stopped by a rock-throwing counter-demonstration. He plans to appeal the election results to every authority he can find - and with good reason, among many other signs of election fraud was a multitude of ballots found thrown in a ditch. (still looking for backing urls for the above - the latter came from La Prensa a few days ago)
Update: The recount came back today, with the same results as before, a massive Sandinista win across much of the country. No credible observers, however, Montealegre called off a march in Estelí.
I hope my reporting comes across as a little more factual and correct than what appears in the Pimes.
Monty Python has established an official channel on YouTube. My long held, yet guilty pleasure, of getting what used to be my 2AM PBS Monty Python fix is now at an end. This song, in particular, was embedded in my conciousness, growing up. John D'bella of WMMR, would play it to close out his morning show almost every day. It was such a toe-tapping embrace of British pluck and existentialism! I've read that it has become a regular anthem at certain ball games.
I think the movie it came with ("Life of Brian") did more to combat any tendencies I might have had towards religious fundamentalism than any other source, and I can still quote whole scenes from memory. I hope more folks get a chance to see that in its entirety before the next election.
Until then... "Life's a laugh, and death's a joke, it's true. You see it's all a show, keep them laughing as you go, just remember that the last laugh is on you, aaaaaannnnnndddd...."