Gov’t intimidation quells taxi protest

Police start to release incarcerated taxi drivers as union renounces right to protest

(posted Oct. 8, 10:20 a.m.)- The Sandinista government’s intimidation tactics to repress a taxi union protest have  worked.

On Sunday afternoon, the head of the taxi drivers’ union announced an end to their protest in exchange for the 40 incarcerated cabbies who were locked up last week for blocking traffic to demand higher gas subsidies. An attempt by riot police to forcibly remove the protesters last Monday led to violent clashes, resulting in several injuries and 40 arrests. 

Taxi drivers demanded higher subsidies last week. Now they just want their freedom (photo/ GRAPHOS Producciones)

The detained taxi drivers were locked up without bail to await trial in two weeks. Four days later, the taxi union—pressured by family members of the incarcerated taxi drivers—renounced its right to protest in a ransom exchange for the imprisoned cabbies.

“We understand that the right to protest no longer exists because they will put you on trial,” said Carlos Morales, head of the May 4 Taxi Cooperative. “That’s why we are renouncing our strike, but we demand the freedom of our compañeros who have been kidnapped.”

Morales admitted that the position of taxi union is “humiliating,” but says he didn’t see any other alternative.

The police responded this morning by freeing half of the jailed taxi drivers, according to La Prensa. The other half are expected to be freed in the coming hours.

The release of the taxi drivers was as arbitrary as their detention last week, offering further evidence of Nicaragua’s weakened rule of law.

Human rights advocates, meanwhile, are demanding an investigation of the allegations of police abuse in last week’s dustup.