Photo: Cyber Activismo en Nicaragua
Friday, thousands of Nicaraguan youth activists came together to protest President Daniel Ortega’s reelection bid.
Around 16,000 young people, following in the footsteps of Egypt’s revolutionaries, joined forces to create the largest demonstration against Ortega’s rule in well over a year.
But what was so unique about this “march” was that it was all done on Facebook in what is being called a “virtual march.” All day, activists joined what Time called the “cyber revolt” named “Marcha Virtual en Nicaragua!!!!” The protest involved the “marchers” changing their profile photos to certain protest images, and setting all of their statuses to ““Our Heroes and Martyrs Didn’t Fight and Die to Replace One Dictatorship with Another!”, “Down with Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Ortega!” or “No to Idolatry!”
The comparison to Mubarak and Gaddafi (see also Gadhafi) is not a far stretch at all as all three of the nations under their rule are unhappy and demanding a change in leadership.
While the virtual protest did not have the same impact as the Egyptians’ weeks-long demonstration, its significance should not be downplayed, say analysts. They believe it is just another example of the impact social media and the internet can spread influence and change the world.
Carlos Tunnermann, a leader of the pro-democracy Movement Por Nicaragua said, “The virtual march is creating conscientiousness and animating youth who many thought were indifferent to politics. The message of the youths who participated in the virtual march was one of total rejection and repudiation of the candidacy of Daniel Ortega, which is illegal and illegitimate. I think this energy will translate into greater youth participation in upcoming street marches and at the polls on election day in November.”
The organizer of the Facebook virtual march, Javier Baez, 27, said Ortega’s government has been able to keep its opposition silent and/or afraid, but this Facebook revolt gave young people the opportunity to come together in a safer manner and let the administration know that many of the Nicaraguan people are not happy.
“There will always be some brave people who protest in the streets, but this government have been good at creating apathy and fear among the rest of the population. Every time a protest march is organized, the Sandinistas call for a countermarch that ends in violence.”
The Sandinistas are the members of the socialist political party in Nicaragua known as the Sandinsta National Liberation Front (or Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN).
Baez, a political science graduate said he never imagined such overwhelming support for protest that went viral in a matter of days. In a country with only 60,000 people on Facebook, the group sent out about 100,000 invites to people in less than two weeks, and included the large Nicaraguan communities in the U.S.
Though the internet allowed the people of Nicaragua to protest in a safer way, social commentator Martin Mulligan said he does not believe Nicaragua will fully follow in Egypt’s footsteps and take to the streets.
So while the change in the Middle East may be influence people all around the world, Nicaragua and many other countries may not be ready to stage street marches, but in the mean time, Baez, by way of his Facebook page, Cyber Activismo en Nicaragua, is planning more cyber protests stating, “Do something. Act on your Ideas.”