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Violence & human rights violations: a street seller’s story

News from Nicaragua | Monday, 14 January 2019 |

Street seller Maribel Baldizon at her fruit stall in Managua

Street seller Maribel Baldizon at her fruit stall in Managua

For 33 years Maribel Baldizon Garcia has been a self-employed worker selling tropical fruit at a bus stop near the Central America University (UCA) in Managua.

Maribel is one of 65,000 street sellers, mechanic and carpentry workshop owners, money changers, taxi drivers, craftspeople, litter-pickers and others who make up the membership of the Confederation of Self-employed Workers (CTCP).

As a result of the formation of the CTCP in 2002, these workers, previously persecuted and dismissed as the ‘informal sector,’ are now recognised for the contribution they make to the country’s wealth.

As well as selling fruit, Maribel is the General Secretary of the Federation of Sellers at bus stops and traffic lights. Maribel talked to NSC about how her involvement in the CTCP has changed the way she perceives her work.

I’ve been selling at a bus stop since I was 7 years-old. I’m now 40 years-old and it is here that I grew up. I also studied while I sold my fruit. I’ve always had my business, first with my mother and now I’ve got my own separate business.

I began to get organised out of necessity. Self-employed workers had never been recognised; we were marginalised, harassed and persecuted because we had no legal basis for our work.

During the period of neoliberal governments [1990 – 2007] they took away our sites and moved us on because ‘we made the city look ugly.’ They refused to see our need to put food on our families’ tables and recognise that we are also wealth creators!

The CTCP has helped me see that I do create wealth: we create our own employment; we don’t need to go here and there looking for work; we generate our own incomes and we contribute to the economy of this country.

Maribel went on to describe the impact of the attempted coup between April and July when opposition protesters set up thousands of roadblocks on highways and within towns to try to force the government to step down.

Previously we had been working peacefully and repaying our debts. They [the opposition protesters] destroyed our work and destroyed the economy.

During the crisis they brought upon us, with all the violence, terror and the killings of our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, I wasn’t able to send my children to school for fear that something would happen to me. We couldn’t work, we weren’t able to walk about freely because of the threats to rape, kill or rob us.

With the violence and the road blocks if they recognised you, you could get killed just because of your political beliefs. They partially burnt my stall by throwing a Molotov cocktail at it. I couldn’t carry on working until things calmed down and I was almost reduced to begging. I’ve had to ask for credit and have ended up with large debts.

I want to warn you not to let yourselves be manipulated by the mass media. They just lie. They say that people are being massacred and that we are at war; that is not the case.

We don’t want these people damaging our country, our economy and our government. The government is building roads, family homes and schools. They’re putting roofs over people’s heads and giving them meals. They’re setting up revolving credit programmes. They’re working with small farmers and the poor by giving cows and pigs. They’re working for the people.

What these people [the opposition protesters] did was against the Nicaraguan people. It wasn’t a fight in which the people rose up. It was a fight against the poor, against our economic interests. They tried to kill us economically.

We want to see peace continuing as it is at the moment. Even though the economy has suffered a blow, we’re working peacefully doing our best to rebuild and to get back on our feet. This government has brought peace and has enabled us to work safely.

We are working, that is all we want to do. We’re contributing to the country’s economy and the government is fighting to rebuild the economy disrupted by those who fomented the coup.