Death Toll Reaches 25 in Nicaragua Protest Repression

 

Private Enterprise Council conditions dialogue with the government on ending Police repression

Many of the first lady’s metal “Trees of Life”, a symbol to many of a squandering of needed funds, have been burned or knocked down in Managua. Foto: Carlos Herrera /confidencial.com.ni

HAVANA TIMES – Nicaragua’s Private Enterprise Council (COSEP), a close ally until this week of the government of Daniel Ortega, today conditioned a dialogue with the president on the “immediate ending of repression” of the police and government shock forces against demonstrators. Meanwhile human rights organizations put the death toll at 25 dead in five days of protests over a pension reform, reported dpa news.

According to data from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) and the Initiative for Human Rights Defenders (INDDH), in addition to the dead, there are 67 injured, 43 missing and 20 arrested by the Police, reported in different cities of the country.

Lawyer and activist Monica Lopez Baltodano told dpa that 17 of the victims (including a police officer) died in violent incidents in Managua and two neighboring municipalities. Another three died in Masaya (east), two in León (west), two in Estelí (north) and one in Sébaco (north).

The death of journalist Angel Gahoma, murdered by a bullet in the city of Bluefields (south Caribbean), was also reported Saturda. A video disclosed on social networks showed the moment of his death, although this was not confirmed by the Cenidh and INDDH.

In a statement on Saturday, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), conditioned their offer of talks with Ortega as of Monday with the “immediate cessation of the repression by the Police and government shock forces, “and the release of those arrested, whose number is unknown.”

“We urge the government to create these conditions immediately to avoid further bloodshed,” said the Cosep report, which also called for lifting the censorship imposed on several independent media.

The American-Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) joined in issuing a statement demanding an end of violence, guarantees for the physical security and respect for the right to mobilize and freedom of expression as “preconditions for any process of dialogue.”

Ortega agreed to dialogue with the private business sector and to review a controversial Social Security reform he imposed that sparked the protests last Tuesday, which then led to an unstoppable wave of violence.

The Ortega-Murillo government has called out the army in Esteli and Managua.

The president spoke in a message to the nation Saturday at midday flanked by the heads of the Army and the Police, while on the streets his riot police used violent repression against demonstrators in several cities around the country.

In Managua, the police hurled tear gas bombs at protesters in densely populated neighborhoods in the east and southwest of the city, as well as around the Polytechnic University (Upoli, north), where they raided homes and stole cell phones from the residents.

Meanwhile, in Leon (western) riot troops disbanded a “sit-in” of students, and in Matagalpa (north) the cathedral opened its doors to persecuted protesters, in addition to setting up a medical post to care for wounded people, informed radio reports.

In addition to the 67 injured and injured (53 men and 14 women), the registry of human rights organizations mentions the destruction of the radio station Radio Darío, in the city of Leon, which was burned on Friday by alleged government activists.

The agencies also warned that channel 15 television of Managua and the Telenorte channel of Estelí remain censored by the Government for three days.

Ortega expressed that he wanted to resume the dialogue with businessmen for the sake of what he called a “great strategic alliance,” and accused the youths of being “manipulated by criminal groups” seeking international support to create “chaos and destabilization, and affect the image of the country and drive away tourism.”

The first rebellion the government faces since its installation in 2007 broke out a day after announcing a unilateral reform to Social Security, which will increase the quotas of workers and employers up to 22.5 percent, and puts a new 5 percent tax on the pensions of retirees.

It is estimated that this measure will affect more than 700,000 employees in the formal sector as of July 1, in the second poorest country in Latin America and where the minimum wage is equivalent to 170 dollars and the basic monthly consumer products costs more than 450.

The Episcopal Conference also demanded that Ortega repeal the unilaterally decreed reform and warned that the conflict could worsen if the right decisions are not made for all and in time through an urgent dialogue.

“We urge the authorities of the country to listen to the cry of young Nicaraguans and the voices of other sectors that have spoken about the reforms to the Social Security Institute (INSS),” said the Catholic bishops.

For its part, the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), a coalition of NGOs and small opposition parties, rejected outright the possibility of a dialogue that in its view would only place “patches” on serious institutional problems that the country has faced.

FAD stressed that “while Ortega speaks of dialogue, at the same time students and residents continue to be attacked, repressed by the regime’s force” after staging “large scale civic and peaceful protest” in recent days.

“Nicaraguans will not allow the continuation of a criminal regime that continues to repress citizens with impunity, it’s time for them to leave! We demand the departure of the Ortega and Murillo!” said the FAD.

In neighboring Costa Rica, the government asked its citizens to refrain from traveling to Nicaragua, due to the wave of violence that is shaking that country.

“Given the situation of violence in the neighboring country of Nicaragua, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends not traveling to Nicaragua for the time being,” said a note from the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry.


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