Nicaragua: Ortega Forces Lay Siege to a Church with Hundreds of Students Inside

A wounded student in the paramilitary attack on the UNAN university. Photo: 100% Noticias


HAVANA TIMES – About 200 university students, priests and journalists remained Saturday morning under siege today in a church in the capital of Nicaragua, surrounded by armed government paramilitaries, protected by the National Police, threatening to burn the temple, reported dpa news

Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, said in a tweet that “priests with students injured in the Divine Misericordia church building are still waiting for someone to help get the wounded out. They continue surrounded by paramilitary forces that shoot.”

Journalist Sergio Marin Cornavaca told dpa that the situation “is very tense and serious.” Meanwhile, several hundred residents of the capital arrived in vehicles to an area near the church hoping to “rescue the youth” under the paramilitary siege.

“We are about 200, most are students and we are under siege by paramilitaries that continue to shoot. We believe they want to burn the church,” said Marin, while the other end of the phone constant gunshots were heard.

The students sought refuge in the temple after being overrun in an attack by Ortega’s paramilitaries on Friday night against the trenches they held at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), a few blocks from the church.

The parish is located on Jean Paul Genie Ave., in the southeast area of Managua, from which three of the wounded were finally evacuated last night along with one journalist, Joshua Partlow, of the “The Washington Post.”

Bishop Baez confirmed that the paramilitary troops only allowed the entry of ambulances to evacuate those three wounded and Partlow.

Sergio Marin, director of the radio program “The Round Table” on Radio 800 said they expect a commission of the Catholic Church to go in the early hours of the morning to the parish to intercede on behalf of the students and the other besieged people.

In addition to Marin, inside the church is Ismael Lopez, covering the events for BBC Mundo, and Jose Noel Marenco, of channel 15 of local television, said the radio journalist.

Student leaders said that after leaving the headquarters of the UNAN, the main public university of Managua, armed persons entered and burned some of the facilities.

In an article published on the official website, “El 19digital,” the government reported the fire but attributed it to “terrorists entrenched in the UNAN,” in reference to the students.

Hundreds of persons tried to rescue the students but were blocked by the Police who were protecting the attacking paramilitary forces.

Meanwhile, after midnight, some 500 people organized through social networks, including the young leaders of the protests against President Ortega, moved in vehicles to the vicinity of the church to “rescue the students.”

“We continue in a vigil close by the UNAN, everyone is welcome to join us, only our flags are with us, we will not leave without the kids,” student leader Lesther Aleman tweeted.

The police posted four pickups crossing the avenue to prevent the passage of the population. Among those present was Ireland Jerez, leader of the merchants of the Oriental Market and opponent to Ortega. “We will not move from the street without the students, they will have to kill us,” Jerez said by phone to dpa.

The events occur after a hectic Friday, marked first by the silence of a highly successful 24-hour national work stoppage called by the opposition Civic Alliance and other organizations.

Police vehicles blocked the passage of the citizens trying to rescue the students and others under siege.  Screenshot from Articulo 66.

Then, in the afternoon the Government convoked a caravan of supporters to the neighboring city of Masaya, where Ortega commemorated the Sandinista “tactical retreat” of 1979, a few weeks before the fall of the dictator Somoza.

In the rally held inside the grounds of the police station of Masaya and under strong security measures, Ortega lashed out at the opponents he called “demons of hatred”, urging them to “stop the violence” and affirmed that his Government wishes “peace and reconciliation.”

Shortly before Ortega’s speech, peasant leader Medardo Mairena was arrested at the Sandino Airport in Managua. The police said that Mairena, one of the delegates of the Civic Alliance to the National Dialogue will be prosecuted for “terrorism.”

After Ortega concluded his brief speech at the Police station, his paramilitary forces attacked the indigenous neighborhood of Monimbo, Masaya, an action that left at least two dead and several injured, according to Alvaro Leiva, director of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Association (ANPDH). 

Almost simultaneously began the paramilitary offensive against the headquarters of the UNAN university, which finally forced the students to take refuge in the nearby Divina Misericordia church. 

The armed attack on the UNAN university was condemned in a tweet by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, who on Friday attended an extraordinary meeting of the OAS Permanent Council that analyzed the situation in Nicaragua.