By Gabriela Selser (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Hundreds of students demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega peacefully occupied public universities in three cities of Nicaragua today to demand the withdrawal of a student organization linked to the ruling Sandinista Front.
With flags of Nicaragua and posters calling for “No more repression” and the end to the Ortega-Murillo government, the youth shouted slogans against the National Union of Students (UNEN), akin to the Sandinista party.
The protests, which took place without incident, were held at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua, as well as in front of the National University of Engineering (UNI) and the Jesuit Central American University (UCA), closed as a result of the clashes of last month.
Other demonstrations took place at the UNAN campuses in the provinces of Carazo (south) and Leon (west). In this last one the Sandinista Front exerts a fierce control over the universities.
The events today followed violent incidents that occurred on Sunday night between the towns of Catarina and Niquinohomo, southeast of Managua, where police and government activists violently dispersed a peaceful citizens march.
According to a statement from the April 19th University Movement, the violence left 40 people injured, although Marcos Carmona, director of the Permanent Commission of Human Rights (CPDH, independent), reported 20 injured.
Meanwhile, Vice President Rosario Murillo, trying to appear as if normality has returned, announced to official media that all public schools (secondary) and most of the private schools resumed classes on Monday.
Without referring to the violent events, Murillo said she was “in permanent prayer to the most holy virgin” and prayed for “a Nicaragua that lives in peace, where we are all united in paths of blessing, development, justice and prosperity.”
The crisis began on April 17th with a student demonstration over a reform of the Social Security law, which increased the quotas of workers and companies and levied a tax on pensions. After the violent Police reaction, the protests spread to 14 cities in the country and left dozens dead, injured and detained.
The Government said it would attend a dialogue with mediation of the Catholic Church, but until today it is unknown when it will start and who will participate.
Meanwhile, during a speech on Monday at the OAS, the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, urged the Nicaraguan government to “respond to the demands of democratic reform” and punish “those responsible for the violence.”
Donald Trump’s VP had denounced last week the “brutal repression” of the Nicaraguan Executive.
“In Nicaragua, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand reforms to their socialist state, but the repressive Ortega government has responded with lethal force,” Pence said today. “The people of Nicaragua deserve something better,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reiterated its concern over the situation in Nicaragua and warned that it expects a response to its request to visit the country.
The IACHR received a group of Nicaraguan human rights defenders during a hearing in the Dominican Republic, within the framework of the 168th session of the OAS affiliated body.
“We are aware of what is happening in Nicaragua, we have reiterated to the government our request to visit the country and we hope that will happen in the near future,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, who declared herself “impacted” by the death toll and injured since the crisis began last April.
For his part, Commissioner Edison Lanza condemned the “disproportionate use of force and treachery” by the Nicaraguan Police against civilian demonstrators, mostly students.
The Colombian Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, president of the IACHR, informed that the State of Nicaragua did not send representatives to the session and only sent an official document.
The members of the IACHR heard a report from Carmona, who confirmed the death of 59 people in the protests, 38 of them under 30, and more than 430 injured.
Of the 59 dead, “the vast majority were executed by shots of A-47 rifles and 9 millimeters pistols (statutory weapons of the Police) in the head and chest,” he explained.
At the same time, 178 of the 430 wounded were hit by bullets and many of the dead were denied medical care in public hospitals as “an instruction from the government,” he added.