Police Violence Makes Dialogue Uncertain in Nicaragua

Protestors and riot police. Photo: Wilfredo Miranda /confidencial.com.ni


By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

HAVANA TIMES – Twenty days after the start of the protests against the government of Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua woke up Monday under extreme tension and uncertainty, after new clashes between police and demonstrators. A possible dialogue has not yet begun and threats of worker, transport and commerce strikes are in the air.

The April 19th Student Movement, which leads the protests, announced in a statement a stoppage of transport providers in Managua and merchants at the Mayoreo wholesale market, in the northern part of the city, starting at 00:00 local on Monday (07:00 GMT).

The merchants demand “unconditional justice” for the students killed in the protests last month and the immediate start of a national dialogue. Meanwhile the transporters demand the cessation of the constant increase in fuel prices and the excessive traffic fines of the police.

New incidents of violence took place on Sunday, when government shock troops attacked a peaceful caravan of motorcyclists traveling to the town of Niquinohomo, some 30 kilometers south of the capital, with “mortars” (homemade pipe bombs).

According to the channel 15 TV, the Ortega civilian forces received the support of the Riot Police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators on the road that unites Niquinohomo and the tourist locality of Catarina, which overlooks the majestic Apoyo Lagoon.

The television station disclosed images of at least three people wounded in different parts of the body, but did not provide their identity.

The demonstrators, mostly young, tried to reach Niquinohomo, hometown of the patriot Augusto Sandino, whose statue has been at the center of the disputes. While the opponents painted the pedestal blue and white (colors of the national flag), the pro-government supporters want the red and black, the symbol of the ruling Sandinista Front, to remain.

The clashes continued late into the night and raised concerns about the future of a dialogue called to resolve the governance crisis of President Ortega, who is facing the greatest social rebellion of the 11 years since he returned to office.

In a message on his Twitter account, the president of the Higher Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), Jose Adan Aguerri, wrote: “The government and the police should immediately stop the repression.” Enough spilling the blood of brothers and sisters.”

Another tweet was published during the violent incidents by the American-Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), which brings together important US companies and businesses established in this country.

“We demand an immediate cessation of violence and repression in Niquinohomo and Catarina, we all want a just and democratic country. We believe in the national dialogue but without violence or repression “, published AMCHAM.

The situation also concerns the leadership of the Catholic Church, which will serve as a mediator and witness of the dialogue whose start date and participants have not yet been announced.

“Nothing violent is lasting or conducive to understanding … Stop the repression in Catarina and Niquinohomo!” The auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Baez, wrote in Twitter.

“To the government authorities and the police, please save the possibility of a dialogue: Stop the violent repression against the peaceful population of Niquinohomo,” insisted another tweet from Baez, a well-known critic of President Ortega.

Other anti-government marches took place on Sunday in Ticuantepe, near the capital, Masaya and Masatepe (east and south) and Chinandega (northwest) to demand the investigation of the death of so many young people during the protests, according to “La Prensa”.

Nicaragua has been in a crisis since mid-April, when a student demonstration against a social security reform (which increased quotas for workers and companies and put a tax on pensions) resulted in a violent action by the police that generated more protests and left dozens dead, wounded, injured and arrested.

The government only mentioned 10 deaths at the beginning of the protests and then stopped reporting on fatalities. However, the non-governmental Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh) documents 45 dead through May 3. On Sunday night, the death of a student wounded by the police on April 21 was reported.