Five Fatalities and 71 Injured in the initial incomplete count.
HAVANA TIMES — Shooting at will, riot police and paramilitary forces took control of part of the City of Masaya, to the east of Nicaragua’s capital on Tuesday, after they broke down roadblocks, which had been set up by civilian protesters. Human rights organizations have announced that there have been at least five fatalities and 71 people injured, at a first count, reported dpa news.
From the beginning of the civic protests two months ago, the skirmishes have been between heavily armed forces and citizens with only homemade mortars and stones. At the roadblocks and urban barricades set up by the population, demanding the end of the Ortega presidency, the defenders disperse to nearby homes when overwhelmed by the attackers firepower to avoid more deaths and detained.
Alvaro Leiva, president of the Nicaraguan Pro Human Rights Association (ANPDH, independent), spoke to Channel 15 TV from Masaya at noon, when you could still hear sporadic shots being fired on its deserted streets.
“This has been a real massacre. Five deaths have been confirmed in different neighborhoods and there are 34 injured,” Leiva said. Another 37 people were previously injured at the barricades at the entrance to Ticuantepe by bullets shot by government forces in their move towards Masaya, the ANPDH director also said.
Leiva reported that over 20 women took to the streets to protest in two of Masaya’s neighborhoods when police forces attacked, and they were arrested on the spot. Their whereabouts remains unknown.
He also reported that the heavily armed men had begun “selective raids” in different points in the city, arresting an unknown number of young people.
He added that Government’s forces also rescued the city’s Police Chief, Ramon Avellan, held up at the police station, which protesters had surrounded for nearly a month.
Masaya, a city located 25 km to the east of Managua, had been under residents’ control, protesting against President Daniel Ortega and demanding his resignation ever since April 18th. Yesterday, student protest leaders announced that they feared an “imminent attack”.
More paramilitary theft and attacks on journalists
Meanwhile, Channel 15 reported that paramilitary groups had attacked one of their press teams in Ticuantepe and had stolen their cameras, phones and other belongings. Such events have repeated during the last two months both to national and international press, treated as the enemy by the Ortega government.
A team from Channel 12 also had their cameras taken away from them by assailants, while foreign journalists and photographers had to seek refuge in local homes, it pointed out.
“We are asking the Nicaraguan Government to stop this repression and to not further tarnish their image in the international community’s minds. The Government can stop this massacre!” Bishop Silvio Baez wrote on his Twitter account.
Monsignor Baez and Leiva both announced that they had sent complaints about these events to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and other international bodies.
The latest violence comes two months after a civic rebellion against Ortega broke out on April 18th, which has left an estimated 215 fatalities and over 1400 people injured, according to the ANPDH.
Meanwhile, the so-called “Truth Commission” which was created a month ago by Parliament, mostly made up of pro-government members, released their first report today which confirms 173 deaths, 156 of which were men and 11 minors.
The majority of fatalities (95) were in Managua, 20 from Masaya and the rest from other areas of the country, the report pointed out.
Meanwhile, the vice-president and First Lady, Rosario Murillo, has made statements to official media calling for a stop to “this wave of hate, terrorism and boundless atrocities”, referring to the demonstrators against her government, and assured that Ortega “was working to stop it.”
This morning (local time), Murillo reported that unknown groups set a block of offices on fire which was home to the artistic promoter Blue Nicaragua and Activa radio, where two trucks and a minibus were also burned.
“This is how violence and hate work: they don’t discriminate,” Ortega’s wife said. According to the press, the owners of Blue Nicaragua and the radio station had supported the anti-Government protests.