Attacks on opposition meetings escalate
Journalist Veronica Chavez was seriously wounded in the head, and Josue Garay, spokesperson for the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB), in the neck.
By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The Nicaraguan Police intensified the siege of members of the opposition National Coalition on Sunday. In their presence, they allowed the stone throwing attack by Ortega fanatics against opponents. The result was two wounded people: journalist Veronica Chavez, and Josue Garay, spokesperson of the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB).
The attacks and siege occurred during the weekend in visits to Malpaisillo (Leon), La Cartuja (Matagalpa) and Masaya. The Police followed and searched vehicles of dissidents and fined their drivers. The harassment was an attempt to prevent meetings of the UNAB and Civic Alliance authorities with local leaders.
Those interviewed agree that the level of repression is increasing. It went from siege and harassment to physical aggression, and the destruction of property. They stoned the vehicles of Felix Maradiaga and Miguel Mora, resulting in the physical injuries to Garay and Sanchez.
“Today we saw an intense police deployment in Masaya, accompanied by temporary detention and searching of vehicles. However, despite everything, people participated in the meeting. But at the time of departure, they [Ortega supporters] punctured tires and broke car windows. They also attacked pastor Saturnino Cerrato and stole his cell phone,” said Jose Pallais, member of the National Coalition.
Garay, the UNAB spokesperson, said that for three weeks the National Coalition has been holding departmental meetings. Held in Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Boaco, Leon and Masaya, he said all were besieged by the police and paramilitaries. Maradiaga, who travels to these sessions on behalf of the UNAB, is followed by two patrols from where he leaves, to the point of the meeting, and wherever he goes, applying indiscriminate searches at makeshift checkpoints.”
On Saturday, two uniformed officers entered the meeting place to witness the discussions of the opponents in Malpaisillo. Those present demanded their right to association based on the Constitution, and did not start until the police left.
Eliseo Nunez, an advisor to the Civic Alliance, denounced a permanent surveillance on Juan Sebastian Chamorro, Maradiaga and Medardo Mairena.
Juan Sebastian Chamorro and Maria Asuncion Moreno, traveled to La Cartuja (Matagalpa) to present the Country Plan. The Police held the economist long enough to get reinforcements and blocked their exit with 60 police officers.
“We see an intermittently harassment, of greater or lesser intensity, of the Alliance and Unity structures in the departments,” said Chamorro. “This ranges from permanent to sporadic presence, happening on specific days. It is an environment of criminalization of divergent thinking. It is no longer only for just protesting! They don’t just persecute you for protesting, but because you think differently and might go out and protest,” he observed.
“We will continue organizing”
Maradiaga expressed gratitude to the population of Masaya. “Even with the cordon surrounding the meeting site, people still came, showing courage. We are prepared for this, convinced that there is no turning back. We will continue, without fear, and without falling into provocations.”
The opposition leader said that they will not modify their meeting schedule. He said they will continue to meet, “exercising our right to citizen participation and free association.”
Meanwhile, Jose Pallais said the increased violence is because “the regime tries to prevent people from organizing at all cost.” He said the government fears the National Coalition advancing in its organization, “because it knows its a main threat.”
By using force “it shows weakness, because it saw that after intimidating those attending the first five meetings, people continued to attend. In Masaya, it raised the repression a notch, moving on to assault. They try to impose fear, but that won’t work either. It is evident that there is absolutely no will to hold elections under democratic standards.”
Despite the repression the meetings continue
Spokesperson Garay noted that “they act like this because, despite intimidation and attacks, the meetings have been a success. The departmental committees of the coalition have continued to be formed, and that is why they intensify the attack.”
Garay noted that on Saturday they imposed fines of 3,000 cordobas on Miguel Mora; the “Articulo 66” driver, and the vehicles owned by the opposition leadership, “for reckless driving, despite the fact that the same patrols tell us to drive at 70 kilometers per hour to be able to follow us, and they are behind us all the time.”
Nunez sees Daniel Ortega “determined to destroy a possible electoral solution, so that pressure builds without an escape valve. He will be in power when that explodes. The idea is that unorganized opponents think that an electoral solution is impossible, rather it is a route to conflict. Ortega hopes it will last another three years, which in his case could be the rest of his life.”