Thousands March in Nicaragua asking Ortega for “Peace and Freedom”

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

HAVANA TIMES – At the cry of “Paz”, “Libertad” and “Fuera Daniel Ortega” (peace, freedom and Daniel Ortega out), several thousand protesters marched peacefully today in the capital of Nicaragua, to demand the president cease the repression of the protests that have convulsed this country in the last six days.

“Nicaragua woke up, enough of repression,” read one of the signs taken to the march. “Ortega and Somoza, are the same thing”, chanted teenagers and adults alluded to the dictator overthrown by the Sandinistas in 1979.

The peaceful march started in front of the Metrocentro shopping complex, in a busy sector of Managua, and advanced for nearly two hours towards the northeast until arriving at the Polytechnic University (UPOLI), where two students were reported killed and at least five others wounded in a police attack on Sunday night.

“Ortega must answer for the blood of those boys,” said an employee of an electronic parts store, referring to the thirty young people (including two policemen and a journalist) killed in clashes since last Tuesday, according to human rights organizations. The government recognizes ten dead.

Summoned by the Private Enterprise Council (COSEP), whose main leader, Jose Adan Aguerri, marched in front, thousands of workers walked with white shirts and posters asking for “Peace” and “Democracy”.

They were joined by thousands of university students, teachers and NGO activists in black clothes “because businessmen do not represent us,” said feminist Magaly Quintana. They also wanted to show their pain and mourning for the victims of violence.

“What do the people want? For the president to leave!” The crowd exclaimed as they passed by the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), accused by the opposition of committing fraud in favor of the ruling Sandinista Front in the last four elections.

Unlike other demonstrations, the police refrained from attacking participants in the march. Nor were government shock groups seen that terrorized the young protesters in the early days of the protests.

Photo: #SOSNicaragua

Other peaceful anti-Ortega government marches were held Monday in the cities of Leon and Chinandega (west), Matagalpa, Estelí and Matiguás (north), Nueva Guinea and El Tule (south) and Bluefields (southcaribbean), where a journalist was killed on Saturday, shot in the head.

The conflict broke out last Tuesday over a reform to the Social Security Law, imposed unilaterally by Ortega, increased the quotas of some 700,000 employees of the formal sector and businesses, and that was repealed by Ortega under pressure on Sunday.

Ortega agreed to convene a dialogue with the private sector and with representatives of the Catholic Church, although the date and time is not yet known.

Before the massive march, the vice president and first lady, Rosario Murillo, reiterated that the Government wants “dialogue and peace”, and said that she thought it “incredible” that such violence had erupted in the country.

Murillo confirmed that schools will remain suspended “until further notice” throughout the country, where the clashes have also left dozens of injured, arrested and disappeared, according to figures from human rights organizations.

Most governments in Latin America, in addition to the OAS, the United States, Spain, Germany and the European Union, have called on Ortega to stop the violence, just as Pope Francis did on Sunday in Rome. Washington even recommended today that the relatives of its diplomats go immediately home from Nicaragua.

The protest continues because young people demand the release of dozens of detainees and guarantees that freedom of the press and mobilization will be respected. Other sectors, linked to the opposition, demand that Ortega withdraw from the government.

In an interview with dpa, former Sandinista deputy foreign minister Víctor Hugo Tinoco, an opponent of the government, declared that the only solution to the crisis in the country “is the departure of President Daniel Ortega from power” through a call for free and democratic elections.

“These protests are a civic insurrection, which reflects the deepening of the contradictions between the people and the dictatorship. People do not accept the repeal of the reform as a solution to the crisis. People want an end to the abuses committed for years against the country’s institutions, “he said.

The politician denied that his party is behind the revolt, as pro-government spokesmen claim. “This is a civic and spontaneous movement, led by young people without partisan activism, and that’s just what makes it massive and popular,” he reasoned.

From Costa Rica, retired General Humberto Ortega, former chief of the Nicaraguan Army, recommended his brother Daniel Ortega to stop the repression and allow “peaceful marches” in accordance with the law.