More deadly protests in Nicaragua calling on Ortega to resign

Lloyd Doyle
July 15, 2018

A standoff between Nicaraguan pro-government forces and protesters barricaded overnight inside a church has left at least one student dead, religious leaders said Saturday.

The latest bloodshed kicked off three days of nationwide protests against the government, starting with Thursday's march through Managua and due to end with a auto caravan through flashpoint areas of the capital on Saturday.

The general strike followed mass protests that fanned out across the Central American nation on Thursday.

Church officials negotiated a release of the captives, who spent Friday night trapped under gunfire in Managua's Divine Mercy Catholic Church.

"They are telling us that we have two dead and several wounded", Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said upon reaching the besieged parish with Apostolic Nuncio Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag. With their fists raised and waving Nicaraguan flags, the freed students passed hundreds of supporters cheering on the road as motorists honked horns.

Church leaders said about 20 people had been people wounded.

A delegation of Nicaragua's Catholic bishops negotiated the transfer of the students to Managua's metropolitan cathedral, where they were receiving medical care.

Ortega travelled in a caravan Friday to the city of Masaya for a rally, while in Managua clashes intensified as police and pro-government forces tried to evict students occupying the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. We cannot live with a murderer, with a scorpion that is killing us every day.

Thursday's fatalities occurred in the southeast town of Morrito as marching protesters, some of them armed, came under attack from police and paramilitaries, and responded with gunfire, said Francisca Ramirez, head of the Civic Alliance.

"The escalation of violence against civil society, with physical aggression against the clergy, journalists and human rights defenders, is unacceptable", Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Rioters have torched a university in Nicaragua on the 39th anniversary of the "Repliegue Tactico" (Tactical Retreat) against the dictator Anastasio Somoza, just hours after President Daniel Ortega renewed his call for an end to the violence that has plagued the country since April.

Two people were killed when government forces opened fire on the combative neighborhood of Monimbo, south Masaya, as Ortega and his supporters began a procession from the capital to the opposition stronghold, 30 kilometers (19 miles) south. One of the dead on Friday was a policeman, a local rights group representative told the AFP news agency.

The "retreat" happened on June 27, 1979, when thousands of guerrillas withdrew from Managua to Masaya to regroup before securing victory on July 19 when Somoza fled the country, ending 43 years of family dynasty.

But where he was once hunkered down with allies in Masaya fighting against a dictatorship, the 72-year-old head of state is now the one despised in the rebel heartland.

"The government is hardening more and more every day, speaking of peace with violence", Vilma Nunez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), told AFP.

Since then, protesters have been calling for Ortega to step down from office.

"Let's empty the streets because we want an end to repression and because we want them to go", the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy grouping said a few hours before the strike began at midnight (0600 GMT), referring to Ortega and his wife Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Carolina Aguilar, 52, accused the Ortega government of killing protesters with impunity.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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