Strike in Nicaragua af­ter five die in protest vi­o­lence

Gulf Times - - LATIN AMERICA -

Aday af­ter five peo­ple were killed in vi­o­lence sur­round­ing protests against Nicaraguan Pres­i­dent Daniel Ortega, a 24-hour op­po­si­tion­called strike was held yes­ter­day.

Four po­lice of­fi­cers and a pro­tester died on Thurs­day as clashes erupted be­tween op­po­si­tion ac­tivists and gov­ern­ment forces and their para­mil­i­tary al­lies, tak­ing the death toll over three months of protests in the im­pov­er­ished Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try to around 270.

“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 (0600GMT), re­fer­ring to Ortega and his wife Vice Pres­i­dent Rosario Murillo.

Along­side the op­po­si­tion’s strike, for­mer left-wing guer­rilla leader Ortega had an­nounced his own pro­ces­sion yes­ter­day to cel­e­brate a sig­nif­i­cant event in his com­ing to power in 1979 fol­low­ing a pop­u­lar up­ris­ing, known as the “re­treat.”

The con­tro­ver­sial pro­ces­sion pro­ceeded from the cap­i­tal Managua to the long-time op­po­si­tion stronghold of Masaya, 30kms to the south.

Where once the rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader Ortega was hun­kered down with San­din­ista Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front al­lies in Masaya fight­ing the US-backed rightwing dic­ta­tor Anas­ta­sio So­moza, the 72-year-old head of state is now pub­lic en­emy num­ber one.

Po­lit­i­cal ten­sions have soared in Nicaragua since protests against a now-aborted pen­sion re­form be­gan on April 18 be­fore mush­room­ing into gen­eral op­po­si­tion to Ortega and his gov­ern­ment, in­creas­ingly viewed as re­pres­sive, despotic and nepotic.

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 car car­a­van through flash­point ar­eas of the cap­i­tal to­day.

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.

Po­lice con­firmed the death toll but blamed the vi­o­lence on “ter­ror­ist groups” that pre­tended to be car­ry­ing out a peace­ful march and opened fire on a po­lice sta­tion.

Pro­test­ers also ab­ducted nine po­lice of­fi­cers and at­tacked the Mor­rito town hall, the po­lice said in a state­ment.

Mor­rito is a town of 6,000 that is home to many farm­ers who own guns to pro­tect their land.

In Managua, thou­sands of peo­ple wav­ing blue and white Nicaraguan flags had marched along down­town av­enues in a vi­o­lence-free pro­ces­sion. Re­fer­ring to Ortega, many chanted, “He must go!”

Carolina Aguilar, 52, ac­cused the Ortega gov­ern­ment of killing pro­test­ers with im­punity. “We can­not live with a mur­derer, with a scor­pion that kills us day af­ter day. I would give my life for this end,” she said.

In Wash­ing­ton, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States con­vened a ses­sion yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the cri­sis in Nicaragua. And a com­mis­sion of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives unan­i­mously passed a bi­par­ti­san res­o­lu­tion ac­cus­ing the Ortega gov­ern­ment of re­pres­sion.

“The con­tin­ued vi­o­lence and op­pres­sion of the Ortega regime is rep­re­hen­si­ble,” said Paul Cook, chair­man of the House For­eign Af­fairs west­ern hemi­sphere sub­com­mit­tee.

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