Nicaraguan national police and armed pro-government civilians laid siege Tuesday to a symbolically important neighbourhood that has recently become a centre of resistance to President Daniel Ortega’s government.
Government forces began advancing on the Monimbo neighbourhood in the city of Masaya, about 26 km southeast of the capital, Managua, before dawn.
The same district’s residents rose up against strongman Anastasio Somoza in the late 1970s as part of the Nicaraguan Revolution led in part by Ortega himself. But since protests against cuts to the social security system in mid-April became a broader call for Ortega to leave office, Monimbo has again become a centre of the opposition.
Ortega’s government has dismissed the opposition as delinquents attempting a coup d’etat and appears to want to quell unrest in Masaya before Thursday’s three-month anniversary of the start of protests across Nicaragua, which have killed about 280 people.
Thursday is also the 39th anniversary of Liberation Day, which marks the overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1979 by the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
Gangs of armed men dressed as civilians appear to be working in co-ordination with police to remove roadblocks set up by the opposition that have snarled the country’s traffic for months. Last weekend, government-allied forces retook the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua campus in Managua, where students had been holed up for months.
With gunshots echoing in the background Tuesday, a woman who asked only to be identified as Silvia out of safety concerns said she treated wounded victims in a makeshift field clinic.
Silvia, a member of Monimbo’s April 19 resistance movement, said youth are fighting with homemade mortars to defend the roadblocks erected at the neighbourhood’s perimeter, but government forces were heavily armed.
“We need the [Organization of American States], the international organizations to stop this massacre,” Silvia said. “We’re fighting for democracy, for freedom.”
Police and authorities in Nicaragua have killed and imprisoned people without due process and committed torture, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday, calling for an end to violence.
“A wide range of human rights violations are being committed, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, and denying people the right to freedom of expression,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a News briefing on Tuesday.
Eighteen police officers are included in the total death toll since April in the lawlessness that has emerged in several areas, the UN said.
On Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that groups linked to Nicaragua’s government were using “unacceptable” lethal force against citizens and urged an end to the violence.
The U.S. State Department, which has previously announced sanctions on members of the regime, including the national police chief and the head of the state-run oil company, on Monday announced further visa restrictions for Nicaraguan officials.
As part of our response to flagrant human rights abuses by members of the Government of <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Nicaragua?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Nicaragua</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/StateDept?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@StateDept</a> has imposed additional U.S. visa restrictions on individuals responsible for <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/humanrights?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#humanrights</a> abuses or undermining democracy in Nicaragua & on their family members.
Source : cbc