Nicaraguan riot and paramilitary police officers entered the city of Masaya — 16 km (26 miles) southeast of the country’s capital, Managua — on Tuesday July 17 with around 40 trucks and heavy armour, leaving at least four people dead (The Guardian).
The clash lasted more than four hours, with hooded government loyalists armed with automatic weapons fighting local youngsters wielding home-made mortars, leaving the Masaya suburb of Monimbó — a mostly indigenous neighbourhood — strewn with broken glass and shell casings.
Violence such as this has featured regularly in a three-month old running uprising against long-term President Daniel Ortega.
Authorities have tightened a clamp-down in an apparent attempt to clear the main protest centres ahead of the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution on Thursday July 19 (Reuters).
On Wednesday July 18 the Organization of American States (OAS) approved a resolution, by 21 out of 34 votes, for president Ortega to go ahead with presidential elections (France 24 / AFP).
Last week, the death toll was 14 after the latest in rolling protests against Ortega’s rule. Nearly 300 have died since the president tried to cut welfare payments in April (Reuters).
In those fatalities, protesters who are demanding Ortega’s resignation had barricaded roads in the areas of Diriamba and Jinotepe, 20 kilometers (13 miles) from Masaya (Yahoo).
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Videos filmed by residents and posted on social media showed men in black-hooded civilian clothes were seen in Masaya, demolishing the opposition barricades and entering the municipalities alongside police, who also surrounded the area, on Sunday July 8 (VoA).
“This has been a horror. We have a minimum of 14 dead, but it could be more. That includes at least one anti-riot officer, one paramilitary member and two police officers,” Vilma Núñez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), told AFP (Al-Jazeera).
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“This looked like an occupation army. They wiped out all the barricades. There are more dead whose identities we have not been able to confirm. There are a lot of arrests and injuries. A disaster,” she added.
Earlier, Ortega made a defiant speech in the capital, Managua, in which he said “hate-sowing coup-mongers” were trying to topple him. He appeared to rule out early elections (The Guardian).
Laura Dogu, U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, said she’s heard gunfire at her Managua home amid violence throughout the country in recent days, UPI reported on July 9.
“Confirming there was gunfire near my house,” Ms Dogu wrote on Twitter. “My house was not targeted and I am ok. I am very concerned at reports of violence this weekend. I condemn the violence and my prayers are with all the victims and their families.”
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Ortega has been president of the Central American country twice, for a total of 22 years.