June 24, 2018 7:30:46 am
A fresh wave of violence claimed at least seven lives in Nicaragua as international criticism mounted against the government of President Daniel Ortega over its response to protests.
The attacks began Friday evening, hours after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented a report signaling the Nicaraguan government as having violated human rights during the protests, which started in mid-April and have been met by a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces and allied civilian groups.
Opposition and civic groups called off a march planned for Saturday afternoon to honor those killed in recent protests. The organizers said they wanted to avoid further bloodshed. Saturday is also Father’s Day in Nicaragua. Protesters are calling for Ortega’s ouster and opposition groups want presidential elections to be moved up by two years, to 2019. Nicaragua has no term limits. Ortega has yet to respond to the demand for early elections.
The Roman Catholic Church is mediating talks between opposition groups and the government, and Nicaraguan bishops have called for discussions to resume on Monday. Pablo Abrao, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said via Twitter Saturday that a technical team from the commission will meet Monday with state authorities, members of civil society and religious leaders.
Alvaro Leiva, director of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, warned Nicaraguans to be on high-alert for further violence, calculating that more than 215 people have died since the unrest began in mid-April. “There’s a savage repression, there are executions, deaths, persecutions, kidnappings and a high risk of further bloodshed,” Leiva said.
A one-year-old was among the dead on Saturday. The national police said the boy was struck by a bullet fired by a delinquent trying to prevent authorities from clearing road barricades in the capital of Managua. The boy’s mother told a local TV station that the police shot her son. Nearby, two men were shot dead.
Also early Saturday, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua came under siege. Two students were killed, more than a dozen were wounded and at least six were missing, according to Catholic priest Raul Zamora, who helped secure a cease fire. Students took over the state university in Managua nearly two months ago.
Elsewhere, in Masaya, where bishops negotiated a truce just days earlier, the Red Cross said that two people have been killed.
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