MANAGUA – Nicaragua’s National Police said on Monday that two people died in clashes over the weekend between officers and road-blocking protesters, not 10, as asserted by a human rights group.
“In the face of the publication in social media that at least 10 people died on Sunday in confrontations in Masaya, Niquinohomo, Catarina, La Concepcion, and Diria, the National Police clarifies that it has knowledge of two deceased people,” the force said in a statement.
Police mounted a major operation to clear opposition barricades from roads in cities on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.
President Daniel Ortega accuses road-blocking protesters of using violence to disrupt the constitutional order and says that authorities have an obligation to ensure the freedom of movement.
In Monday’s statement, police said that one of their officers, Cpl. Gabriel de Jesus Vado Ruiz, and a protester identified as Jorge Villegas Vega were killed.
Villegas was fatally shot in Niquinohomo, while Vado fell victim to “terrorists who abducted, tortured, murdered him (and) desecrated, exhibited, and burned his body in the public street,” police said.
“There are six dead in Masaya, two dead in Diria, and two in Catarina,” Alvaro Leiva, executive secretary of the human rights organization ANDPH, told EFE on Sunday.
He said that four of the fatalities were police.
In Diria, according to Leiva, “combined forces” comprising police and pro-government paramilitaries dragged father and son Almer and Allan Morales out of their home and executed them.
Human rights organizations say that at 351 people have died in unrest that began in mid-April with protests against a government proposal – since withdrawn – to make changes to the pension system.
The National Police say they have documented fewer than 50 deaths, including protesters, members of the security forces, and bystanders.
Protesters are now demanding the resignation of Ortega, who was re-elected in 2016 with more than 70 percent of the vote.