MANAGUA – Nicaraguan police violently suppressed on Sunday a potential opposition protest and arrested at least 38 of the demonstrators when they took to the streets in Managua to call for the resignation of President Daniel Ortega.
This new episode of violence, amid the socio-political crisis in Nicaragua that erupted last April and has left hundreds dead, was repudiated by international organizations that urged Ortega to respect the general rights of citizens and specifically their right to protest.
The violence broke out when police attacked a group of people who had gathered to participate in a protest called on Sunday by the opposition National Blue and White Unity coalition, a demonstration that ultimately did not occur.
Dozens of anti-riot security personnel and police officers showed up at the scene and confronted the demonstrators, arresting 38 of them, according to the government, which added that eight of them have already been released.
According to press reports, police dragged young people, adults and elderly protesters to patrol cars, in which they took them to jail.
Among the detainees was the director in Nicaragua of the non-governmental organization Techo Internacional, Ana Lucia Alvarez, the organization reported in a statement.
Also take into custody were Suyen Barahona and Ana Margarita Vigil, both with the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS); Jose Antonio Peraza, a member of the Movement for Nicaragua, and Tamara Davila, the daughter of late retired Col. Irwin Davila, a well-known opposition figure.
Reportedly, police also arrested Jose Dolores Blandino, the father of Xiomara Blandino, who is the partner of Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo – the son of President Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo –, Blandino’s wife Gioconda Artola said on the social networks.
Journalist Uriel Velasquez, with the local daily El Nuevo Diario, was also arrested and later set free.
The police had said on Saturday that they were not going to allow “demonstrations of mobilizations on public streets without the proper permission,” as they had announced in late September.
On Saturday, the opposition suspended demonstrations in Bluefields and in Managua, and on Sunday police and security agents deployed at different points in the capital.
At the site where the march that did not occur was to begin on Sunday, Reuters photographer Oswaldo Rivas was injured when he was run over by a paramilitary riding a motorcycle as he was reporting on police violence.
Also on Sunday, Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro demanded that Ortega release the arrested demonstrators, respect their right to peaceful protest and cease the “repression” of the country’s citizens.
Nicaraguan Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes also lamented the clashes between police and demonstrators, saying that “these attitudes ... do not support peace at all” and insisted on the need for dialogue to overcome the crisis.
Nicaragua has been enduring a socio-political crisis that broke out in April and which has resulted in between 322-512 deaths, according to local and international humanitarian organizations, although the government claims that “only” 199 people have lost their lives in what it terms an ongoing attempted coup d’etat staged by terrorists.
The protests against Ortega began over the government’s proposed reform of social security, which was cancelled in an attempt to contain the crisis, but the social unrest then morphed into demands for the resignations of the president and his wife.