At least five people including a baby were killed in Nicaragua over the weekend as international criticism mounts against the government of President Daniel Ortega over its response to the protests.
“We are talking about five deaths” at this time “including the baby, but there may well be more,” in the worst incident, said Georgina Ruiz, an activist with the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH).
The rights group said that more than 200 people have been killed in protests demanding Ortega’s exit from power that started just over two months ago.
Police and paramilitary forces flooded six neighbourhoods in the east of the capital Managua early on Saturday, as well as the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) where scores of students are holed up.
Two students were killed in the university area, the rights group said. The rest of the deaths were in the six districts.
|Students remain at a barricade in the face of ongoing attacks from riot police and members of the Sandinista Youth near UNAN [Marvin Recinos/AFP]|
The baby was killed when his mother was taking him to a babysitter.
“He was killed by a police gunshot. I saw them. They were police. Nobody told me,” his mother, Kenia Navarrete, told news channel Cien por Cien Noticias.
The government denied the allegations, saying criminals in the university area were to blame.
UNAN is one of several student protest camps in Managua. About 450 students have been living there under plastic tarp tents and in class buildings, surrounded by empty bottles, old food and used rounds from their homemade mortars.
“Ortega’s government continues to repress and kill young people,” CENIDH said on Twitter.
|Kenia Navarrete stands next to the coffin of her 15-month-old son Teiler Lorio Navarrete, who was shot during clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of Ortega [Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters]|
According to Alvaro Leiva, secretary of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, the attack against the university was “to plant terror in the population” ahead of a march that was planned for Saturday afternoon in memory of victims of the violence.
Later Saturday, organisers cancelled the march over what they branded “indiscriminate” attacks by government forces. The organising Civil Alliance opposition also called for a 48-hour strike among social sectors and trade unions to press for Ortega’s departure.
Calls for renewed talks
Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN) called upon Ortega’s government and the opposition to return to the negotiating table on Monday to discuss a proposal to bring elections forward from 2021 to March 2019, in a bid to end the crisis.
Ortega, 72, has not responded to the Catholic bishops’ initiative, but has previously expressed his willingness to work towards democratisation of the country.
Talks between the government and the opposition Civic Alliance were suspended once again last Monday when the government failed to allow international human rights bodies to investigate the violence.
It eventually did so on Wednesday.
|A student is seen at the UNAN after clashes with riot police and members of the Sandinista Youth [Marvin Recinos/AFP]|
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.
Protests erupted on April 18 against now-scrapped social security reforms, but have grown into demands for justice for those killed and the exit of Ortega and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo.
A former leftist rebel, Ortega led the country from 1979 to 1990 and then returned to the presidency in 2007. He is now serving his third consecutive term.