President Daniel Ortega had asked for two days time, a “period of reflection”, to respond to the proposal made by the Episcopal Conference last Thursday to restart talks, many are seeing the government offensive launched Sunday night into the early hours of Monday as the President’s response despite his 5th day of silence.
Riot police and pro-government forces on Monday in Managua attacked barricades set up by anti-government protesters, led by university students. The attack, that plunged the capital city neighborhoods into violence and chaos, is seen as an attempt by Ortega to quell the almost two months of civil unrest in the country.
Gunfire could be heard throughout the streets of Managua. On television, live coverage showed clashes between the opposing groups. By mid-afternoon the violence had calmed, Silvio Jose Baez, an auxiliary bishop of Managua, had urged residents to stay inside their homes.
“It is very dangerous because of the presence of violence,” he wrote on Twitter. “Don’t risk life in vain.”
By Monday night, at least 139 people have died, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), which also said more than 1,000 had been injured.
The barricades have been set up in some 70% of the roads across the country, crippling transportation, and commerce in more than half of the country.
Similar attacks were reported in Carazo, Jinotega, and Siuna. The alert was sounded in many other communities, as children were sent home from school and residents advised to stay indoors.
The US Embassy in Managua released a statement Monday in support of the Church-led dialogue, saying Caleb McCarry, a top staffer of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had traveled to the country on Saturday to “discuss the severe democratic crisis.” He along with U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu met the presidency and bishops as well as a civic alliance, the statement said.
“The United States respects Nicaragua’s sovereignty and understands that the ultimate solution to the current conflict must come from Nicaraguans,” the statement said.
“Dialogue is the only viable solution for Nicaragua to come out of the crisis,” Nicaragua’s Association of Freight Carriers (ATN) president Marvin Altamirano told journalists during the announcement of the suspension of all national and international shipments because of the blockades.
Source (in Spanish): El Nuevo Diario