Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Nicaragua ‘tragedy’ claims 121 lives

‘SICK AND TIRED’:A boy begged for his life, but police shot him anyway, a woman said in Masaya, a flashpoint city where 10 people were killed over the weekend

AFP, MANAGUA

A man stands next to handmade mortars at a barricade in Masaya, Nicaragua, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

At least 121 people have been killed in a wave of protests since April 18 against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government, the country’s main human rights group said on Tuesday, calling it a “human tragedy.”

The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said 1,300 people have been wounded in the protests, which have met with a violent crackdown from the government.

“This is now a massacre, a human tragedy where the goal is to exterminate all those young people who think differently than or are critical of the government,” the group’s executive secretary Marlin Sierra told reporters. “It amounts to state terrorism.”

The latest toll includes a young boy killed by gunfire during clashes on Tuesday in the resort city of Granada between anti-government protesters and riot police, the group said.

A parish priest, Wilmer Perez, earlier told the 100% news channel that the boy was killed in a confrontation between demonstrators and government supporters trying to clear a barricade in the city, 45km south of the capital, Managua.

Town hall and the local office of the ruling Sandinista party in Granada were burned down by protesters, and several electrical appliance stores were looted and burned, a local businessman told reporters on condition of anonymity.

He said the police did not show up at either of the places.

Ten people were also killed in running battles over the weekend in the flashpoint city of Masaya, near Managua, the group said.

Masaya residents armed with homemade mortars and slingshots faced off in clashes with what they said were riot police and vigilante groups loyal to Ortega, who has dominated the Central American country’s politics for four decades.

The city braced for a new night of clashes on Tuesday, after several nights of attacks that residents said were led by riot police.

“Yesterday we buried one person, the day before we buried another. One was a 15-year-old boy. He begged for his life. He told the policewoman: ‘Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,’ but bam, bam, she shot him,” said Ramona Garcia, 83.

“We’re sick and tired of it. We want that son of a bitch Ortega to go. The people want him to go, all Nicaragua wants him to go,” she told reporters, speaking beside one of the myriad barricades residents have erected in the streets.

Built with cobblestones, furniture, sheet metal and whatever else is at hand, the barricades are meant to keep out pro-Ortega gangs, whom residents accuse of pillaging the city of 100,000 people.

The government has blamed criminals for the pillaging and said it sent in riot police at the request of small-business owners.

In Managua, there is a virtual curfew in place after dark, with motorcycle gangs terrorizing those who venture out, the rights group said.

Barricades set up on key highways have meanwhile ground transportation to a halt. Some parts of the country are beginning to run out of fuel and other essentials.

The country’s business elite, long close to Ortega, have broken with him over the crackdown.

The Catholic Church, also once close to Ortega, initially tried to mediate the conflict.

However, it called off the talks after attacks on a march led by victims’ mothers on Wednesday last week left 16 people dead.

The crackdown on what started as relatively small protests against pension cuts has fueled demands for the ouster of Ortega.

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