Wed, Aug 01, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Ortega defends government forces

UPHOLDING DEMOCRACY?The Nicaraguan president said that the real cause of the unrest were US entities that have funded armed conflict and destabilization

AFP, MANAGUA

A woman on Monday holds up a baby with a sign that reads: “Don’t kill me, I’m just a baby” during a protest in Leon, Nicaragua, by university students and doctors dismissed from a public hospital for treating wounded anti-government protesters.

Photo: AFP

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Monday defended brutal action by his forces against anti-government protesters as the US said he and his wife were “ultimately responsible” for deaths and rights violations.

In the latest of a number of foreign media interviews the usually hermetic president is now giving, Ortega told TV channels Euronews and CNN Spanish that the unrest was fomented by the US.

He described armed and masked paramilitaries seen cooperating closely with his security forces against the protesters as “volunteer police.”

Ortega reaffirmed his rejection of opposition calls for early elections or his resignation.

That “would open the doors to anarchy in the country,” he told Euronews.

The interviews showed that the former left-wing guerrilla, who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, was digging in, despite growing international condemnation.

Three months of turmoil have killed more than 300 people, Nicaraguan rights groups and the UN have said.

Ortega disputed that figure, saying that the count was “not correct.”

He provided a death toll of 195, including two dozen police officers, as well as paramilitaries, sympathizers of his ruling Sandinista party and other civilians.

Although tensions have diminished over the past week and a half following intense armed operations against protest hubs, resentment against Ortega and his wife, Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo, has simmered unabated.

On Monday in Leon, a northwestern town that was formerly a bastion of Sandinista support before many turned against the party, demonstrations were held in front of state-run hospitals where some staff have been fired for treating wounded protesters and expressing sympathy with their cause.

Another demonstration took place in the capital, Managua, with Nicaraguan journalists demanding an end to assaults against them.

Over the weekend, thousands of people marched in Managua to show support for the Catholic Church, which has been mediating unsuccessful talks between Ortega’s administration and the opposition.

The president has accused the bishops taking part of siding with the “coup-mongers” seeking to topple him and allowing churches to become shelters for “terrorists.”

Marches have taken place with no sign of police monitoring or confrontation.

The turmoil essentially ended in the middle of last month and things are getting back to “normal,” Ortega said.

Even though he admitted that the tourist industry had taken a hard blow, “the country is recovering” overall, he said.

Ortega complained that foreign media coverage of the unrest falsely suggests most Nicaraguans want him gone.

“Not all the people” are against him, he told Euronews, only “part of the population.”

The real root cause of the violence were US entities that have over the past decade been “allocating millions so that Nicaragua upholds ‘democracy’ ... but which are diverted to destabilize the country and encourage armed actions,” Ortega said.

“The truth is that we are facing a powerful enemy that has intervened militarily in Nicaragua, which is the United States,” he said.

The allegation echoed anti-US rhetoric advanced by Nicaragua’s Latin American allies Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela, as well as Iran.

The accusations from international rights groups and regional bodies “is a war through social media,” Ortega told CNN Spanish.

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