Mexico City: Nicaraguan national police and armed pro-government civilians laid siege on Wednesday to a symbolically important neighborhood that has recently become a center of resistance to president Daniel Ortega's government.
Government forces began advancing on Masaya's Monimbo neighborhood before dawn. The same neighborhood's residents rose up against strongman Anastasio Somoza in the late 1970s as part of the Nicaraguan Revolution led in part by Ortega himself. But since protests against cuts to the social security system in mid-April became a broader call for Ortega to leave office, Monimbo has again become a center of the opposition.
Ortega's government has dismissed the opposition as delinquents attempting a coup d'etat, and appears to want to quell unrest in Masaya before Thursday's three-month anniversary of the start of protests across Nicaragua. Thursday is also the 39th anniversary of Liberation Day, which marks the overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1979 by the Sandinistas.
Gangs of armed men dressed as civilians appear to be working in coordination with police to remove roadblocks set up by the opposition that has snarled the country's traffic for months. Last weekend, government-allied forces retook the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua campus in Managua, where students had been holed up for months.
With gunshots echoing in the background Tuesday, a woman who asked only to be identified as Silvia out of safety concerns said she treated wounded victims in a makeshift field clinic. Silvia, a member of Monimbo's 19 April resistance movement, said youth are fighting with homemade mortars to defend the roadblocks erected at the neighborhood's perimeter, but government forces were heavily armed.
"We need the (Organization of American States), the international organizations to stop this massacre," Silvia said. "We're fighting for democracy, for freedom." Human rights organizations say more than 270 people have been killed in months of street clashes.
Updated Date: Jul 18, 2018 10:35 AM