Nicaragua explodes in violence as opposition to Ortega's rule grows
Demonstrations across Nicaragua that began as opposition to reforms of the country's social security system have exploded into violence against the rule of the President Daniel Ortega.
Ortega has governed Nicaragua for the last eleven years. It is his second stint as president, having ruled the country from 1979 to 1990, when his communist Sandinista thugs helped suppress any opposition.
Ortega has no changed much since those days.
The latest clashes broke out late Wednesday between opposition demonstrators and pro-government groups, with the worst occurring in Leon, northwest of the capital Managua.
A 31-year-old man, Manuel Chevez, was shot dead when government-linked groups tried to evict students and residents from a barricade on the main road to Leon, the man's aunt Justa Ramirez said.
A second man, identified as Luis Diaz and belonging to the pro-government group, was allegedly struck by a homemade mortar bomb, said local Red Cross director Marcio Ocon.
During the clashes, which lasted about five hours, 54 people were wounded by a mixture of gunfire, rubber bullets and blunt instruments, according to the Red Cross.
Chevez's aunt said he had been shot by a rifle. 'He was shot with an AK, because it is a shot from an AK that he has on his forehead,' she said.
Clashes also occurred in other Nicaraguan cities.
There have been talks between the government and opposition mediated by the Catholic Church.
The unrest came after the week-long church-mediated talks between the government and opposition forces to quell a month of violence broke down late on Wednesday.
'Since there was no consensus today between the parties, we in the bishops' conference regrettably are shutting down the ... national dialogue,' church officials said after eight fruitless hours of mediation at a Managua seminary.
The biggest major stumbling block is the government's rejection of early elections.
'That would be dismantling constitutional order and the democratically elected government,' Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said.
Moncada reaffirmed the government's readiness to dialogue, saying it is 'essential to resolve and agree on the elimination of all the barriers' on the roads, to avoid 'violence in all its forms and to guarantee the right to work.'
The leader of the opposition Broad Front for Democracy, Violeta Granera, said the dialogue had given her 'a level of hope' to find a solution to the crisis.
'Now what we have left is to not let ourselves be unfocused and to be bolder, more creative and stronger with the protests.'
Ortega 'wants time to win with impunity[.] ... It is already clear that his days in power are numbered,' she said.
For the Ortega government to talk about "constitutional order" is a bad joke. He has ruled with the help of street thugs who show up at opposition protests to disrupt and intimidate the groups. The opposition has now taken to defending themselves, resulting in the violence sweeping the country.
Ortega should never be underestimated. He is a political survivor and will likely not accede to the demands for early elections. If they are held, he will make sure he wins. Since his government controls the machinery of elections, it's pretty certain Ortega will get the outcome he wants.
Nicaragua is still a mess 40 years after the civil war. And as long as Ortega is in power, things won't change much.