Are you sitting down? After months of anti-government protests, over 300 civilian deaths and, more recently, the rounding up of protesters and intellectuals who were designated as terrorists or linked to risks to Nicaragua’s sovereignty, the country’s president-cum-dictator Daniel Ortega announced today that he refuses to step down from his post. On the bright side, Ortega told Fox News (the preferred network of dictators and kleptocrats, apparently) that he has fabulous news: the violence that's plagued his nation for months is over! Just like that!
Except, it isn’t.
From CBS News:
Thousands of people marched yesterday in Nicaragua to demand that President Daniel Ortega step down. The demonstrations over proposed benefit cuts, which began three months ago, are expected to continue today.
CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reports an eerie quiet during much of the day in the capital city of Managua, as people stay home and business owners close up shop for their own safety.
But after the calm, the sounds of protest pierce the air, and the fear of bloody confrontations returns.
Within minutes of arriving in the capital, Bojorquez encountered an anti-government protest and the sound of mortar fire.
It didn’t take long for Bojorquez to find the source of the mortar fire. He spoke with a group of young men who’d DIY’d their mortars, firing them off as a warning that government forces and para-militaries were drawing near. The mortar crews provide the warning with good reason: over the past few weeks, violent attacks against protestors by loyalist paramilitaries and Nicaraguan police have intensified. Barricades in towns rebelling against Ortega’s stranglehold on the nation go up, paramilitaries sweep in by the truckload to knock them back down. Intellectuals and those thought to be organizing the protests have been rounded up after being labeled as terrorists. As the New York Times points out, protesters are dying daily.
During his interview with Fox News, Ortega denied that any protestors were killed in a church, contrary to news last week that two civilians were shot dead by paramilitaries after they, along with approximately 200 others, took shelter from sustained gunfire at a church in the Nicaraguan city of Managua on July 13 and 14.