Hundreds of police and paramilitary forces loyal to communist dictator Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua violently retook control of a major anti-government stronghold known as the birthplace of the Marxist Sandinista movement this week.
Pro-Ortega forces are targeting the same people the Nicaraguan dictator claimed to have liberated as a Sandinista leader from oppression at the hands of U.S.-backed President Anastasio Somoza in the late 1970s.
Ortega “toppled a dynasty only to form another” as he clings to power along with his wife and Nicaragua’s Vice-President Rosario Murillo, France 24 acknowledged.
Known as the city of Masaya, the birthplace of the Sandinista Revolution was among the first to rise against Ortega at the start of unrest between pro-Ortega forces and protesters on April 18 over now-rescinded social reforms.
On Tuesday, Ortega forces laid siege to Masaya, “tearing down cobblestone barricades in a symbolic blow against efforts to oust the Sandinista leader,” Reuters reported, adding:
Tuesday’s clash lasted more than four hours, pitting hooded government loyalists bearing automatic weapons against youths wielding home-made mortars, and leaving the Monimbo suburb of Masaya city strewn with broken glass and shell casings.
Authorities have tightened the clamp-down in an apparent attempt to clear the main protest strongholds ahead of the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution on Thursday. On July 19, 1979, the Sandinistas entered the capital Managua after toppling the brutal Anastasio Somoza dictatorship with the help of an uprising in Masaya. Detractors say the repression ordered by Ortega in the same streets echoes tactics used by Somoza.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Alvaro Leiva, the chief of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, indicated that preliminary reports revealed that the clashes killed at least three people and wounded dozens of others.
Leiva also noted that there were widespread reports of pro-Ortega fighters detaining young protestors.
Ortega says the protests are an attempt to topple his elected government by force.
Referring to Masaya’s Monimbo suburb, AP noted:
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 had again become a center of the opposition.
While the protestors accuse the Ortega regime of oppression, the dictator claims the demonstrators are trying to overthrow his government.
According to various estimates, the unrest in Nicaragua has left more than 300 dead, about 1,800 wounded, and nearly 2,000 imprisoned.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has denounced the Ortega regime’s deadly crackdown on protesters.