Managua (AFP) – At least five people were killed including a baby Saturday when pro-government forces clashed with opponents in Nicaragua, according to reports from young people, the church and humanitarian groups.
“We are talking about five deaths” at this time “including the baby, but there may well be more,” in the worst incident, said Georgina Ruiz, an activist with the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center.
The rights group says that more than 200 people have been killed in protests demanding President Daniel Ortega’s exit from power that started just over two months ago.
Starting after midnight, police and paramilitary forces flooded six neighborhoods in the east of the capital Managua, as well as the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) where scores of students are holed up.
Two students were killed in the university area, the rights group said. The rest of the deaths were in the six districts.
The baby was killed when his mother was taking him to a babysitter. “He was killed by a police gunshot. I saw them. They were police. Nobody told me,” his mother, Kenia Navarrete, told news channel Cien por Cien Noticias.
The government denied it, saying criminals in the university area were to blame.
UNAN is one of several student protest camps in Managua. About 450 students have been living there under plastic tarp tents and in class buildings, surrounded by empty bottles, old food and used rounds from their homemade mortars.
“Ortega’s government continues to repress and kill young people,” the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) said on Twitter.
According to Alvaro Leiva, secretary of the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, the attack against the university was linked to a march planned for Saturday afternoon in memory of victims of the violence.
The message “is to plant terror in the population,” he said.
Later Saturday, the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference (CEN) called upon Ortega’s government and the opposition to return to the negotiating table on Monday to discuss a proposal to bring elections forward from 2021 to March 2019, in a bid to end the crisis.
Ortega, 72, has not responded to the Catholic bishops’ initiative, but has previously expressed his willingness to work toward democratization of the country.
Talks between the government and the opposition Civic Alliance were suspended once again last Monday when the government failed to allow international human rights bodies to investigate the violence.
It eventually did so on Wednesday.
Protests erupted on April 18 against now-scrapped social security reforms, but have grown into demands for justice for those killed and the exit of Ortega and his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo.
A former leftist guerrilla, Ortega led the country from 1979 to 1990 and then returned to the presidency in 2007. He is now serving his third consecutive term.