June 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua this week demanded the return of several police vehicles that were given to the Nicaraguan government after reports of human rights abuses by the country’s police force.
The vehicles, which include four trucks and a bus, were returned on Tuesday to the U.S. Embassy in Managua.
“Some of these vehicles have been used by the Nicaraguan National Police and paramilitary forces under their command, to violently suppress the voices of those who peacefully protest against the actions of their government,” the U.S. Embassy in Managua said in a statement. “These actions violate the terms of the Charter of Understanding established for the cooperation of the United States government with the National Police of Nicaragua.”
Nicaragua’s National Police have been accused of brutally repressing protesters since protests broke out in April against social security cuts and have continued to protest state violence. That repression has included allegations of snipers firing on protesters and police teaming up with government gangs known as turbas to take out protesters who’ve set up roadblocks around the country. More than 200 people have died over the past two months. Most of the victims have been civilians, but some police have been killed, as well.
Images of armed gangs and snipers riding the National Police trucks have been widely shared on social media and have become something of a symbol of the state repression.
The U.S. Embassy’s decision to revoke the trucks it loaned to the Nicaraguan government is the latest effort by the U.S. State Department to curtail violence in a country that was considered one of the safest in Latin America merely three months ago.
On June 11, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent an emissary to Nicaragua to assist the ongoing talks between the Nicaraguan government, the Catholic Church and business and student groups in the country to negotiate a compromise and end the violence.
And on June 7, the State Department imposed visa restrictions on several Nicaraguan government officials, including some high-ranking police officials.