Paramilitary forces backed by Nicaragua’s government killed two people early Saturday during a 12-hour siege on a Managua church where student protesters had sought refuge, a Catholic Church official said, in an episode that underlined the country’s escalating political unrest.
The assault came as the paramilitaries sought to retake the nearby campus of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, which students have occupied for more than two months during nationwide protests demanding democratic reforms and the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
About 100 students along with priests and journalists were holed up in the Church of Jesus of the Divine Mercy, enduring hours of gunfire until church mediators secured their release shortly after daybreak, said Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano, the archbishop of Managua, who confirmed the deaths.
Mr. Ortega, elected 11 years ago after leading a revolutionary government in the 1980s, has faced widespread public anger after calling for unpopular social security changes three months ago and then violently suppressing peaceful demonstrations.
Since then, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have engaged in a broad-based uprising against the government, marching in the streets and building barricades to thwart the masked paramilitary forces, which human rights groups blame for many of the roughly 260 deaths during the unrest.
SOURCE: Elisabeth Malkin
The New York Times