San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

AMCHAM blames Ortega gov't for violence, unrest in Nicaragua

GRANADA, Nicaragua – The Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) yesterday came out with its strongest criticism to date of the government of President Daniel Ortega in “energetically condemning” Saturday´s violence by Sandinista groups that prevented an anti-government protest march in the northern department of León.

AMCHAM, which has been criticized by some for not playing a more active role in speaking out against the Ortega administration, blamed the “violent and irresponsible actions” of Saturday afternoon on groups “linked to the official government party.” The business chamber said the Sandinista violence was in violation of the constitutional rights of all Nicaraguans to express themselves and protest publically, peacefully and civically.

A planned protest march by the left-wing Sandinista Renovation Movement was stopped before it started Saturday morning, when hundreds of pro-Ortega Sandinistas – many wearing masks and wielding weapons – blocked all the entrances into the city of León to stop traffic and prevent protesters from arriving to the march. Many passengers were harassed and terrorized as masked men with sticks and machetes boarded buses and searched vehicles for protesters that Ortega has labeled as “traitors.”

The pro-Ortega group then clashed violently with riot police, resulting in several injuries. So far no one has been arrested.

AMCHAM said that the violence perpetrated by the “minority” Sandinista groups is taking the country “each day further from the policies of national reconciliation” promised by Ortega.

“The people of Nicaragua have won the right to live in democracy, without fear of those who try to intimidate others who don´t think the same way they do,” the business chamber said in its release.

AMCHAM called on the National Police and the Prosecutor´s Office to take the necessary steps to punish those responsible for Saturday´s violence, which resulted in five injuries and property destruction.

The business chamber called on Ortega to act responsibly and to work toward a true national dialogue to “avoid a return to the situation experienced in the 1980s” during the first Sandinista government.

As of yesterday afternoon, Ortega, who was preparing for a trip to the United States, had not commented on Saturday´s violence. The president is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly today.

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