Nicaragua’s post-electoral violence spreads to city of León

November 14, 2008

GRANADA, Nicaragua – Post-electoral street violence spread to the northern city of León yesterday following an attempt by the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) to march on the colonial city to “defend democracy” and the mayoral election it claims to have won Nov. 9.

Sandinista sympathizers, who also claim victory in León, blocked the highway from Managua to León to prevent entry of the Liberal caravan headed by PLC Managua mayoral candidate Eduardo Montealegre, who has claimed victory in the capital and refused to recognize the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) recount that gave victory to Sandinista candidate Alexis Argüello.

The PLC issued an official party statement Saturday saying it would fight for the “continuance of democracy in Nicaragua in the face of the blatant and massive fraud conducted by the FSLN in the municipal elections,” in which the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) is claiming to have won 101 of 146 municipalities.

The PLC is refuting the election results published by the CSE on Friday and is calling on its supporters to defend their vote while the party´s leadership attempts to challenge the results through legal channels. That call to action has led to a week of violence as Sandinistas take to the streets to clash with the Liberals, whom they accuse of resorting to “terrorism” out of desperation with the election results.

There were more than a half dozen injuries reported during yesterday´s fighting in and around León, including a reporter for the daily El Nuevo Diario, who reported being attacked by Montealegre´s supporters. Later in the afternoon, shots were reportedly fired on Montealegre´s caravan as it retreated toward Managua, according to coverage from Channel 8 TV.

In a separate event, the popular expat blog on Nicaragua, www.therealnicaragua.com, which often features U.S. expatriates sounding off against the Sandinista government, was mysteriously blocked yesterday afternoon by a group called “Council of Sandinista Leadership.” The page, whose membership includes many U.S. expats living here, was blocked with a message reading: “We are sorry, the page is blocked,” followed by the Sandinista logo for the “Government of Reconciliation and National Unity.”

As of yesterday afternoon, it was still not clear whether the Web page had been shut down as part of the Sandinista government´s efforts to stifle its critics.

President Daniel Ortega, meanwhile, has remained in hiding for more than a week of street violence, making no public appearances or appeals for calm.

Sandinista TV Multinoticias yesterday “congratulated the people of León” for “defending the city” and “invited” Sandinistas to take to the streets to prevent the Liberals from “robbing the elections.”

The opposition has called for another march on Managua tomorrow.

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