San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

In Nicaragua, separatist violence leaves two dead, several injured

An alleged attack against Miskito separatists by Sandinista supporters and Nicaraguan riot police has reportedly left two indigenous men dead, eight people injured and an unknown number of people under arrest, according to unconfirmed reports from separatist leaders in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN).

Separatist leader Rev. Héctor Williams, known as the Wihta-Tara, or “Great Judge,” of the self-declared Communitarian Nation of the Moskitia, told The Nica Times Monday evening that the situation in the regional capital of Bilwi is “very serious” after a day of violent clashes between riot police, Sandinistas and indigenous separatists.

Williams said a group of “8,000 separatists” marched peacefully on Bilwi Monday morning to assert their claim to independence, but were attacked by tear gas and bullets fired by riot police, as well as rocks thrown by “drunken Sandinista thugs” trying to defend the regional government controlled by their party.

“This is not over yet, and I don´t know how this night is going to end, or what Bilwi will be like tomorrow,” Williams said in a phone interview. “Their plan is to massacre, destroy and exterminate us, but the people are defending themselves with their fingernails and rocks.”

Other, non-separatist sources in Bilwi confirmed Monday´s violence, but said the separatist group numbered closer to 1,000 or 2,000, not the 8,000 claimed by Williams. Still, the source said, the number of indigenous separatists continued to grow throughout the day as more Miskitos came into town from the surrounding communities. The separatists easily outnumbered the Sandinista supporters and riot police combined, according to witnesses.

The alleged clash with police occurred around 1 p.m., about 50 meters outside of the regional government building, which the separatists announced they were going to take over as part of their claim to independence (NT, Oct. 16). Though President Daniel Ortega gave specific orders earlier this year that the police are not to use tear gas on Nicaraguans, the riot police reportedly fired dozens of canisters of tear gas at the protesters, and chased the indigenous demonstrators as the fled, firing at them indiscriminately.

One 68-year-old Miskito elder allegedly died from inhaling the tear gas, according to separatists.

The Nica Times sought comment from the National Police, but a spokeswoman for Commissioner Vilma Reyes curtly said she had “no information” about what was going on, and quickly got off the phone.

Non-separatist Bilwi residents interviewed yesterday by The Nica Times confirmed that police fired tear gas on the crowd. One government worker, who wished to remain unidentified, said the Sandinistas were trying to force state employees to take to the streets to stop the separatist march – an order he said he refused because it´s in clear violation of the country´s Labor Code.

“The situation here is horrible,” the source said. “There is violence and injuries and all the businesses are closed and the windows are boarded up as if a hurricane was coming – a human hurricane, which is even more dangerous.”

Guillermo Espinosa, the separatist movement´s minister of defense, told The Nica Times Monday afternoon that his movement will continue to protest “civilly,” but warned that there is only so much repression people can take.

“If they are going to mistreat us, we won´t allow it,” he warned. “We are going forward on independence.”

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