In Nicaragua, rival marches claim one victim

November 20, 2009

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – A day of protest that began peacefully late Saturday morning fell into violence in the afternoon, with clashes between pro- and anti-government marchers, as well as violence against passersby, that ended in the death of 42-year-old Rafael Anibal Ruiz and caused at least a dozen other injuries.

Ruiz was traveling in a truck from Managua toward the north-central coffee region of Jinotega, when protesters attacked him with rocks, the National Police said in a statement issued late afternoon Sunday. The police did not say whether Ruiz was participating in one of the rival protests or just passing through, but several news reports out of Managua said he was a follower of President Daniel Ortega. Ruiz died after being taken to Matagalpa Regional Hospital.

Apart from highway rock fights, a band of Sandinistas heading to the government´s counter march Saturday afternoon attacked the headquarters of the opposition Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) with mortars, breaking windows and causing damage to the building. Another group of Sandinistas fired mortars at the Channel 2 television station, while others attacked a caravan of Liberals returning home from their march.

The violence occurred despite the governing party´s efforts to hold a demonstration its followers billed as “happiness and celebr ation.” By the time President Ortega took the stage in downtown Managua at 5 p.m. – with religious music playing and a giant sign advertising his government as Christian – more than 100,000 state employees and government supporters were in the street, many drinking beers despite a liquor ban that was supposed to be in force for the day.

Yet despite using the government´s resources to mobilize its people and obliging state workers to attend, the Sandinistas weren´t able to draw a much larger crowd than the diverse opposition.

Chanting “democracy yes, dictato rship no,” a floodtide of civil society and opposition political parties marched on the streets of Managua Saturday morning to show their repudiation of the government of President Daniel Ortega.

Alex Leff contributed to this report.

See the Nov. 27 print or digital edition of The Nica Times, a Nicaragua-based publication of The Tico Times, for more on this story.

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