MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaragua´s capital was again terrorized by political violence yesterday afternoon when hundreds of Sandinista loyalists – who were joined by leftist sympathizers from El Salvador – turned Managua into an urban battle zone by taking over the city, blocking traffic, shooting explosives and attacking the opposition – including members of the news media.
Downtown businesses were once again forced to close early, some of them boarding their windows in anticipation of violence, as Sandinista fanatics – many of them masked and armed with bats, rocks, machetes and guns – congregated in various sectors of the city to prepare for battle against opposition members who had announced a march to support Liberal Party candidate Eduardo Montealegre, who claims victory in the Nov. 9 municipal election in Managua.
Young Sandinista men were bused in from various parts of the country and started congregating in the morning, drinking liquor in the street and shooting mortar rounds into the air. Some of the men had baseball bats wrapped in red-and-black Sandinista flags, foreshadowing violence to come.
“If they try to march, the fight will begin!” said Sandinista supporter Henry Torres, who covered his face with a pink Sandinista bandana.
Others in the pro-Sandinistas ranks were government employees who were forced to leave the office and attend the rally, according to various testimonies. A large group of Sandinistas gathered at the MetroCentro turnabout wore shirts that were marked with the initials “DGI,” indicating they were employees of the Tax Office, although many tried to cover the initials with drawn on Sandinista flags.
For the second time in a week, there was apparently also participation from a contingent of revolutionary sympathizers from the Faribundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) from El Salvador. Several of the vehicles parked in the MetroCentro turnabout had license plates from El Salvador, including one that had covered its license plate with paper and tape.
The Nica Times asked a Sandinista youth organizer about the apparent participation of the FMLN. He said the two former revolutionary groups have “always supported each other” and that the Salvadorans were providing “technical support” to the Sandinista protesters.
As the Liberal opposition started to arrive downtown for the march, at the intersection in front of the Hilton Princess, the Sandinistas mobilized to try to surround the Liberals, blocking the streets in all directions from the intersection. Riot police held the Sandinistas at bay from several hundred yards away from the opposition, trying to maintain the peace.
The Sandinistas tried to advance on the Liberals, firing mortars from all four directions – although they didn´t have the reach, exploding short of the opposition gathering.
In the middle of the crossfire, Montealegre told The Nica Times that the Sandinista protest is an example of fear by the ruling party.
“They´re trying to intimidate the people,” Montealegre said. “They´ve closed down streets all over the city. They´re trying to scare me but it doesn´t matter. I´m not scared.”
“People are coming here saying I want my vote to count. That´s what this march is about,” Montealegre added.
When the frustrated march eventually broke up, violence ensued as the opposition tried to return home and was attacked by Sandinista thugs, who had taken over all nine of the downtown intersections and paralyzed traffic.
Journalists were also targeted in the violence. Channel 8 reporter Maricela Caldera told The Nica Times a group of Sandinistas threatened her life and threw rocks at her, and reporters for Channel 2 were attacked and their car was beaten with bats by Sandinista supporters. Reporters for the official news media outlets, Radio Ya and Multinoticias, also reported aggression against them.
At press time, it was not clear how many people had been injured in yesterday´s violence. With neither side backing down and President Daniel Ortega conspicuously absent from the public eye, it is not apparent how Nicaragua is going to get out of the lawlessness that has enveloped the nation.