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U.S. gov’t issues travel alert for Nicaragua amid violence

November 14, 2008

GRANADA, Nicaragua – The U.S. government yesterday issued a travel warning for Nicaragua, noting “heightened security concerns” and advising its citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance,” just as Managua girded for another march planned for today, which many hope will remain peaceful.

Street violence and protests have continued to spread across Nicaragua in the wake of the disputed Nov. 9 municipal elections.

The U.S. travel alert, posted on the State Department´s homepage, http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_2477.html, says that “street protests and or clashes are likely to continue in the coming days and can be unpredictable in time, place and intensity.”

The State Department warns that passersby are “not immune from the effects of these protests.” It urges U.S. citizens to “avoid the affected areas if possible, and to exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gathering.”

The travel alert was posted during another day of political protests and allegations of elections fraud by Liberal Constitutional Party candidate for Managua, Eduardo Montealegre.

Montealegre yesterday held an interactive conference to make public his copies of the Nov. 9 ballot tallies, which he says show he won the election in Managua with more than 50 percent of the vote, despite preliminary results from the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) that show he lost to Sandinista challenger Alexis Argüello by more than five points.

Sandinistas claim the Liberals are trying to steal the election from Argüello and took to the streets yesterday to block the southern highway in an attempt to prevent Montealegre and his supporters from returning to the city after his town hall meeting was over.

Riot police were called in to clear a path through the crowd so that Montealegre and his motorcade could pass through.

Another group of Sandinistas protested in the street yesterday afternoon to demand that the CSE release the final vote count and officially announce Argüello as mayor of Managua.

“The CSE should publish the final results as soon as possible to end with all the manipulation by Montealegre,” Sandinista legislative leader Edwin Castro told The Nica Times.

Asked if he thought final election results would bring an end to the partisan violence in the streets, where Sandinista supporters have been holding continual rallies for more than a month, Castro said “You would have to ask Montealegre, not me.”

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