A standoff between a small-town mayor and the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) has sparked a growing grassroots resistance movement to the ruling party’s power grab in municipal governments across Nicaragua.
Boaco Mayor Hugo Barquero said he refuses to cede power to the FSLN, following a questionable resolution passed last week by the city council to remove the elected mayor from office and replace him with a Sandinista official loyal to President Daniel Ortega.
In the past few months, the Sandinistas have used their considerable resources to buy the loyalty of 56 opposition city council officials and six mayors throughout the country, all of whom now pledge allegiance to the FSLN. The ruling party has also forcibly removed four additional mayors through legally questionable resolutions passed by Sandinista-controlled city councils (NT, June 18).
Barquero, a Liberal Party dissident allied with opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre, insists he won’t be the next to fall. Instead, the little-known doctor-turned-politician has drawn a line in the sand in Boaco. And Nicaragua’s diverse and divided opposition has been quick to back him.
“I will not surrender,” a determined Barquero told The Nica Times Sunday afternoon in a phone conversation from inside the mayor’s office, where he is holed up. “We hope to stop the Sandinistas’ attempted takeover of (opposition) municipalities, or be the spark for the rest of Nicaragua to rise up. We are calling on people to go out into the streets to protest for change in their own communities. I can’t do this alone.”
Outside the mayor’s office, dozens of riot police have had the building surrounded for the past week. Barquero fears the police could storm the building at any moment and drag him out, which is the only way he’ll leave, he insists.
“The police are totally politicized; they are working directly for the Sandinistas,” Barquero said. “The political secretary for the FSLN is practically giving orders to the police here.”
Barquero has called for a massive march on Boaco Monday afternoon. A previous march on Friday in support of Barquero ended with violent clashes between riot police and anti-Sandinista protesters.