This article was written by Parker Asmann and originally published by Insight Crime on July 16, 2018. It is reproduced here under CC BY-NC 3.0.
Civilian protestors continue to be targeted in Nicaragua by police and government-backed paramilitaries as doubts disappear about who is behind the killings.
Police and armed pro-government groups known as “parapolice” in Nicaragua killed at least 10 people during several clashes in various cities over the weekend amid the latest round of violence since protests against the administration of President Daniel Ortega began in April, according to La Prensa.
The most documented of these assaults began July 13, when parapolice groups armed with high-powered weapons carried out a 15-hour attack on some 200 students and others trapped inside a church near the campus of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua – UNAN) in the capital Managua, Nicaraguan journalist Ismael López, who was among those pinned down, reported for the BBC.
Two students were killed and at least 10 others were injured in the siege before medical personnel could reach them the following morning.
Over the next two days, parapolice groups deployed across the country to carry out several other coordinated attacks and targeted kidnappings. At least eight others — including a 10-year-old girl — were killed in these attacks while several others remain disappeared, according to La Prensa.
The latest bloodshed comes after at least 20 individuals were killed July 8 by parapolice groups in western Carazo department. Since April 18, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (Asociación Nicaragüense Pro Derechos Humanos – ANDPH) has recorded at least 351 deaths, more than 2,000 injuries, nearly 330 kidnappings, hundreds of disappearances and the possible presence of clandestine graves.
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The Nicaraguan government has issued blanket denials about its responsibility, pointing the finger instead at “terrorists” who it says are targeting police.
“This is a country that knows how to overcome great tragedies,” Ortega’s wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo said in a statement issued by the government. “We have grown in patience, prudence, wisdom and faith. We know that God is just and that evil cannot prevail over what is good. This is why the actions of a small group of terrorists will not prevail over the will of the vast majority of the people.”
But the government is standing alone. Indeed, if there were doubts surrounding who is responsible for the hundreds of killings in Nicaragua in recent months, they have been completely washed away.
In recent days, Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the government for its role in the killings and naming the top officials in the police who it says is responsible.
Following a visit to Nicaragua in May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) also wrote a report strongly criticizing the Nicaraguan government for “the excessive and arbitrary use of police force, [and] the use of parapolice forces or shock groups with the acquiescence and tolerance of State authorities.”
As InSight Crime previously reported, parapolice groups working in conjunction with the national police were thought to be the primary forces implicated in the killings.
International observers have for months now denounced the use of parapolice groups and demanded that Ortega dismantle them in order to put an end to the repression. As the violence continues to escalate, there is a growing risk that these groups may soon become criminal organizations engaged in other illicit activities.