The civil conflict in Nicaragua over controversial President Daniel Ortega has yet to show signs of abating. Two weeks after opposition demonstrators in Masaya, located 30 kilometres southeast of the capital Managua, chased away the mayor and other politicians of the ruling Sandinista party and declared the city a “liberated territory”, police and paramilitary forces intervened on Tuesday, 19 June, and engaged in combat with protestors brandishing makeshift mortars. Six people died in the confrontation, pushing the death toll since mid-April near 200, in addition to injured people in the thousands, according to human rights organisations.

“A high risk persists that increased confrontations on the streets could plunge Nicaragua further into chaos.”

The incident could be another step in the escalation in the recent wave of civil unrest. The calls of the highly unpopular government to stop the violence will unlikely be heeded by protestors. Most agree that it is rather the police and paramilitary groups that have been the source of conflict in recent weeks, including accusations of using live ammunition, deploying sharpshooters to peaceful demonstrations, committing kidnappings and expressing threats to the population.

Although there are rumours circulating that Ortega will agree to premature elections in early 2019, it is highly uncertain if the population will trust any such concession, or for that matter any progress in the dialogue between government and opposition groups, and demobilise. The scheduled arrival of international observers on 26 June may calm the situation to some degree, provided that they are let into the country, but a high risk persists that increased confrontations on the streets could plunge Nicaragua further into chaos.

 


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Photo credit: Voice of America