US warns Nicaragua as more killed in unrest

A supporter of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega takes part in a march in Managua, Nicaragua on Monday. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 July 2018
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US warns Nicaragua as more killed in unrest

  • US lawmakers are reported to be mulling a resolution condemning Nicaragua, and possibly preparing more sanctions on Ortega’s government
  • For Nicaragua’s 72-year-old president, a former leftwing guerrilla who has ruled over his poor nation for 22 of the past 39 years since his Sandinista rebels toppled a US-backed dictator

MANAGUA: The United States on Tuesday warned Nicaragua to halt violence against opposition groups as at least four more people were killed in unrest that has gripped the country for three months.
US Vice President Mike Pence said it was “undeniable” that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government was behind the violence, despite his denials.
Pence used Twitter to call on Ortega to “end the violence NOW” and bow to opposition demands to hold early elections. “The world is watching!” Pence added.
A day earlier, Ortega gave an interview to US television channel Fox News saying that he would not step down and would see through his current term to 2021.
He also asserted “the turmoil has stopped” in his country after offensives over the past couple of weeks against protest hubs, and denied his security forces and coordinating paramilitaries were attacking peaceful demonstrators.

But an AFP photographer in the city of Jinotega, north of the capital, saw funerals for two of three people locals said were killed by police and pro-government paramilitaries.
Those killed included a boy, said the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights.
In Managua, a 32-year-old Brazilian medical student was fatally shot while driving home in the middle of the night, one of her professors at the American University in the capital said.
Brazil’s government expressed “profound outrage” at the killing.
In a statement, it demanded the killers be brought to justice, and it condemned the “disproportionate and lethal use of force, as well as the use of paramilitary groups in operations with security teams.”
According to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, there have been nearly 300 deaths since the unrest first erupted in mid-April. Most have been youths and university students who are the forefront of the protests.
Ortega, in his Fox interview, spoke only of “tens” of police officers killed in the violence. He also denied controlling paramilitaries acting against protesters.
That prompted Pence to tweet: “State-sponsored violence in Nicaragua is undeniable. Ortega’s propaganda fools no one and changes nothing.”

US lawmakers are reported to be mulling a resolution condemning Nicaragua, and possibly preparing more sanctions on Ortega’s government.
The Organization of American States has also backed early elections as a way out of the crisis.
But talks between Ortega’s administration and the opposition, mediated by Catholic bishops in the country, have stalled for over a month, with Ortega refusing to bring forward polls.
For Nicaragua’s 72-year-old president, a former leftwing guerrilla who has ruled over his poor nation for 22 of the past 39 years since his Sandinista rebels toppled a US-backed dictator, the unrest has been the worst he has faced since returning to power in 2007.
The protests were prompted by cutbacks to the social security system, but quickly spread as they tapped into broad disgruntlement with Ortega and his wife, whom he made his vice president.
Ortega accuses the US of financing opposition militias that he says are controlled dissident political groups.
He said there was “a campaign of lies, terrible lies to try to hurt the image of Nicaragua and of its government.”


French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

Updated 50 min 58 sec ago
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French yellow vests protest in Paris amid tighter security

  • The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence
  • Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital

PARIS: Thousands of French yellow vest demonstrators were marching through Paris on Saturday as authorities enforced bans on protests in certain areas and displayed enhanced security measures to avoid a repeat of last week’s riots in the capital.
The crowd gathered peacefully Saturday at Denfert-Rochereau Square in southern Paris and then headed north. The protesters are expected to finish Saturday’s march in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre around its signature monument, the hilltop Sacre-Coeur Cathedral.
French authorities have banned protests from the Champs-Elysees Avenue in Paris and the central neighborhoods of several other cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Rouen in western France.
The Champs-Elysees was almost empty Saturday except for a huge police presence. Scores of shops were looted and ransacked last weekend, and some were set on fire by protesters. Fear of more violence certainly kept tourists away, and police shut down the Champs-Elysees subway stations as a precaution.
Paris police detained 51 people by early afternoon, issued 29 fines and conducted 4,688 “preventive checks” on protesters entering the capital.
In Nice, police dispersed a few hundred protesters who gathered on a central plaza. The city was placed under high security measures as Chinese President Xi Jinping was expected to stay overnight on Sunday as part of his state visit to France.
The new Paris police chief, Didier Lallement, who took charge following the destruction wrought by last week’s protests, said specific police units have been created to react faster to any violence.
About 6,000 police officers were deployed in the capital on Saturday and two drones were helping to monitor the demonstrations. French authorities also deployed soldiers to protect sensitive sites, allowing police forces to focus on maintaining order during the protests.
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday dismissed criticism from opposition leaders regarding the involvement of the military, saying they are not taking over police duties.
“Those trying to scare people, or to scare themselves, are wrong,” he said in Brussels.
Christelle Camus, a yellow vest protester from a southern suburb of Paris, called using French soldiers to help ensure security “a great nonsense.”
“Since when do soldiers face a population? We are here in France. You would say that we are here in (North) Korea or in China. I never saw something like this,” she said.
Last week’s surge in violence came as support for the 4-month-old anti-government yellow vest movement has been dwindling, mostly as a reaction to the riots by some protesters.
The protests started in November to oppose fuel tax hikes but have expanded into a broader rejection of Macron’s economic policies, which protesters say favor businesses and the wealthy over ordinary French workers. Macron countered by dropping the fuel tax hike and holding months of discussions with the public on France’s stagnant wages, high taxes and high unemployment.
The yellow vest movement was named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in their vehicles for emergencies.