Now three months underway, the anti-Ortega movement has been dealt a serious blow by government loyalists and security forces. In a suburb of Manaya city this week, a stronghold of anti-government protestors was overrun and seized by the state’s allies.
“Tuesday’s clash lasted more than four hours, pitting hooded government loyalists bearing automatic weapons against youths wielding home-made mortars, and leaving the Monimbo suburb of Masaya city strewn with broken glass and shell casings.
At least 275 people have been killed in Nicaragua since protests erupted in April over a plan by Ortega’s government to trim pension benefits. The government’s heavy-handed response sparked a wider protest against Ortega’s rule.
Ortega is a former Marxist guerrilla leader who has held elected office since 2007 and also ruled the country from 1979 to 1990. The current violence comes after years of calm in Nicaragua and is the worst since his Sandinista movement battled U.S.-backed “Contra” rebels in the 1980s.
Authorities have tightened the clamp-down in an apparent attempt to clear the main protest strongholds ahead of the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution on Thursday.
On July 19, 1979 the Sandinistas entered the capital Managua after toppling the brutal Anastasio Somoza dictatorship with the help of an uprising in Masaya. Detractors say the repression ordered by Ortega in the same streets echoes tactics used by Somoza.
Ortega says the protests are an attempt to topple his elected government by force.
Despite the government’s apparent victory in subduing Masaya, some protesters said they would not give up.
“Before Sunday, a people as special as the Nicaraguan people will be rising up, one way or another,” said a student leader from Masaya who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.“