Nicaraguan town defies govt siege to bury dead as fresh violence erupts

Masaya: Residents in the Nicaraguan opposition bastion of Masaya were on Wednesday holding off an offensive by police and pro-government paramilitaries as fresh violence flared across the Central American country.
Funerals were held for three people killed in clashes in the flashpoint city on Tuesday, bringing to 187 the number killed since protests against President Daniel Ortega’s government began on April 18.
“This is horrible. You can’t live in peace anymore, people are dying because of a government that won’t leave,” 40-year-old housewife Ramona Aleman said at the cemetery in the north of the city, as a victim of Tuesday’s violence was laid to rest.
Marvin Lopez was shot in the throat and his friend Edgar Taleno said he and his friends had to dodge gunfire from pro-government forces to retrieve his body.
“This is total anarchy. We ask the international community to support us. We can no longer live here, they are massacring people who don’t have weapons,” Taleno said.
Mourners sang Nicaragua’s national anthem and fired a volley of homemade mortars in homage to the victims, blaming government “assassins” for their deaths.
Meanwhile, a pro-government mob early on Wednesday burned down the Masaya hotel owned by the family a of key government opponent, student movement figure Cristian Fajardo.
“They entered my business, they poured fuel inside, my uncle was beaten and his head was smashed with the butts of the AK-47s they carried,” said Fajardo.
Riot police and paramilitaries had deployed on Tuesday in the historically combative city after it declared itself in rebellion against Ortega’s government.
The government-backed forces entered the city to leave munitions and food for the police, and removed some barricades.
Police in the city are remaining in their barracks, but according to a priest in the Monimbo neighbourhood, Augusto Gutierrez, the opposition remain in control of some areas of the city. The pro-Ortega forces used tractors and tow trucks brought in from the capital Managua to clear barricades from the main road leading to the city.
Anti-government protesters erected new barricades in some neighbourhoods, as witnesses said trucks carrying armed men patrolled the streets of the city, 35 kilometres south of Managua.
Ortega’s wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo, said her husband “is committed to curbing this wave of terrorism, hate crimes, kidnappings, threats and intimidation.”
Gunfire was heard on Wednesday in different parts of the town. Elsewhere, residents in the towns of Jinotepe, Leon, Matagalpa and Esteli reported shootings and attacks by heavily armed men. — AFP