July 9 (UPI) — The U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua said she could heard gunfire while in her Managua home as reports of violence continued throughout the country in recent days.
“Confirming there was gunfire near my house,” Ambassador Lauren Dogu wrote on Twitter. “My house was not targeted and I am ok. I am very concerned at reports of violence this weekend. I condemn the violence and my prayers are with all the victims and their families.”
On Sunday, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights reported that at least 14 people were killed in the cities of Diriamba, Jinotepe and Dolores in attacks allegedly carried out by pro-government paramilitaries against anti-government groups. Other reports have the weekend death toll up to 20.
In one of the deaths, the victim’s body was doused in gasoline and set on fire, according to El Nuevo Diario.
Video posted to Youtube shows masked men with guns standing on a corner and firing shots in a residential neighborhood. Behind them, other masked men run in other directions in what appears to be a coordinated attack.
In the three cities where attacks were reported, La Prensa reported that police and paramilitaries lifted street barricades that protesters have set up to protest the government. Attempts to take down the barricades often result in bloody confrontations between pro-government and anti-government groups who protect the barricade with mostly low-level weapons, such as homemade mortar guns and rocks.
The spate of violence comes one day after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega gave a defiant speech to supporters where he criticized the protesters as “coup leaders” and “killers” who want to force him out of office because they don’t have the support of the people.
“If the coup leaders want to reach the government, let them try to win the vote of the people and we will see if the people want to vote for the coup leaders who have caused so much destruction these days,” Ortega said.
Nicaragua is heading into its third month of nationwide unrest after protests against social security reforms in April turned into a movement against state violence and the Ortega administration, after the government was accused of killing dozens of protesters. Since then, more than 300 people have been killed in violence across the country.