As soldiers and riot police continue to occupy various towns in northern Nicaragua, a group of sympathizers from the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) walked silently in procession to the cemetery of Ciudad Darío this afternoon to bury Vidal Obando, one of three people killed yesterday in post-electoral violence in Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia.
Obando, 56, reportedly died from head injuries after being bludgeoned by an unidentified assailant during a post-electoral street protest in Ciudad Darío, Matagalpa. Fellow PLI activist Juan López, 40, was shot and killed in the street nearby.
The two men’s deaths has heighted tensions that started after the PLI accused the ruling Sandinista Front of rigging the vote and stealing the election in the municipalities of Ciudad Darío and Matiguás. PLI campaign organizer Santiago Aburto says he has the official voting records from those two municipalities proving the PLI won. He claims the vote tally was manipulated afterwards by the ruling party and the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).
Aburto, a former radio journalist and PLI congressman, says his party will file an official appeal before the CSE next week, but has no faith that the same magistrates will reverse their decision.
“On Sunday, all the remaining spaces for democracy were closed—now there is no going back,” Aburto told The Nicaragua Dispatch. “Now the people will have to decide whether to hang their heads before the tyranny, or start a different type of democratic struggle that I don’t want to mention right now.”
The members of the PLI weren’t the only victims of post-electoral violence.
Five police officers suffered injuries from rocks, mortars and gunfire during street fighting in Jinotega and Matagalpa.
In the municipality of El Jícaro, Nueva Segovia, Sandinista Youth member Ariel Francisco Reyes was attacked in the street and died after sustaining injuries to his neck.
In Altagracia, Ometepe—the “Oasis of Peace”—three police officers and one Sandinista party member were injured when PLI activists attacked the police station. In the municipality of San Nicolás, Estelí, the mayor’s office was attacked and partially destroyed by PLI supporters who accused the Sandinistas of stealing that poll.
The most chaotic scene of the day was in the municipality of La Paz Centro, León, where the CSE’s announcement of a Sandinista victory triggered a riotous bout of street fighting and vandalism that lasted into the night.
A mob of PLI sympathizers torched municipal government vehicles, the old train station, the market and the fire station. Sandinistas retaliated by looting and destroying the PLI’s campaign headquarters. Riot police stepped in to crack skulls and arrest 27 people.
“The National Police lament and condemn the violence that has occurred and is willing to investigate and clarify each one of the acts and indentify those who were responsible in each case to bring them to justice according to law,” the National Police said in a statement last night.
Holding the line in Nueva Guinea
Perhaps the tensest region of the country at the moment is in the rural agricultural municipality of Nueva Guinea, in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS).
There are currently 4,000 members of the opposition Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) occupying the streets of the town, surrounded by some 200 riot police in a tense standoff.
On Monday afternoon, the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) announced the PLC won the poll in Nueva Guinea and would maintain control of the mayor’s office. It was one of only two municipalities won by the PLC.
But last night there was an apparent reversal of that decision as the CSE awarded the municipality to the Sandinista Front. Riot police were sent in to surround the city. Even then, the Sandinistas didn’t come out of their houses to protest, according to PLC mayor Denis Obando.
“Even the Sandinistas know they didn’t win,” Obando told The Nicaragua Dispatch today in a phone interview. “They tried to steal the vote the regular way by failing to accredit poll watchers, excluding participation and the ‘raton loco,’ but when that didn’t work, they tried to cut the transmission of the vote count to Managua.”
CSE president Roberto Rivas admitted during his preliminary vote count that transmission of vote data had been cut with Nueva Guinea.
Obando says he has the official vote tallies from all voting precincts in Nueva Guinea, and they show that he won reelection by a vote count of 10,854 for the PLC to 7,740 for the Sandinista Front.
He says the Sandinistas tried to pad their vote count afterwards by adding stray numbers to their copy of the vote tallies, turning 20 votes into 200, and 60 votes into 160. By the end, the Sandinistas claimed to have won 10,930 votes, beating the PLC by less than 100 ballots.
Curiously enough, the CSE has not posted any results for Nueva Guinea on its webpage.
Obando insists the Sandinistas won’t be allowed to steal his municipality. The opposition is going to hold the line in Nueva Guinea, he vows.
“There is no way they can reverse this on us,” Obando said. “If the riot police attack, it will be a disaster. Nueva Guinea is a complicated place. We are very belligerent here. This was the heart of the contra corridor and we have the bad habit of resolving our problems in an inappropriate way.”