U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that groups linked to Nicaragua’s government were using “unacceptable” lethal force against citizens, and urged an end to the violence that has claimed over 300 lives in almost three months of protests.

Anti-government activists hold a demonstration in Managua, Nicaragua, on July 3, 2018, demanding justice for those killed in recent protests, and the immediate resignation of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP)

Unofficial sources say the number of deaths since unrest broke out in April has reached 360, in the bloodiest protests in Nicaragua since the country’s civil war ended in 1990.

“The secretary-general deplores and condemns violence against civilians, including against students,” said his spokesman, Farhan Haq, asked about it at a press conference.

According to Haq, Guterres believes that “the use of lethal force is not only unacceptable, but is itself an obstacle to achieving a political solution to the current crisis.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

“It’s essential to immediately halt the violence and rebuild national political dialogue. Only a political solution is acceptable,” Guterres added, speaking at the 40th anniversary of the IACHR.

Twelve countries in Latin America, including neighbors Costa Rica and Honduras, taking part in a meeting of the the foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), demanded Monday in a joint statement the “immediate cessation of acts of violence, intimidation and threats” in Nicaragua and the “dismantling of paramilitary groups.”

The “special declaration on the situation in Nicaragua” is also supported by Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, all of them belonging to the Lima Group, as well as Uruguay and Ecuador.

The 12 also urge the Nicaraguan government to “reactivate the national dialogue” that “involves all parties to generate peaceful and sustainable solutions” and express their support to the bishops in their work “in favor of the search and promotion of solutions to the conflict.”

The government of Daniel Ortega and “other social actors” must demonstrate, in their opinion, their “commitment” with concrete results on the “fundamental challenges of the country,” such as “the holding of free, fair and timely elections” in Nicaragua, according to the declaration.

Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister and vice-president, Epsy Campbell

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said in Brussels that in Nicaragua “the situation is going from bad to worse”, after the violence and fatalities in the country.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned the attacks perpetrated in recent days by police and paramilitary forces against religious leaders and peaceful demonstrators in Nicaragua and called on the country’s authorities to stop the repression and violence and demanded that those in Nicaragua fulfill their commitment in favor of this dialogue between the Government and the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy.

Seven former presidents of Costa Rica signed a letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General, who is in Costa Rica this week to take part in the 40th Anniversary of the entry into force of the American Convention on Human Rights and the creation of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to intervene in the promotion of a peaceful solution to the sociopolitical crisis that Nicaragua has suffered for almost three years months

“We request your valuable intervention so that the United Nations, with the information of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the resolution of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, intervenes to promote a solution that will restore, as soon as possible, peace and democracy in Nicaragua,” the letter indicates.

The IACHR is based in San Jose, Costa Rica.

The attacks have drawn international condemnation of Ortega, facing his biggest test in office since he returned to power in 2007.

Ortega says he is open to dialogue, and has invited the IACHR to verify his assertion that human rights have been respected in the country.

Violence surged again over the weekend when armed groups and police loyal to Ortega burst into universities occupied by protesters and smashed roadblocks set up in defiance of the government.

In a statement on Monday, July 16, the U.S. State Department called on Ortega’s government to heed Nicaraguans’ call for democratic reforms immediately and hold elections.

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The United States has imposed visa restrictions on individuals it holds responsible for human rights abuses or undermining democracy in Nicaragua, as well as their family members.

Relatives of victims of the violence walked down the main streets of Managua on Monday with their coffins, demanding justice for the dead.

“The population hasn’t given up because it’s still in the streets demanding freedom,” said Carlos Tünnermann, a member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, one of the main civilian groups leading the opposition to Ortega.

The opposition has called on Ortega to step down and hold early elections. Ortega has refused to do so.

Article originally appeared on Today Nicaragua and is republished here with permission.


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