August, 5 2018 (CNN)
Civil unrest in Nicaragua that began in mid-April has left at least 317 people dead, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Included in the organization’s death toll are 21 police officers and 23 children and adolescents “killed in the context of the crisis,” said the commission, which is known as IACHR. The Nicaraguan government reports 195 dead since the protests began.
“The Inter-American Commission condemns all the registered murders and urges the state of Nicaragua to promptly and seriously investigate each of these crimes,” said Commissioner Antonia Urrejola, IACHR’s rapporteur for the country. She added that “the state must have an updated, reliable and transparent report of the deaths.”
On Thursday, the Organization of American States approved the creation of a “Work Group for Nicaragua” designed to “find peaceful and sustainable solutions” to the Nicaraguan crisis that will include “consultations with the government.”
Previous mediation talks between the various sectors of society and the government have proven fruitless, with opposing parties unable to reach compromises.
Marches and protests continue
What started as protests against social security reforms over three months ago have turned into calls for President Daniel Ortega’s ousting, with protesters demanding justice for the victims, an end to repression and early presidential elections.
Police and paramilitaries — masked, armed men in pickup trucks — continue to clamp down on protests and those supporting them, as fear grows throughout the country. The makeshift barricades that were once the symbol of the people’s resistance are dismantled.
In an interview with CNN Español’s Andrés Oppenheimer, Ortega said the masked men in the streets are “voluntary police,” adding that they are “citizens defending themselves.”
Despite the fear, people continue marching throughout the nation almost daily, with themes from freeing political prisoners to student marches, mothers’ marches or as on Saturday, a march in support of medical personnel.
Nicaraguan doctors and medical staff are reportedly being fired for having tended to injured and dying protesters.
A written request by CNN seeking comment to the director of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health remains unanswered.
Videos online showed protesters in the streets supporting medical staff, with the Nicaraguan flag being used as bandanas and being waved in the air to form a sea of blue and white.
Government-run Digital 19 reported pro-government counterprotests “demanding justice against the material and intellectual authors of the assassinations that the terrorists in the so-called ‘barricades of death’ committed.”
Marchers carried images of injured dolls and recreated scenes of violence they said were committed by “terrorists.” They were surrounded by government supporters waving the red and black flag of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, the representation of the 1970s Sandinista movement that liberated Nicaragua from then-dictator Anastasio Somoza.
“On this occasion, health workers participated and floats demonstrated the destruction and damages provoked by the hatred of the coup groups, the ambulances, vehicles and public institutions,” Digital 19 said.