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Disturbances surrounding municipal elections in Managua | Nov 19, 2008

Sandinista sympathizers obstruct passage of the Carretera a Masaya in Managua
Various disturbances have taken place in Managua and other Nicaraguan cities, ever since the municipal elections of November 9. Due to claims of strong signs of electoral fraud by the opposition party and various social groups, no new mayor of Managua has been officially declared yet. The disturbances this had led to include road blocks, large public manifestations, and even direct confrontations between sympathizers of opposing political parties.

It is important to note that the urban disturbances are confined to several cities, and within those cities to specific areas. In general, manifestations have taken place in specific zones within cities such as Managua, Léon, Jinotega, Tipitapa and Nagarote. Outside of those specific neighborhoods, daily life continues as normal, as it does in the rest of the country.

All manifestations to date have led to moments of strong tensions, at times even resulting in violence between people or against private property, mainly buildings, vehicles and advertisements along the side of the road. After the disturbances, the sites of tension turn back to normal, though new occurrences of tension keep the urban population involved, providing them with hope and worries at the same time, especially those living in the most tense areas.

The third report presented by the executives of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) of Nicaragua in the afternoon of November 10, showed the results based on a high percentage of the votes, identifying the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) as the virtual winner in 94 of the 146 participating municipalities, including in the highly important cities of Managua, León and Matagalpa.

Members of the opposition party Alianza PLC, led by the candidate for mayor of Managua Eduardo Montealegre, immediately denounced the elections of fraud. They claim that according to copies of the records of every Vote Receiving Council, where the ballot boxes are kept, the results are very different for several municipalities. According to the PLC, they are the winners in several cities that the CSE awarded to the FSLN, including the capital.

The perception of fraud was also fueled by events on the day of elections. Voting sites closed early, many people were denied IDs to vote, and officials from the PLC were suddenly banished from several Vote Receiving Councils. Also, semi-destroyed electoral material has been found in garbage dumping sites in different parts of the country. Because of these events, the Catholic Church, civil organization and the two most important business chambers sent a request to recount the votes to the CSE.

Clashes between sympathizers of the FSLN and the PLC have taken place in several cities. Two attempts at organizing a march by the latter party, and which would be attended by other political and civil forces, were canceled due to massive groups of sandinista sympathizers armed with rocks, sticks, bats, and home-made mortars. The first march was to take place in León on Sunday 16, and the second in Managua yesterday afternoon, November 18. Both were canceled because they were enclosed by hundreds of FLSN sympathizers, who came from the aforementioned cities or came by bus from other parts of the country. They also obstructed the passage of people who wished to participate in the march. Up till today, Wednesday, November 19, ten days after the elections, the CSE has neither made their results official, nor accepted the request to recount the electoral results with the presence of national and international observers.

The violence has extended to the media, as several vehicles of reporters have been destroyed by people tied to the manifestations. Free coverage has been impeded and five journalists have been beaten. would like to insist that the violence generated by these events has neither extended throughout the country, nor throughout the cities that have been the scenes of manifestations. In Managua, for example, the area of tension yesterday was confined to the zone of Carretera a Masaya, between Metrocentro (south), the viaduct at La Centroamérica (north), Enel Central (west) and the western part of Los Robles (east). In other words, it was limited to an area of less than 1 squared kilometer. Peaceful political congregations also took place in other parts of the cities. Nevertheless, life was just like any other day in almost the entire city.