Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega continued through Wednesday night to block opposition lawmakers’ access to the parliament building in protests that have grown increasingly tense in recent days in Managua. Reports indicate that masked throngs of government supporters have burned the tires and cars of opposition politicians, thrown firecrackers and other small explosive devices at entrances to parliament, and attempted “to detain 18 opposition members for several hours in an office.”
At the center of the crisis are opposition efforts to overturn a 2009 presidential decree that unilaterally extended the terms of 25 key magistrates and civil servants who are loyal to the president. The opposition—which claims to have gathered the 47 votes necessary to overturn the decree—contends that it is unconstitutional and was only designed to help Mr. Ortega clear the way to run for office again in 2011.
Eduardo Montealegre, a former Nicaraguan presidential candidate, says protestors, “are showing their fear of the majority being in power” and “are scared that we say ‘no’ to [Ortega’s] re-election.” Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza yesterday expressed his “deep concern about the events being reported by different national and international media sources” in Nicaragua and emphasized “the need to preserve institutionalization, respect the constituted authorities and resolve political differences…through dialogue and in accordance with the procedures set out in the national legislation.”