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Pro-government radio station attacked, inciting new violence in Nicaragua

By Ray Downs
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A demonstrator in Managua, Nicaragua on Monday runs toward an attack on a pro-government radio station. Photo by Ray Downs/UPI
A demonstrator in Managua, Nicaragua on Monday runs toward an attack on a pro-government radio station. Photo by Ray Downs/UPI

MANAGUA, May 28 (UPI) -- Anti-government protesters are blamed for dousing a state-sponsored radio station with gas bombs and Molotov cocktails Monday afternoon in Managua and police responded with gunshots.

Masked men on motorcycles surrounded the area near Radio Ya in the capital city, preventing other vehicles from entering as the attack was carried out. Other participants in the attack stood atop buildings and fired homemade mortar guns in the direction of the radio station.

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After the attack, the assailants celebrated in front of the burning building, raising their arms and firing mortars into the air.

Initial reports indicated no one was killed in the attack. Several people were injured, including one who was shot. Paramedics said none of the injuries were likely to be life-threatening.

RELATED Anger toward Nicaraguan police grows after protester deaths

In the hours after the attack, riot police arrived in the area and video from 100% Noticias shows them firing shots.

Radio Ya, a state-sponsored television station, blamed the "fascist right" for being "incited by hatred and their desire to silence the truth."

La Prensa reported the attack on Radio Ya was conducted after pro-government civilian groups, known locally as "turbas," or mobs, were accused of attacking student protesters at the National University of Engineering, located about two miles from the radio station.

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Erika Guevara-Rosas, the Americas director at Amnesty International, said she recorded that confrontation and said the turbas attacked students with firearms. However, the video -- taken from behind a fence and trees -- doesn't give conclusive visual proof. Booms heard in the audio resemble mortar blasts, which are a common sound in Nicaragua these days.

The violence Monday was just the latest since deadly protests broke out across the country in April.

Beginning on April 17, people began protesting changes to the country's social security law, which raised taxes and cut pensions. As the protests grew, the national police cracked down and have been blamed by human rights groups for killing more than 70 people, many of them university students.

RELATED Nicaragua police free students jailed amid violent protests

Protests have since continued throughout the country and the list of grievances now includes a push for justice over the protester deaths. Before Monday, the national police force has mostly stood down from controlling protests since the violence in April. But there has still been periodic clashes reminiscent of Monday's attack -- with each side of the conflict blaming the other. Anti-government protesters blame pro-government gangs for instigating violence during demonstrations. In turn, pro-government media blame "right-wing vandals" for any destruction.

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After six weeks of protests, the death toll has grown to more than 80. The latest victim was 30-year-old Jorge Gastón Palacios, a government employee at the National Institute of Technology.

Gastón died of bullet wounds after he was shot at a roadblock set up by anti-government protesters during a confrontation between them and pro-government civilians in Boaco, about 56 miles east of Managua.

Police spokeswoman Vilma Rosa González blamed protesters for the killing while protesters there told Confidencial that the only people with guns in that incident were the pro-government civilians.

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