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Latin America Nicaragua violence continues despite resumption of peace talks

AT LEAST nine people were killed in Nicaragua this weekend despite the resumption of government-initiated peace talks aimed at ending the escalating violence in the country.

Eyewitnesses described masked individuals using home-made mortars and petrol bombs to burn down a house in the Karl Marx district of the capital Managua, in which four adults and three children were killed.

The killings were described as “hate crimes,” with opposition groups seeking to blame Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for the attacks, which they claimed were committed by pro-government forces.

Speaking during the talks mediated by Nicaragua’s Catholic Church, opposition politician Carlos Tunnerman charged: “The government is not fulfilling the agreements made here in this roundtable.”

However Foreign Minister Denis Moncada denied government involvement and said the evidence suggested the attacks had in fact been carried out by those seeking to oust Mr Ortega.

Mr Moncada read the fire service’s statement, which reported: “Neighbours from the sector explained that masked criminals, who had laid siege on the neighbourhood for weeks, threw Molotov cocktails inside the house, starting the fire.”

A police report told how, later in the day, officers had come under attack while removing a roadblock from the area with the help of local residents.

Masked gunmen opened fire, killing Francisco Arauz and Antonio Fernandez, whose bodies were then burned using “petrol and tyres.”

Mr Ortega agreed to the establishment of a Truth and Security Commission on Saturday and said he is willing to “listen to all proposals and initiative within the constitutional framework.”

Discussions which took place over the weekend are set to continue today in an effort to bring an end the the violence that erupted in April over pension reforms.

The 12-member commission will seek to lift the road blocks, which are placing lives at risk and crippling the country’s economy, and their efforts will be overseen by members of the international community.

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, president of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua,  said in a statement late on Saturday that the proposals brought forward by the commission would be voted on.

“We reiterate the urgency of the cessation of violence,” he said. “Enough death.”

At least 170 people have been killed since the unrest began, with the government accusing US-backed opposition forces of fomenting regime change.

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