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Political violence in Nicaragua out of control

Violence between supporters of opposing political parties in Nicaragua is spiralling out of control, following this month's municipal elections. Hundreds of supporters from the Sandinista National Liberation Front Party (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional - FSLN) and the opposition Liberal Constitutional Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista - PLC) clashed in Managua on 18 November. They used sticks, stones, home-made mortars, guns and machetes. Many people were wounded but no official figures are available. The PLC has refused to accept the results published so far, which attribute the majority of municipal government positions to the FSLN, including the position of Mayor of Managua. The clashes have been fuelled by accusations of fraud and vote rigging. "Political parties need to be more outspoken in condemning any acts of violence by their supporters and seek a negotiated solution to disputes around the elections," said Kerrie Howard, Deputy Director of the Americas Programme at Amnesty International. "The government party has a special responsibility to call for calm, in particular by its own supporters, given its duty to protect its citizens." In the days leading up to the 9 November elections, sporadic acts of violence involving supporters of the two main political factions swept the capital Managua and other cities. Tension prior to the elections was already high, partly due to the government's refusal to allow international and local observer groups to monitor the elections. Journalists have also been targeted as a result of their reports on events and, according to news reports, at least 20 journalists have been assaulted, while five independent radio stations have also been attacked. "The press should be allowed to report on the elections without fear of reprisals. The press must not be targeted in the quagmire of political violence," said Kerrie Howard. "The credibility of the government is at stake: those in office and their supporters must be mindful of their obligation to uphold the principles of the rule of law and respect for human rights by ensuring violence does not escalate."