Central America & Caribbean
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Nicaragua revives old ghosts?

Development: On 6 May, a group of armed men shot dead José Aristeo Martí­nez Rodrí­guez, the leader of one of the ruling Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional's citizen power councils (CPCs), in the Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic (Raan) on the Caribbean Coast.

Significance: This is the first assassination ahead of the 6 November general elections.

Key points:

According to Martí­nez's widow, six men armed with carbines broke into their residence, in the Rosita municipality, kidnapped her husband, saying they were going to exterminate “all Sandinistas, particularly CPC members" and painted the words “Comando Patriótico por Nicaragua Juan Uriel 380" on the wall of the house.

The police chief responsible for the municipality, Otilio Duarte Herrera, claimed that there are armed groups operating in the municipalities of Puerto Cabezas, Rosita, Siuna, Bonanza, Prinzapolka and Mulukukú. The army denies the existence of such groups, claiming they are merely vandals.

The possible existence of these groups last attracted attention in February following the alleged assassination of a former Contra, José Gabriel Garmendia (AKA Comandante Yahob), by official forces in the department of Jinotega. The mysterious circumstances surrounding his death prompted a call from the Nicaraguan centre for human rights for an extensive investigation.

In May 2009, church leaders had warned that armed groups were operating in some rural areas. This followed a statement by the “Comando de Justicia Nacional Rigoberto López Pérez" declaring it had taken up arms against the “bi-party dictatorship" of President Ortega and former president Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002).

Similarly, in November 2009, a march against Ortega included former Contra groups such as the Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense (FDN), Resistencia Nicaragüense (RN) and the Partido Resistencia Nicaragüense (PRN). PRN leader Roberto Ferrey told journalists at the time that his movement had seen a resurgence in rural areas. This came amid other reports that FDN-RN had been holding clandestine meetings in the northern regions of Jinotega and Matagalpa to “reactivate" their old resistance movement against what they call “the second dictatorship of Daniel Ortega".

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