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Protesters, Police Clash In Second Anti-Government Demonstration

February 10, 1988

MASAYA, Nicaragua (AP) _ In the second anti-government protest in Masaya in two days, demonstrators built barricades of burning tires and police with clubs broke up the crowd, roughed up journalists and seized news film.

Shots were heard but no injuries reported in the latest protest Tuesday night in the Monimbo neighborhood of Masaya, 20 miles southeast of Managua.

On Monday night, hundreds of opponents of forced military recruitment of young men stoned the police station and a Sandinista Youth office in Masaya.

Before Tuesday night’s melee, 4,000 people had staged a rally to support the leftist Sandinista government and repudiate Monday night’s demonstration. The pro-government rally ended before the anti-government rally began.

In Tuesday night’s protest, photographer Jason Bleibtreu of Sygma Photo News, an international news pictures service, said he was with a group of journalists when police confiscated two rolls of films from him.

″We felt intimidated and scared. Some journalists said they were hit, some said guns were drawn. I didn’t see any of that. It was very clear they were not asking for our material, they were ordering it,″ Bleibtreu said.

Luis Diaz, a cameraman for the London-based Visnews agency, told The Associated Press that police with rubber clubs charged about 150 demonstrators.

″The police also charged journalists and obliged us to hand over exposed rolls, then shoved us out of the area,″ Diaz said. ″We couldn’t even get back to our vehicles and we had to take refuge in some houses near the incidents. Then we had to get out of the city fast.″

Area residents told the AP the demonstrators had set up barricades of burning tires in the streets and that police arrived in several military trucks. The residents spoke on condition they not be identified.

Thirteen people were detained in Monday night’s protest, when hundreds of anti-government demonstrators stoned government offices, burned two cars and confronted 5,000 Sandinista supporters. The demonstrators dispersed in view of the larger pro-government crowd, many of whom wielded large sticks or clubs.

In that demonstration, protersters threw rocks at the police station and a Sandinista Youth office.

Among the 13 detainees was Enrique Calero, local vice-president of the Nicaraguan Social Christian Party, said Lt. Marcelino Davila of the Interior Ministry. He said all 13 were charged with damaging property.

The melees were the latest in a series of public protests against the Sandinista government and the mandatory military draft.

The Monday night protest broke out spontaneously after army trucks circulated through the town picking up draft-age men.

Interior Minister Tomas Borge, wearing a green military uniform, on Monday night walked among the crowd along streets littered with rocks and glass.

″There’s no police repression here,″ said Borge, patting stick-toting Sandinista supporters on the back. ″No shots were fired, no tear gas used.″

Borge said the riots were started by parents ″motivated by natural sentiment″ after the military picked up 29 young men for army service. He said the crowd was instigated by former prisoners recently pardoned ″by the generosity of the revolution.″

The Sandinistas freed almost 1,000 political prisoners in November.

About 200 state security officers arrived in pickup trucks and unmarked automobiles to take up positions along the streets early Tuesday.

The Front’s Radio Sandino had called on Sandinista supporters ″not to let the right take control of the street.″

Masaya has been a Sandinista stronghold since 1978, when it was a rallying point in uprisings against Anastasio Somoza, the rightist, pro-American strongman who was overthrown by the Sandinistas.

The opposition newspaper La Prensa recently reported protests throughout Nicaragua against forced military recruitment to fight in the six-year war against U.S.-trained and -supplied Contra rebels.

Men 18 years old have been required since 1983 to serve in the military.

Public protests without permission were illegal in Nicaragua under a 1982 state of emergency law, enacted after the Contra war heated up.

President Daniel Ortega revoked the law last month as part of government compliance with a regional peace plan.

The presidents of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras signed the plan Aug. 7. It calls for an end to the war in Nicaragua and to leftist guerrilla wars in El Salvador and Guatemala and for reforms to bring about greater democracy in Central America.

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