Nicaragua: Gunmen attack Sandinista supporters, 5 killed, 24 wounded

July 21st, 2014 (VOA) Unidentified gunmen staged separate attacks on two buses carrying supporters of Nicaragua’s governing party that were returning from a national celebration in western Nicaragua early Sunday, killing five people and wounding 24, local authorities said Sunday.

Matagalpa Mayor Zadrach Zeledon, a member of the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front, told local media that the worst attack happened on the Pan American Highway around 1 a.m. Sunday in a community known as Las Calabazas. Two men and two women died from bullet wounds, he said.

The other attack was reported north of Matagalpa, which lies 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the capital of Managua, on a road between the towns of San Ramon and El Jobo. One man was reported killed there.

Official sources have not identified the attackers, but an anti-Sandinista group claimed responsibility on Facebook.

The government supporters were heading home after Saturday’s commemoration of the ouster of dictator Anastasio Somoza on July 19, 1979.

This weekend, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, celebrated the anniversary of the revolution he helped lead 35 years ago.

Alongside Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Ortega rallied supporters Saturday in Managua.

“Even as we have achieved great victories we still have greater victories ahead.”

The sixty-eight year-old Ortega, who is serving his third term as president, was part of the Sandinista revolt that ousted Somoza in 1979.

He is now facing criticism himself of overstepping his bounds, after opposition members said constitutional changes earlier this year are designed to keep Ortega as leader of the impoverished Central American country for life.

In January, the largely Sandinista National Assembly approved controversial amendments that would allow him to be re-elected indefinitely.

Ortega was elected president for one term in 1984, and his government survived the U.S.-backed “Contra” rebellion throughout the 1980s. He was reelected in 2006, and the Sandinista leader has expressed interest in seeking a new term in 2016.

According to the World Bank’s most recent estimates in 2009, 42.5 percent of Nicaraguans live at or below the poverty rate, a slight improvement over the 2005 estimate of 48.3 percent.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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