Nicaraguans Protest Remarks by U.S. Envoy
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Published: October 30, 2009
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Thousands of Nicaraguans pelted the United States Embassy here with rocks and homemade explosives on Thursday, demanding that the ambassador be expelled for criticizing a ruling that allows President Daniel Ortega to seek re-election.
Mr. Ortega’s administration issued a statement calling the comments by the ambassador, Robert J. Callahan, an “inadmissible” interference in Nicaragua’s internal affairs, but he stopped short of asking for the ambassador’s removal.
Mr. Callahan had commented on the Oct. 19 ruling by the Supreme Court, which deemed “unenforceable” a constitutional amendment banning a president from seeking re-election to a second consecutive term in office.
The court, whose 16 members are all supporters of Mr. Ortega, ruled that he did not have to call a referendum to allow him to run for re-election in 2011. The United States called the court’s decision one more of Nicaragua’s “questionable and irregular governmental actions.”
Mr. Callahan raised more resentment here when he told a group of businessmen on Wednesday that the court had acted improperly, with unusual speed, in secret, with judges “from just one political movement, and with no public discussion.
“Get out! Get out!” thousands of demonstrators shouted on Thursday outside the United States diplomatic mission. According to witnesses, some protesters used handmade mortar launchers to fire explosives at the 62-acre embassy complex, which opened two years ago.
Despite efforts by the riot police to disperse the protesters with tear gas, many were able to smash lights and security cameras and mar the building with scratches and “Yankees go home” graffiti.
The leader of the National Workers’ Front, Gustavo Porras, a friend of Mr. Ortega, told the Nicaraguan news media that the protesters were demanding that Mr. Callahan “be declared persona non grata,” and “that the blond Yankee be thrown out of here.”
There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests.
Mr. Ortega, who led the 1979 Sandinista uprising that toppled the regime of a dictator backed by the United States, Anastasio Somoza, was president from 1985 to 1990 and returned to power in 2006.