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Community Health, Education and Safety No End in Sight for Escalating Violence on Managua?s Streets
Jun 3, 2006 – Nicaragua Network Hotline

Students continue to senselessly clash violently with Managua bus cooperatives and police while the Bolaños government and the parties in the National Assembly twiddle their thumbs. Both combatants have truth and justice on their side and it is only the failure of the political class that has set two groups in conflict that should be allied.

Students are correct that most Managua residents can ill afford the legal bus fare of US$0.15 and can't afford the unauthorized increase to US$0.18. Transportation cooperative members, the vast majority of whom own the bus they drive and depend on fares to support their families, are also correct that skyrocketing oil prices cause them to work at a loss at the official fare of fifteen cents.

The failure of the political class to deal with the crisis meant that violence continued last week with dozens of injuries and at least 24 people detained by police. On May 23 a group of university students blocked traffic on the Avenida Universitaria and nearby Rubén Darío traffic circle in protest against the violent police response to secondary school students' protests the day before. Armed police attempted to break up the university students' protest but student resistance and the use of mortar bombs and stones led to the usual tear gas and rubber bullets response from police.

On May 23, 24, 25 and 26 violent confrontations between police and students took place at several points across the city. A group of masked students protesting outside the National Autonomous University (UNAN)-Managua campus situated on the Pan American Highway on the outskirts of Managua employed the new tactic of placing electrified wires on a foot bridge. This was done so as to avoid police "shooting at us from up there and disrupting our protests" according to one student.

Three buses were burned during the week and a number were seriously damaged by groups of masked university and secondary school students across the capital. According to the President of the Regional Union of Transportation Cooperatives (URECOOTRACO) Rafael Quinto, protesters have caused US$60,000 worth of damage to buses in Managua during the last two weeks.

On May 24 one student and one free trade zone worker were seriously injured when a number of bus drivers attacked protesters outside the UNAN-Managua. An 18 year old student was shot in the thigh by an angry bus driver using a revolver while a 20 year old worker from a nearby factory who was mistaken for a student by a group of bus drivers suffered serious head injuries after being hit with metal tubes and bottles.

On May 25 the National Assembly finally approved the US$2.1 million subsidy for public transportation in Managua which was promised back in February to end the transportation stoppage. Quinto made it clear that the payment of the subsidy would not bring the bus fare down to US$0.15, however, as the subsidy only covers the months of February and March and will be used to pay existing debts.

The Nicaragua Network Hotline is prepared from the Nicaragua News Service and other sources. To receive a more extensive weekly summary of the news by e-mail or postal service, send a check for $60.00 to: Nicaragua Network, 1247 E St., SE, Washington, DC 20003. To receive the Hotline by e-mail, please send an e-mail to: from the address which should receive the Hotline.

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