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Nicaragua: Anti-Ortega groups roll out hit-and-run tactics

President Daniel Ortega's move to have the Supreme Court scrap presidential term limits breathes new life into a budding clandestine protest movement.

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A surprise attack by masked youths who pelted Supreme Court magistrate Francisco Rosales with eggs is the latest in a series of guerrilla-style protests from a growing underground movement against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega.

Mr. Rosales, an enthusiastic loyalist of Mr. Ortega, was ambushed Thursday as he was entering a local TV station to defend the Sandinista magistrates' controversial ruling last week to scrap a constitutional ban on consecutive presidential terms, clearing the way for Ortega to run for office again in 2011.

The egging was part of a new trend of civil disobedience that has largely been driven underground due to Sandinista repression on the streets. The fact that opposition protests are routinely broken up with violence, coupled with the perception of Sandinista impunity and increasingly brazen infringements against Nicaragua's rule of law, have been the driving forces behind a budding clandestine protest movement made up mostly of university students and other youths.

But since last week's ruling – which the United States denounced – the underground movement has taken on a new urgency, sparking concerns of violent clashes with Sandinista supporters who vow to "permanently defend" Ortega's right to reelection.

"We are now living in a failed state; we are fighting for democracy and rule of law," says "Ernesto," a leader of the underground movement who declined to use his real name for fear of retribution. He said the core leadership of the protest movement is made up of "20 to 30 decision-makers," but that the group has grown to some 200 members who "operate in cells."

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