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Eyeing Middle East, Nicaragua's Ortega quashes weekend protests

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Analysts, opposition leaders, and former Ortega allies say the president’s massive mobilization of government workers and Sandinista supporters – plus the deployment of 11,000 police officers to shutdown the city and restrict people’s movement – is a sign that Ortega’s fear of rebellion is bordering on paranoia.

“What we have seen in Northern Africa and the Middle East is that citizen mobilizations can overthrow despotic and authoritarian regimes. And what we saw during [Saturday’s] march was a reflection of the fear and psychosis that has awakened in Ortega’s head as a result of what he’s seeing in that part of the world,” says opposition lawmaker and Sandinista dissident Mónica Baltodano, who was violently dragged away from the protest and tossed on the ground by police.

A wave of discontent

Since recent uprisings that ousted leaders in Egypt and Tunisia – and the efforts by Nicaragua’s opposition to tap into the wave of change those events have had on other countries in that region – President Ortega has demonstrated even more intolerance and levels of heightened suspicion than usual.

In addition to trying to block or counter all forms of protest – including a “virtual Facebook march” organized against his reelection bid last month – the president has also expanded the security perimeter around his family compound, which is now entirely isolated from the rest of the Managua neighborhood.

The massive deployment of police to block yesterday’s relatively small opposition march is another indication of Ortega’s insecurity, opposition leaders insist.

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