Humberto Ortega, the former head of Nicaragua‘s military, has urged his brother, President Daniel Ortega, to disband the pro-government paramilitary forces blamed for deadly violence in months of unrest.
He made the comments in a TV interview broadcast late on Friday on a CNN En Espanol programme.
“If the government has a profound sense of responsibility, in the first place it should end the presence of these armed people,” who act “as if they were a military or police authority”, he said.
More than 300 people have been killed in Nicaragua in over three months of unrest, which began when the government proposed reducing pension benefits to ease budgetary pressures. Though the plan was later dropped, it provoked large demonstrations and calls for Ortega to step down.
The anti-government protests have been brutally countered by police and armed pro-government paramilitaries.
Rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been wounded since mid-April. Humberto Ortega blamed the armed irregular forces for many of the deaths of protesters.
“We cannot accept the existence of parapolice or paramilitary forces,” he told CNN, complaining that the paramilitaries “operate openly next to national police”.
He also highlighted the government’s responsibility in violence.
“Here we have to point out that the main responsible for the situation we are living in is the state of Nicaragua, and the state of Nicaragua has a government, and the government should have taken all measures to not reach to this bloodshed,” he added.
On Friday, eight public hospital doctors said that they had been fired after violating alleged orders not to treat wounded anti-government protesters.
Translation: Humberto Ortega has made responsible the state and the government of his brother for the violence and repression, presenter Camilo Engana wrote.
Humberto Ortega acaba de responsabilizar al estado y al gobierno de su hermano por la violencia y la represión.
— Camilo Egaña (@camilocnn) July 28, 2018
The two brothers fought in the 1979 Sandinista revolution that toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza.
Humberto Ortega was head of Nicaragua’s military until the Sandinistas lost power in the 1990 election. Since then he has focused on business and writing.
Daniel Ortega, who was president from 1985 to 1990, was re-elected in 2007 and has remained in power since. Many of his Sandinista comrades from the 1979 revolution however no longer support him.
Humberto Ortega blamed the government for the “indiscriminate repression” of protesters but refused to directly blame his brother.
He says that he has a “very respectful and fraternal” relationship with the president, but that they do not have direct communication.
The ex-military leader supports government talks with the opposition mediated by the Catholic Church, as well as a proposal to hold early presidential elections next year to solve the ongoing crisis.