Sunday was the deadliest day in Nicaragua since a wave of anti-government protests started in April, a local human rights group says.
According to the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (Cenidh), 38 people were killed during clashes in three areas.
Cenidh says 31 were anti-government protesters, four police officers and three members of pro-government groups.
Clashes between the security forces and anti-government protesters have been intensifying with deadly results.
35 people have been killed in the towns of Diriamba and Jinotepe and three more in the northern province of Matagalpa, BBC reports.
Most of them had been killed in clashes between anti-government protesters manning roadblocks and police and pro-government groups attempting to clear the barricades.
Previously the human rights group had given the number of those killed as 14, but had warned that it would probably go up as they received further reports.
The Catholic Church, which has been acting as a mediator in stalled talks between the government and the protesters, has denounced the violence.
The bishop of the city of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, said the operation to remove the road blocks had been conducted “at the price of blood and death”.
More than 300 people are reported to have been killed since the wave of protests against the government was triggered by changes to the social security system announced on 18 April.
The protests widened and quickly turned into demands that President Daniel Ortega step down.
The government accuses the protesters of plotting a coup d’etat against the president, who was re-elected to a third consecutive term in office in 2016.
It also accuses the protesters of holding the country hostage by blocking roads and hampering trade and normal business.
Pro-government gangs moved into Diriamba and Jinotepe on Sunday and broke into two churches where protesters had taken refuge, where bishops and clergy were attacked July 9 as violence in the Central American country escalated and affected the Catholic Church, which has provided humanitarian assistance in its parishes and has tried to diffuse a worsening political crisis through dialogue.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solórzano of Managua and his auxiliary, Bishop Silvio José Báez, and Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the apostolic nuncio, were among clergy from Managua pummeled as they attempted to protect St. Sebastian Basilica in the city of Diriamba from an incursion by a pro-government mob. Báez and at least one other priest were injured. Journalists also were attacked and had cameras and other equipment stolen.
The bishops and clergy also tried to free anti-government protesters inside the church as masked individuals and mobs outside chanted “murderers” at the prelates. Pro-government media, meanwhile, accused the church of allowing weapons to be stored inside its properties.
“I was injured, punched in the stomach, they took my episcopal symbols away from me, and verbally attacked me,” Báez tweeted, along with a picture of a gash on his arm and blood-stained habit. “I’m OK, thank God. The basilica is free and so are those who were inside.”
“We have felt brutal force against our priests. We had gone to (the) parish to console our priests, to accompany them in this suffering and were attacked,” he said.
The attack on the bishops came as Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sent police and paramilitaries to counter protesters calling for his ouster.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
July 10th, 2018