For months now, the Central American country of Nicaragua has been in turmoil as anti-government protesters have been rising up and calling for President Daniel Ortega and his vice presidential wife to step down. The protests, sparked by slashes to social security, have been besieged by pro-government paramilitary forces and the national police resulting in the deaths of hundreds. As of Monday, CBS was the only network news outlet reporting on the chaos.
As anchor Jeff Glor led into the report on CBS Evening News, he noted that they had the only network news reporter in the country. He also warned that a possible civil war was on the horizon there and it could have dire consequences for the U.S. “New protests today are raising fears of a civil war in Nicaragua that could worsen the immigration crisis here in the U.S.,” he explained.
CBS correspondent Manuel Bojorquez was walking through a crowd of anti-government protesters as they shut down a major roadway in the capital city of Managua. Most of the people wore bandanas to protect their identity from the brutal regime.
“Take a look at this sign right here,” Bojorquez pointed out. “It says, ‘Nicaragua needs a president. I am armed, but only with strength and courage.’ The Ortega regime accuses the protesters of inciting violence, that has taken the lives of national police, who claim they were simply trying to restore the peace.”
Bojorquez shared cellphone video of a woman hiding as what could be assumed was the police fired on people. One of the most gut-wrenching attacks by pro-Ortega forces was a 15-hour-assault on a Catholic church. “It’s believed paramilitary forces loyal to Ortega fired into a Catholic church earlier this month as 100 university students sought shelter,” he reported. Only two people were killed.
CBS spoke with the church’s priest who showed them the bullet holes left in a painting of Jesus. Translating for the Father, Bojorquez said: “Jesus is with you no matter how bad it gets.”
As CBS was putting its broadcast competitors to shame, Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier was turning up the heat on President Ortega himself in an interview.
Right out of the gate, Baier was not holding back. “Mr. President, there are multiple human rights organizations tonight saying that some 350 people have been killed just over the past 80 days. Why are paramilitary forces involved in armed actions against those who are protesting your government,” he demanded to know. Ortega insisted he didn’t control the pro-government paramilitary forces.
“Mr. President, they are attacking protesters who have called for you to step down. They are attacking protesters who say that you were eliminated term limits, that accuse you and your vice president, your wife, of setting up an authoritarian dynasty,” Baier pressed in a critical tone. Ortega claimed he never thought about setting up a dynasty.
When Baier corned Ortega on the protesters that were killed in the Divine Mercy Church, the communist President denied that anyone was ever killed in a church in Nicaragua. The Fox News anchor expertly counted Ortega with video of two women who had relatives killed in the church. The Nicaraguan President seemed to then acknowledge their deaths but blamed it on terrorism.