In Nicaragua, the government of President Anastasio Somoza on Wednesday (13 September) declared martial law throughout the country.
In Nicaragua, the government of President Anastasio Somoza on Wednesday (13 September) declared martial law throughout the country. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that guerillas seeking to overthrow the President had taken control of large parts of three major cities in the north and northwest -- Esteli, Leon and Chinandega. In the capital, Managua, government troops tightened security around big hotels, and the airport was crowded with frightened civilians trying to flee to safety in Costa Rica and Guatemala. In Washington, the State Department on Wednesday backed a call from Costa Rica and Venezuela for the Organisation of American States (OAS) meeting to discuss the civil war in Nicaragua.
SYNOPSIS: Managua airport was teeming with people anxious to leave the city torn by violence and strikes. One woman explained why.
Outgoing flights are heavily booked, but terrorist attacks on parts of the capital have forced some airlines to cancel night services to Nicaragua.
The introduction of martial law has increased tension in Managua, where the shortage of some foodstuffs was becoming severe. Food transporters have suspended some operations because of lack of security on roads. Reports said a military patrol was attacked on Wednesday (13 September) near the national university, but no details of casualties were given. Residents were said to be calling district meetings to organise themselves to handle any possible emergency.
From Jinotepe, a small township thirty-five kilometres (22 miles) southeast of managua, came reports that national guardsmen were rounding up local teenagers. Jinotepe is an important trading centre for agricultural products, notably coffee, sugarcane and timber. Under the martial law, which was just about to come into effect here, the government as suspended all the constitutional guarantees of citizens.
The town of Esteli, ninety-six kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, was reported on Thursday (14 September) to be under the control of guerrillas. Eyewitnesses said insurgents were freely patrolling the streets, and there had been only one clash with a small force of national guardsmen. Rebels had burnt down the local government building the day before in an attack on remaining guardsmen who refused to surrender. One guerrilla gave his account on the situation there.
Red Cross teams could not estimated casualty figures in reportedly rebel held towns, because of their trouble reaching battle areas.