End paramilitary groups, brother of Nicaragua’s Ortega says

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (L), next to Vice-President Rosario Murillo, gives a speech during a pro-government rally on Nicaragua’s National Mothers Day at the “Rotonda Hugo Chavez” in Managua on May 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON

Humberto Ortega, the ex-head of Nicaragua’s military, urged his brother President Daniel Ortega in a TV interview to disband the pro-Sandinista paramilitary forces blamed for deadly violence in months of unrest.

“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,” Humberto Ortega said in a late Friday interview on the CNN En Espanol program “Con Camilo.”

More than 300 people have been killed in Nicaragua in more than three months of unrest against Daniel Ortega’s administration. The protests have been brutally countered by police and armed pro-government paramilitaries.

Rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been wounded since the clashes erupted in mid-April.

Humberto Ortega blamed the armed irregular forces for many of the protester deaths.

“We cannot accept the existence of parapolice or paramilitary forces,” he told CNN, complaining that the paramilitaries “operate openly next to national police.”

Humberto Ortega, 71, fought alongside his brother Daniel, 72, in the 1979 Sandinista revolution that toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza.

He was head of Nicaragua’s military until the Sandinistas lost power in the 1990 election. Since then he has focused on business and writing.

Humberto’s brother Daniel was re-elected in 2007, and has remained in power since. Many of Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista comrades from the 1979 revolution however no longer support the president.

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.