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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

US warns of protests around Nicaragua election

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - The United States warned its citizens on Tuesday to be vigilant in Nicaragua in in case there are violent protests around the hotly contested Nov. 5 presidential election.

A State Department advisory to U.S. residents and visitors said protests and sporadic violence were possible in major cities in the run-up to the vote, and clashes could involve tear gas, rubber bullets, homemade explosives and rock-throwing.

"The State Department has an obligation to warn travelers in any country where there is a situation that could provoke violence," a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Managua said.

Nicaragua emerged from civil war 16 years ago and voters are deeply divided as they go to the polls.

Front-runner Daniel Ortega, whose leftist Sandinista government fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s has a loyal support base, but more than half the nation still blames him for the bloodshed and economic hardship of the war.

Anti-Sandinista voters are split between two rival conservative candidates, Eduardo Montealegre and Jose Rizo.

The State Department warned that bystanders had been injured in past protests in Nicaragua.

"American residents and visitors in Nicaragua are urged to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and avoid crowds and demonstrations," it said.

More than 6,000 Americans live in Nicaragua, some of them dual-nationality citizens and others retirees taking advantage of a property boom along the rugged Pacific coast and in balmy colonial cities like Granada and Leon.
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