A raid by pro-government forces on Sunday left at least 14 people dead in Nicaragua, where hundreds have been killed since unrest broke out in April, a rights group said.
“This has been a horror,” Vilma Nunez, president of the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights (CENIDH), told AFP news agency.
“We have a minimum of 14 dead, but it could be more,” Nunez said.
“That includes at least one anti-riot officer, one paramilitary member and two police officers.”
The violence came less than a day after President Daniel Ortega rejected calls for early elections.
Heavily armed groups of individuals in black-hooded civilian clothes demolished the opposition barricades in Diriamba and Jinotepe areas alongside police, according to videos filmed by residents, who posted them on social media.
Mechanical equipment dismantled the barricades, opening up access to more than 350 cargo trucks stranded on the highway in Jinotepe for more than a month.
The government has not commented on the violence, but police blamed “terrorists with firearms” for the deaths of two officers.
“The situation is serious,” said Alvaro Leiva, the executive secretary of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights. “There is an undue attack by government forces that is causing bloodshed, more death and mourning in our country.”
Speaking to thousands of supporters in the capital Managua late on Saturday, Ortega said the Central American country’s constitution sets rules “that cannot be changed overnight because of the whim of a group of coup-mongers”.
It was his first public appearance in more than a month.
Ortega said protesters who are demanding he leave office should “seek the vote of the people” if they want to govern and must respect that his current term runs through 2021.
The president also blamed those who oppose him for the killings since the onset of protests in April.
However, human rights groups say most of the more than 250 people who have died have been killed by police and armed civilian groups allied to Ortega’s Sandinista political movement.
Protesters, who first took to the streets against now-aborted pension reforms, are demanding the resignation of Ortega and wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, who they accuse of establishing a dictatorship characterised by nepotism and brutal repression.
Rights groups have accused security forces and groups loyal to the government of using “lethal force” to crack down on the protests.
Roman Catholic bishops have shown frustration, but are still working to mediate dialogue between the government and opposition in a bid to end the protests and government repression.