Heat stays on Nicaragua leader

World | 25 Apr 2018

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega remained pressured by widespread unrest yesterday despite backing down on a pension reform plan that triggered days of violence in which at least 27 people have been killed.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital, Managua, to demand an end to the repression against protesters in the latest anti-government demonstration.

But workers, students and business people carrying national flags were mostly peaceful as they marched on Sunday while singing the national anthem and chanting against the government.

Students leading the protests vowed to keep campaigning until Ortega and his vice-president wife Rosario Murillo are out.

In a bid to ease tension, Ortega and Murillo promised to free those arrested during protests "to create a basis for dialogue."

Street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a tight grip on order. The current wave of unrest is the worst during Ortega's 11 years in power.

The president sought to placate protesters on Sunday by revoking a plan that would have increased employer and employee contributions and reduced pension benefits in a bid to cap a rising social security deficit. That plan sparked a wave of student protests last Wednesday that soon spread to other sectors.

Protests were no longer just about pensions, political science student Clifford Ramirez said. "It is against a government that denies us freedom of expression. We believe there is no longer space for dialogue."

Protests intensified in Managua earlier in the weekend with mobs erecting barriers of burning tires and looting shops.

Ortega responded by sending in riot police, deploying soldiers and cracking down on independent media.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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