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June 1, 2018

Death toll in Nicaragua unrest nears 100 as Ortega vows to stay


June 1, 2018

MANAGUA: The death toll from weeks of violent unrest in Nicaragua rose to almost 100 as embattled President Daniel Ortega rejected calls to step down and the Catholic church, which has tried to mediate the conflict, Thursday refused to resume the dialogue.

At least 11 people were killed and 79 wounded on Wednesday as pro- and anti-government supporters clashed in a number of cities, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) said.

The deaths brought to 98 the number of people killed in a wave of protests that began on April 18 against Ortega and his ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Over 900 have been wounded.

The protests were initially triggered by now-aborted reforms to the near-bankrupt social security system, but the unrest quickly broadened into a rejection by many Nicaraguans of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, who are seen as autocratic.

The government and opposition had agreed on Monday to resume peace talks mediated by the Catholic church that stalled last week.But the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference announced Thursday that it will not resume the dialogue as long as “the people continue to be repressed and killed” by “groups close to the government”.

The CENIDH said the latest killings occurred in the capital Managua and the cities of Esteli and Masaya, and incidents also took place in Leon.“The aggressors were the repressive police” and anti-riot forces who report to Ortega and his wife, according to the rights group.

“Massacre! Shots are being fired against peaceful demonstrators,” Managua’s auxiliary bishop, Silvio Baez, wrote on social media late Wednesday.Installations of the official radio station Radio Ya and a rural credit cooperative were burned and the facade of the national baseball stadium was destroyed.

Offices of the opposition channel 100% Noticias, censored for several days in mid-April by the authorities because of its coverage of demonstrations, and the transmission installations of the opposition radio station Darío in Leon were also attacked, their owners reported.

Deputy National Police director Francisco Diaz said Wednesday people wearing hoods fired guns and mortars at families taking part in a pro-government rally in Managua, leaving 12 injured including five police.

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