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Protests in Nicaragua Turn Violent Amid Social Security Cuts

Over the weekend, violent protests erupted across Nicaragua, resulting in the deaths of over 25 protesters.

 Demonstration against the government over reform in social security program. Source:  Jorge Cabrera/ Reuters

Demonstration against the government over reform in social security program. Source: Jorge Cabrera/ Reuters

The citizens of Nicaragua have taken to the streets of Managua to protest their discontent with social security revisions implemented by President Ortega’s administration.

On Wednesday, Ortega announced changes to Nicaragua’s social security program. Under the plan, pension contributions will increase while benefits for workers will be slashed. The legislation also proposed stronger censorship laws for certain social media sites.

Flavio Latino, a 23-year-old protester and supporter of the #SOS Nicaragua movement, told a local news outlet that “the Nicaraguan state has failed.”

Latino criticized the idea of a business-led dialogue to address the issue of social security, claiming that private enterprise and the government have led to the conditions in which Nicaragua currently finds itself.

Since Wednesday, protesters have been videotaped hurling rocks and fire bombs at police. Officers have retaliated with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Supporters of Ortega, such as the Sandinista Youth, are responding by beating protesters with sticks.

According to some reports, at least 26 people have been killed as a result of the confrontation between protestors, police officials, and pro-government supporters. Although the government set the official death toll at 10 people, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights estimates that at least 67 civilians and 28 police officers have been injured.

Among the lives lost was that of journalist Ángel Gahona who was shot dead while live streaming the protests via Facebook.

Mauri Hernandez, one of the demonstrators, commented: “We are in the streets asking for Ortega and his wife to go. This has already gone beyond the social security issue. Here there have been dead, wounded, and he does not even apologize for his killings or the savage repression against the people.”

 President Ortega with his wife Rosario Murillo. Source:  BBC News

President Ortega with his wife Rosario Murillo. Source: BBC News

Many media outlets, namely those with government affiliations or under state control, are blaming protesters for looting, which is running rampant.

While Ortega has agreed to renegotiate certain terms of the social security overhaul in order to curb violence, he only plans on including business leaders in the meeting.