Ten killed in Nicaragua protests over pensions reform


MANAGUA — Protests in Nicaragua over changes to social security have led to the deaths of 10 people, including a police officer, officials said on Friday, heaping pressure on the leftist government of President Daniel Ortega.

Nicaraguans have been protesting for three straight days against government changes to social security, signed into law earlier this week, that increase worker contributions and lower pensions.

The violence began on Wednesday, when pensioners took to the streets in the capital Managua. They were joined the next day by thousands of students and workers.

At least 100 people have been injured. The dead include two protesters and a policeman who were killed in Managua on Friday, after demonstrations turned violent.

The unrest continued into Friday night in several cities.

Vice President and First Lady Rosario Murillo compared the protesters to “vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda”.

But she added that “dialogue remains open” and “all subjects are on the table”.

A former leftist guerrilla leader who critics accuse of trying to set up a family dictatorship, Ortega has been president since 2007, delivering solid growth by fusing socialist policies with an embrace of free markets.

But moves to increase worker contributions to social security and reduce pensions, which the government argues are fiscally necessary, has sparked a violent backlash.

The wave of protests is the biggest since Ortega took power, placing him alongside other Latin American leftists who have come under pressure after failing to consolidate economic gains.

After Ortega’s government approved the social security overhaul this week, hundreds of retirees hit the streets in protest on Wednesday. They were joined the next day by thousands of students and business workers in cities around the nation, sparking violent clashes with police.

Protesters on Friday held signs saying: “no more repression” and “we are not scared.”

Since the protests began, at least three local television stations that were broadcasting the protests live had their signals abruptly cut.

100% Noticias, the only TV station still without a signal, called the move “arbitrary and illegal.”

Neighboring Costa Rica’s foreign policy chief, Christian Guillermet, expressed concern on Friday about the violence and media censorship.

“It’s always important to maintain social peace and in that sense we don’t believe infringing on freedom of expression is conducive,” said Guillermet. — Agencies