Reporter killed amid unrest in Nicaragua

Pope calls for end to deadly violence after protests


MANAGUA — A Nicaraguan journalist was shot dead on Saturday while filming a confrontation between demonstrators and the police, amid a wave of protests against the government which have left 11 people dead.

Miguel Angel Gahona was killed by a suspected sniper in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, local media reported.

“We believe a sniper fired the shot, it wasn’t the young people... The only people who were armed were the police and riot police,” his colleague Ileana Lacayo told television station Canal 15.

Since protests erupted on Wednesday — the biggest in President Daniel Ortega’s 11 years in office — journalists have reportedly faced attacks, been temporarily detained and had their work equipment stolen. Meanwhile, four independent television outlets were taken off air on Thursday, although only one currently remains closed.

Nicaraguans have taken to the streets over a proposed change to the pension system, which would see workers and employers pay more toward the retirement system. The reform would aim to settle a $76 million deficit faced by the country’s social security institute.

Ortega, in a bid to calm the protests, agreed Saturday to hold a dialogue with the private sector on reforming the social security law. However, Nicaragua’s top private-sector business union said there could be no talks unless the government “immediately ceases police repression.”

Following the president’s speech, clashes between young protesters throwing stones and riot police using tear gas flared up in the capital Managua, with other marches taking place around the impoverished Central American nation.

According to Ortega — who first governed in the 1980s, and returned to power in 2007 — the protests are backed by anti-government organizations funded from within the United States to “sow terror and insecurity.”

Meanwhile, Pope Francis called on Sunday for an end to the violence in Nicaragua.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday address, Francis called for “an end to every form of violence and to avoid the useless shedding of blood.”

Francis, the first Latin American pope in history, called for differences to be “resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility”. — Agencies