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Nicaragua scraps pension reforms that sparked deadly protests

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Nicaragua’s president has abandoned changes to the social security system that triggered deadly protests and looting.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega has scrapped a contentious pension reform that triggered four days of violence in which two dozen people were killed, but rioting students vowed to keep up street protests until he is ousted.

Since the clashes erupted on Wednesday, pitting protesters against security forces and pro-government supporters, 25 people have died, according to the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights.

"Among the dead are minors, students" and a journalist who was shot dead on Saturday while reporting on the chaos in the Caribbean city of Bluefields, the centre said in a statement.

Officials on Friday gave a toll of 10 deaths but have not revised their figure since.

The protests were the worst experienced in the 11 years Mr Ortega has led the country - one of the poorest nations in Latin America yet also previously a relatively safe one compared to gang-ridden Central American neighbours.

The 72-year-old leftist president, a former Sandinista guerrilla, rules Nicaragua with his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo.

A young man raises a Nicaraguan national flag on a cobblestone barricade in Managua, Nicaragua, on April 21.
A young man raises a Nicaraguan national flag on a cobblestone barricade in Managua, Nicaragua, on April 21.
EFE

During talks with business leaders, Ortega announced he was revoking the April 16 pension reform of the Nicaraguan Institute for Social Security (INSS), "which acted as a trigger that started this whole situation."

He denounced the protesters for acting like criminal gangs.

His government said vehicles were torched and public buildings destroyed in the towns of Leon and Masaya.

The controversial reform would have increased both employer and employee contributions and reduced benefits in a bid to tamp down on a climbing deficit.

Students played a major role in the wave of unrest that met that reform.

Mr Ortega responded with a crackdown that saw the army deployed, independent media muzzled, journalists assaulted and pro-government demonstrators mobilized to counter the protests.

But they failed to contain the situation as looting broke out. And panicked residents rushed to stores and gas stations to stock up for what could they feared could be prolonged turmoil.

Daniel Ortega.
Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega.

 

 

Source: AFP - SBS

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