Latin America & Caribbean

Nicaraguan authorities call for peace after deadly protests

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Media captionThe protest against pension changes have escalated in recent days

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega has said his government is willing to review the pension reforms that have triggered violent protests since they were were approved on Wednesday.

Mr Ortega has offered talks, but business leaders have rebuffed him, saying police violence must stop first.

At least 10 people have been killed in clashes between police and protesters.

Government buildings have been damaged or set on fire, and troops have been deployed in several cities.

This is the biggest challenge to Mr Ortega's authority since he took office in 2007.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Ortega won the 2016 election along with his wife, Rosario Murillo, who became Nicaragua's vice-president

It follows legislation that increased pension contributions for workers and employers and reduced overall benefits.

"If in the talks we find a better way of carrying out these reforms, this decree can be amended or replaced by a new one," said Mr Ortega on national television.

He said the measures do not go into effect until 1 July, which gives the government and the private sector time to negotiate.

However, Nicaragua's powerful business association, Cosep, has released a statement saying it will not join talks with the government until police violence ceases and freedom of speech is restored.

Mr Ortega has accused parts of the opposition of inciting violence and plotting to topple his left-wing government.

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.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The protests appeared to be largely led by students

The unrest continued into Friday night in several cities.

The government seemed to have the situation under control on Saturday, with deployment of army troops across the country.

Protesters have accused riot police and government supporters of initiating the violence.

Independent TV stations say they have been taken off-air after broadcasting the demonstrations live.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Students took over the National University of Engineering in Managua on Friday

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