Nicaragua's Ortega scraps reform that sparked deadly protests

Besides Gahona at least 25 others have been killed since Wednesday in unrest over social security reforms planned by President Daniel Ortega's government, according to a human rights group.

Dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital have been looted in the continuation of protests and disturbances sparked by government social security reforms.

The Pope, the United States government and business leaders all urged Ortega to stop the violence before he appeared on television and said the measures approved last week would be withdrawn.

He was rebuffed, with the business association saying there could be no dialogue unless Ortega's government "immediately ceases police repression".

Neither authorities in Managua, nor Lissett Guido, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Nicaragua, were immediately able to independently confirm details of the incident, which quickly spread onto national, worldwide and social media.

On Saturday, a local journalist, Miguel Angel Gahona, was shot dead by a bullet in the city of Bluefields, on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.

Riot police charge a barricade during clashes with demonstrators.

The center's director, Vilma Nunez, warned that there was "a lot of misinformation" going around that made obtaining the figure hard. The army said it was "providing protection to entities and strategic sites".

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Nicabus, an worldwide bus line with links to Costa Rica and Honduras, said it had suspended services due to the violence. Some local media reports said a police sniper was suspected to be responsible.

"They want to destroy Nicaragua's good image that has cost us so much to build and to sow hate again", he said in a televised address, comparing the country's recent history to its civil war past.

This is his fourth term as president, and the protests are widely seen as his biggest challenge yet. The same day, a number of television outlets were reportedly taken off the air.

The US State Department on Sunday called for "broad-based dialogue" to end the dispute and "restore respect" for human rights, urging the government to let the media operate freely. The country remains one of the poorest in the Americas.

The movement broadened and responses began to turn violent two days later with news of changes to the social security institute, known as INSS.

He said he's expressing "closeness in prayer to that beloved country" and joining local bishops in seeking an end to "every violence, that useless bloodshed is avoided and that open issues are resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility".

Analysts and business leaders said the protests were fueled by dissatisfaction that went well beyond anger over pension reform.

  • Sonia Alvarado