Army deployed in Nicaragua after 25 killed in protests

Army deployed in Nicaragua after 25 killed in protests 

A ‘Tree of life’, symbol of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), destroyed by protesters during the fourth consecutive day of demonstrations against social security reforms in Managua, Nicaragua, Apr. 21, 2018. EPA-EFE/JORGE TORRES

Managua, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- The armed forces of Nicaragua said on Saturday soldiers have been deployed across the country as anti-government protests, that until now has killed at least 25 people, continued to roil the country.

The army issued a statement saying its soldiers have been deployed across the country to protect “strategic targets,” and called for dialogue to address the growing unrest in the country over a set of new social security measures.

Official media reported that the army was deployed early morning on Saturday outside the city hall of Managua to protect the municipal office, while other sources reported that soldiers were deployed in the city of Esteli, 149 kilometers north of the capital, to protect government institutions.

While the government is yet to update the death toll from Saturday when it had said around 10 people had died in the protests and around a 100 have been injured, the Nicaraguan Initiative of Human Rights Defenders and the Nicaraguan Centre for Human Rights said 24 people were killed in the protests.

Apart from the 24 deaths, a reporter with the El Meridiano newspaper, was also shot dead in the city of Bluefields – in the Caribbean coast of the country – on Saturday evening while covering the protests.

According to the nonprofits, 10 people were killed in Managua, 4 in Sandino City, 3 in Masaya, 2 in Leon, 2 in Esteli, 2 in Tipitapa and 1 in Sebaco.

They also reported that 67 students had been injured, 43 were missing and 20 have been arrested, while one TV station was torched and a few communication systems were blocked.

In his first statement since the crisis erupted, President Daniel Ortega said the government was open to amending the social security reforms – that raised the percentage of salaries that employees and employers had to contribute to the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security – and had called for dialogue.

The Superior Council of Private Enterprise responded saying that the government would have to stop cracking down on protesters, as a precondition to talks.

People arrested for “exercising their right to free expression peacefully” should be immediately released, the council said in a statement.

On Saturday evening, too, anti-government street protests against the new social security measures were reported from major cities in Nicaragua.