A woman holds a sign that says in Spanish "Ortega out", during a protest against the government of President Daniel Ortega, in Managua, Nicaragua, on Sunday, April 11, 2018. President Ortega has withdrawn the changes to the system of social security that provoked protests throughout the Central American nation that intensified in clashes with the police that left dozens dead. (Alfredo Zúñiga / AP)
MEXICO CITY – Despite an attempt by the government to calm a growing political crisis, protesters in Nicaragua returned to the streets on Monday by thousands, as the violent riots that began almost a week. over social security payments has increased in a wider outrage over the authoritarian government of President Daniel Ortega.
After five days of protests and deadly clashes with the police, Ortega went to watch television on Sunday and announced that he would reverse his decision to revise the social security system, a measure that pushed to require citizens to pay more during their stay. working life and receives less when he retires.
But his attempt to appease the Nicaraguans seemed insufficient, as thousands of residents waved Monday afternoon through downtown Managua in opposition to the violence of the security forces, as well as in other cities such as Granada and Estelí. .
Some of the protesters demand the resignation of Ortega and Rosario Murillo, his wife and vice president; the release of political prisoners; and an investigation into who killed at least 28 people – according to an important Nicaraguan human rights group – in street clashes between demonstrators, security forces and pro-government gangs.
On Monday, the State Department ordered relatives from the United States The Embassy staff will leave Nicaragua and allow the departure of other diplomats who need to leave for family reasons, noting in a statement that the demonstrations have involved "tear gas, pepper gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against the participants and they have occasionally turned into looting, vandalism and acts of arson. "
The previous day, the State Department said in a statement that it condemned" violence and excessive use of force by the police and others against civilians exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly. "
The crisis that began on Wednesday with student protests has become the most severe challenge to the Rule of O Tega, a former Marxist guerrilla fighter who is in his third consecutive term as president and fourth general since he helped led the Sandinistas in 1979 to overthrow the Somoza family. The turbulent last week has been notable in part because Ortega has maintained such a firm grip on power, eliminating dissent during his many years as president.
Ortega and Murillo have been accused of an increasingly authoritarian government, such as blocking the opposition candidates from the elections, censoring the media and harassing anti-government activists. Institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Electoral Council and the National Assembly are widely seen as fulfilling their orders.
His family and business cronies have also been accused of benefiting generously from the state, something that made the prospect of paying more in social security particularly offensive to many.
Ortega had maintained his authority and gained popularity, in part by avoiding the kind of unrestrained crime and gang violence in Nicaragua that affects neighboring countries, Honduras and El Salvador. The economy has grown and Ortega welcomes foreign investment even as he remains politically aligned with the unconditional leftists of the region such as Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.
During Ortega's speech on Sunday, he said he would repeal legislation that would increase payroll taxes and retirement benefits. He said that the issue would be negotiated between workers and employers, and that he would invite the country's Catholic leaders to participate in the discussion.
"We have to restore order," said Ortega. "We can not allow groups to impose chaos, crime and looting."
However, after Ortega's speech, the clashes continued, with reports that the police confronted students during the night at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua. The local press reported at least one death.
In the last week, protests have intensified in the cities of Nicaragua. On Saturday, a journalist on an official government newscast was killed while filming a live video of Facebook protests.
During the turmoil, the Ortega government intermittently blocked the signals of several television stations, preventing them from transmitting. Carlos Chamorro, editor of the independent news site Confidential, wrote on Twitter on Monday that his website had been interrupted after a "deliberate attack by the enemies of a free press."
Several journalists who work for state media have resigned, including Mario Medrano, a prominent presenter of Channel 10 station, who resigned on air.
On government media sites, such as El 19, protesters have been chosen as right-wing agitators, criminals and terrorists.  Read more