Nicaragua: Ortega scraps pension reforms after deadly protests

President withdraws controversial pension reforms after five days of protests which saw at least 10 killed.

    Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has scrapped the controversial pension reforms that sparked deadly protests across the country. 

    In a televised meeting on Sunday evening, Ortega said he was cancelling the reforms "which acted as a trigger that started this whole situation". 

    At least 10 people were killed in five days of protests, with human rights groups accusing police of using live bullets on demonstrators. 

    In the meeting, Ortega denounced protesters for acting like gangs "killing each other". 

    "We must re-establish order, we will not allow chaos, crime and looting to reign," he said. 

    Protests broke out on Wednesday, two days after the Nicaraguan government approved a resolution that would increase contributions by workers and employers into the Nicaraguan Institute for Social Security (INSS), while reducing payouts by five percent. 

    Police fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets on demonstrators maintaining barricades and throwing rocks. The military was also deployed in the capital, Managua, and other locations on Saturday, local media reported.

    The government has put the official death toll at 10 people while Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa said more than 30 had died in clashes between police and civilians. 

    Among the dead was journalist Angel Gahona, who was shot dead while reporting on the protests live on Facebook. 

    The protests, which included pensioners, students and workers, are the biggest since Ortega, 72, was re-elected in 2007. 

    Some students vowed to keep the pressure on the government up as their demands had now widened beyond protecting pensions. 

    "We are fighting not only for the INSS, we are fighting for all those years of pillaging of the people by the Sandinista regime," an engineering student in Managua who identified himself as Cristofer told AFP news agency. 

    Ortega's government has faced condemnation in recent years over plans to build an inter-oceanic canal, for hobbling political rivals, and consolidating power when his wife, Rosario Murillo, became vice president. Ortega has won three consecutive terms since 2007 after serving a first presidential term in the 1980s.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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