After the Nicaraguan government passed new legislation to reform the pension system, protests erupted in the country’s capital, Managua. The protests have been taking place since Wednesday, and have turned violent, leading to at least 10 deaths. Hundreds of people have also suffered injuries. Independent stations streaming the protests have been shut down, according to the BBC.
The Red Cross said that many of the deaths involved firearms. Police also used tear gas and rubber bullets against the protesters, detailed Reuters. The protesters include retirees, workers, and students. The exact death toll has not been confirmed, but Vice President Rosario Murillo told media that it was “almost 10.” At least one of the people killed was a police officer. The violence is not sequestered in Managua and is also taking place in nearby communities.
President Daniel Ortega has been in office since 2007. He also served one term in the 1980s. Murillo, who is also Ortega’s wife in addition to serving as the vice president, likened the protesters to “vampires,” saying that the protesters are “demanding blood to feed their political agenda.” On Saturday, Ortega stated that he is ready to consider changing the reform, and that there is enough time to hash out details before it goes into effect on July 1.
“We’ll have to see what change can be made to this decree or whether we need to do a new one.”
Pensioners are angry about the new legislation because it increases the amount of money that people have to contribute to their pensions, while decreasing the benefits they will receive by roughly 5 percent.
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The government reported that public buildings were set on fire. Meanwhile, students at the Polytechnic University in Managua have been barricaded inside their campus since Thursday. Although Murillo said that protesters are demanding blood, the protesters have a different story to tell. They said that riot police and government supporters are causing the violence. One of the protesters said that “the dictator does not like people to protest.” Liz Throssell from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed that protesters were attacked by government supporters.
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Not only that, but TV channels and journalists are being censored as well. Four independent channels attempted to broadcast a live feed of the protest on Thursday, but were blocked. In addition, over 11 journalists were attacked during the protests, detailed Yahoo News. The censorship goes against Ortega’s previous promise to never censor media outlets.