10 Dead After Protests in Nicaragua Over Government’s Decision to Change Social Security System

At least 10 people died last week in violent protests in Nicaragua over the government’s plans to change the social security system, Vice President Rosario Murillo told state media outlet El 19 Digital.

Demonstrators in Managua threw rocks and set fires in unrest that started Wednesday, and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The government approved the social security changes Wednesday in an effort to stop the widening deficit in the social security system. The changes would increase contributions into the social security system by workers and employers but reduce the amount retired workers will get as a pension.

A masked protester walks between burning barricades April 20, 2018, in Managua, Nicaragua. (Credit: Alfredo Zuniga/AP)

A masked protester walks between burning barricades April 20, 2018, in Managua, Nicaragua. (Credit: Alfredo Zuniga/AP)

The government on Friday night said it is opening talks with protesters, according to El 19 Digital. President Daniel Ortega was scheduled to speak Saturday afternoon.

“Our representatives are ready to go back to the discussion table,” Ortega said. He said the government is open to adjust, reform, or even create a new decree if necessary. The most important thing, he said, is reaching that new deal by consensus.

A journalist who was covering the protests was among those killed, El 19 Digital reported.

“The young journalist was covering Saturday night vandalism and criminal acts when these murderers put an end to his life after shooting him in the head,” El 19 Digital said on its website.

The army was deployed late Friday to protect government buildings, El 19 Digital reported.

The protests, which have included pensioners and students, weren’t limited to Managua and were reported in other places outside the capital. Several television stations were taken off the air as the government tried to stem the demonstrations.

The UN Human Rights Office condemned the violence against protesters, whom the vice president had compared earlier to “vampires” who “feed off blood and they think that with this, they’ll achieve advances in their political agenda.”

Nicaragua “needs to comply with their international obligations to guarantee that people are able to freely express their rights of freedom of expression and freedom to peacefully assemble,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throssell said in a statement.

The US State Department called for a peaceful resolution.

“We condemn the violence and the excessive force used by police and others against civilians who are exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“The United States calls for a broad‎-based dialogue involving all sectors o‎f society to resolve the current conflict, restore respect for human rights, and achieve a better, more democratic future for all Nicaraguans. We also call on the Nicaraguan government to allow journalists to operate freely and restore all television coverage to the air. Additionally, we urge the government to allow an independent investigation and to prosecute those responsible for the deaths.”