63 Dead in Nicaraguan Protests, 15 Disappeared: Rights Group



NICARAGUA: An independent human rights group claimed yesterday that security forces killed 63 people during nationwide protests that started last week. According to the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, which says it has been gathering information from local networks across Nicaragua, security forces also disappeared at least 15 people and shot an additional 160. As recently as Wednesday, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, or CENIDH by its Spanish initials, had placed the death toll at 34. Earlier that day, the United Nations human rights office said it had received “credible reports” of at least 25 deaths. The latest government release, put out Monday, acknowledged that 12 protesters had been killed.

“What took place was a massacre against students, against the people of Nicaragua,” said Permanent Commission director Marcos Carmona, speaking yesterday at a press conference in Managua. CENIDH President Vilma Núñez has accused President Daniel Ortega’s government of “state terrorism.” Reports of torture, particularly within prisons, have been widespread.

Led primarily by students, protests broke out last week in response to a government-backed pension reform, which would have hiked payments for workers and reduced benefits on retirees. After ordering a violent crackdown on what he described as “chaos, crime and looting,” President Ortega, a leader of the Marxist Sandinista revolution who has since accumulated significant wealth and executive power, canceled the reform on Sunday. But protesters, incensed by the government’s repressive tactics, remained in the streets, expanding their demands to include new elections. In the interest of seeking a peaceful resolution, the Catholic Church has agreed to mediate talks with the government, though participants and a negotiating agenda have yet to be determined.

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