Police have arrested at least 26 people during anti-government protests in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua on Sunday. These protests were organised by an alliance of 40 opposition groups calling on President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, to resign.
The current demonstrations began in April of this year and demanded that proposed changes to the nation’s pensions schemes be scrapped. However following heavy handed and sometimes violent state repression of the protests, the situation has escalated.
The protestors are now demanding that Ortega step down.
Al Jazeera notes that at least 300 people have been killed in clashes between the security forces and demonstrators. This figure however has been disputed by the government which claims that 198 people have died. At least one journalist has also been killed so far and several foreign reporters have been deported.
On Friday, the Nicaraguan police announced that “any protest against the government today would be considered illegal and would not be allowed”. Despite this there was significant turnout and support for protesters, with demonstrations continuing. On Saturday, security forces were deployed to key points in the capital whilst government supporters were allowed to demonstrate on the city roundabouts where protestors had initially planned to march.
In a speech Ortega, who came to power in 2007, criticised protestors for being anarchists.
“They keep calling for marches not for peace, but for blood, that’s what they want, they want blood,” he said.
However, human rights organisations, including the United Nations Office for Human Rights have reported alleged human rights violations from illegal detention to torture, committed by the state. Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro has also come out against the recent crackdowns stating:
"We demand the government of Nicaragua release the protesters who have been detained, that it respect the right to peaceful protest nationwide, and stop repression and all intimidation of political leaders and civilians,”
The unrest has also led to thousands of asylum seekers seeking refuge in neighbouring Costa Rica, with the president of Costa Rica also stating that he was “deeply concerned” by the arrests. In a tweet he said:
"The repression the Nicaraguan people are being put through must stop”.