At least twenty people have been killed and a hundred injured over days of protests against pension and social security reforms implemented by President Daniel Ortega’s administration. Designed to put the country’s pension obligations on a more sustainable footing, the reforms would increase pension contributions for workers and employers, and reduce overall benefits by 5%. They were met with opposition from civil society and business groups traditionally supportive of the government, including the Higher Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP). Starting in Managua before spreading to other cities, protests led to violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters who were marching in favour of the reforms. Some protesters vandalised government buildings and set up street barricades by setting fire to tyres. In response, the government deployed soldiers and riot police onto the streets, firing rubber bullets, live rounds and tear gas, leading to criticism from international observers, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner, who called on the authorities to ‘prevent further attacks against the protesters’ and to guarantee freedom of expression. In a televised address, President Ortega subsequently rescinded the pension reform decree and invited business leaders to engage in dialogue. Nonetheless, demonstrations have continued and COSEP said they would not enter talks until the government ended repression of protests. Constituting the most significant challenge to President Ortega since he came to power in 2007, regional analysts suggest that the protests may lead a wider movement against the government.
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