News ID: 216653
Published: 0148 GMT June 13, 2018

Top Nicaragua civic group calls anti-Ortega strike

Top Nicaragua civic group calls anti-Ortega strike

Nicaragua's top civic alliance called for a nationwide 24-hour strike to protest "extreme conditions" under President Daniel Ortega, who has yet to decide on reviving talks over the crisis that has left at least 148 dead.

The day-long strike is set to begin Thursday at noon (1800 GMT) "in solidarity with the victims" of the two months of unrest, which has seen brutal clashes between anti-government activists and security forces, AFP wrote.

"This is a national and peaceful civil strike that covers the entire country and all economic activities, except those related to the preservation of life and the coverage of basic services for the population," announced the National Alliance for Justice and Democracy, a key player in the now stalled crisis talks.

The coalition also demanded an "immediate" decision from Ortega on the prospect of reviving negotiations mediated by Nicaragua's influential Catholic bishops.

The country has not heard from its leftist leader since last week, when he met with top clergy members, who presented him with a plan to expedite the poll and institute electoral and constitutional reforms – key activist demands.

"Dialogue is the way to review the political system of Nicaragua from its root to achieve an authentic democracy and justice," the civic alliance said.

The announcement comes after the country underwent a sharp escalation in violence in recent days, as police and pro-government paramilitaries attacked activists wielding slingshots and homemade mortars.

The din of rifle blasts and mortar explosions echoed overnight and into the morning throughout the streets of Managua, even after government security forces forcefully cleared the barricades.

Activists have erected the blockades on more than two thirds of the country's roads in a bid to fend off anti-riot forces and pressure Ortega into dialogue.

But the makeshift roadblocks also have wreaked economic havoc: even in the unlikely scenario that the government "accepts an early negotiated exit" by the end of July, the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) estimates the country would post losses of $404 million and bleed 20,000 jobs.

Assuming Ortega continues determined to stay, FUNIDES anticipates Nicaragua would lose $916 million in added value and 150,000 jobs by December.

The protests that began April 18 over controversial pension reforms have exploded into a mass effort to pressure the president's exit.

At least 148 people have died in clashes with security forces, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), which also said well over 1,000 had been injured.


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