Nicaragua: 20 killed in police-protesters clash

More than 20 dead in Nicaragua protests

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega has agreed to scrap a highly-controversial reform of the country's pension law that sparked four days of violence, leaving 24 people dead. A journalist covering the unrest was also killed.

In earlier remarks Saturday, Ortega seemed to further enrage Nicaraguans by saying the protesters were being politically manipulated; and pointed to the reforms as only being a proposal, and that he was open to negotiations with the business community.

But he said the dialogue would be just with business leaders and not with other sectors of society. They appear to have expanded to include broader anti-government grievances.

"I would like to thank you, in the name of the Church, because you are the moral reservoir that we have", said Bishop Silvio Baez, the auxiliary of Managua, the country's capital city. The kids do not even know the party that is manipulating them ... The army said they were "providing protection to entities and strategic sites".

Soon after his Saturday speech, demonstrators were back on the streets in several cities, including the capital, Managua, after tensions had calmed down somewhat Friday night.

According to Mr Ortega - who first governed in the 1980s, and returned to power in 2007 - the protests are backed by anti-government organisations funded from within the United States to "sow terror and insecurity".

The reform aims to bridge a $76 million deficit faced by the country's social security institute. "Here there have been dead, wounded, and he does not even apologise for his killings or the savage repression against the people", said Mauri Hernandez, one of thousands of demonstrators at a central rotunda.

The Red Cross said at least seven people had died and hundreds had been injured in the demonstrations, while a local human rights organisation said it had registered 25 deaths.

The shot ended his commentary, sending Mr Gahona tumbling down the steps in front of the building. Angel Gahona was talking about a broken ATM machine when a gunshot is heard and his body slumps to the ground.

Voices cried out his name and someone pressed a cloth to his bleeding head.

The protests were the worst experienced in the 11 years Ortega has led the country - one of the poorest nations in Latin America yet also previously a relatively safe one compared to gang-ridden Central American neighbors. "We can not allow it".

There were more clashes at the Polytechnical University of Nicaragua, one of the strongest bastions of the protesters.

"We have to be attentive when it comes to ideologies, because they search for their own interests, economic and political", Baez said. "Here we will give our all until the government understands that it will not continue to do whatever it pleases", Lombardo Ruiz Picado, a leader of the student protesters, told The Associated Press by phone from inside the school.

Soldiers armed with rifles stood guard at public offices in Managua, as well as in the northern city of Esteli.

In a televised national address, Ortega said the board of Nicaragua's social security system had voted to revoke the measures that were approved last week. "Rectifying decisions is a sign of humanity, listening is the path of reason, seeking peace at all cost is wisdom", the conference said in a statement.

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