USA condemns 'excessive force' by Nicaragua police

USA condemns 'excessive force' by Nicaragua police

USA condemns 'excessive force' by Nicaragua police

The U.S. State Department said on Monday that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees and authorized the departure of U.S. government personnel in Nicaragua due to frequent protests and violent crime.

After days of deadly protests, Nicaragua's president has made a decision to scrap major changes to the country's social security system.

"We are dealing with more than 20 dead, but we are verifying because there is a lot of misinformation, the situation is really serious and beyond our possibilities to confirm", AFP quoted the body's director Vilma Nunez as saying.

On Friday night Vice President, first lady and government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said nine people had been confirmed dead in the clashes, though the human rights group Cenidh said Saturday it had counted at least 25 deaths nationwide.

Following the president's speech, clashes between young protesters throwing stones and riot police using tear gas flared up in the capital Managua, with other marches taking place around the impoverished Central American nation. Key transport services were disrupted because of the clashes.

In a televised meeting on Sunday evening, Ortega said he was cancelling the reforms "which acted as a trigger that started this whole situation".

Late on Saturday, local media said the journalist, Angel Gahona, was shot and killed during a live broadcast from Bluefields, a town on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast.

Looting was seen at stores in Managua.

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Nicabus, an worldwide bus line with links to Costa Rica and Honduras, said it had suspended services due to the violence.

The president criticized the demonstrators, comparing them with gangs that bleed the north of Central America and said that his only interlocutor to get out of the crisis was private enterprise.

The protests, which included pensioners, students and workers, are the biggest since Ortega, 72, was re-elected in 2007. This has already gone beyond the social security issue.

On Saturday, the president had been rebuffed when he offered to speak to the private sector's top business association about the reforms. Meanwhile, four independent television outlets were taken off air on Thursday, although only one now remains closed. One news station has been taken off the air.

The unexpected wave of violence in an otherwise relatively tightly controlled country caused worldwide outrage.

In a statement, the US State Department expressed regret over the loss of life and urged Managua to prosecute those responsibly.

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"There is a malaise of the population not only over the reforms, but for the way in which the country has been run", he added.

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