Hundreds of people in Nicaragua have staged anti-government protests across the country, blocking roads and highways as at least eight more people are killed in political violence.
The protesters took to the streets in the north, center, and south of the Latin American country on Saturday, calling for the resignation of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
It was not clear whether the protesters were killed by security forces. But those deaths have raised the total death toll in anti-government unrest to 83 since protests began on April 18. More than 860 other people have also been wounded, according to police and rights activists.
Protests first erupted over Ortega’s pension reforms but then transformed into calls for the ouster of the government.
The changes to the pension system have been aimed at shoring up Nicaragua’s social security system but have been met with strong opposition from the public.
Talks between Ortega’s government and opposition over the reforms have also failed, with demonstrators insisting on the ouster of the former Marxist rebel over corruption allegations and his alleged authoritarian style of ruling.
The Organization of American States (OAS) has called on the 72-year-old Nicaraguan president to hold early elections, an issue that became the biggest stumbling block in the recent peace talks between the government and the opposition.
Denouncing the proposed move, Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said an early vote would mean “dismantling constitutional order and the democratically-elected government.”
Ortega was elected in November 2016 for a second term that ends in January 2022.