Nicaragua cancels social security overhaul

Posted April 23, 2018

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega agreed Sunday to scrap a highly-controversial reform of the country's pension law that sparked 4 days of violence, leaving 24 people dead.

In talks with business leaders, Ortega said the Nicaraguan Institute for Social Security had made a decision to axe the reform that would have increased employee contributions and reduced benefits in a bid to tamp down on a climbing deficit.

A local human rights group, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Office (Cenidh), says more than 20 people have been killed.

Ortega said that the government would examine other ways to reform the pension system and improve its financial outlook.

A robust response ordered by leftist President Ortega has saw the army deployed to the streets, independent media muzzled, journalists assaulted and pro-government demonstrators mobilised to counter the protests.

"We condemn the violence and the excessive force used by police and others against civilians who are exercising their. right to freedom of expression and assembly", US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in statement.

The center's director, Vilma Nunez, warned that there was "a lot of misinformation" going around that made obtaining the figure hard. The government had reported "almost 10" by late on Friday.

The man, identified in Nicaraguan media as Angel Gahona, was reporting live in the town of Bluefields in the country's southern Caribbean coast, when a shot rang out and he fell to the ground bleeding in the head, video footage showed.

Police on Thursday said one 33-year-old officer had been shot dead. "That is why they are put at risk", Ortega said.

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

On Saturday, the president was rebuffed when he offered to speak to the private sector's top business association about the pension reforms, which would see employee contributions increased and benefits reduced in a bid to tamp down on a climbing deficit.

The business trade organisation COSEP called for private sector workers to protest on Monday in support of dialogue and urged the government to create conditions to "avoid more bloodshed". The same day, a number of television outlets were reportedly taken off the air. The country remains one of the poorest in the Americas.

The overhaul was meant to shore up Nicaragua's troubled social security system by both reducing benefits and increasing taxes.

According to Latino, since then, the focus of #SOSNicaragua has shifted away from the social security reforms to demand an end to violence.