Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega has appealed for dialogue and condemned "destabilization attempts" by the opposition after violent protests over social security reforms killed at least 10 people.
During his national address, flanked by members of the police and armed forces, President Ortega criticized right-wing opposition groups for "conspiring" against his government with the support of "the most extreme political groups in the United States."
"They (the opposition) go with destabilization plans to these groups and they finance them," Ortega said.
Late Friday, Vice-President Rosario Murillo announced the government will reinstall tables for dialogue with business sectors and social organizations to ensure the sustainability of Nicaragua's Social Security Institute (INNS) and attributed the violence to people "who celebrate the rupture of peace."
"We are precisely listening to the call of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise of our country; we are responding to this call confirming our willingness to resume that open and frank dialogue, which has characterized us," Murillo said in a televized addess.
The Superior Council of Private Enterprise, meanwhile, has called for a national protest on Monday.
Demonstrations are becoming increasingly violent: on Friday, protesters burned down a branch of the National University in Leon along with several other public buildings, including the Ministry of Youth, and several police vehicles.
Late Saturday, it emerged that Canal 6 journalist Angel Eduardo Gaona, from the program Meridian, had been shot in the head and killed while he was covering the riots in Bluefields. Vice-President Murillo told el19digital that at least 10 people have died so far.
On Thursday, three people – a police officer, protester and pro-government activist – were killed in Managua when hundreds of people clashed with anti-riot police while state workers and Sandinista Youth demonstrated in support of the reforms.
National Police said the officer was killed by a shotgun blast, and the protester – a student at the National Polytechnic University – died as a result of "a dispute between gangs."
The proposed reforms would increase workers' monthly contributions by 0.75 percent and employers' contributions by 3.5 percent over two years. Additionally, five percent of pensions will go towards financing medical services provided by social security, a measure many fear will reduce their future pension pay-outs.
The measures were announced as an alternative to reforms proposed by the International Monetary Fund, which included the increase in the retirement age, currently set at 60, and in the duration of mandatory contributions, currently set at just over 15 years.