Nicaragua unrest death toll rises before new protests

The toll from a crackdown on anti-government protests has risen to 264, as activists plan new rallies.

The death toll from four months of political unrest in Nicaragua has risen to 264, a human rights body has said in advance of new protests in the country.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday said more than 1,800 people had been injured “since the start of the repression against social protests”.

A raid by pro-government forces in the opposition bastion of Masaya left at least 14 people dead on Sunday, shortly after embattled President Daniel Ortega rejected calls for early elections.

The opposition is planning to increase pressure on Ortega in the coming days, with a protest due to take place in Managua on Thursday followed by a general strike on Friday.

Protesters, who first took to the streets against now-aborted pension reforms, are demanding the resignation of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, who they accuse of establishing a dictatorship characterised by nepotism and brutal repression.

Rights groups have accused security forces and groups loyal to the government of using “lethal force” to crack down on the protests.

Roman Catholic bishops have shown frustration, but are still working to mediate dialogue between the government and opposition.

In his first public appearance in more than a month, Ortega rejected calls for his resignation last Saturday.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in the capital Managua, he said protesters who are demanding he leave office should “seek the vote of the people” if they want to govern, and must respect that his current term runs through 2021.

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