MANAGUA (Reuters) – Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic bishops said on Wednesday they will mediate a new round of talks later this week between the government and civil society groups following deadly protests against President Daniel Ortega.
Anti-government protests began in mid-April after a controversial social security overhaul. The demonstrations quickly snowballed into the biggest crisis that Ortega has had to face in his 10 years as president.
At least 147 people have been killed, most of them students, according to local human rights activists.
A previous round of talks arranged by bishops broke up at the end of May after government security forces were accused of renewing brutal tactics to quash demonstrations.
Talks will begin again on Friday, the bishops’ conference said in a statement.
“We will be making known the proposal that we presented to the president and the letter he has sent us with his concerns, which we will submit to debate in order to seek a consensus,” the statement said.
Businessmen, civil society groups, academics and farmers have called for a 24-hour national strike on Thursday.
Some supermarkets in the capital Managua were crowded with people stocking up on food before the strike, while cars lined up outside gas stations.
Protesters have demanded that Ortega resign, accusing the former Marxist guerrilla of repression, rigging elections and seeking to establish a family dynasty.
The Organization of American States (OAS) and Amnesty International have criticized the government’s violent crackdown on demonstrators protesting in Managua, Masaya and other cities.
(Reporting by Oswaldo Rivas; Writing by Michael O’Boyle; editing by Bill Berkrot)