Protestors in Nicaragua continued to demand the resignation of leader Daniel Ortega on Tuesday, amid anger over welfare reforms and fears that the country is slowing becoming a socialist dictatorship.
Widespread demonstrations continued on Monday evening despite Ortega’s decision to back down on his controversial social security reforms, which sparked a deadly wave of demonstrations that have left nine people dead and hundreds more injured.
The reforms would have seen increased contributions from taxpayers as well as a five percent reduction in payouts.
On Monday, student protestors waving the Nicaraguan flag could be heard chanting “President, get out!”, while also decrying security forces as murderers for their violent response against civilians. They also called for the immediate release of all political prisoners.
On Sunday, footage from the capital city of Managua showed protestors tearing down a government monument to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, in another sign that the former socialist revolutionary is becoming a pariah symbol across Latin America.
La Prensa, which has long been vocally critical of Ortega’s government, argued that he had “lost control of the streets” and called for his resignation.
“Daniel Ortega no longer has the political capacity or moral authority to continue governing,” the paper wrote in an editorial.
The U.S. State Department has called on the government to show greater respect for human rights amid claims of police brutality and has also pulled embassy staff out of the country and suspended all consular services.
“The United States calls for a broad-based dialogue involving all sectors of society to resolve the current conflict, restore respect for human rights, and achieve a better, more democratic future for all Nicaraguans,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
Ortega, 72, a former communist guerrilla who has led the Sandinista National Liberation Front since the 1970s, is currently overseeing high rates of unemployment and stagnant economic growth.
He is also widely believed to be turning the country into a family dictatorship, appointing his wife Rosario Murillo as the country’s vice president and undermining democratic institutions in a bid to tighten his own authority.
On a foreign policy front, Ortega remains friendly with many of the world’s most autocratic regimes, forging close relationships with leftist Latin American allies such as Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela, as well as regimes further afield such as China, Syria, and Russia.
In 1998, Ortega was also accused of rape by his stepdaughter Zoilamerica Narvaez, who claimed he abused her aged just 11 while they were living in a guerrilla camp in neighboring Costa Rica. However, no formal charges were ever brought against him.