10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

Students block a street during clashes with riot police, within a protest against the government's reforms in the Institute of Social Security (INSS) in Managua on April 20, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2018
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10 killed in Nicaragua protests against pension reform plan

  • Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police.
  • Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
MANAGUA: Violent protests against a proposed change to Nicaragua's pension system have left at least 10 people dead over two days, the government said Friday.
In the biggest protests in President Daniel Ortega's 11 years in office in this poor Central American country, people are angry over the plan because workers and employers would have to chip in more toward the retirement system.
The government is willing to hold a dialogue and Ortega will issue a formal call on Saturday, Vice President Rosario Murillo said, adding: "At least 10 compatriots have died."
Demonstrations rocked the capital Managua and nearby cities for a third day.
The new law, besides increasing employer and employee contributions, would cut the overall pension amount by five percent.
"We are against these reforms, which means we're against this government taking from the pockets of Nicaraguans," said Juan Bautista.
He said riot police brutally attacked demonstrators like him because "the dictator does not like people to protest."
A woman nearby shouted: "The people are tired of this repression!"
Students from Polytechnic University have been holed up on their campus since Thursday evading police. Other students took refuge in nearby buildings or residences.
In Las Colinas, south of the capital, demonstrators raised small barricades and with their hands raised asked the riot police not to target them.
Four independent television outlets were taken off the air after they broadcast the demonstrations on Thursday, and two were still blocked on Friday.
Murillo compared the protesters to "vampires demanding blood to feed their political agenda."
The opposition said more than 20 people were wounded while the writers group Pen Nicaragua said that at least 11 journalists were attacked while covering the demonstrations.
"We call on the Nicaraguan authorities to act to prevent further attacks on demonstrators and on the media," said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights."
She urged the government to let people "exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly and association," and urged protesters to demonstrate "peacefully."
She also said demonstrators were attacked by government supporters in the city of Masaya.
Miguel Mora, director of the private television channel 100% Noticias -- which the government blocked -- accused Ortega of applying the same censorship he imposed in the 1980s during the Sandinista Revolution.
When Ortega returned to power in 2007 he promised to "never censor a media outlet -- and today he is doing just that," Mora told Channel 14.


Trump, Kim to meet anew in month after N.Korean visits White House

Updated 2 min 20 sec ago
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Trump, Kim to meet anew in month after N.Korean visits White House

  • Kim Jong Un and Trump first met in June in Singapore, where they signed a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work toward the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump will meet for the second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un around the end of February, the White House said Friday, after a top general from Pyongyang paid a rare visit to Washington.
Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol, a right-hand man to the North Korean strongman, met the embattled president at the White House for an unusually long 90 minutes as the countries seek a denuclearization accord that could ease decades of hostility.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Trump — who has opined that he and Kim Jong Un fell “in love” after last year’s landmark first summit — would again meet the North Korean leader “near the end of February” at a location to be announced later.
The latest flurry of diplomacy comes little more than a year after Trump was threatening to wipe North Korea off the map, with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests rattling nerves in East Asia.
Sanders praised North Korea’s efforts to reconcile but ruled out, for now, a key demand of Pyongyang — a lifting of sanctions.
“The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see fully and verified denuclearization,” Sanders told reporters.
“We’ve had very good steps in good faith from the North Koreans in releasing the hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue those conversations,” she said.
She was referring to Pyongyang’s quick deportation last year of an American. In 2017, a US student returned home comatose from North Korea and died within days after what a US judge said was torture.

Kim Jong Un and Trump first met in June in Singapore, where they signed a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work toward the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
But progress stalled soon afterward as Pyongyang and Washington — which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea — disagree over what that means.
Critics say that the Singapore summit was little more than a photo-op. The second round with the young and elusive North Korean leader will again offer a change of headlines for Trump amid a steady barrage of negative reports, including explosive allegations published Thursday by BuzzFeed that he pressured his lawyer to lie to Congress about a project in Russia.
“Let’s hope the second summit produces real results, but don’t hold your breath as we wait for episode two of the Trump-Kim show,” said Michael Fuchs, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress who worked closely with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Abe Denmark, director of the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the Singapore summit weakened the security of US allies with little in return.
“With another summit in the making, I hope for tangible progress and fear for a repeat: little movement from Kim, major concessions from Trump,” he said.
But Trump has pointed to the halt in missile launches by North Korea and recently said there would have been “a nice big fat war in Asia” if it were not for his efforts.
Kim Yong Chol is the first North Korean dignitary in nearly two decades to spend the night in Washington, staying at a fashionable hotel a short drive from the White House.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed Kim at the hotel, posing briefly for pictures near a shelf with a framed portrait of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., and later invited the delegation to lunch.
The State Department said that Stephen Biegun, the US special representative on North Korea, would carry on discussions at a conference in Sweden starting on Saturday that will involve Pyongyang officials.

While no decision has been made on location, a Vietnamese government source told AFP that “logistical preparations” were under way to host the summit, most likely in the capital Hanoi or coastal city of Danang.
Vietnam’s cooperation with the United States has been growing for years as Hanoi — much unlike Pyongyang — sets aside memories of war.
US-North Korea tensions began to abate a year ago with the encouragement of South Korea’s dovish president, Moon Jae-in. The Singapore summit marked the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the United States and North Korea, which never formally ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
For Kim, whose family has ruled North Korea with an iron fist for three generations, the stakes are existential as he seeks guarantees of the survival of his regime.
The United States expects Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal, doggedly built by the Kim dynasty despite sanctions and famines.
But North Korea sees the denuclearization goal more broadly, seeking an end to what it sees as US threats as well as strict sanctions on its economy.