Nicaragua revokes pension law that sparked violent protests

President Daniel Ortega has scrapped a pension reform law and vowed to crack down on “gangs.” At least 24 people have been killed in protests since Wednesday, a rights group reports.

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega on Sunday decided to cancel planned changes to the Central American country’s pension system that have triggered violent protests.

At least 24 people have been killed in the protests since Wednesday, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights. The government puts the number of dead at 10.

Ortega said on national television after meeting with business leaders that the board of the social security system had rescinded the reform package approved last week.

“The previous resolution of April 16, 2018, which was the resolution that kicked off this whole situation, is being revoked, canceled, put aside,” Ortega said.

Contentious reforms

The measures would have increased income and payroll taxes, while reducing pensions by 5 percent.  The government said the changes were needed to shore up Nicaragua’s troubled social security system.

Ortega said that the government would examine other ways to reform the pension system and improve its financial outlook.

The protests were the biggest challenge faced by Ortega during his 11 years in power. The president has criticized protesters as criminal gangs and defended the government’s response.

“This has forced us to put the fight against gangs on our agenda, to fight them so that they don’t keep on acting like this, so that they don’t keep on killing each other or storming institutions,” he said Sunday. “We must reestablish order, we will not allow chaos, crime and looting to reign.”

The European Union, the United States and the Vatican have voiced concern over the crackdown.

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