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A young man fires a makeshift mortar during a march calling for President Daniel Ortega to be ousted in Managua, Nicaragua, July 23, 2018. EPA-EFE/JORGE TORRES

Crisis in Nicaragua: President refuses to step down

The Central American nation is in a prolonged political crisis that has so far claimed between 277 and 351 lives in three months.

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The Nicaraguan capital Managua on Monday saw two massive demonstrations, one in favor of the president and another calling for his resignation.

Several thousand people, mostly university students, joined a march entitled "United for Freedom and Justice," held on the Day of the Student, to call for President Daniel Ortega's resignation, as well as for peace, justice and the end of repression.

The occasion, which commemorates the 1959 Student Massacre, saw similar protests held in cities across the country to demand justice for more than 100 students who have been killed during protests against the Ortega administration.

The Central American nation is in a prolonged political crisis that has so far claimed between 277 and 351 lives in three months, according to data from different human rights organizations.

After a minute of silence, students marched carrying the Nicaraguan flag.

Despite the demonstrations demanding his resignation and calls from several countries and international organizations for early elections, Ortega said Monday in an interview with the U.S. television network Fox News that bringing forward the general elections from January 2022 to March 2019 "would create instability, insecurity and make things worse."

The president also said that the violent confrontations since April 18 were caused by paramilitary groups financed by some opposition lawmakers and drug traffickers.

While the student protesters were demonstrating in part of the capital, several thousand "Sandinistas," or government supporters, also took to the streets to voice their loyalty to Ortega.

Members of the National Union of Students of Nicaragua (UNEN), the Sandinista Youth and workers from state institutions marched.

"We are demanding that the laws be applied to all those murderers and coup-mongers," said the president of UNEN, Luis Andino, referring to anti-government protesters and also demanding "justice for the victims of terrorism."

During Monday's march, the pro-government demonstrators carried the flags of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and the national flag, in addition to pictures of some civilians and police officers who have died during the protests.

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