Angry demonstrators formed a human chain in the capital, Managua, on Wednesday to demand the resignation of “dictator” Ortega and the departure of his political allies in a bid to put an end to months of deadly violence in the Central American country that has so far allegedly killed more than 300 people, presstv.ir reported.
Marchers carried Nicaraguan flags and a number of big placards calling for the ruling party of Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to step down immediately.
“The people have risen up and we are telling Commander Ortega to leave, to resign, the people are not afraid of him,” said a 27-year old demonstrator with a flag in his hand.
Local media said that at least 13 people were killed and at least 88 more were wounded during the so-called Mother’s Day rallies on Wednesday. Images and videos circulated on social media purportedly showed injured demonstrators covered in blood being attended by medics, with reports indicating that at least six of the dead were from the rallies in Managua.
Some 50 people have so far been killed since the latest wave of unrest started in late April.
Eyewitnesses claimed there had been “snipers” shooting the protestors “in the head, only in the head.”
Flying blue and white Nicaraguan flags, the protesters lined a highway leading out of Managua during the protest.
What initially started as a series of protest rallies over welfare reforms has now become a national crisis, with both sides calling for a resumption of dialog, mediated by the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, Catholic prelate Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes has called on police to halt “this action of harassment so that the faithful can return to their homes.”
The Wednesday rallies were organized by the Mothers of April movement in solidarity with the mothers of students and protesters allegedly killed by riot police and pro-government forces since the start of the nationwide political crisis in April.
Also on Wednesday, thousands of government supporters rallied in the capital in a separate rally, according to footage by AFP.
Ortega, a former revolutionary leader, became the 62nd Nicaraguan president in early 2007 but has since been accused of growingly autocratic rule as he and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who is also the vice-president, have tightened their control of state institutions.
His advisors accuse the opposition activists of trying to engineer a “soft coup” against the government. However, they do not rule out a snap election, the central demand of Ortega’s opponents, if there were an end to the violence in the country.
The president himself, whose third consecutive term ends in January 2022, has so far refused a demand by opponents to move up elections from 2021 to March 2019.