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National Strike To Protest President Set For Friday In Nicaragua


The streets throughout Nicaragua will be empty today. Opposition leaders have called for a national strike to protest increasing repression by the government. Yesterday, the streets of most major cities were filled with demonstrators demanding the resignation of President Daniel Ortega and scheduling of early elections. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, more than two months of protests calling for Ortega's ouster have left hundreds of people dead.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: A main boulevard of the capital Managua was a sea of bright blue and white Nicaraguan flags. Protesters stretched for dozens of city blocks.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Protest songs from decades past mixed with horns honking and calls for the immediate removal of President Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario, who is vice president and head of all government communications.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

KAHN: Streamed live on independent news outlet 100% Noticias, a student leader shouts, "They must go." In response, the crowd yells back, "go." "And if they won't," says the leader, "then we'll throw them out. We've had lots of experience throwing out dictators," he adds. Ortega was a leader of the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, overthrowing a U.S.-backed dictator. However, he and his wife have become increasingly unpopular as they've worked to consolidate power and fill the courts and legislature with loyalists. Their plan to raise Social Security taxes last April sparked nationwide demonstrations that quickly escalated. Protesters have been met with bloody repression. Carlos Fernando Chamorro, an independent journalist in Nicaragua, says yesterday's march sent a strong message to Ortega.


KAHN: "The march was a direct challenge to the terror the people have endured, and it shows they will not surrender," says Chamorro. Despite calls by the Organization of American States and the U.N. secretary general to end the violence, Ortega has shown no signs of leaving office. Juan Sebastian Chamorro, a member of a church-backed group calling for national mediation, says the economy is in shambles and is expected to contract by more than half this year, putting nearly a quarter of a million people out of work.

JUAN SEBASTIAN CHAMORRO: We're talking about, like, a major economic crisis in Nicaragua, as well as a humanitarian crisis.

KAHN: An email seeking comment sent to Ortega's wife, the government's only spokesperson, was returned simply thanking NPR for its interest. Carrie Kahn, NPR News.


Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
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