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Armed shopkeepers in Managua guard their businesses amid lootings during protests against the government's pension reforms Armed shopkeepers in Managua guard their businesses amid lootings during protests against the government's pension reforms  (AFP or licensors)

Nicaragua's President scraps pension reform following clashes

In a significant political climb down, Nicaragua`s President Daniel Ortega has scrapped and abandoned higher pension contributions, for diminished returns, which caused violent protests, prompting a security crackdown, during which more than 20 people died and hundreds were injured. Pope Francis appealed for an end to the violence during his Regina Coeli address on Sunday.

By James Blears

Pope Francis and the Nicaraguan Bishops` Conference appealed for an end to the violence, as well as dialogue and negotiations to diffuse the crisis.

In the face of sustained protests and an ultimatum from the business sector known as COSEP , President Daniel Ortega has caved in.

In a nationwide televised broadcast he had called for talks, saying: "If we find a better way to conduct the reforms, then the decree can be replaced by a new one." COSEP refused any talks until the security crackdown ended, and freedom of expression was restored. Two television stations had been closed for reporting the nationwide protests. So then President Ortega, conceded the controversial reform altogether.

The new law, which has now crumbled, had been due to come into force on July 1st.

Listen to James Blears' report
23 April 2018, 13:53