Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, in support of the country’s President Daniel Ortega, who has faced two weeks of violent protests against his government.
“We must say no to death, no to destruction, no to violence, no to barbarity!” Ortega said on Monday while addressing his supporters in the massive street rally under the slogan of “Say yes to peace!”
During the demonstration, people roared in approval, shouting “Yes to life, yes to dialog, yes to work, yes to peace!”
The demonstration came in response to a series of protest rallies in the Central American country initially against government welfare reforms and then for Ortega’s ouster.
The unrest reportedly killed 43 people. It marked the country’s worst in more than a decade and continued despite the cancellation of the reforms by Ortega, with protesters then seeking his ouster.
A communiqué issued by the ruling Sandinista Party announcing the pro-government rally said on Monday that Ortega needed “a sea of people” to show “the love and care that we have for our undisputed leader.”
Following the earlier violence, people of all ages, carrying the country’s national flag, converged outside the city’s cathedral for a Mass last Saturday, when Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes addressed the crowd and called for reconciliation.
The archbishop offered to serve as a mediator for a national dialog earlier called by Ortega. Brenes said he would impose a deadline of one month to see “if a real commitment exists” to carry out potential agreements.
“If we see that they are not taking these steps, we will call a halt and we will tell the people of God that we cannot carry on,” he said, as the crowd reacted with broad applause and chants of “Make them go!” in reference to Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
It was not immediately clear if the government and its opponents would initiate dialog, and whether the anti-government unrest would subside.