Managua, May 13: The death toll in ongoing anti-government protests in Nicaragua climbed to more than 50 with two new deaths reported from Masaya, prompting an appeal for peace from the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (ECN) and the President.
Two young men were shot in the head while participating in a protest on Saturday, taking the toll to 54 in 25 days, reports Efe. In Masaya, protesters fought pitched battles for at least 14 hours with the National Police, the Sandinista groups and riot police, known as "turbas" (mobs).
"We are deeply hurt by the acts of violence and confrontation that are taking place in various parts of the country, particularly in Masaya, causing injuries and death. We ask that all kinds of violence be stopped," said the ECN in a statement.
President Daniel Ortega, who prefers live impromptu addresses, broke his custom to read a short statement, making an appeal "to put an end to death and destruction. May no blood of brothers be shed anymore".
"Peace is the way and the only door to coexistence and respect for the tranquillity and safety of all. We ask God to give us the strength to achieve it," said Ortega.
His appeal, however, had no calming effect on the protesters and was criticized on social media, where many accused him of ordering a "student massacre" since most of the victims were university students.
The clashes had started 25 days back over proposed new social security reforms and had continued to escalate owing to a severe crackdown by the government.