Nicaragua agrees to international probe into deadly protests

The Nicaraguan government has agreed to an international investigation into protests that have left dozens of people dead since April.

Civil unrest began in April over proposed government reforms to the country’s social security system and have escalated as protesters demand President Daniel Ortega’s resignation, justice for the victims and an end to repression.

Ortega’s government later revoked the controversial pension reform a few days after protests broke out, but the unrest continues throughout the Central American nation.

The Nicaraguan government has put the death toll at 34, but the Center for Human Rights says at least 170 people have been killed as of Friday.

Authorities and various civil groups are in negotiations with the country’s Catholic Church as their mediator.

Nicaragua’s Catholic bishops announced Friday that the government and the opposition agreed to cease all types of violence and allow a foreign entity to investigate the deaths linked to the protests.

The proposal says the government would allow an investigation into “all the deaths and acts of violence, to identify those responsible and for an integral attention plan so the victims reach effective justice,” a statement from the bishops said.

The government’s “immediate invitation” to international human rights groups, including UN Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is seen by many as a breakthrough in the dialogue process that was halted last month after parties failed to reach any agreements or permission for the groups to enter the nation.

During the dialogue meeting in the capital of Managua, protesters also agreed to remove their makeshift barricades “as soon as possible,” a form of protest that has brought the nation to a standstill.

Nicaragua’s Civil Alliance for Justice and Democracy, a coalition that includes representatives from the country’s business sector, student movements and human rights activists among others, said the results from the dialogue are “evidence that dialogue is the path to democratization and justice.”

The coalition added the talks on democratization are “fundamental.”

The Catholic Church has called for early elections to be held next year but Ortega’s government has not addressed the issue.

The dialogue and its process to move toward “democratization” is expected to continue Saturday, the bishops said at the conference.