MANAGUA, (Reuters) – Nicaragua’s main business lobby yesterday urged President Daniel Ortega to hold early elections to steer the country out of weeks of deadly protests that have seriously undermined the former Marxist guerrilla leader’s long hold on power.
In a letter to Ortega published on Twitter, business association COSEP urged the 72-year-old president to bring forward the next vote at a date to be agreed between the government and representatives of civic society.
“Given the magnitude of this crisis, we urge you to undertake every effort in your power to find a peaceful solution before we find ourselves immersed in an even more tragic situation,” the letter said.
The next presidential election is scheduled for 2021.
Proposed changes to Nicaragua’s social security system last month triggered student-led protests, and indignation at a violent crackdown in which dozens of people have been killed and over 800 injured has become a daily challenge to Ortega’s rule.
Ortega told supporters that Nicaragua “is not private property” in response to the COSEP demand, according to local newspaper La Prensa.
A Cold War antagonist of the United States who served a single term as president during the 1980s, Ortega returned to power in 2007. He was re-elected by a landslide for a third consecutive term in 2016 with his wife as vice president.
The Organization of American States last week called for early elections, but Ortega has not acceded.