Citizens rushed to supermarkets to stock up on basics ahead of a day-long economic shutdown. Nicaragua's Catholic Church supported the strike and announced its new effort to mediate between the government and opposition.
The Nicaraguan opposition coalition will carry out a national strike on Thursday, in their latest attempt to pressure the government of Daniel Ortega to acknowledge their demands.
The strike takes place in the midst of a sharp escalation in violence in the Central American nation, since protests began in April. The continuous turmoil has left 152 people dead and led to calls for President Daniel Ortega to step down and new elections to be held.
The opposition has blamed police and pro-government paramilitaries of carrying out state repression, by attacking activists and protesters with live ammunition. Attempts for dialogue between the government and civil society groups have so far failed.
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After two more people were killed this week, the coalition of civil society groups mobilized its supporters in favor of the strike. The Superior Council for Private Enterprise (Cosep), which represents many businesses in the private sector, called for a 24-hour labor stoppage to take place on Thursday.
"We urge all business owners, entrepreneurs from small and medium sized firms, independent professionals and the self-employed, to close their shops and cease labor activities," said Jose Adan Aguerri, the head of Cosep.
Economic losses expected
Citizens rushed to supermarkets to stockpile on grains, milk and vegetables on Wednesday, in preparation for the nationwide shutdown. The education system is also expected to be affected, as students have joined protests and occupied some universities.
Nicaragua's Association of Producers and Exporters has estimated that the strike could result in a $25 to $30 million economic loss.
President Ortega once counted on Nicaragua's private sector as his ally. But since the unrest began, following his failed attempt to reform the nation's pension system, the relationship has soured.
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Clergy to revive mediation
Managua's archdiocese, a key player in the political conflict and current mediator between the government and opposition groups, welcomed the work stoppage. The church called the day-long strike an "expression of national unity and peaceful protest in the face of the serious political crisis we are experiencing."
Nicaragua's influential bishops announced on Wednesday a renewed effort to revive the talks between the government and the opposition coalition.
In a statement, the Catholic clergy said they would inform the public of their mediation offer to President Ortega, as well as his response to the offer. The bishops hope the debate can help the country "seek a consensus that responds to the people's longing for justice, democratization and peace."
Vice President of Nicaragua and first lady Rosario Murillo said on Wednesday that "peace and faith" were of most importance, in order to "walk along the routes of dialogue."
The first lady signaled that the government might heed the clergy's call, saying that the governing couple was open to a dialogue and that the "difficult times" Nicaragua faced would "definitely pass."
jcg/se (EFE, AFP, dpa)