Nicaragua opposition strike observed, in part

Managua (AFP) –


A national workers' strike called by Nicaragua's opposition to protest against the government of President Daniel Ortega was partially observed on Thursday.

The 24-hour industrial action is aimed at pressuring the government into releasing hundreds of imprisoned opposition supporters that took part in protests against Ortega's regime since April 2018.

It comes at a tense time during stalled peace negotiations between the government and the opposition that began in late February.

As part of the talks, the government has vowed to release all opposition supporters detained in protests by June 18, but its detractors say there is little evidence of a willingness to comply with that agreement.

In the main streets of the capital Managua, as well as other major cities, there was little foot or car traffic as police patrolled.

Some businesses and most supermarkets, except the biggest chains, remained closed, as well as schools and universities.

Banks stayed opened, following government threats of sanctions should they observe the strike.

Economist Juan Sebastian Chamorro said the strike could cost the country $15-20 million and impact tax collection.

The Labor Ministry had said businesses that remained closed should nonetheless pay staff their salaries and other benefits.

The government had attempted to stave off the strike, called on Wednesday, by announcing that it would abide by its commitment to release the prisoners by June 19, as well as end any judicial processes against those held.

The opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy has set the release of what it calls "political prisoners" as a condition for restarting talks with the government.

Nicaragua's crisis began on April 18, 2018 when a protest, initially against a since scrapped pension reform, ballooned into a wider demonstration against Ortega's government.

Over the following four months, at least 325 people were killed in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces, with hundreds of people jailed and more than 60,000 exiled.