Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has ordered an independent inquiry into the killings of dozens of anti-government demonstrators after the Catholic Church called for dialogue.

Critics say Ortega, now 72-years-old and veteran leader of the Sandinista movement, is out of touch with the suffering of the Nicaraguan people.

United in victories!

More than 50 people have been killed in the almost month when violent clashes between university students and anti-riot police. The protests that quickly turned to bloody violence began on April 18, in the streets of the capital, Managua, in protest of the new social welfare reforms.

The legislation which increased social security contributions on the part of employers and employees, and lowers overall benefits, especially pensions, at the same time, have since been repealed.

On April 23, Ortega said his government had repealed the social security reform which had triggered the mass demonstrations, but he did not gauge the anti-government, more specifically, anti-Ortega sentiment.

Many were clear on their position, they weren’t anti-Sandinista, but rather not in favor of the dictator like the rule of Ortega and his wife, now vice-president, Rosario Murillo. The two have been called Nicaragua’s power couple, governing side-by-side, last year Murillo officially being elected to a position in government, previously doing basically the same thing, but solely on the appointment of her husband.

Ortega and his wife have been political survivors who have come through numerous crises.

In the 1970s he was one of the leaders of the Sandinista rebel movement — the FSLN —

These ‘Trees of Life’ were erected by Vice President Murillo but were targeted by protesters

which eventually ousted the US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza.

The sentiment among Nicaraguans is based on ‘they hike the cost of electrical power and other services and now they want to affect pensioners.’ Some call the pension issue the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Ahora los #Sandinistas dan apoyo al presidente Ortega. #nicaragua🇳🇮

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The Sandinistas’ victory — which was wildly popular in a country which had been run for the profit of the Somoza family, its cronies and a handful of US companies — did not go down well in Washington.

Now, in 2018, things are different. Not the protests, but that they have lasted and still continue almost a month later. The difference, this time, is the killing of “innocent people”, including journalist Angel Gahona who was shot while filming a Facebook Live.

“The people got fed up with the oppression and police abuse towards innocent people. This is a lot of disagreement, pain, and anger that the Nicaraguan people have been holding back since the 1980s when the Sandinistas were involuntarily recruiting teenagers for the military and starving people with their communist system. I believe that one thing led to another and after the police killed the first protester, that was the point of no return for the community,” said William, a Nicaraguan, who now lives in Miami and runs the Asisomosnicaragua Instagram account.

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“Nicaraguans do want Ortega and Murillo to step down and move away from government, including all their tentacles which are entwined in the whole system,” William assures.

Article originally appeared on Today Nicaragua and is republished here with permission.