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Nicaraguan business group holds 24-hour general strike

The Cosep business group urged ‘business owners, entrepreneurs, independent professionals and the self-employed to ... cease labour activities’

PRIVATE enterprise bosses seeking to oust Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega held a 24-hour general strike yesterday ahead of government-initiated peace talks.

The powerful Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) business group called for the walkout as right-wing violent attacks spread across the country.

"We urge all business owners, entrepreneurs from small and medium-sized firms, independent professionals and the self-employed to close their shops and cease labour activities," said Cosep head  Jose Adan Aguerri.

Streets in the capital Managua were deserted as many shops and businesses closed, with Nicaragua's Association of Producers and Exporters estimating that the strike could result in a $25-30 million economic loss.

At least 152 people have been killed in violence which erupted in April after protests over social security reforms. 

Demonstrations started after the government opposed an International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposal, backed by Cosep, that would have seen the retirement age increase with higher contribution rates for workers.

Its plans, which would have seen high earners and companies paying higher taxes and an increase in all contributions to the social security system, was met with a furious response from the business sector.

Last weekend saw right-wing militias launch violent attacks and hold a police station in Masaya under siege. Sources on the ground sent photographs to the Star which they said revealed that anti-government forces were marking the homes of Sandinistas and their supporters.

The government-initiated National Dialogue was set to resume yesterday with Mr Ortega insisting that peace talks are the only way to resolve the issues facing the country and calling for an end to violence.

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