A fresh outburst of violence in Nicaragua over the weekend has claimed the life of a one-year-old boy as well as six more adults, according to reports.
The country is locked in a battle between pro-government forces and protesters, led largely by student groups. The death toll is now estimated at more than 200 people since April and attempts by the Catholic Church to negotiate a ceasefire have, so far, failed.
It has been reported that a one-year-old was among the dead Friday night. The child’s mother reportedly told a local TV station that the police shot her son. In turn, authorities blamed the death on a stray bullet fired from someone trying to stop them clearing a road.
According to the Associated Press, two men were found shot dead nearby, also late Friday.
On Saturday, two students were killed and more than a dozen wounded at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Students have been occupying the state university in Managua since April.
The Red Cross have reported that two further people were also killed in Masaya Saturday. The city has become a hotbed of opposition to the Nicaraguan government, which is led by President Daniel Ortega.
Ortega won power in 2007 and has slowly taken control of all aspects of government, including the judiciary. That is had led to accusations of a one party state and that those not loyal to Ortega’s “Sandinista National Liberation Front” cannot receive certain benefits or secure government jobs.
In April, Ortega proposed cuts to government pension and social security, tapping into existing frustration and triggering the latest clashes.
Ortega’s opposition, collectively known as the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, is made up students, business groups and farmers. It has said that the country’s next general election, due in 2021 should now be held next year.
In May, a survey carried out by CID/Gallup found 70 percent of Nicaraguans felt Ortega should immediately resign.
On Friday Fitch Ratings downgraded Nicaragua's sovereign credit rating to "B" from "B+" and revised its outlook to "negative" from "stable". The agency has estimated that the political crisis and violence will slash Nicaragua's economic growth to 1.7 percent in 2018.
The five-year average of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) during 2013-2017 was 4.8 percent.