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Cardinal: Nicaragua Talks at Impasse, Suspended Indefinitely

Representatives of the Catholic Church get up at the end of the third day of the national dialogue in Managua, Nicaragua, May 21, 2018.

Talks broke down Wednesday between President Daniel Ortega's government and opposition and civic groups on resolving weeks of unrest in which dozens of people were killed.

The Roman Catholic Church has been mediating the negotiations, and Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes announced late in the day that a decision was made to suspend the process indefinitely due to a lack of progress.

“Given that on this fourth day of dialogue no consensus has been achieved, the bishops are suspending the plenary dialogue,” Brenes said in a live transmission. “But they suggest a mixed commission, three from each side, to seek consensus and overcome the impasse.”

The talks were intended to defuse tensions in the Central American country that began in mid-April with protests over proposed changes to the social security system.

Ortega reversed those, but by then a heavy-handed response from security forces and government-allied civilian groups caused protesters to broaden their demands to include the president's exit from office.

In a report released Monday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that Ortega's government violated protesters' human rights during the unrest, with at least 76 people dead, nearly 900 injured and hundreds arrested.

The commission called for the government to ensure that deadly weapons are not used against protesters, and also said it found evidence of torture, arbitrary arrests and media censorship.

"Potentially lethal force cannot be used merely to maintain or restore public order,'' the commission said.