The brother of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega called on his brother Saturday to stop the paramilitary fighters that have been blamed for months of unrest in the Central American country.
Humberto Ortega, once the head of the Nicaraguan military, told CNN Espanol that his brother's government must act to "end the presence of these armed people" after three months of violence that have left 448 people dead.
The paramilitary fighters are acting "as if they are a military or police authority," Humberto Ortega said, urging his brother to work with the army to resolve the crisis.
On Friday, more than 40 medical professionals were fired in Leon, reportedly for treating anti-government protesters at a public hospital.
Earlier this week, the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association said the death toll from the violence had climbed to 448, while the number of kidnappings and disappearances blamed on paramilitaries has been tallied at 595.
On Tuesday, Daniel Ortega gave a rare interview to the U.S. news channel Fox News. He said the paramilitaries were funded by members of the political opposition and drug cartels. But he offered no support for his claims.
The protests erupted in April after Ortega announced changes to the country's pension system. He later gave up those plans, but protesters have continued to speak out against the government, and government authorities continue to crack down on the demonstrators. The president has called the protesters terrorists and has said they are planning a coup.
He has refused to hold early elections, saying they would only make the situation worse.