White House condemns 'repugnant political violence' in Nicaragua

White House condemns 'repugnant political violence' in Nicaragua
© Greg Nash

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders condemned on Tuesday what she called the "repugnant political violence" employed by police in Nicaragua, as protests calling for the resignation of the country's president mounted. 

"The repugnant political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, has shocked the democratic international community," Sanders said in a statement. "As a Nation that supports free speech as a human and civil right, the United States condemns the violence and repression propagated by the Government of Nicaragua and any closing of media."

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Sanders's comments came a day after the State Department ordered the families of U.S. personnel in Nicaragua to leave the country and authorized the departure of American diplomats. 

Protests erupted in Nicaragua last week after President Daniel Ortega set in motion a plan to overhaul the country's welfare system. Ortega's opponents have also accused him of seeking to consolidate power for his family.

Ortega backed down from that plan Sunday. Still, protesters took to the streets Monday to call for his ouster. 

The demonstrations have been characterized by violent clashes with police that have left at least 27 people dead, according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights. Many of those killed were youths and university students.

Sanders called on Tuesday for a "broad-based dialogue" to resolve the unrest in Nicaragua and voiced support for "true democratic reforms" in the country. 

"The Administration joins the international community in calls for broad-based dialogue and support for the people of Nicaragua, who yearn for the political freedom of expression and true democratic reforms they so richly deserve," she said.