Nicaragua unrest: Dozens of held protesters released

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But the government kept police back from the demonstrations after the violence of recent days.

"Everything related to the detention, beatings, robberies and abuses by the police we're going to document and take to the global human rights organizations", Cuevas said.

Some students said they had been beaten and tortured by police while in custody. President Daniel Ortega has since scrapped the unpopular welfare plan, but broader anti-government protests have continued with violence against students and journalists serving as a flashpoint for public anger.

Rights groups say dozens have died in protests and looting triggered by changes to the social security system.

The unrest started last Wednesday when hundreds of people, mainly pensioners, took to the streets of the capital, Managua, to protest against changes to the country's social security system.

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In a televised meeting on Sunday evening, Ortega cancelled the reforms, but tens of thousands of people marched in Managua on Monday, with many calling for the resignation of their 72-year-old president.

Voices from around Nicaragua and around the world have criticized the government reaction to the protesters.

The former Sandinista guerrilla is on his third consecutive term and has been accused of nepotism - his wife Rosario Murillo is the vice president - and for undermining democratic institutions to tighten his grip on power. "We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths could be defined as unjustified killings", said Office spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell, who asked the Nicaraguan authorities for a quick, thorough, independent and transparent investigation of these deaths.

"The repugnant political violence by police and pro-government thugs against the people of Nicaragua, particularly university students, has shocked the democratic worldwide community", a White House statement said.

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