US orders embassy staff out of Nicaragua as protests escalate

MANAGUA/WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) - A student was shot dead in Nicaragua late on Sunday, the Red Cross said, bringing the total death toll to nine in the latest unrest, as the United States ordered its embassy staff out of the country and curbed consular services.

Police clashed with students bunkered down at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua on Sunday night, and one died after being shot while five others were treated for injuries, Lissett Guido, a Red Cross spokeswoman, told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

Guido said the Red Cross had registered nine deaths since the protests began Wednesday, and attended to 433 injured people. The Nicaraguan Center of Human Rights (CENIDH) said on Monday at least 25 people had died. Marlin Sierra, the director of the CENIDH, said 120 people had been arrested.

RELATED: A look at the protests in Nicaragua

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Protests in Nicaragua
People with goods looted from a store push shopping trolleys along a street after protests over a reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua, April 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator is seen next to a burning barricade during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator throws stones towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Riot policemen fire rubber bullets towards university students protesting over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators past a barricade as they take part during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators walk past a barricade as they take part during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators take part in a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators take part during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators run past a burning barricade as they take part in a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A riot police throws a tear gas canister towards demonstrators as they take part in a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators take part in a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators take part in a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Students cry next to the casket of student Alvaro Conrado, 15, during a mass at the Santo Domingo church in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. According to the nation's Red Cross, Conrado was shot dead during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS). REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator fires a homemade mortar towards riot police during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator walks past burning tyres during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators are seen amid tear gas during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
Demonstrators are seen amid tear gas during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator kicks a tear gas canister during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A demonstrator reacts to a tear gas canister during a protest over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A petrol bomb explodes near riot policemen during clashes with university students protesting over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
A riot policemen reacts to an injured colleague during clashes with university students protesting over a controversial reform to the pension plans of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) in Managua, Nicaragua April 20, 2018. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas
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Protests began last week after the government of President Daniel Ortega, a former leftist guerrilla leader whom critics accuse of trying to build a family dictatorship, launched a plan to overhaul the Central American country's welfare system.

A police crackdown on protesters and curbs on some media have fueled broader criticism of Ortega. On Sunday night, in an effort to calm the streets, Ortega said he had canceled the welfare-overhaul initiative.

On Monday, the U.S. State department authorized the departure of U.S. government employees. Those will be handled on a case-by-case basis, according to a State Department official.

While two major marches were due on Monday, there was little evidence of people gathering for the first, called by students from the Polytechnic University for 9:00 a.m. local time.

It was unclear what the turnout would be for a march at 3:00 p.m., called by Nicaragua's main business lobby.

The U.S. State Department official said the embassy in Managua would be unable to provide routine services to the public until further notice, but would continue to be available by phone for emergencies and provide services to U.S. citizens and visa applicants.

Nicaragua has been one of Central America's more stable countries, mostly avoiding the turmoil caused by gang violence or political upheaval that has affected nearby Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

"Political rallies and demonstrations are occurring daily, often with little notice or predictability. Some protests result in injuries and deaths," the State Department said.

It said the purchase of food and fuel may become harder and access to the airport in the capital of Managua may be blocked. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Oswaldo Rivas in Managua Writing by Makini Brice and Gabriel Stargardter Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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