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On a recent Sunday, Managua's auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop Silvio Baez talked to those gathered for Mass about love and its many forms.
It soon became clear that Baez wasn't speaking just to the 300 people sitting on plastic chairs in the sweltering heat, but also to President Daniel Ortega.
Dozens - Protesters - Days - Clashes - Police
Dozens of young protesters had been killed in several days of clashes with police and the president's supporters, during protests set off by proposed social security cuts but that then veered into calls for Ortega to step aside after a decade in power.
"To denounce and publicly demonstrate against the actions, historic processes, political decisions that go against the great majority is also to love," Baez said. And he added, if one's presence is causing instability "to relinquish, to leave can be an act of love."
Turn - Dance - Nicaragua - Religion - Ortega
So began the latest turn in a 40-year dance between Nicaragua's predominant religion and Ortega, the former Marxist guerrilla who once infuriated the Vatican but gradually forged an alliance with the church.
The protests, which have continued on a smaller scale, have forced Ortega into a corner and he has asked for the church to mediate. Talks began Wednesday after the president agreed, at least initially, to meet the church's conditions, one of which is to "review Nicaragua's political system from its roots to achieve an authentic democracy."
Ortega - Police - Court - Congress - Way
Ortega controls the national police and military, while the supreme court and congress strongly lean his way. Opponents accuse him of tilting the electoral field in his favor. But the protests led by students and supported by the business community and the Catholic Church are posing the greatest threat to his government since he won the 2006 election and returned to power 16 years after losing it.
"Clearly at the moment we're in the pendulum swing again where the bishops are more critical...
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