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Nicaragua government says it will free all jailed protesters

President Daniel Ortega's administration promised Wednesday to free within 90 days all demonstrators arrested in the year since protests erupted against the Nicaraguan government.

The release of more than 700 opposition protesters had been the main demand of the opposition for continuing talks with the government. In return, the government is asking for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Ortega's government.

The announcement on prisoners was made by the two independent figures who are monitoring and assisting the talks, the papal nuncio in Nicaragua and a representative of the Organization of American States. They said the talks would resume Thursday, after several days of tension since weekend protests were broken up by security forces.

A protester ties a kerchief around her face during a protest demanding the government release hundreds of protesters held in custody since 2018, in Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, March 16, 2019. Nicaragua's government banned opposition protests in September and police broke up Saturday's attempt at a demonstration. (AP PhotoAlfredo Zuniga)

At least 325 people died last year amid the anti-government protests, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Starting in April 2018, Nicaragua's economy was devastated by nearly five months of unrest initially sparked by cuts to social security benefits but that quickly evolved into calls for Ortega to step down and allow early elections.

The government cracked down on the protests, and thousands of people were wounded, detained or fled into exile. The government has since imposed a de facto ban on opposition demonstrations and shuttered some independent media outlets and non-governmental organizations.

According to an agenda for the talks issued Tuesday, discussions will focus on electoral reform. Ortega has been accused of perpetuating himself in power and undermining the independence of electoral authorities and other branches of government.

Young men wave national flags during a protest demanding the government release hundreds of protesters held in custody since 2018, in Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, March 16, 2019. Nicaragua's government banned opposition protests in September and police broke up Saturday's attempt at a demonstration. (AP PhotoAlfredo Zuniga)

Once agreements are reached, "In due time, and in agreement between the parties, a call will be made to the international community to suspend sanctions," according to the agenda document.

Demonstrators chant during a protest demanding the government release hundreds of protesters held in custody since 2018, in Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, March 16, 2019. Nicaragua's government banned opposition protests in September and police broke up Saturday's attempt at a demonstration. (AP PhotoAlfredo Zuniga)