The European Union has expressed its condolences to the families of the victims of demonstrations and counter-mobilisations in various areas of Nicaragua. Protests erupted last week when controversial reforms to the social security system were announced.

“Violence is unacceptable,” read a statement issued by the EU on April 22. “Differences can only be resolved through inclusive dialogue. Protests need to be conducted peacefully, and public security forces must act with maximum restraint.”

According to Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, a Nicaraguan human rights body says more than 20 people were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators. A journalist, Angel Gahona, was among those killed in the violence. He was shot dead in the town of Bluefields on April 21 while live-streaming the latest wave of demonstrations against the government’s planned reforms.

“We believe a sniper fired the shot, it wasn’t the young people… The only people who were armed were the police and riot police,” his colleague Ileana Lacayo told television station Canal 15.

Authorities have, however, blamed the attack on what they call “criminal rights groups”.