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A thuggish response to weeks of protests has eroded carefully constructed pillars of support in the Church, military and business world for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, 72, emboldening calls for the ouster of the former Marxist guerrilla who has dominated politics for decades. More than a month after changes to the Central American nation's social security system triggered student-led protests, indignation at a brutal crackdown in which at least 77 people have been killed and over 800 wounded has morphed into a daily challenge to Ortega's rule.The latest sign of fracturing came Wednesday, when after just four days of talks, Nicaragua's Episcopal Council of Catholic bishops suspended a "national dialogue" that had widely been seen as a chance for Ortega to take the wind out of the protests by making small concessions.A smaller group of government, private sector and church representatives restarted talks Monday behind closed doors.Despite the losses, many in the private sector are openly backing protesters and demanding change, turning against Ortega after an uneasy alliance in recent years that's undergirded strong economic growth.
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