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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States condemned a violent crackdown on street protesters by Nicaraguan forces on Monday and said it was revoking visas of officials connected to the violence.
International condemnation against President Daniel Ortega grew sharply last week over the deployment of police and allied paramilitary forces to squash the unrest, which has led to nearly 300 deaths and many more injured since protests against began three months ago.
"The United States strongly condemns the ongoing violence in Nicaragua and human rights abuses committed by the Ortega regime in response to protests," the White House said in a statement.
The demonstrations were triggered by a plan by Ortega's government to trim pension benefits, but the government's heavy-handed response sparked a wider protest against Ortega's rule.
The Nicaraguan protesters are demanding democratic reforms after years of fraudulent elections and repression of opposition parties and independent media, the White House said.
"These demands have been met with indiscriminate violence, with more than 350 dead, thousands injured, and hundreds of citizens falsely labelled 'coup-mongers' and 'terrorists' who have been jailed, tortured, or who have gone missing," it said.
Washington has secured the return of vehicles donated to the Nicaraguan national police that have been used to suppress the protesters and cut off additional sales and donations of equipment that might be used against protesters, it said.
Washington blamed Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, for the situation.
"President Ortega and Vice President Murillo are ultimately responsible for the pro-government parapolice that have brutalized their own people," the White House said.
The United States is revoking or restricting the visas of Nicaraguan officials connected to the violence against protesters, as well as their families, the statement said.
Last month, the United States imposed sanctions against three top Nicaraguan officials it said were involved in human rights abuses.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Susan Thomas)