The Latest: Nicaragua cancels social security overhaul

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- The latest on unrest in Nicaragua (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

Nicaragua's president says the government is withdrawing changes to the social security system that had triggered protests, riots and looting over the past week.

President Daniel Ortega said Sunday in a message to the nation that the social security board of directors has canceled the changes implemented on April 16.

The overhaul sought to shore up Nicaragua's troubled social security system with a combination of reduced benefits and increased taxes.

The changes touched off protests across the Central American nation that escalated into clashes with police as well as looting.

Human rights groups say at least 26 people have been killed in several days of clashes. Dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua have been looted.

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12:45 p.m.

The U.S. State Department is accusing Nicaragua's government of overreacting to protests during days of unrest in which human rights groups say more than two dozen people have died.

Sunday's statement says U.S. officials "condemn the violence and the excessive force used by police and others against civilians who are exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression and assembly. "

It's calling for "broad?-based dialogue involving all sectors o?f society" and urges the government to allow an independent investigation into the deaths.

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4:40 a.m.

Pope Francis has expressed deep worry over deadly violence in Nicaragua fueled by protests and he's pressing for a peaceful solution.

Human rights advocates say that since April 18 at least 26 people have been killed in unrest over social security reforms planned by President Daniel Ortega's government. Dozens have been injured or arrested.

Francis told people in St. Peter's Square that he's "very worried" about the situation in the Central American country.

He said he's expressing "closeness in prayer to that beloved country" and joining local bishops in seeking an end to "every violence, that useless bloodshed is avoided and that open issues are resolved peacefully and with a sense of responsibility."

Ortega says his government is willing to enter into talks over the dispute.

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10:25 p.m.

In the grainy, nighttime video, journalist Angel Gahona, clad in jeans and a blue shirt, holds up a cellphone and narrates as he approaches the facade of city hall in Bluefields, Nicaragua, reporting live via Facebook on protests that have rocked the Central American nation for four days.

Seconds later a gunshot rings out and Gahona slumps lifeless to the curb. Voices cry his name and someone presses a piece of cloth to his head to try to staunch the stream of blood. Another Bluefields reporter, Ileana Lacayo, confirms that he died before reaching the hospital.

Besides Gahona at least 25 others have been killed since Wednesday in unrest over social security reforms planned by President Daniel Ortega's government, according to a human rights group.

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