Nicaraguan police arrested 26 people on Sunday ahead of a planned march against the government.

Iran PressAmerica: Among those arrested ahead of the “United for Liberty” march were civil society activists and political leaders, according to a list published by Nicaragua human rights non-profit the Comision Permanente de Derechos Humanos, Reuters reported.

The march was canceled after the arrests, its' leaders said.

Protests first erupted in April when Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government moved to reduce welfare benefits, but have escalated into broader opposition against Ortega, who has been in office since 2007.

More than 300 people have been killed in the protests, according to local human rights groups. Ortega’s government disputes those figures and says 198 people have died.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said on Twitter that it was deeply worried by the arrests, and called on the government to guarantee the security of the protesters.

On Saturday, Nicaraguan police said in a statement that the planned protest was illegal and that they would do everything necessary to stop it. Shortly after, Ortega also criticized the protesters in a speech to supporters on Saturday.

“They keep calling for marches not for peace, but for blood, that’s what they want, they want blood,” he said.

Nicaragua's unrest began on April 18 with protests against a pension reform plan, which has since been dropped. 

Protesters have demanded Ortega's resignation and early elections, but the embattled president has said he will not bring polls scheduled for 2021 forward. 

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