"Nicaragua has decided to defend itself": Protesters, president defiant amid bloodshed

Nicaraguan president says he won't resign
Nicaraguan president says he won't resign 02:42

Nicaragua's president says he will not consider stepping down to restore peace to his country. In a recorded interview with Fox News, President Daniel Ortega denies he controls paramilitary groups blamed for most of the killing. He says they are supported by his political opponents and foreign interests.

Police and paramilitary groups are accused of killing more than 300 people since April. Thursday will mark 100 days of turmoil in the country since protests began over plans to cut welfare benefits.

Ortega has governed Nicaragua for 22 of the last 39 years, increasingly amassing more wealth and power, critics say.

In the interview, Ortega explained that he and his wife wouldn't step down before elections in 2021. And then, he said, "We'll have to see who will be voted in."

The latest march paralyzed streets in central Managua for hours Monday and some protesters said they are prepared for civil war.

Some say there are already political prisoners.

One woman claims her husband, a former military officer, has been jailed for almost a month, after refusing to join a paramilitary group fighting the demonstrators.

"I can't rest because I know the regime is capable of whatever in order to convict an innocent man," she told CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez. "So I'm fearful, I'm scared." She also later added, "Nicaragua has decided to defend itself."

There were also demonstrations in favor of President Ortega.

His supporters say he's earned his vote, and denounce the protesters as violent.

"They are harming an entire community. They've destroyed a city, they've destroyed a country," one woman said.

For Ortega's critics, this was not just another protest; it was another day in the fight against a regime they call oppressive. The protests largely started as a student movement and young people marching say this is about the future of their country. Some of the protesters wore masks to protect their identities because they've been threatened.

Hoping to avoid more bloodshed, Nicaragua's Catholic Bishops met yesterday to discuss restarting talks between both sides which had previously failed.