Protesters in Nicaragua demand Ortega's ouster as fears of civil war rise

Protests in Nicaragua

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Protests in Nicaragua are stoking fears of a civil war that could tear the country apart and worsen the immigration crisis in the U.S.

Hundreds have been killed in demonstrations since the government tried to cut social security benefits three months ago. The demonstrations have since turned into calls for President Daniel Ortega to step down. He has ruled the country for 22 of the last 40 years.

In the capital city Managua, people have covered their faces, afraid they will be targeted if they're seen at demonstrations. But being there is a risk they are willing to take.

One protester said he is willing to demonstrate until "he is gone." One sign says "Nicaragua needs a president."

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Masked protesters in Managua, Nicaragua. CBS News

The Ortega regime accuses protesters of inciting violence that has claimed the lives of national police. Paramilitary forces loyal to Ortega are believed to have fired into a Catholic church earlier this month, as 100 university students sought shelter from a barrage of bullets, leaving two dead.

Fr. Eric Alvarado, who was there during the 15-hour siege, called it the worst day of his life. He showed CBS News where the bullets pierced the church's icons.

Supporters of the Ortega regime held their own march on Monday, an indication of the political division in this country and a sign the turmoil may not come to an end any time soon.

What's the next step for Nicaragua and President Daniel Ortega?