Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and opposition groups have traded angry accusations in a televised debate designed to ease weeks of unrest, BBC reports.
Mr Ortega said criminals and gang members had infiltrated opposition protest rallies but student activists branded him "a murderer".
More than 50 people, mostly students, have been killed in the protests.
They began when President Ortega approved cuts to pensions and social security.
Wednesday's debate in the capital Managua - referred to as the first session of "national dialogue" - was mediated by the Roman Catholic Church and broadcast live on national TV.