MANAGUA, Nicaragua — The brother of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has urged the embattled leader to move up elections to avoid more bloodshed, according to a letter released Wednesday.

Humberto Ortega, who served as head of Nicaragua's army until 1994, has criticized his brother's consolidation of power in the past.

His letter was sent to a dialogue group working to find a resolution to months of deadly clashes between protesters and pro-government forces.

In the letter, he urged Daniel Ortega to hold elections in 2019 and pull back pro-government youth groups that have been blamed for much of the street violence since protests broke out in mid-April. He also asked the opposition to lift barricades that have snarled traffic in the country for weeks.

"We all want a peaceful solution to the tragic crisis we are suffering," Humberto Ortega wrote. "By constitutionally moving up presidential elections to the coming year, he says yes to peace."

Also Wednesday, former President Enrique Bolanos re-iterated his call for Ortega to step down.

"If you are a true patriot resign and this country will thank you for it," said Bolanos, who held office in 2002-2006.

Human rights groups say more than 250 people have been killed in street clashes since peaceful protests against cuts to social security became a vehicle for various grievances against the government.

The government has dismissed the demonstrators as delinquents and raised the specter of a foreign conspiracy.