MEXICO CITY — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Nicaraguan authorities Friday to protect 13 university students who have been outspoken in leading recent protests against President Daniel Ortega's government.

A team from the commission visited Nicaragua last week and expressed concern over the government's violent repression of protests.

In a statement, the commission said after conducting interviews it determined the students and their family members had been targeted by threats. It said their photos were circulated online as the "faces of chaos."

Popular protests erupted in mid-April after Ortega imposed austerity measures for Nicaragua's social security system. The demonstrations soon became wider in scope, and the violent response from police and government-allied Sandinista youth groups brought calls for Ortega's resignation.

A report released Monday by the rights commission found that Ortega's government violated protesters' human rights during the unrest, with at least 76 people dead, nearly 900 injured and hundreds arrested.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Friday condemned the crackdown and called on Nicaragua's government to implement the commission's recommendations.

"We are extremely concerned by the lack of progress on the national dialogue due to the government's failure to credibly engage on democratization," she said.

On Wednesday, Nicaragua's Roman Catholic leadership announced that it was indefinitely suspending church-mediated talks between the government and its critics due to a lack of progress.