Dialogue Suspended in Nicaragua and Violence Returns

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

The National Dialogue was suspended on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: laprensa.com.ni

HAVANA TIMES – The national dialogue between the Government of Nicaraguan government and a civic alliance of students, business people and civil society was suspended today due to failure to agree on the agenda to be discussed, while violent confrontations were reported in the city of Leon that left one dead and at least a dozen injured, some seriously, according to the Red Cross.

Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, president of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference (CEN) and the mediation committee for the dialogue, said that the plenary sessions were suspended due to the failure to agree on the agenda to be discussed.

The government asked to approve the immediate withdrawal of the roadblocks maintained by protesters and stop the violence, while the civic alliance demanded to debate a framework law that would include a constitutional reform and early presidential elections to end the Ortega presidency.

“The bishops regret having to suspend for now this plenary table of dialogue,” said Brenes and announced that they suggested the parties form a mixed commission of six people “to try to reach a consensus and overcome this impasse.”

“The peace and life of many Nicaraguans depends to a large extent on the possibility of continuing this dialogue,” the cardinal warned. For their part, spokespersons from both sides agreed to join the commission.

“It was impossible to continue with the national dialogue because we could not even begin with the agenda to seek the democratization of the country.” The bishops made it clear from the beginning: the objective of the national dialogue was to pave the way for the democratization of Nicaragua, said the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Baez.

At the beginning of the session, the CEN presented an agenda of 40 points proposed mostly by the civic alliance, which included dismissing Ortega and the top state officials, reforming the Constitution and holding elections in the first quarter of 2019.

It also proposed prohibiting presidential re-election, reducing the number of deputies in Parliament, taking away the partisan affiliation of the Army and Police and form a Truth Commission with local and foreign human rights bodies, to punish those responsible for the death of dozens of civilians during the last month.

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, head of the government’s delegation, described the proposed agenda as “the design of a route to an unconstitutional coup d’état” against Ortega.

“Here the coup has been given by the Government when it represses the peaceful protests,” said student leader Víctor Cuadras.

Professor Carlos Tunnermann, also of the civic alliance, maintained that this agenda seeks simply to “refound the Republic of Nicaragua on the basis of justice and democracy.”

The bishops also rejected the presence of four members of the Organization of American States (OAS) who came to the country invited by the Government to observe the dialogue.

They said that they sent a letter to Ortega informing him that they will only allow entry into the dialogue of an OAS mission headed by its secretary general, the Uruguayan Luis Almagro.

New Attacks on Protestors

Violent clashes too place when paramilitaries attacked the protestors roadblock in Leon. Photo: Eddy Lopez, laprensa.co.ni

Meanwhile, fierce confrontations were registered today between government paramilitaries and university students who had installed a “tranque” roadblock at the entrance to the city of León, 90 kilometers northwest of Managua.

A spokesmen for the Red Cross said they moved ten people to hospitals, three of them seriously injured, and confirmed the death of a young student shot in the head.

Earlier, another group of armed government supporters attacked some 180 peasants protesting on a highway in the north of the country, where a lawyer was wounded by a firearm, informed environmental activist Haydeé Castillo, witness of the incident.

Castillo said hundreds of people attacked the demonstrators at the Somoto-Ocotal junction, about 205 kilometers from Managua, with pistols and homemade mortars.

The Nicaraguan crisis erupted with a protest by students against a Social Security reform that affected workers and retirees, but it spread and worsened due to the violent action of the police and paramilitaries on civilians.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) records 76 deaths in the last month, 868 injured (five of them seriously and still hospitalized) and 438 detainees, the vast majority of them students. The Government recognizes 18 deceased persons.

Almagro continues to back Ortega

Meanwhile, through a video released in Washington, Luis Almagro vindicated himself today as the architect of the OAS administration that allowed the IACHR’s visit to Nicaragua, in the midst of the criticism of his inaction even support for Ortega.

Hours before the publication of the video, the executive secretary of the IACHR, Paulo Abrao, highlighted the “integral support” of Almagro for the performance of the commission, an autonomous body of the OAS.

Almagro has been criticized for weeks by the Nicaraguan opposition for, among other things, not having confronted the situation in the Central American country as he has done with the crisis in Venezuela, in which he is one of the biggest critics with Nicolas Maduro.

Commenting on the Nicaraguan crisis, he assured that he has insisted that the solution must be electoral, “without exclusions, without disqualifications with a fair, clear, transparent electoral process”, and that the OAS works with the Nicaraguan Government in an electoral reform under  a three-year term agreement.