They also demand an immediate end to the police and paramilitary repression.
HAVANA TIMES – Protesting students demanded today the resignation of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the cessation of police and paramilitary repression at the start of a national dialogue between the Government, civil society and the private sector that seeks to end the serious crisis that has hit the country for almost a month, reported dpa news.
The dialogue, held under the mediation of the Catholic Church, was installed in the headquarters of the National Seminary of Our Lady of Fatima, in Managua.
Ortega and VP Murillo arrived at the meeting place under strong police protection shortly before 10:00 a.m. local time (16:00 GMT) and were booed by protesters posted outside the premises, who shouted “murderers.”
After it was announced that Ortega would speak to those present, one of the leaders of the university protests took the floor and demanded “that he order the immediate cessation of the attacks against protestors that are being committed throughout the country.”
“This is not a dialogue table, it is a table to negotiate your exit, surrender to this people, order a ceasefire right now… what has been committed in this country has been a genocide,” Lester Aleman told Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo, the vice president.
Also, “as the supreme head of the Police and the Army, we tell you to order the cessation of attacks by the Police, the paramilitaries and the mobs supported by the Government,” he added.
Ortega responded claiming that the police were “victims” of the demonstrators and that they remain “in their barracks.” He also assured that in the jails there is not “a single detainee or disappeared” because all the young people arrested were released.
Amid the shouts of the university students, the president assured that Nicaragua is “deeply wounded” by this crisis and that the economy, investments and jobs of 130,000 employees of the free trade zones (maquiladoras) are in danger.
“These are not little angels,” Ortega said when referring to the students, whom he blamed for numerous actions of looting and vandalism, which the university students and witnesses of the attacks attribute to paramilitary forces linked to the government.
For his part, the professor and former Minister of Education, Carlos Tunnermann, described as “disappointing” Ortega’s speech, and urged him to “stop all types of repression against the people.”
“Don Daniel, right here, now, order an end to the repression, suppress the paramilitary bodies, the shock forces, and no longer use the police in any repressive action,” Tunnermann told him.
“The people of Nicaragua demand that you leave,” peasant leader Medardo Mairena, the coordinator of a movement of farmers opposed to the construction of an interoceanic canal in the south of the country, told Ortega.
The crisis erupted in Nicaragua on April 17, with a student protest against a Social Security reform, which increased the quotas of workers and companies. The demonstrations spread throughout the country after the violent reaction of the police.
Although the official death toll amounts to 15, non-governmental human rights organizations have accounted for 66 people killed up to three days ago, and more than 500 injured in the repression.
Nicaraguan private sector “disappointed” with the beginning of dialogue
HAVANA TIMES – Representatives of the private sector reacted with “disappointment ” upon leaving the first session of a national dialogue, which seeks an end to the crisis and protests that the country has been living for almost a month, reported dpa news.
The dialogue began with a strong demand from students and other representatives of civil society who demanded that President Daniel Ortega “stop the police repression” on civic protests. The president did not commit to do so.
“We are in a very dangerous situation; we regret that a unique opportunity has been missed (to stop the crisis.) We must reevaluate if there is a serious will for dialogue on the part of the Government,” said Juan Sebastian Chamorro, one of the delegates of the private sector.
Chamorro expressed feeling a “deep disappointment” for this morning’s gathering, held at the National Seminar of Our Lady of Fatima, with the Catholic Church as mediators.
In an even more pessimistic tone spoke a representative of the farm sector, Michael Healy, who considered that the dialogue, whose next session was called for Friday, will not have the desired results. “I do not think it will not bear good results,” he told reporters.
“They [the Government] are going to come to talk about economic issues when we want to talk about constitutional issues: That Nicaraguans can go out and vote without anyone stealing the elections. A positive response was expected from the president today and he gave a negative response,” added Healy.
Meanwhile, María Nelly Rivas, president of the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham), supported the request for the cessation of police and paramilitary violence requested by the students at the start of the meeting.
“We join the pain and the indignation of the students and their call for the cessation of violence, and we continue to propose that the agenda begin with the theme of justice” towards the victims of the clashes, she said.
Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Higher Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), was very concerned about the future of the economy and urged Ortega to address the demands of young people. “We cannot let the country be destroyed,” he warned.
According to preliminary projections from the private sector, the economic losses from the protests total 233 million dollars, which represents 1.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of 2017.
For those readers who understand some Spanish here is the first session of the dialogue filmed by one of the students: