Nicaragua: Ortega Agrees to Free all Political Prisoners within 90 Days

The Civic Alliance returned to the negotiating table on March 20, 2019. Photo: Jorge Torres /EFE


Civic Alliance: the trials will be annulled, and no political prisoner will be left

Government tries to avoid sanctions and approves agenda that includes reforming the electoral system


By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – After denying for months the existence of political prisoners in Nicaragua, and ensuring that the detainees are “common criminals,” the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo agreed to free the estimated 760 political prisoners eleven months after the crisis began.

The government will free them within a period of no more than 90 days as part of the agreement signed with the Civic Alliance, with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Vatican as witnesses, to reactivate the dialogue at the INCAE business school in Managua.

According to a statement issued on Wednesday night by the government, it agreed to release all political prisoners through the intermediation of the Vatican representative Waldemar Stanis?aw Sommertag and Luis Angel Rosadilla of the Organization of American States (OAS).

“Thanks to the efforts of the apostolic nuncio, as a witness and companion, and the special delegate of the OAS, and given the positions reached, the negotiation process was resumed,” reads the statement.

It was the special delegate of the OAS, Luis Angel Rosadilla, who read the statement at a press conference at INCAE announcing the return to the negotiating table. The secretary general of the OAS, represented by Luis Almagro, as well as the Civic Alliance had conditioned their participation in the dialogue to the release of all political prisoners.

“The negotiation table has received this afternoon a communication from the Government in which it expresses its decision to release within a period not exceeding ninety days all persons arrested and detained in the context of the events that occurred after April 18, 2018, in accordance with the legal system of the country,” the statement said.

Civic Alliance: annulment of trials and convictions

Jose Adan Aguerri, a member of the Civic Alliance negotiating team and president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), explained in another press conference that “they will work simultaneously in the release of political prisoners and the assurance that all prisoners will be released,” as well as the annulment of political trials and convictions.

“We want to clarify that it will be within a period of no more than ninety days. When we start negotiations, we will work (for the) annulment of their respective trials,” insisted Aguerri.

Having accepted the release of all political prisoners is a serious political setback for Daniel Ortega with his party’s members and sympathizers, since during the crisis he labeled those imprisoned as “common criminals,” who allegedly committed crimes of “terrorism, murder, organized crime,” among others.

They Will Invite the International Red Cross

The statement also says that the negotiating table “makes a formal invitation to the International Committee of the Red Cross to accompany them in the process of releasing all prisoners or detainees.”

Aguerri said that on Thursday they will communicate with the Red Cross to start the census of political prisoners and establish a release schedule.

“Now that we have an agenda, we hope that we can begin the negotiation. We hope that it will start with the census and inventory of the detainees and the scheduling of their departure with the Red Cross,” said the president of the private sector chambers.

Jose Pallais, one of the negotiators of the Civic Alliance, said that this time there is no talk of “release” of prisoners as has happened with the first 160, who are still deprived of their liberty under the regime of house arrest and family coexistence.

“The key word is “liberation” and it includes the closing of their files and court records,” said Pallais.

Invite the OAS Secretariat

In the same statement announcing the liberation of the political prisoners, it was reported that “the negotiating table has decided to make a formal invitation to the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States to resume work on the issue of electoral reforms.”

Next, the “negotiation agenda” and its general topics were announced, which will be “developed in detail at the negotiating table,” noted the Civic Alliance.

Apart from the liberation of political prisoners within a period of no more than 90 days, the agenda seeks “to strengthen democracy and electoral reforms to carry out electoral processes.”

The second item is to “strengthen citizen rights and guarantees,” without specifying whether this refers to the cessation of police and paramilitary repression.

They will also address “truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition,” and mechanisms to implement the accords.”

“Once agreements have been reached at the negotiation table, it will take international steps to obtain support for their implementation,” reads the outlined agenda. And, immediately afterwards, it is argued that “in due time, and by mutual agreement between the parties, there will be a call to the international community to suspend sanctions to facilitate Nicaragua’s right to human, economic and social development, favoring the most vulnerable sectors of the population.”

Fear of sanctions

The mention of lifting international sanctions makes evident the fear of the Sandinista regime of more punishments and isolation by the international community.

The decision of Ortega to free political prisoners and unblock the negotiations happens on the same day that the US Department of State has a deadline to present a report to Congress on human rights violations in Nicaragua after the approval of the Nica Act, a regulation that came into effect last December, when it was signed by President Trump.

The presentation of this report by the State Department would lead to more sanctions against the Daniel Ortega regime, either specifically to certain officials or in general, affecting approval of loans for the country from international organizations.

This afternoon, prior to learning of the agreement in Managua, Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, criticized the “double standard of Ortega” in the dialogue.

“He wants to avoid sanctions against his children and his officials, but he does not want to make concessions in the negotiations, such as freeing political prisoners and stopping the repression against civic protests,” said Bolton.

Hours later, Bolton wrote on his Twitter account: “Ortega’s duplicity must stop. The United States denounces the repression of the Nicaraguan regime against peaceful protesters, violence against independent media and reluctance to yield to the demands of the Nicaraguan people. These actions are not going to go unanswered,” he said, attaching the human rights report on Nicaragua published last week by the State Department.

Also in the works are possible sanctions by the European Union on the Ortega regime, after the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the repression in Nicaragua.