Nicaragua Panorama Darkens as Ortega Rejects Agenda for Democratization

The protestors offered to relax roadblocks if the government would allow the agenda to procede, but dialogue ends without agreements, and the protests intensify demanding that Ortega and Murillo leave.

By Carlos Salinas Maldonado  (Confidential)

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada after the suspension of the dialogue. Photo: Jorge Torres EFE /confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – The bishops of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference decided on Wednesday afternoon to suspend the National Dialogue that aims to find a way out of the deep crisis that the country suffers.

After six hours of discussions neither the delegates of the Government nor the Civic Alliance – formed by representatives of civil society, university students, producers and entrepreneurs – agreed to define a work agenda.

The government was intransigent and refused to discuss the points about the democratization of the country, which had been established by consensus by the bishops. Instead, it demanded that the “barricades” that block access on roads throughout the county be lifted to continue the dialogue.

Led by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, a retired general, the Ortega government refused to discuss the proposal for the country’s democratization, the first agenda item on the fourth day of work at the Nuestra Señora de Fátima Catholic Church Seminar in the capital. Moncada said the agenda set by the bishops was “the design for a route to a coup d’etat” against the Ortega government.

“The agenda that was presented today has the intention of dismantling the legitimately elected constitutional State. That is the objective of that agenda. It is a route for a coup d’état, to overthrow the Government, “said Moncada.

The Government’s strategy, developed by its delegates in the Dialogue, was to avoid at all costs to advance in the discussion of agenda items. The ruling party limited the discussion of the morning to the lifting of barriers that impede traffic in various parts of the country, alleging that they have generated significant economic losses and “are a violation of human rights.”

The president of the Central Bank, Ovidio Reyes, affirmed that the roadblocks add to the losses generated by the instability that the country suffers, product of a deep crisis that began on April 18, when Ortega violently suppressed the demonstrations against the Social Security reform he imposed without consensus.

Reyes read projections of the Central Bank that establish losses in the order of 260 million dollars and warned that if the current situation continues, unemployment could go from 4.7% to 5.2%, while inflation could increase by 7% or 8%. “Fifty-eight thousand fewer jobs,” said the official.

The Government maintained its position that the Dialogue cannot advance if it does not fulfill its main condition, which is the lifting of the “barricades” throughout the country. A strategy that Monsignor Silvio Baez, auxiliary bishop of Managua, described as “delaying tactics” and that contributes to maintaining the crisis. The bishop recalled that the goal of the dialogue is to “go to the root of the country’s problem to pave the way for its democratization.” He said that the meeting should continue with the discussion of the country’s democratization agenda.

Baez also responded to Foreign Minister Moncada, in relation to his accusation of a coup d’état. “This is not a coup d’état,” said Baez. “This accusation against the Mediation Commission is very serious. There is a political crisis in Nicaragua and as the Mediating Commission we have chosen the peaceful path, “said Baez.

Although the bishops in their mediation tried to save the discussions on Wednesday, the closed stance of the government delegates prevented progress. The Government put three points on the agenda, but focused only on one: that the roadblocks be lifted. In this way, President Ortega intended to demobilize the citizen protest, which demands his resignation from power.

The bishops announced the suspension of the national dialogue on Wednesday afternoon after a day-long impasse. Photo: Carlos Herrera, Confidencial

In their proposal, the representatives of the Civic Alliance committed themselves to issue pronouncements to persuade the population who, on their own, has set up the barriers, but made it clear that they would do so only if the government agreed to focus on the agenda of the day, which was to open the discussion to profound reforms to restore democracy in Nicaragua.

The agenda presented by the bishops [which we will publish later today in English] establishes a partial reform of the Constitution to advance the general elections and elect new authorities. In addition, the dismissal of all magistrates and mid-level positions of the Electoral Power is proposed, as well as prohibiting presidential re-election.

One of the proposals includes the approval of a Framework Law as a democratic transition mechanism. These proposals inevitably lead to the departure of the power of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, who have shown no intention of giving in on these points.

Half way through the day the president of the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), Maria Nelly Rivas, proposed that, faced with the unwillingness of the Government delegates to meet the dialogue agenda, the points proposed by the Civic Alliance should be sent directly by the bishops to President Ortega, a proposal that was rejected by the government representatives.

“Once again the Government showed signs of great irresponsibility, because it used delaying tactics in the face of a massacre,” said Azahalea Solis, a representative of civil society at the Dialogue table. “They wanted to blame us for exercising our rights, while they want to have the right to repress, which is very perverse,” she added. “There has not been a single day since April 18th when the government has not exercised an act of repression against the rights of Nicaraguans,” Solis explained.

“Since we were called to dialogue we were told that we were going to discuss two points: justice and democratization; there was nothing more to discuss,” said Sandra Ramos, executive director of the Maria Elena Cuadra worker’s rights movement. “What people are asking in the streets is to recover the rule of law in this country, the independence of the powers of the State. In that sense, from the beginning we saw the diversionary tactics being used by the government delegation, but we put up with it because we needed the dialogue to advance, but they do not want the dialogue to advance,” noted Ramos.

Asked if they would be willing to negotiate an end of the barriers on various roads in the country, Medardo Mairena, coordinator of the anti-canal peasant movement, said these are legitimate forms of protest against an authoritarian government.

Members of the Civic Alliance. Photo:

“We continue inviting the people of Nicaragua to demonstrate. It is the people who have protested and set up the barriers on their own… people have their autonomy. We all know that the only responsible party, the only one responsible for damages to the economy, the blood and the dead, is the Government, which has not wanted to listen to them or give in. It has not even shown the minimum intention of seeking a way out without spilling more blood, “said Mairena.

As there was no agreement between the two parties, the bishops concluded the day and suspended the dialogue, but urged the parties to form negotiating committees, with three representatives each that could agree on a work agenda.

On Wednesday afternoon the Civic Alliance had informed that lawyer and feminist Azahalea Solis and Juan Sebastian Chamorro, president of FUNIDES, would be their representatives in that commission, plus a university student that was to be named. The Government did not say who would represent the ruling party. On Wednesday night, the representatives of the private sector met in private to agree on their position in the face of government intransigence and the stagnation of the National Dialogue.


The following is the Havana Times translation of the National Dialogue agenda proposed by the mediation committee:

Dialogue Agenda: May 23, 2018

Presented by the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference

  1. Democratization

Constitutional mechanisms for establishing a free and transparent electoral process in Nicaragua.

      A.Constitutional mechanisms for establishing free elections via a just and transparent electoral process are the following:

  1. Partial reform of the Political Constitution in order to permit early elections: at the presidential, municipal and legislative levels, plus those of the autonomous regions in the shortest term possible;
  2. A transitory article that incorporates:
  3. Reduction of the terms for the current national, municipal, and regional authorities plus those of the Central American Parliament.
  4. Convoking early general elections for all positions subject to popular election.
  5. Reduction of the term periods for State authorities: the Supreme Electoral Council, Supreme Court and the Comptrollers Office.
  6. A reform that suppresses the automatic assignment of a seat in the National Assembly for the ex-President and Vice President, and for the runner-up in presidential elections; in the same way, plus a return to the minimal percentage to be elected, as existed in 1995.
  7. Reform the Organic law of Legislative Power, adding a transitory article that establishes two legislature sessions for 2018: the first from January 9, 2018 until June 30, and the second from August to December of 2018, in order to be able to approve the partial reform to the Constitution and its immediate entry into law in 2018.
  8. Approval of a Framework Law for the transition and democratic governance for the implementation of the political agreements of the National Dialogue, establishing specific actions for guaranteeing the proposals set forth in this document and making concrete the structural reforms proposed in the Agenda on May 21, 2018, including but not limited to:
  9. Electoral Calendar
  10. A guarantor (OAS, UN, European Union)
  11. The naming of new authorities for the Supreme Electoral Council, Supreme Court and the Comptrollers Office, to be chosen by consensus of the Dialogue Table.
  12. Prohibition of presidential reelection and of all offices subject to popular election.
  13. Formation of a new Supreme Electoral Council made up of honest magistrates of recognized credibility, excellence and honesty who can assure that the citizens’ votes will be duly counted and respected.
  14. Reform of the Electoral Law according to the consensus of the National Dialogue table, following the route map formulated by the OAS and the European Union (2011 and 2016) and incorporating the changes derived from sentences pronounced by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
  15. Substitution of all branch and departmental directors of the Electoral Powers to purge personnel committed to a specific political party.
  16. National and international electoral observation with the participation of the OAS, the European Union and the Carter Center among others.
  17. New law for political parties that facilitates their democratization.
  18. Complete political pluralism, including the restoration of legal status to the parties who had it illegally removed, and facilitating the legalization of other parties, as well as respect for already existing parties.
  19. Incorporate into the Electoral Law the possibility of inscribing candidates via popular initiative.
  20. Take steps to assure that those who serve in the regional, departmental and municipal electoral councils are free of all party affiliations.
  21. Clean up and make current the electoral rolls.
  22. Assure the accountability and regulation of the source of funds for financing electoral campaigns.
  23. Creation of an autonomous national institute for issuing ID cards that is independent of the electoral power, with Constitutional status.

     B. Other Structural Reforms

    1. Full reestablishment of the social and democratic rule of law.
    2. Recognition, respect and exercise of the fundamental human rights and liberties, with emphasis on the freedom of assembly, the right to peaceful civic assembly and unrestricted freedom of thought, expression and information.
    3. Full independence of the state powers
    4. Reduction in the number of deputies in the National Assembly.
    5. New composition of the Supreme Court
    6. Separation of te Nicaraguan Social Security Institute from the Executive branch, establishing it as an autonomous, independent and party-neutral entity; defend the right to work, to a salary and to social security.
    7. An autonomous and independent Comptroller’s Office with a new head and new staff.
    8. Total independence of the Public Ministry (Ministerio Público) and the Attorney General’s Office and its branches.
    9. Reestablishment of university autonomy
    10. Subjection of the Army and Police to civilian authorities, with emphasis on their character as national and professional bodies free of partisanship.
    11. Full establishment by law of the fundamental rights of the original populations, including their lands and protection against land and territorial invasions with full application of the law for the autonomy of the Caribbean Coast in accordance with the legal and conventional order (Convenant 169 of the International Labor Organization).

                C. The role of the national dialogue

These points of agreement reflect a broad spirit of participation from the different sectors brought together for this national dialogue and comprise a great national accord.  The agreements noted here will be further developed, scheduled, and articulated in the aforementioned national dialogue, in accordance with the corresponding constitutional and legal actions.

              II. Accords on Human Rights and Security

  1. Fulfill the fifteen recommendations set out in the preliminary report of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and establish follow-up mechanisms by the dialogue table, together with the IACHR, to verify their implementation.
  2. Conformation of a Truth Commission organized by national and international human rights organizations, the Inter-American Commission for Human rights, and the UN Court Reporters on topics of Human Rights with the goal of investigating and sanctioning acts in violation of human rights committed in April and May of the present year; extend an invitation to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, as per their request dated May 7 and 11 of the present year.
  3. Reparations for damages to the victims via the formation of a National Common Fund for support.