By Gabriela Selser (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – A few hours before the beginning of Thursday’s 24-hour general strike called by the Civic Alliance in Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega agreed to return to the dialogue table on Friday, announced the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference (CEN) mediators of the process.
In a statement released by Bishop Silvio Baez on Wednesday, the CEN revealed that Ortega responded on Tuesday in writing to a proposal by the bishops to resume the negotiations suspended on May 23.
The bishops then decided to convene the plenary session of the National Dialogue, where they will announce the proposal they presented to Ortega on June 7th and the contents of the letter he sent them with his proposal, the report said.
The two positions will be submitted to a “debate to seek a consensus that responds to the people’s longing for justice, democratization and peace,” added Baez on his Twitter account.
The CEN proposed to Ortega to discuss with the Civic Alliance a “consensual agenda on democratization”, which includes, among other points, an advance of the elections of 2021, the exit of the president from office, as well as the replacement of the highest electoral authorities.
Ortega had assured that he would respond within a period of 48 hours, which expired last Saturday. Since Thursday June 7 until yesterday, police and the government’s paramilitary forces intensified their attacks against civilian protesters in numerous areas of the country, with the death toll and number of wounded increasing sharply.
In apparent reference to the resumption of dialogue, Vice President Rosario Murillo, the president’s wife, said that she hoped to count on God’s help to “discover, find and inhabit routes of meeting of all Nicaraguans.”
“The best thing for Nicaragua right now is to have faith to walk routes of justice, dialogue and peace, have faith to meet, meet and resolve those points that we must all consider with the common good, good heart and good faith in the center “added Murillo, who holds numerous positions in the Ortega government.
The announcement about the resumption of the dialogue came just hours before the start of a 24-hour national strike called by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (including the student coalition, private business sector and civil society representatives) which also demanded that the president “stop the repression.”
The strike began at 00:00 on Thursday and involves the voluntary shut down of the entire private sector, including trade, tourism and public transport and cargo in the country, which after 56 days of crisis lives in a virtual state of siege imposed by heavily armed plain clothed paramilitaries protected by the Police.
Many people came out on Wednesday to stock up on food, water and fuel in stores and markets in the main cities of the country, although there were no panic purchases as happened a few weeks ago.
In the Mercado Oriental, the largest market in Central America, the influx of buyers was virtually nil because the populous shopping site has reduced its activities for two weeks, also as a form of protest against the Government.
Irlanda Jerez, leader of the “self-convened” merchants, told dpa that the sellers are sleeping in their businesses to protect them and that they will reinforce the security against threats of looting that circulated on social networks.
“We need to put pressure on President Ortega to answer our demands: an immediate end to the repression of the people and his exit from the government,” said student leader Waleska Valle, who is a member of the Civic Alliance.
Valle said that the hospitals, private clinics and public health centers will not join the strike. Likewise, brigades of volunteer doctors were organized in the cities of the interior of the country to attend the wounded if new police and paramilitary attacks occurred, she said.
Meanwhile, television channel 15 (private) reported that police and shock forces attacked demonstrators in Diriamba, 43 kilometers south of Managua, on Wednesday killing one of them. In response, angry villagers destroyed the police station, forcing the officers to flee.
According to the television station, some 40 police officers left the barracks, from which also more than 30 prisoners were released who were in prison and whose whereabouts are unknown.
In a press release, the police reported the attack attributing to “vandalism groups” and noted that a civilian was killed and that two officers were injured in the incident.
Meanwhile, the Carter Center in the United States called on the Government of Nicaragua to cease “all acts of violence and repression” against the protesters and denounced “the systematic harassment” of social activists, journalists and human rights defenders.
In a written statement, “The Carter Center strongly condemns the violent reprisals and excessive use of force against protesters in Nicaragua and calls on the government to stop all acts of violence and repression and dismantle para-police groups and riot squads.”
The crisis in Nicaragua began on April 18 with a student protest against a Social Security reform. The demonstrations spread throughout the country after the lethal action of the police and paramilitary forces against unarmed demonstrators.
According to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh, independent), almost 150 people have died since then and more than 1,000 have been injured, many seriously and mostly young students injured by firearms. The Ortega government only reports 46 deaths.