Ortega will install dialogue under intense popular rebellion
By Gabriela Selser (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Police riot squads in conjunction with paramilitary forces today tried to put down civic protests with live ammunition in four cities of Nicaragua, on the eve of a national dialogue that begins Wednesday with the participation of President Daniel Ortega.
In statements to the official media, Vice President Rosario Murillo, the only government spokesperson, said that Ortega and her will attend the inauguration tomorrow of the dialogue with students, civil society and business people to resolve the acute crisis of governability in the country.
“There we will be tomorrow (…) to establish a road map that will allow us, God willing, to listen and discuss our problems with good will and with a good heart,” said Murillo.
The installation of the dialogue, which will have as mediators five bishops of the Catholic Church Episcopal Conference, is scheduled for 10:00 local time (16:00 GMT) at the headquarters of the Minor Seminary of Our Lady of Fatima in Managua.
“May peace be the goal and hope, and dialogue the door and the way,” insisted Daniel Ortega’s wife.
While Murillo offered statements, speaking of love and peace, government shock forces and riot police violently dispersed protesters in the city of Matagalpa (north), where numerous wounded were reported. Later in the day barricades sprung up in many parts of the city.
There were also violent clashes in Estelí (north), Juigalpa (center) and Masaya, southeast of the capital, spokesmen for the Catholic Church reported from those cities.
Residents and the church spokespeople in Matagalpa, 130 kilometers from the capital, told the press that the police “brutally attacked” demonstrators who erected barricades of cobblestones and burning tires in different parts of that city.
In a message on his Twitter account, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, member of the mediating delegation of the Episcopal Conference, said that the dialogue that begins tomorrow will be the “last opportunity” that Nicaragua will have for a peaceful resolution.
“We must take any risk and face anyone with dignity, in order to give voice to the people’s longings for justice and freedom… for the good of Nicaragua but without bending or selling out,” Baez wrote.
On the other hand, the April 19 Students Movement (M19A), who staged the protests, affirmed that “all the conditions for dialogue are not present” because the government “maintains its repression” against the demonstrators.
The university students urged the arrival in the country of a delegation from the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to investigate the death of 65 people during the protests, according to figures from non-governmental organizations. The Government only recognizes 13 deceased.
In a new pronouncement, released together with leaders of the anti-canal peasant movement, the young people of the M19A affirmed that the dialogue will be the “table of surrender of Ortega and his regime”.
The students also demanded that the entire top echelon of police resign and that the Ortega shock troops, paramilitaries or “mobs” be dismantled. They also repudiated “all attempts of traditional (political) parties to want to monopolize the dream of Nicaragua in the construction of a new future.”
In turn, the rural residents of the National Council for the Defense of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, announced a blockade of roads throughout the country until they are included in the dialogue.
“The government of Daniel Ortega vetoed our taking part in the dialogue and we have decided to remain in the streets until justice is achieved,” said Francisca Ramirez, in a video on social networks.
According to Ramirez, in the 16 departments (provinces) of the country the peasants have placed road blocks and stone barriers. “We are going to force the government to dialogue with all the organizations that have been offended,” said Martin Oporta, another of the campesino leaders.
In Managua, where universities have been closed for more than three weeks, the Ministry of Education suspended classes on Tuesday at all high schools, both public and private.
In the afternoon, thousands of capital residents left on foot and in their vehicles to meet at the Jean Paul Genie roundabout with Nicaraguan flags and posters with legends such as “Long live the students” and “Down the dictator Ortega.”
Local TV station faces siege and terror
Meanwhile, journalist Lucia Pineda Ubau, press chief of channel 15 television (100% Noticias), told dpa that the television station is suffering a “siege and terror” campaign.
She reported that at noon on Tuesday alleged supporters of the Government shot a firearm in front of the building of the television station, without causing harm or victims.
“We are suffering a constant siege, they take photos of us, they shoot and they threaten to burn the channel, and our director and several colleagues received death threats,” said Pineda.
Channel 15 was censored by the Government for six days at the start of the protests. While conducting one of its reports, Sandinista shock forces attacked one of their cameramen and stole the film equipment valued at US $25,000.
Meanwhile, from Brussels, the European Union considered “very positive” the beginning of the dialogue in Nicaragua and affirmed that the visit of the IACHR will be “another necessary step to verify and defend the human rights situation in the country.”
The political crisis, the most serious that Ortega faces in his 11 years of government, began with a protest by university students for a reform of Social Security, which increased the quotas of workers and companies, but spread like wildfire after the violent police action against the protesters.