University expert sees no possibility of a dialogue with the regime under the current circumstances.
HAVANA TIMES – Conditions for an eventual dialogue – meaning freedom for the political prisoners and the beginning of a process of democratization in Nicaragua – are close to zero right now, according to Ernesto Medina, professor and specialist in educational matters. Medina participated in the two failed attempts at a national dialogue with the Ortega regime that were held in 2018 and 2019.
The principal reason for the current assessment, according to Medina, is similar to the reason that the two previous dialogues failed. There’s a clear lack of political will on the part of Ortega and his allies to find a way out of the socio-political crisis. There’s also no guarantor with sufficient political weight and firmness to assure the implementation of any agreements signed in a hypothetical negotiation.
Medina is one of the few who participated in both dialogues and was not imprisoned by the government forces. The professor shared some views and recollections on Wednesday, February 2, during an interview on the online weekly news program Esta Noche, transmitted via YouTube and Facebook Live due to the censorship of the Ortega regime. He recalled how the regime and its representatives worked to block any proposals for political change during the two failed dialogues, and to eliminate any attempts to return the country to a more democratic path.
“The problem with the former dialogue experiences is that we sat down without really having the proper technical conditions. It wasn’t clear, especially in the first dialogue, who would be participating on the part of the government. Every day different people came to represent them, so that we were never clear if the delegation was truly representative,” Medina recalled.
That dialogue went off the rails after the Bishops from the Episcopal Conference, who were acting as mediators, put on the table an agenda proposal regarding the constitutional changes needed to reach agreements that would advance the democratization of Nicaragua.
“The government talked about dialogue only on the first day. Later, Foreign Minister Denis Moncada saw the document that the Bishops had left on the table, proposing to put the topic of democratization on the agenda. Moncada picked up the paper and said it was a recipe for a coup d’etat. In reality, the proposal had arisen from the work done by the two delegations. In other words, the recipe for a coup, according to Moncada, was a document that laid out clearly the constitutional steps needed to seek a way out of the crisis. The  dialogue died right there,” Medina recounted.
The Ortega regime never had any interest in solving the crisis
Conditions were similar during the second attempt at dialogue in 2019, promoted by the Catholic Church and the large capitalist sector. There was no clarity about the agenda for these negotiations, and it was evident that the Ortega representatives had no interest in discussing the topics that were most urgent for the population. These topics included the demand for justice for crimes committed during the 2018 protests; lifting the police state the regime had imposed in September 2018 to control citizen discontent; and moving the country back towards a democratic system.
In contrast to 2018, these talks did yield concrete results in the form of signed agreements. Signing for the regime was Foreign Minister Denis Moncada. Also present in these talk were Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the Vatican’s representative in Nicaragua, and Luis Angel Rosadilla representing the Organization of American States. Despite this, Ortega ignored the signed accords and never complied with any of the steps established in them.
Now nearly three years later, one of the aspects of these negotiations that most disturb Medina was precisely the role played by Rosadilla and the Apostolic Nuncio.
“The role of [Luis Angel] Rosadilla and the Apostolic Nuncio was never clear in the dialogue. As Vatican representative, it wasn’t clear if Sommertag was there with full support from the Papal authority and what was his status. To the Civic Alliance, they were guarantors; however, the government saw them as witnesses. The results of these talks revealed that they didn’t offer any kind of guarantee. The agreements on paper were very nice, important and interesting, but none of them were implemented, and neither the Nuncio nor Mr. Rosadilla had any authority to enforce compliance,” Medina reflected.
Poker chips to exchange for economic gains
Based on these two experiences, Medina feels that it’s senseless to talk of a dialogue with Ortega under the current conditions. The regime is absorbed in the political trials through which they plan to sentence the prisoners of conscience they abducted and imprisoned in the context of the 2021 balloting.
“I understand the pain of the political prisoners’ families. Many of them are friends of mine. However, under these conditions, I don’t see any possibility for dialogue. Ortega has no interest in conversing with them, because we all know that Ortega only negotiates when he’s backed against the wall, or when he has something to gain. Here, the families of the political prisoners have absolutely nothing to offer that might interest Ortega,” Medina asserted.
At the end of January, relatives of over 30 political prisoners demanded the nullification of the trials and the unconditional liberation of all the political prisoners. In that way, they added their voice to a prior formal statement, in which a different group of families appealed for the support of “those in government, the living forces of the nation and the [Catholic] Church” to “lead a process of citizen unification”. That statement emphasized that the liberation of the prisoners of conscience would serve “as a kind of liberation shared by all Nicaraguans.”
Medina added: “The dialogue that Ortega has been planning is on economic topics. In this case, the political prisoners would be just what we’ve always said we don’t want them to be – exchange chips, in order to speak about the economic topics that interest Ortega, like having the sanctions lifted and returning to the arrangement with the private sector he had before.”
Following the statements issued by the political prisoners’ relatives, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), which had maintained a hermetic silence since September 2021, backed the demand for the liberation of the prisoners of conscience, and announced its disposition to attend a national dialogue “without preconditions”. The Ortega regime, however, previously announced encounters with different economic sectors, without making any mention of Cosep.
Medina warned that they need to be very careful that this stated willingness to negotiate with Ortega not become a vehicle to supply oxygen to the regime, which is facing its worst ever crisis of political legitimacy following the electoral farce of November 7, 2021.
“An eventual dialogue is still the way out of a crisis as serious as the one we have. It must be a technically well-prepared dialogue, and impartial. [You’d have to] organize the agenda with anticipation, define the participants and their dynamics. Preliminary conversations should be held about what will be discussed, because if Ortega arrives without it being known what he wants to talk about, then when we speak about democratizing Nicaragua, he’ll claim once again that we’re organizing a Coup and that’s it – we won’t be able to accomplish absolutely anything,” Medina predicted.
The silence of the Pope and the Apostolic Nuncio
Medina questioned the passive role assumed by the Apostolic Nuncio and by Pope Francis himself, in the context of the crisis in Nicaragua. Principally, he was critical of their silence regarding the aggression and harassment that priests of the Catholic Church have received from the regime’s shock forces and mobs.
“As a Catholic, I greatly resent that silence. I believe that silence has become a tombstone over Nicaragua. I lament the fact that the Pope hasn’t offered so much as a voice of encouragement, of consolation, for the suffering of so many people in Nicaragua. With the authority that we know the Pope has, it shouldn’t be difficult at all for him to speak strongly to Nicaragua and say: ‘Gentlemen, you can’t continue perpetrating this barbarity’. When the Pope or the Nuncio himself keep silent while the priests are offended in a vulgar way, and when they don’t come out in their defense, they’re leaving a lot to be desired,” Medina concluded.