Nicaragua: Decisive Hours for Ortega and the National Dialogue

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

The vice president, first lady, government coordinator and its only spokesperson, Rosario Murillo, has called the students miniscule, vandals, criminals and lastly a plague.

HAVANA TIMES – The national dialogue that began a week ago in Nicaragua is heading towards decisive hours, as President Daniel Ortega,72, resists the call to abandon his position and the threat of students and rural residents to put pressure on him by closing the terrestrial traffic between borders.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, protesters at the “tranques” (roadblocks) installed in the 16 provinces of the country announced that they will completely stop the traffic from 06:00 local time Wednesday (12:00 GMT), allowing only ambulances and humanitarian aid to pass.

We announce, “the definitive closing of all the peaceful ‘barricades’ of the country until Daniel Ortega and (his wife and vice president) Rosario Murillo sit down at the national dialogue to present their resignation,” warns the statement of the “autoconvocados” (self-organized). They have been protesting for more than a month.

“Our demand remains unchanged: Ortega must leave power and what we are going to propose today [at the national dialogue] are the mechanisms for his resignation,” said lawyer Azahalea Solis, delegate of civil society in the talks that started on May 16th.

Solis said that the alliance of students, business people and civil society organizations that she represents “will no longer discuss anything other than when and how they will leave power.” The former Sandinista guerrilla governed from 1985 to 1990, returning in 2007 and was re-elected in 2011 and 2016.

The lawyer said that they will not allow the entry of four officials from the Organization of American States (OAS) who came from Washington invited by the Government as “observers” of the dialogue at the Inter-diocesan Seminary, in Managua.

“The government does not decide unilaterally who enters or leaves these meetings, those times have passed,” said the feminist leader.

According to the local press, the emissaries of the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, intend to alert the parties in the dialogue about an imminent breakdown of the constitutional order in the country. The mission traveled to Managua hours after Almagro expressed his apparent support for Ortega during a panel in Washington on democracy and development in Nicaragua.

“The conditions are not present now for a fair and transparent electoral process,” said Almagro when he was rebuffed about the anti-government demand for early presidential elections instead of waiting until 2021.

“What you want are antidemocratic variables to get rid of Daniel Ortega, that’s not a way we’re going to endorse, I’m very sorry,” he said.

In a statement, the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), opposition alliance excluded from the 2016 elections, which were endorsed by the OAS, expressed its “concern” for the words of Almagro and considered that they “reflect a bias in favor of the regime.”

“We have already expressed our rejection of any maneuver on the part of the Ortega Murillo dictatorship that seeks, with the complicity of Mr. Almagro, to remove (from the dialogue table) the issue of the departure of Ortega and the democratization of the country,” said FAD.

Nicaraguan foreign minister Denis Moncada (r) represents the govenment at the National Dialogue in the absence of Daniel Ortega and his wife/VP Rosario Murillo.

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, head of the official delegation, pushed unsuccessfully in the last session for the dismantling of the “tranques”, which according to pro-government unions will cause millions in losses to intraregional trade and the Nicaraguan economy.

“The only ‘tranque’ to be removed is in El Carmen” (the neighborhood where Ortega lives), replied Michael Healy, president of the National Union of Agricultural Producers (Upanic), one of the 27 private sector associations that advocate his resignation.

The businessman’s words elicited smiles from some bishops, who in recent days have seen a marked increase in security around the already highly guarded residence of Ortega and Murillo, protected by heavily armed riot police.

The crisis in Nicaragua began with a student protest over a Social Security reform that affected workers, retirees and business owners. Although the measure was revoked, the demonstrations were extended after the deadly action of the Police and paramilitaries.

A report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) released Monday in Managua reported 76 deaths in the last month, as well as 868 injured (five of them seriously and still hospitalized) and 438 detainees, the vast majority of them students.