By Gabriela Selser (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Before a massive peaceful demonstration, the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference (CEN) on Saturday reiterated its willingness to mediate a dialogue between the Government and civil society, but warned that it will give President Daniel Ortega a period of one month to evaluate compliance with agreements.
“We expressed (to the president) that a month after the beginning of the dialogue [no date has yet to be set nor agreement on the participants or the agenda], we would stop to assess the determination, the implementation and the serious and real fulfillment of the agreements”, revealed Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, president of CEN, in front of the population that returned to gather massively in Managua.
“Then, if the bishops evaluate that the steps are not taking place (fruit of the agreements between the parties), we would inform the people of God and tell them that we cannot continue like this and that we could not reach a solution to the crisis,” he added.
The bishops agreed to participate as mediators and witnesses in the dialogue that Ortega convened in response to the university protests that began on April 17 and which were joined by other sectors, in rejection of the violent police reaction.
Brenes spoke to the many thousands of people on the grounds of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua, who participated in a march to demand “peace and justice” after the violent incidents that last week left dozens of dead, wounded and detained, mostly students and other young people.
The march was also attended by the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Baez, a well-known critic of Ortega, who entered the esplanade followed by thousands of young university students and amid the ovation of the crowd waving flags of Nicaragua and the Vatican.
“Those who work for peace sow peace and reap justice,” Baez said in a brief speech, while hundreds of people shouted “Justice, justice, justice!”
The government has confirmed ten deaths during clashes, but the Permanent Commission of Human Rights (CPDH, independent) has reported up to 63 deaths, in addition to nine young people who are very serious in the hospital.
Cardinal Brenes also referred to the dead, mostly students. We are “united in the pain of so many lives lost these days … united in the desire for justice, peace, freedom and reconciliation,” he said.
This was the second major march held in Managua in less than a week, after several thousand demonstrated last Monday in the busy Metrocentro area and on to the UPOLI university, shouting “Fuera Ortega” and “No more repression.”
On Saturday, there were also demonstrations organized by the Catholic Church in the cities of Estelí, Matagalpa, Leon, Rivas and Boaco.
A caravan of small farmers, including more than 80 trucks and buses, arrived amid cheers to the Cathedral. Unlike in past anti-canal marches, the Police did not block them from going to the capital from their rural communities of El Tule, La Fonseca, United Nations, Punta Gorda and La Union, in the south-central municipality of Nueva Guinea.
Headed by Francisca Ramirez, leader of the movement that opposes the construction of an interoceanic canal (on standby since 2014), the peasants rejected the “criminal act of the police that murdered the university students.”
“Our fight is to repeal the disgraceful Law 840 (of the canal concession),” said farmer Bismark Sandigo, a former member of the “contras” who fought the Sandinista Army during the revolution of the 1980s.
“We also demand that Ortega go, and that he pay for the deaths of those boys,” said Ruben Dario Gonzalez, another farmer. “We say we want peace and justice, but that cannot be given by a murderous government,” he added.
The protests began in rejection to a reform to the Social Security law that established an increase in the quotas and contributions of the workers and companies to the Social Security, including a 5 percent tax on the pensions of the retirees.
President Daniel Ortega revoked the reform after the first days of the protest. Then, faced with widespread repudiation for the repression, agreed to install a dialogue with different sectors. So far no date is set for such a dialogue nor a list of potential participants drawn up.