Nicaragua: Joint Commission Meets Monday to Try to Restore Dialogue

The Episcopal Conference mediators called the meeting for Monday to try and create conditions to resume the Government – Civic Alliance talks.

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

HAVANA TIMES – A joint commission, created in Nicaragua to try and unblock the dialogue between the government and the opposition Civic Alliance and resolve the acute crisis that is shaking the country, will meet for the first time on Monday, announced today the mediation commission formed by the Catholic Episcopal Conference.

In a brief statement, the Church’s Mediation and Witness Commission called the parties (three delegates of President Daniel Ortega and three of the Civic Alliance) to attend a work session at the headquarters of the Inter-diocesan Seminary Our Lady of Fatima in Managua at 10: 00 a.m. local time.

The call came shortly after the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which brings together students, private sector and civil society groups, expressed in a statement their willingness to resume dialogue, suspended Wednesday for lack of agreements.

The Government had announced Friday that its three delegates were ready to join the mixed commission, which must reach a consensus so as to resume the talks in the plenary.

The national dialogue was suspended after agreements were not reached on an agenda to be discussed: the opposition demanded addressing the democratization (profound reform of the Constitution and the advance of elections to anticipate Ortega’s withdrawal), while the government demanded the removal of the “tranques” (roadblocks) placed throughout the country mainly by students and farmers.

The government described the agenda proposed by its counterpart as a “route towards a coup d’état”.

In that context, the protests continued in the days since the talks broke off. On Saturday night there were clashes on the island of Ometepe, where a group of Ortega supporters tried to block an opposition march. In response to the violence, protesters set fire to the house of the ruling Sandinista Front party.

Peaceful marches were held in Managua and other cities on Saturday, demanding justice for the victims of the crisis that broke out on April 18. The protesters once again asked for the resignation of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

The crisis in Nicaragua began with a student protest against a Social Security reform that affected thousands of workers and retirees. The demonstrations extended rapidly after the deadly reaction of the police and paramilitaries against civilians.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which recently visited Nicaragua, counts 79 dead and more than 800 injured from April 18 to May 24. The Government only recognizes 22 fatalities.

Members of the Civic Alliance for the National Dialogue

The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy issued a statement accusing the Government of not complying with two indispensable recommendations of the IACHR to resume the dialogue: cessation of repression and dismantling of para-police forces.

“We reiterate that dialogue is the road to democratization and justice in Nicaragua and that it is important to contribute to a propitious climate to resume the talks, said the alliance, which was willing to partially “relax” the roadblocks in the interior from the country.

In an interview with dpa, the rural leader Francisca Ramirez said that they could keep the “barricades” indefinitely as a measure of pressure on the government, but agreed that “the civic and peaceful way is the best way to achieve justice and move towards democracy.”

This Sunday, when officiating the Mass in the Managua Cathedral, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said that the dialogue must transcend the political negotiations.

“Peace will only be achieved through dialogue”, but “dialogue does not only occur in the seminar’s auditorium, no, dialogue must be projected further, among neighbors, families, communities,” Brenes added.

The archbishop also urged the faithful to “sow forgiveness and reconciliation” and advocated that “after these struggles, no wounds of hatred and resentment remain nor leave a divided society.”

Meanwhile, the Jesuit University of Central America (UCA) today denounced the early morning attack of hooded paramilitaries, who on board vehicles fired a powerful homemade explosive (mortar) at its main gate, without any casualties.

“The UCA denounces this cowardly night attack by parapolice forces that, protected by the impunity guaranteed by the current misrule, have been using the hours of the night to intimidate and kill innocent citizens in the neighborhoods of the capital and other cities,” he said the statement. 

For his part, the director of the non-governmental Nicaraguan Association of Human Rights (ANPDH), Alvaro Leiva, told the newspaper “La Prensa” that more than 300 police officers have been detained for refusing to suppress protests and have asked to leave the institution.