Nicaragua: Ortega Agrees Not to Attack Protesters for 48 Hours

By Gabriela Selser (dpa)

HAVANA TIMES – The Government of Nicaragua today pledged to remove the police, paramilitary forces and Sandinista activists from the streets as part of a 48-hour truce agreed with protesters who began demonstrations a month ago.

The text of the agreement was announced by Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, president of the Espiscopal Conference, at the end this afternoon of the first working session of the national dialogue installed last Wednesday with the bishops as mediators.

“All sectors participating in the dialogue are committed to a truce on Saturday and Sunday May 19-20, in which the government is forced to withdraw the police to their barracks and to pull back its paramilitary forces and supporters,” the document said.

For its part, civil society “should make efforts to promote better conditions for the talks, normalize transit and continue (dialogue) in a better climate on Monday, May 21,” added Brenes.

The cardinal said that the agreement was made in view of “the urgency to stop acts of violence” that in 30 days have claimed the lives of scores of people in the country and have left losses estimated at 650 million dollars to the economy, according to specialists.

The agreement clarifies, however, that “all sectors recognize the imperative need for the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and protest,” which will allow the parties to carry out this type of activity during the government’s truce.

Consulted by journalists, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Monsignor Silvio Baez, said that in today’s meeting the representatives of the president, Daniel Ortega, pledged to “stop any violence on the part of their activists.”

He added that, for their part, the students committed to withdraw the “barricades” (road blocks) but it was agreed that they will continue at two universities for the moment where dozens of young people remain entrenched for a month.

“We have agreed to release traffic on the streets, but the universities will continue to be the space for students to manifest themselves in a peaceful manner,” Francisco Martinez, one of the student delegates, told journalists.

“We have taken an important step towards serenity, so that there is not another dead person or wounded in Nicaragua, and so that we can all sleep peacefully this weekend of nonviolence,” said Monsignor Baez.

The agreement was reached on the first work day of the national dialogue, which was not attended by Ortega and coincided with the arrival in the country of a delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS.

In a statement, the delegation of the IACHR demanded that the Government “immediately cease the repression of the protests” and urged it to “adopt the necessary measures of an urgent nature to guarantee the free exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and political participation of all the Nicaraguans.”

The IACHR also reiterated its “most emphatic condemnation of the deaths, disappearances, assaults and arbitrary arrests of demonstrators, activists and journalists.”

“We urge the authorities to diligently investigate these facts, prosecute and punish those responsible, and provide redress to victims of human rights violations,” the statement added.

The head of the mission of 11 officials, the Chilean Antonia Urrejola, special rapporteur for Nicaragua, said that for four days they will meet with representatives of state entities, civil society and other actors such as students, affected people and relatives of victims.

She announced that they will form work teams in the capital Managua, Masaya (southeast), Matagalpa (north) and Leon (west) and that this Friday they set up an office where they immediately began receiving dozens of complaints of alleged human rights violations committed since the protests began.

The crisis began on April 17 with a student protest against a Social Security law reform, which increased the quotas of companies and workers. It quickly intensified after the violent action of police and paramilitaries against unarmed demonstrators.

The Government of Nicaragua only recognizes 18 deaths during the crisis, but independent human rights organizations report 66 deaths and more than 540 injured, 200 of them by police and paramilitary groups firearms.