Ortega Scraps National Dialogue for Negotiating Reforms with Allies   

Jose Pallais, a spokesperson for Nicaragua’s Civic Alliance, sounds the alarm on another Ortega trap.

Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega at the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Managua, Nicaragua. Photo: Jorge Torres / EFE

The Civic Alliance will continue to press for free and transparent elections to achieve a peaceful resolution to the country’s socio-political crisis.

By Ismael Lopez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – In a letter to the Vatican dated July 30th, the Ortega government announced the end of the national dialogue with the Nicaraguan opposition, which reached a stalemate in the middle of last May. The president then invited the lesser political parties, which collaborate with him and curry favors including legal status, to join in pseudo negotiations for electoral reform.

“They ended the dialogue in order to benefit their side and negotiate with political parties that have played by the government’s rules. The government wants its own electoral reforms in order to perpetuate fraudulent outcomes,” denounced Jose Pallais, spokesperson for the Civic Alliance, upon hearing of the letter [to the Vatican representative], which was signed by foreign minister Denis Moncada. 

Pallais said that the Alliance is going to continue to press for “a real and democratic solution to the crisis in the country through free elections, without cosmetic reforms that are doctored to produce the same results generated by pacts and allied political parties in the past”.

The Civic Alliance had withdrawn from the dialogue process in May in protest after an armed guard in the La Modelo prison shot and killed political prisoner Eddy Montes.

Then, during the second week of June, the dictatorship released a large number of the political prisoners, but has since refused to return to the negotiating table, leaving issues of substantial importance unresolved: restitution of civil liberties including freedom of movement, the right to speak freely and democracy (electoral reforms and early elections).

During the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution this past July 19th, Daniel Ortega announced that he will support electoral reforms and dialogue will take place with [his allied] productive sectors.

The Next Hurdle – Unity

Pallais said that the Civic Alliance will continue to denounce the government to the international community so that “they continue to support democracy-building in the country”.

“The Civic Alliance continues its struggle for justice and democracy. We are going to promote the formation of a great national coalition; we are working in close partnership with the Blue and White National Unity members,” said Pallais.

“Staggered strikes are an option as well, for continuing to pressure the dictatorship,”  Nicaraguan feminist María Teresa Blandón told Confidencial. She is a member of the National Unity group.

Blandon believes that street protests have died out because “people are very afraid… Did you see how many of us there were at the protests last Thursday? Of course, we will continue the protests, but each time it’s like a heroic act to attend. There will always be small groups willing to take the risk, (however) most of the resistance is being carried out in silence.”

Students Must Visit Areas Outside of the Capital

Student leader Ángel Rocha, a member of both the University Coalition and the Civic Alliance, said that they must begin to build true unity with the different organizations, and “travel outside the capital to other regions to work together and become united in preparation for the next event – the electoral process and electoral reforms”.

It was the students who, through their protests in April 2018, forced Ortega to negotiate in the first dialogue, a process which later failed.

Nicaragua has suffered through 15 months of political crisis following the violent repression of student protests. According to United Nations data, more than 60,000 Nicaraguans have fled into exile, and more than 326 people have died, the majority at the hands of police and paramilitary forces.

IACHR Laments Cancellation of Dialogue

This Thursday, the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) lamented the Nicaraguan government’s cancellation of negotiations with the opposition. The goal of the negotiations was to overcome the country’s grave socio-political crisis which has left hundreds dead during the last 15 months.

“IACHR laments the intention of the Nicaraguan government to discontinue dialogue at the negotiating table, at a time when human rights violations persist and reforms are needed that guarantee violations won’t be repeated,” according to the agency’s public statement.

Daniel Ortega’s government cancelled negotiations with the opposition group, Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy on July 30th of this year, but the decision was not made public until this past Thursday, when it was confirmed by the Apostolic Nuncio Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, a witness to the dialogue process.

During the negotiations, which began last February, the parties agreed that the government would grant unconditional liberty to all “political prisoners”, and would respect the constitution in regard to freedom of speech and of the press; but according to the opposition, the government has not honored the agreement.

IACHR Special Monitoring Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI by its Spanish acronym) announced that, while negotiations are being cancelled, “persecution of opposition members continues in the form of detentions, threats and harassment; impartial investigations into prior and continued killings are lacking; and civil liberties remain suspended”.

“The structural deterioration of democracy in Nicaragua, and the lack of independence of State agencies in particular, has been a fundamental factor in sustaining the repression of opposition demonstrators and human rights defenders,” IACHR added.

Ortega’s refusal to negotiate comes despite the Organization of American States (OAS) insistence on June 28th of this year that the parties once again conduct “effective negotiations in good faith”.

The IACHR reiterated that “democratic dialogue is an indispensable element of the institutional reforms required by Nicaragua in order to overcome the crisis, in accordance with non-repetition standards; to which Nicaragua must adhere according to international law”.