COSEP Asks Ortega for a Dialogue “Without Preconditions”

COSEP, the leading business organization in Nicaragua.  File photo: Articulo 66

A member of the Board of Directors of the business leadership assures that “there is no rapprochement with the regime; we want to work in peace.”

By Octavio Enríquez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) issued a statement on Thursday, January 27, in favor of a national dialogue, after remaining silent since September 2021, and after the reelection of Daniel Ortega without political competition, after jailing the entire leadership of the democratic opposition.

The business leaders, headed by Cesar Zamora, endorsed a petition of relatives of political prisoners who demanded the release of all prisoners of conscience and the annulment of political trials, but added the request for a dialogue “without preconditions.” COSEP said it supports the “search for viable solutions, expeditious and without preconditions that prioritize solving the problems the nation is experiencing.” Meanwhile, the regime keeps two former presidents and a former vice president of the business association, Jose Adan Aguerri, Michael Healy and Alvaro Vargas, respectively, in jail.

“We ask for all the political prisoners to be released. It is clearly an asymmetrical negotiation. What we are really concerned about are the political prisoners and their conditions. We are clear on our priorities,” said a COSEP executive anonymously. He added that as an organization they want to be “left to work in peace.”

The declaration of this business umbrella organization occurs a day after the COSEP board of directors addressed the possibility of a negotiation with the regime at the worst moment of legitimacy of the latter, which has not been recognized by more than 40 countries after the November elections for the lack of democratic guarantees and the repression. Daniel Ortega promised “to wipe the slate clean,” after the massacre of 2018 without referring to the political prisoners and the police state that has violated the rights of the citizenry since that same year.

Private sector sources revealed to Confidencial that the president of COSEP, Cesar Zamora, assured the presidents of the different chambers in Wednesday’s session that “we have to talk about a negotiation, dialogue, meeting, everything because of three friends who are desperate, and we owe it to them.” However, in the statement there is no reference to the words of the energy sector executive.

Neither did COSEP mention anything concerning the Aide Memoire, which included the main ideas of the session in a document, which was circulated among different political sectors in the hours before the official position of the business sector became known.

After the massacre of 2018, perpetrated by the State in which 328 people were killed according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the business sector distanced themselves from Ortega. The country’s big capital requested early elections, which was rejected by the ruler. Ortega attacked them virulently in his speeches, as he did with other sectors which denounced the repression, such as the Catholic Church. And, in 2021, he imprisoned five business sector leaders: the former president of COSEP, Jose Adan Aguerri; banker Luis Rivas; the general manager of La Prensa, Juan Lorenzo Holmann; the president of COSEP, Michael Healy and the president of UPANIC, Alvaro Vargas.

This week, the judicial system under Ortega’s control has reactivated the trials against six political prisoners in processes that accumulate so many irregularities that should cause the immediate issuance of release orders to them, according to lawyer, Maria Asuncion Moreno.

Demand of relatives of political prisoners endorsed

In order to justify its support to the dialogue with Ortega, which the FSLN leader has not requested, the COSEP took advantage of the statement issued by relatives of 27 political prisoners, in which the signatories appealed to the government, to the nation’s active forces and the Catholic Church “to build bridges to help overcome distrust.”

The relatives, who have been joined by dozens more, recalled that there are 170 prisoners of conscience and that the feeling of the population in general is that an injustice was committed, so that the judicial processes should be annulled, and they should be released immediately.

“The freedom of our prisoners is not a matter of partisan preferences, nor is it a maneuver in a power struggle. Their release, rather, can be seen as an initial step in a process that will bring a greater degree of serenity to Nicaraguan homes, within and outside our borders, and that will gradually help to reduce fractures in our society,” they indicated.

That statement was backed by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in a comment on his Twitter account.

In recent months, relatives of political prisoners have denounced the torture to which their relatives have been subjected and have documented the lack of guarantees for a fair trial in legal proceedings.

For her part, Ana Lucía Alvarez, human rights defender and family member of Tamara Dávila, Ana Margarita Vigil and Dora María Tellez, demanded the immediate and unconditional release of her relatives and the annulment of the political trials, although she did not sign the January 25 document.

“We believe in justice without impunity and that a democratic change must take place,” insisted Alvarez, who explained that if there is a process of dialogue it must be broad and even include representatives of the victims of repression.

Alvarez appealed for the “non-repetition” of human rights abuses, which has been evidenced by the detention of 41 former prisoners who are part of the 170 political prisoners currently held.

Ignoring the demands of the international and national community for the release of the inmates, on January 19, Vice President Rosario Murillo announced in her midday speech a series of cabinet meetings with different sectors to discuss the country’s economic model.

In that statement, Murillo ignored the request to put an end to the police state that has violated the rights of Nicaraguans since it was imposed in September 2018, following protests that were violently repressed by the State that year.

From left to right: Alvaro Vargas, Jose Adan Aguerri and Michael Healy, during a conference in 2019. They are currently detained at the El Chipote prison. Photo: Archive.

 

COSEP director denies rapprochement

The COSEP executive consulted by Confidencial assured that there is not, at this moment, any rapprochement by the business sector with government authorities.

The businessman explained that, when referring in the statement to the position that there are no preconditions in the talks with the State, they are referring to what was said by Enrique Quinonez, close associate of the dictatorship, who said that in order to sit down, the other party should speak out against the sanctions of the international community, imposed on government representatives for human rights violations.

“The precondition is a two-way conversation,” he said. The businessman acknowledged that “the Government has not looked for us, that is a reality.”

He believes the agreement that should be sought is one that can be fulfilled, but he remarked that democracy is “essential for the private sector” and “that the result is not to have to sit down again,” he affirmed.

Healy and Vargas freed from money-laundering accusation

The COSEP executive informed that on Friday, January 21, Enrique Genie, lawyer for political prisoners Michael Healy and Alvaro Vargas, was surprised at the trial hearing when he verified that the charge against his clients for money laundering was no longer pending.

Both were captured in October 2021 and accused, in addition to this alleged crime, of violating the “Sovereignty Law” or Law 1055 by supposedly inciting foreign intervention in internal affairs. Jose Aguerri was indicated for this last offense on June 9th.

The arrests of members of the private sector took place amid the repressive escalation through which Ortega eliminated political competition in last November’s elections by arresting seven opposition pre-candidates.

In the online system of the Judiciary, known as Nicarao, there is no trace of the charges against the businessmen, as confirmed by Confidencial through lawyers. Much less of the recent resolutions taken in the instances for each one of these specific cases. Such is not surprising because other lawyers of political prisoners have denounced the lack of access to the files and the refusal of the judges to allow them to meet with their clients.

Lawyer Enrique Genie declined to comment via telephone when consulted by Confidencial and limited himself to say that there was nothing new. The aide memoire of the COSEP meeting states that COSEP talked with the opposition party Ciudadanos por la Libertad (Citizens for Freedom), excluded from last November elections by the regime, to promote a dialogue for the release of those deprived of liberty.

However, Kitty Monterrey, president of this organization, claimed that she had not had any conversation with COSEP. “I can assure that neither myself nor the National Executive Committee of Ciudadanos por la Libertad have had any meeting with them,” she said from exile in her Twitter account.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.



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