The National Dialogue between President Daniel Ortega’s administration, after the President failed to show personally in the second round of talks, and opposition and civic groups on resolving the more than a month of violence and unrest throughout the country, hit an impasse on Wednesday.
Opponents demanded earlier elections and changes in electoral laws. The opposition and civic groups were quiet on their earlier demands for Ortega and his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo, to step down.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes announced late in the day that a decision was made to suspend indefinitely the process mediated the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua by the Roman Catholic Church, due to a lack of progress.
“Given that on this fourth day of dialogue no consensus has been achieved, the bishops are suspending the plenary dialogue,” Brenes said in a live transmission. “But they suggest a mixed commission, three from each side, to seek consensus and overcome the impasse.”
The National Dialogue proposed by the Episcopal Conference was accepted by President Ortega, intended to defuse tensions in the country that began on April 19 with protests over changes in the pensions by the Social Security, namely increasing rates and reducing benefits.
Despite the decision by President Ortega to repeal the changes, the protests continued, along with the violence that saw more than 70 dead and many more injured in the more than 4 weeks manifestations across the country.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in Nicaragua last weekend, said on Wednesday “the situation in the country is far worse than we at first believed”.
Much of the blame for the violence and spilled blood is being focused on Daniel Ortega and his repressive policies of governing. Some have gone as far as calling it dictatorial.
One of the demands by the demonstrators, led by university students, has been the exit of Ortega and Murillo from office.
But by then a heavy-handed response from police, Sandinistas and para-military groups led to the violence.
In a report released Monday, the IACHR found that Ortega’s government violated protesters’ human rights during the unrest, with at least 76 people dead, nearly 900 injured and hundreds arrested. Many were students.
In the first day of the Dialogue on Wednesday last week, Lesther Aleman confronted President Ortega is a manner no one has ever seen before in public. “We put the blood,” Aleman told the President and Murillo, who tried to explain that many of the protestors “are not little angels” when being demanded to stop the violence by police.
In the second round of talks held last Friday, after more than 90 minutes of waiting, Ortega did not show, sending in his place a delegation made up of high-level government officials.
The delegation continued to represent Ortega on Monday in the third day of talks that seemed to be moving, albeit slowly for many, advancing the agenda outlined by the Episcopal Conference.
But on Wednesday it all came to a halt when the question of having early “democratic” elections, including reforms to the elections law that prohibts presidential re-elections, was the topic of discussion, rather government negotiators refused the discussion, stalling the 40-point agenda proposed by the bishops.
“The agenda leads us to one point: a coup d’etat, because it is a map to change the government outside of the constitution and the law,” said Foreign Minister Dennis Moncada, who headed the government delegation at the talks.
The statement is in irony, in that the Ortega government in the last years of its 11 years in power, is accused of electoral changes ‘outside the constitution and the law’, which allowed Ortega to be elected to a third consecutive term, past the two consecutive terms and 10 year limit in place when he took office in 2007.
Ortega also held power in Nicaragua following the ousting of Anastasio Somoza by the Sandinista. Ortega led the nation from 1979 until 1990, when he lost an election to his companion in the revolution, Violeta Chamorro.
Moncada said the government is open to discuss any theme within a constitutional framework but conditioned talks on protesters taking barricades, cutting off free transit on the roads across the country. “We cannot be discussing almost the 40 points in the agenda while traffic blockages affect the population,” the foreign minister said.
Representatives of civic groups, students, and the private sector rejected the government’s statements.
“In no way is the agenda a roadmap to a coup d’etat, but a path to democratic change, which is what the people have been asking for recently with massive marches across the country,” said former education minister Carlos Tunnermann.
The IACHR also called for the government to ensure that deadly weapons are not used against protesters, and also said it found evidence of torture, arbitrary arrests, and media censorship. “Potentially lethal force cannot be used merely to maintain or restore public order,” the commission said.