Nicaragua: Talks between Ortega and the Opposition

On Feb. 20, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton declared that the days of Daniel Ortega, president of Nicaragua, “were numbered.” Similar words have been uttered about Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and about Miguel Diaz-Canel, the current president of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of Cuba; together, three countries considered by Washington as the “troika of tyranny.”

Suffice it to say that today more than ever, the White House wields the Monroe Doctrine in order to chase from power all the heads of state who still dare to defy Uncle Sam and reclaim socialism on the American continent.

Spurred on by Washington, the Nicaraguan president met with a delegation of the Organization of American States and representatives from Nicaragua’s employers’ organization, and announced that starting on Feb. 21, dialogue will resume with the opposition in order to remedy an economy ravaged to such a point that in 2018, the gross domestic product declined by 4 percent and more than 300,000 jobs were lost, a situation that could worsen.

Azahalea Solis, a surrogate member of the opposition delegation, says that because of this, President Ortega “has accepted resuming the dialogue because the civil resistance continues to increase due to his international isolation and the (crisis) situation in Venezuela, and, finally, because the economy is in free fall.”

Also, several hours before the Feb. 27 kickoff of talks between the government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (which brings together unions, civil society, businesses and students) on a university campus south of Managua, the Interior Ministry released a statement announcing the release of 100 detainees.

Yet this release only affected minor dissenters in such a way that no opposition leader will benefit from that action. And on the night of Feb. 27, nearly 670 opposition members remained locked up, according to the tallies of certain human rights organizations.

It’s worth remembering that the discussions that took place under the supervision of the Catholic Church were suspended last June by the government. Also, for the discussions to resume, the opposition posited as a prerequisite that all Nicaraguans detained for crimes of opinion be released, that freedom of press, expression and the right to demonstrate be restored, and, finally, that international guarantors such as the OAS and the United Nations be present.

The first meeting on Feb. 27 – attended by six representatives from President Ortega’s government and six others acting on behalf of the opposition in the presence of Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, as mediator – was aimed at finding a solution to the political crisis that is shaking the country.

During this session, which lasted nearly seven hours according to Bishop Stanislaw Waldemar Sommertag, the Apostolic Nuncio (the Vatican ambassador) in Managua, the two parties set out to define the road map for negotiations and reached an agreement on nine points out of 12, which the former Sandinista guerrilla Dora Maria Tellez said was normal the moment Daniel Ortega sat down at the negotiating table “with a rope around his neck.”

And if, in spite of the ongoing dialogue, the opposition – which accuses the now 73-year-old former guerrilla of having established a dictatorship – still demands that he leave and that new elections be convened, and Ortega − eager to end his isolation and maintain the presidency until 2021 − denounces an attempted coup supported by the church and the White House, what then will be done in Managua if Ortega’s days really are “numbered” as it seems? Let’s wait and find out.

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