Discussions between the Nicaragua government and opposition leaders are first signs of hope that the country’s year-long crisis may end

Mar 6, 2019

Following five discussion sessions and amid high levels of distrust, the Nicaraguan government and the Civic Alliance of Nicaragua have approved the so-called “roadmap” to begin the political negotiations that could open the doors to finding a solution to the sociopolitical crisis. The crisis, now in its 11th month, was triggered by the government crackdown against widespread civic protests that broke out in April of 2018.

President Daniel Ortega and his wife Vice President Rosario Murillo

According to negotiators, the discussions are the first signs that President Daniel Ortega may be willing to make significant concessions.

At least 400 have died in the protests and as many as 75,000 have left the country, relocating primarily in Costa Rico and Panama. Among those who have left to escape the violence are an estimated 10,000 North American and European expats, many of them abandoning real estate in the process.

Both sides agreed to call in the Apostolic Nuncio, the Episcopal Conference, and a representative of the protestant churches as witnesses to negotiations. However, the national and international guarantors will be defined only after the agenda is approved, defining the central topics to be discussed.

Waldemar Sommertag, the Vatican’s representative in Managua, read a communique and the agreed-upon “roadmap” to the press. He was accompanied by foreign minister Denis Moncada and university student Max Jerez of the government, and Civic Alliance negotiating teams.

One item in the document refers to the guarantors, and establishes that “once the agenda is approved, the participants will name the national and international guarantors for fulfilling and implementing the accords adopted for each point on the agenda and for the negotiation process. The guarantor or guarantors of the negotiation process will be designated upon the initiation of said process.”

This decision provoked suspicion among the Civic Alliance which expected that the guarantors, especially the international ones, would be defined with the roadmap. Nonetheless, a source close to the negotiations explained that these can’t be named without first establishing the topics to be negotiated.

“No one can guarantee, nor serve as a guarantor for something that hasn’t been agreed upon,” he explained in reference to the agenda points for the dialogue. “In the international negotiations used as points of reference – for example those that took place in Ireland – the guarantors were approved once there were concrete agreements, so that compliance with these can be measured,” he added.

However, the source recognized that since “there is distrust” around the negotiations held in the INCAE business school, the Civic Alliance and the Sandinista regime agreed to “immediately approve” the international and national guarantors when “partial accords have been reached”.

“That is, if the electoral topic, having to do with free elections and the restructuring of a healthy system, is approved for the agenda, the Organization of American States (OAS) will immediately be approved as a guarantor,” the source assured. “If you look at the declarations of Luis Almagro, he stated that they’d be willing to serve as guarantors only after the political prisoners have been released.”

Upon finalizing the fifth negotiation session on Tuesday, the Civic Alliance issued a statement highlighting their proposed agenda points: “Freedom and security for the political prisoners; the reestablishment of the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution; electoral reforms that guarantee just, free and transparent elections; and justice.”

In a statement, the Civic Alliance remains unsure if the government is willing to discuss its primary demands or even whether the Ortega administration will accept guarantors such as the OAS or the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

“At this point there is still no clear agenda or the rules under which we will proceed,” the statement said. “All we can say is that this is the first glimmer of hope we have seen for Nicaragua in almost a year. We want our freedoms restored, political prisoners to be released and for our fellow citizens to be able to return home in peace.”

Sources: Havana Times, Reuters

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