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Nicaragua: The National Dialogue Process Thus Far

Confidencial | Carlos Herrera

Who benefitted the most from the Dialogue Process? The Nicaraguan people, without a doubt.



The National Dialogue process, which began on May 16th, was suspended at is fourth session (Wednesday 23rd) because no agreements were being reached, after  benefitting both the Nicaraguan people involved in protests since April 18th and the Ortega dictatorship. However, everything indicates that this process is now dead and that the Nicaraguan people need to step up their civil unrest.

The last dialogue session ended in a deadlock and has validated the opinions of those who didn’t believe in this option from the very beginning and were instead thinking about holding a national strike with all kinds of acts of civil disobedience, stepping up mass mobilization on Nicaragua’s streets.

On Thursday the 24th, in the morning, a group of protesters (mostly students) called for a “national strike” in front of the large business owners’ association, COSEP, in light of the failed National Dialogue process on Wednesday. Meanwhile, even though several roadblocks were forcefully shut down by paramilitaries on Wednesday night, there were more roadblocks on Thursday and others were reinforced.

Getting the dialogue going was a clear victory for the people because it unmasked an insensitive dictator, with no empathy, incapable of recognizing the massacre he caused and appearing to live on another planet, plus, he proved himself to be a hypocrite, liar and cynic.

Meanwhile, Nicaragua’s youth emerged as a new leadership, firm, clear and direct in their demands, as they told Daniel Ortega a few truths to his face. This is where new popular heroes were born, especially Lesther Aleman.

Nicaraguan government takes advantage of DN to promote international image

However, the government also benefitted, on an international level in particular, because it appeared to be a State open to dialogue, like OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, would argue days later, who has made various statements in the past which hint at suspiciously close ties with the Ortega government.

The dictatorship also managed to get the dialogue started without meeting the four prerequisites which Catholic bishops (mediators and witnesses) demanded on May 11th, except for extending an invitation to the IACHR. They didn’t have to stop repression, get the paramilitary under their wings, keep the National Police in their barracks or stop using State employees for political and repressive campaigns.

The first dialogue session, on Friday May 18th, concluded with substantial results: an agreement to withdraw National Police and the government’s anti-riot forces from the streets [for the weekend]. They also agreed to respect the people’s right to convene and hold public protests. On the other hand, to thank and support the IACHR’s work in Nicaragua, especially when it comes to investigations and clearing up what happened in April and adopting urgent protective measures to ensure the safety of Nicaragua’s youth and population.

Their use of the word “truce” is questionable because it implies that two groups are fighting, when in reality, only one is shooting and the other is just protesting pacifically and defending themselves with rocks and homemade mortars. The term “paramilitaries” wasn’t used either, like it should have, the government has used the term “shock forces” instead. However, getting the government to accept that it has irregular forces working for them and that they have used them to repress protests was a win for the population.

They accept the word “truce” but don’t accept “paramilitaries”

With life being people’s main human right and the fact that nobody died on the weekend of the “truce”, or until Wednesday the 23rd, we could say that this agreement was successful, judging by these results, although rights were violated when the National Police and paramilitaries attacked UNA students on the Northern Highway, resulting in four people injured [during the truce weekend].

There wasn’t a live broadcast of the second dialogue session, but there was of the first, third and fourth  sessions, thereby satisfying vast popular demand and that of the Alliance’s own delegation, to make their strong and firm actions transparent. Maybe this is distracting because government representatives are also talking to the audience (who decide who they believe, no problem) and their message becomes less effective.

The only agreement made during the third session, on Monday May 21st, was to adopt the IACHR’s conclusive preliminary report’s precise and categorical recommendations which stated that extremely serious human rights violations had been committed by the regime. It was a lost day for the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (students, civil society and businessmen) and a day won for the dictatorship, which continues to take their time, because, in reality, it hasn’t done what the IACHR has suggested.

Some people are celebrating the fact that the government has “accepted” the Report, but it isn’t accepting anything really because repression continues, like on Wednesday for example. The dictatorship hasn’t complied with the IACHR’s recommendations to end repression; ensure the population’s right to protest; create international investigative mechanisms to determine what happened in the massacre; guarantee lives, etc. There are 15 proposals.

Road to democracy: a message for the population

No agreements were reached during the fourth and possibly last dialogue session, on Wednesday May 23rd, as the government insisted on roadblocks being suspended while the Civic Alliance insisted on discussing a path towards democracy. The latter was the most important of that session because it allowed the Nicaraguan people to learn about and understand what they are proposing to bring about a free and democratic government.

The population could clearly see that their representatives at the dialogue weren’t playing about. This road includes partial ammendments to the Constitution to move presidential, municipal, legislative and autonomous region elections forward as soon as possible, which means reducing the terms of elected officials and members of the Supreme Electoral Council, the Supreme Court of Justice and Comptroller’s Office. There are 40 ammendments in total which imply a complete make-over of the State.

After a whole day of government verbosity to dismantle roadblocks, the regime showed no mercy in the evening and night of Wednesday 23rd when two people were killed in Leon and Chinandega and over 100 people were left injured, as they tried to dismantle major obstacles on roads, using armed paramilitary forces.

The people’s response was to increase roadblocks

The population responded to the government’s repression in the West of the country by setting up more roadblocks in La Concha, Chontales and in the north of the country. Dona Francisca [a leader of the anti-canal movement] seemed to emulate Mao Tse Tung and his Long March theory when she called for roadblocks to move towards Managua, that is to say, for the rural population to surround the city and make it surrender; asking farmers in the West and East of the country to join roadblocks there.

Government representatives’ insistence on roadblocks being taken down, led the population to believe that this is one of their weaknesses and so it has responded by strengthening roadblocks on highways and opening up others, as economic activity in the country shows signs of a slow down.

Who benefitted the most from the National Dialogue process? The Nicaraguan people, without a doubt. While it’s true that the government bought themselves a week in time, it wasn’t enough for students and citizens to get tired and stop the uprising; instead people’s civic uprising tends to radicalize with the emergence of roadblocks all over the country, like weeds in winter, which take territory and power away from the dictatorship.

[Editor’s Note: after a meeting of a commission established with three representatives from the Civic Alliance and three from the government, the Catholic Bishops mediating the national dialogue said the two sides had agreed to resume talks in the near future.  No date has yet to be set and police and shock force attacks on protestors continue.]