On Friday, February 22, the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy revealed their agenda for sitting down to negotiate with the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo in a new attempt at a national dialogue.
The initial meeting will include Papal Nuncio Waldemar Sommertag, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and Catholic bishop Ronaldo Alvarez as “observers”.
Members of the opposition coalition stated that the release of the political prisoners will be the first point on their agenda. Meanwhile, the regime has still not released the names of those who will make up their negotiating commission, nor the agenda they will propose.
“Our negotiating team is taking on the enormous patriotic challenge that the circumstances demand. We repeat that our commitment to the political prisoners will be present in every moment of this process. Their freedom is a priority in the negotiation,” assured academic Carlos Tunnermann, delegate on the Civic Alliance’s negotiating commission.
The national demand for the freeing of the political prisoners has fallen to the Civic Alliance as the first topic and precondition for continuing the negotiations with the regime. Ortega officially announced the dialogue on Thursday, February 21; some twelve hours later, the Civic Alliance was able to give details of their agenda with respect to the dialogue.
The agenda proposed by the Civic Alliance is divided into three principle topics:
First there is “the release of the political prisoners and the reestablishment of the freedoms, rights and guarantees established in the Nicaraguan Constitution,” said Tunnermann. Those objectives are followed by, “Electoral reforms that will guarantee just, free and transparent elections; and justice [for the victims of the repression].”
Tunnermann added: “We trust that we’re in the doorway of an inclusive, serious, frank and well-informed negotiation. We’re grateful for the work of the Catholic Church and we’re ready to initiate this new stage with them.”
On the part of the Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and Matagalpa bishop Rolando Alvarez, as well as the Papal Nuncio Waldemar Sommertag, will serve as “observers” and not as mediators.
“This time, it was agreed that only the cardinal, the papal nuncio and Monsenor Alvarez will participate at the dialogue table as witnesses. That’s the participation that was asked of us,” Bishop Abelardo Mata informed on behalf of the church.
The Civic Alliance has chosen as their negotiators: Juan Sebastian Chamorro, director of the independent think tank Funides [Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development]; Carlos Tunnermann, professor and former university president; Max Jerez from the university student movement; Jose Adan Aguirri, president of Cosep [Superior Council of Private Enterprise]; Mario Arana, president of the American Chamber of Commerce; and Jose Pallais, former deputy for the liberal party and a member of the Broad Front for Democracy.
The alternate delegates are respectively: Felipe Arguello, executive director of the farmers’ organization Upanic; Azahalea Solis, a feminist and constitutional lawyer; Valeska Valle, spokesperson for the university coalition; Michael Healey, president of Upanic; Diego Vargas, ex-president of the American Chamber of Commerce; and Ernesto Medina, former rector of the Americana University.
The Committee for the Freedom of the Political Prisoners, the Mothers of April, the University Coordinator for Democracy and Justice, and the National Blue and White Unity movement all demanded that the Civic Alliance establish minimum conditions for the reestablishment of negotiations with the dictatorship.
The groups concur on what these prerequisites should be: the release of the political prisoners as point number one on the agenda, an end to persecution, the return of the international human rights organizations and justice for the victims of the massacre.
Ortega forced to negotiate
Dictator Daniel Ortega took advantage of a public act of commemoration on February 21, marking 78 years since the death of national hero Augusto Cesar Sandino, to officially announce his decision to sit down at the negotiating table. He had initially met with five wealthy businessmen who represent large capitalism in Nicaragua. The regime asked for a closed-door dialogue, without the presence of the media.
During his speech on Thursday, Ortega made no mention of the repression or of the 325 killed by the dictatorship, nor did he speak of the press censorship, the persecution of citizens who had participated in the peaceful protests. He did not utter a single work about the more than 700 political prisoners who are currently being held in prisons and police stations all over the country.
Likewise, the dictator said nothing about the liberation of the political prisoners, which is one of the requirements demanded by civil society as a precondition to any negotiation with the government.