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Nicaragua bishops push on with mediating crisis talks

July 23, 2018

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua’s bishops are to forge on with mediating talks aimed at resolving their country’s political and economic crisis despite President Daniel Ortega claiming they are siding with the opposition, Managua’s auxiliary bishop said Sunday.

The senior clergymen, grouped under the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua (ECN), intended to push on with their role even though “calling for dialogue right now is going to be difficult given the confrontational attitude of the government and slanderous language against the church,” Bishop Silvio Baez told reporters.

The talks, though currently stalled, are attempting to end violence and repression in Nicaragua that has claimed more than 280 lives in the past three months.

Ortega on Thursday claimed the bishops were helping protesters demanding his ouster that he has labeled “satanists” and “terrorists.”

He also alleged churches in Nicaragua, a deeply Catholic country, were being used to shelter rebels and weapons, something the bishops deny.

The president’s claims poured cold water on efforts the bishops have been making since May to broker talks between Ortega’s government and opposition groups including students, unions and the business sector. The last full session of talks took place over a month ago, on June 15.

A key demand of the opposition is that Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, step down and elections due for 2021 be brought forward to next year.

The Organization of American States backs early elections. The United States has also said it is contemplating more sanctions on Nicaragua to pressure Ortega’s government.

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