Nicaragua frees dozens of inmates ahead of talks: rights group
Nicaragua released dozens of prisoners Wednesday who were arrested during protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega, ahead of long-awaited peace talks with the opposition, a human rights group said.
Authorities gave no details about the releases, which were announced by the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH) after relatives posted images on social media of busloads of jubilant inmates leaving La Modela prison outside Managua.
“We have verified that a couple of minibuses left and some known prisoners were inside,” CPDH president Marcos Carmona told AFP, adding that as many as 100 may have been released.
Many of the freed prisoners waved flags, sang the country’s national anthem and shouted “Viva Nicaragua”.
Relatives had spent the night outside the prison after rumors circulated that inmates were to be released.
Ortega and the opposition were to begin talks Wednesday on easing tensions that began last April with deadly protests over the government’s now-ditched pension reform.
The opposition Civic Alliance coalition had called for the release of all opposition prisoners ahead of the talks, which were to take place at the Central American Institute of Administration and Enterprise, around nine miles (15 kilometers) outside the capital.
A brutal crackdown by Ortega’s security forces left 325 people dead and more than 750 arrested and accused of terrorism by the time the protests ended in October.
Independent media outlets have been targeted for harassment, threats and arrests in the crackdown. Nicaraguan journalist Miguel Mora, owner of the 100% Noticias channel shut down by the government, began a hunger strike this week to protest his detention, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Previous talks failure
Previous Catholic Church-brokered peace talks broke down last June after the president rejected opposition demands to step down and bring forward presidential elections.
Nicaragua is struggling with an economic crisis and a $315 million deficit. GDP shrank four percent last year and some economists say it could contract 11 percent in 2019.
The opposition accuses former guerrilla leader Ortega, in power since 2007, of establishing a corrupt dictatorship with his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo.
Murillo, who is also the government spokesman, called for the “full restoration of fraternity and peace in Nicaragua,” in a statement on the eve of the talks.
Urging a break with recent violence, she called on all sides to “leave behind us the harsh experiences, learning from them, casting off negative feelings from our lives.”
Ortega’s handling of the protests drew international condemnation from the United States, which has imposed sanctions on the president and his wife for rights abuses.
Ortega had agreed to resume the talks “because the civil disobedience continues, because of his international isolation and the crisis situation in (ally) Venezuela, and because the economy is in freefall,” said Azahalea Solis, a member of the opposition delegation at the talks.
U.S. President Donald Trump said last week that “socialism is dying” across Latin America, pointing to leftist regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Ortega’s Nicaragua.
“When Venezuela is free, Cuba is free, and Nicaragua is free, this will become the first free hemisphere in all of human history,” said Trump.
Luis Carrion, a former Sandinista guerrilla commander who is now an opposition figure, said the talks were “a very complex and risky.”
Ortega “is not seeking in good faith a real solution to the crisis, his goal is to break his isolation and avoid international sanctions, to preserve his power and to remain in the presidency until 2021.”
This story was made possible thanks to The Tico Times 5 % Club. If only 5 percent our readers donated at least $2 a month, we’d have our operating costs covered and could focus on bringing you more original reporting from around Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we can only do it with your help. Join The Tico Times 5% Club and help make stories like this one possible.
You may be interested
Costa Rica’s equine plasma coronavirus treatment not as effective as initially hopedAlejandro Zúñiga - November 25, 2020
Treating coronavirus patients with an antibody-rich serum made from horse plasma hasn't produced the desired results, Costa Rican authorities said.…
Costa Rica will offer ‘safe entry’ to Nicaraguans seeking asylumAFP - November 25, 2020
Costa Rica will try to improve protections for thousands of Nicaraguans who request asylum or refuge in the country through…
Shirley Cruz golazo nominated for Goal of the Year awardAlejandro Zúñiga - November 25, 2020
Shirley Cruz's golazo with the Costa Rica women's national team has been selected as one of the world's best this…