Nicaragua govt agrees to prisoner release to restart opposition talks
Nicaragua’s government agreed on Wednesday to release opposition prisoners within 90 days in order to restart stalled peace talks aimed at ending an 11-month political crisis, a dialogue mediator said.
Organization of American States special envoy Luis Angel Rosadilla said in a press conference that President Daniel Ortega’s government had agreed to release “all the people detained in the context of the protests” that began in April last year, leaving over 700 people behind bars and 325 dead.
The agreement includes a call on sanctions against Ortega’s regime to be lifted.
The number of prisoners due to be released was not given.
On Monday, the opposition alliance suspended talks that had begun on Feb. 27 after 100 protesters were temporarily detained on Saturday by police who used tear gas to prevent a protest against Ortega’s government.
The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) had said on Tuesday it would not resume talks until all “political prisoners” are released and the repression of anti-regime protesters ends.
Releases could begin this week and “there will be no-one held beyond those 90 days,” said businessman Jose Aguerri, a Civic Alliance member.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is due to monitor the process.
The two parties have agreed on a six-point negotiation process to accompany the releases and have asked for international support in implementing the agreements reached, according to a statement issued by the presidency.
“A call will be made to the international community to suspend sanctions to facilitate the right to the human, economic and social development of Nicaragua, favoring the most vulnerable sections of the population,” said the statement.
Nicaragua’s government has been hit by U.S. sanctions and the threat of more from the European Union since trouble broke out last year.
The country has been mired in political crisis since protests broke out initially over a now-scrapped pension reform before snowballing into wider anger at Ortega’s rule.
Alongside his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo, he is accused of rights abuses and authoritarian leadership.
One of the key opposition demands was for Ortega to step down and bring forward elections slated for 2021, something the 73-year-old former left-wing guerrilla has rejected out of hand.
The Civic Alliance had also suspended the talks for three days last week until the government agreed to release some prisoners.
Around 150 prisoners have been released since the talks began last month, although only to house arrest.
The opposition has demanded their total liberation.
The union of business leaders, part of the ACJD, said Saturday’s crackdown showed that “we’re faced with a police state that doesn’t allow the expression of the fundamental constitutional rights of all Nicaraguans.”
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