On Saturday, February 16, after meeting with representatives of big capital, having Cardinal Brenes and the Apostolic Nuncio as witnesses, and under the shadow of his secret negotiations with the Trump Administration, the dictator Daniel Ortega recognized for the first time the seriousness of the political crisis and proclaimed the need for national understanding.
A day later, the businessmen revealed that the objective of that meeting had been to create conditions for the resumption of political negotiations between the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, which were interrupted in June of last year by the brutality of the repression, the attack against the Bishops, and the so-called “Clean-up Operation.”
The mere announcement that the negotiations could be reinstated has generated moderate expectations in a society that yearns for peace, justice and democracy. The news has been noted by the international community that is evaluating whether this means a change in Ortega’s refusal to dialogue, prior to applying new sanctions for serious violations of human rights.
However, besides this surprise turn that has temporarily oxygenated the image of the regime, along with a 100 million dollars loan granted by Taiwan, the facts show that Ortega is mocking the goodwill of the Church and the businessmen, and rather the repression against the population is intensifying.
While promising dialogue, he has imposed a barbaric and illegal court sentence against the farm leaders Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena and Pedro Icabalceta, which amounts to more than 500 years in prison, as well as carrying out new raids and abductions in the department of Carazo, by the police under commissioner Ramon Avellan.
With one hand Ortega inaugurated a new prison facility, and with the other, he increased acts of cruelty and torture against political prisoners in the La Modelo and La Esperanza prisons. The most recent victims have been the student Levis Rugama and journalist Miguel Mora, as 50 prisoners were transferred to punishment cells, including the women political prisoners Lucia Pineda Ubau, Irlanda Jerez and dozens of other political prisoners.
And to close the circle of terror, Ortega maintains the de facto censorship against the media, the persecution against independent journalists in Nicaragua and the permanent police and paramilitary deployment that prevents citizens from demonstrating and protesting in freedom.
If Ortega is truly interested in achieving a national understanding, he should have presented his resignation and that of his wife, Vice President Murillo, after the massacre, because they are politically and morally incapable to govern. This, even more so now, when the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), a body set up by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, has confirmed that crimes against humanity were committed for which they must be investigated, to be submitted to justice.
But if Ortega refuses to resign, and the objective of this dialogue is to negotiate the terms of his departure from power to agree on the political reforms that allow early elections to be called, then it is imperative to create the conditions for a viable, transparent and equal footing.
As the Committee for the Liberation of Political Prisoners and the Mothers of April Association have proposed, in order to carry out a credible negotiation, all political prisoners must first be released. Their release should not be the result of an amnesty, to protect the supporters of the regime, but rather a result of the annulment of all the political trials.
As long as the right to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of mobilization are not fully restored, the self-convened people and Civic Alliance delegates cannot negotiate with a gun at their heads.
The people have the right to go to the streets without being repressed by the police and the paramilitaries, who must be disarmed and dismantled, but they cannot promote their political demand in the dialogue if they are imprisoned, censored, persecuted or threatened.
What is really important in this eventual negotiation, therefore, is not whether the dialogue will be televised or closed to the public, or if the negotiating delegates will be twenty or five, but that the citizen’s right to march and mobilize without repression will be fully restored.
Ortega needs to reach an understanding to avoid the total collapse of the economy and the application of new international sanctions, while waiting for the end of the crisis of the Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela. But he will only negotiate his departure from power and hold early elections, under conditions of maximum pressure, when simultaneously the resistance of the people, the economic muscle of the businessmen and the external pressure of the OAS, the United States and the European Union coincide.
Only with the incidence of these three factors will the supporters of the regime that, because of interests, inertia or fear, still support Ortega, will dare to facilitate the departure of the dictator. But to reach the point of that outcome, the negotiation now promoted by the big businessmen, the Church and the international community, requires the minimum condition of a people in freedom, without censorship, and in the streets.