Daniel Ortega’s acceptance of the democratic opposition’s demand – a demand also backed by many countries and international organizations – is a recognition that his repressive policies and his tale of a Coup have failed. He has accepted the dialogue because he’s weak and not because he’s strong.
Nonetheless, Ortega’s acceptance doesn’t mean that he’ll attend the dialogue in good faith, in search of an authentic solution to the crisis. His objectives aren’t the same as ours; he’ll be looking for a way to neutralize his isolation and the international sanctions, preserve his power and maintain himself in the Presidency until 2021, while evading justice and assuring impunity for him and his, among others.
He’ll also try to take advantage of the dialogue to confuse, divide and establish separate spinoff negotiations with different groups to weaken the united front of the democratic opposition. He’ll try to utilize the political prisoners as hostages and bargaining chips in order to offer as concessions what should be our just dues in terms of respect for our citizens and human rights.
The Civic Alliance has accepted the challenge of attending this complex and very risky negotiation. They’ve been accompanied in that decision by the majority of us in the opposition groups and organizations, within as well as outside the country. We’ve recognized the Alliance as our legitimate intermediaries.
I feel that in order to fulfill their difficult mission and neutralize Ortega’s inevitable manipulations, the Civic Alliance’s negotiating team should keep in mind a number of things:
- The negotiation is a victory for the civic struggle that’s been sustained for more than ten months, despite the repression and the dictatorship’s crimes. That struggle is what allowed for winning the recognition and international solidarity of peoples, governments and international organizations.
- In addition to the broad accompaniment of Nicaraguan society, the Civic Alliance for Democracy and Justice has in its favor the certainty that reason and justice are on our side. In that sense, they head to the dialogue in representation of the immense dignity of a people whose finest examples have been our political prisoners.
- No matter what sectors you members of the negotiating team have come from, or how you got to that commission, you must represent the interests and needs of the nation and in no way those of one group or sector, as important at these may be.
- Your strength won’t depend on your negotiating strategies but on the support of all society for your efforts. However, in order to maintain that support throughout a process which may well involve difficult decisions, you must assure transparency, and systematically render accounts of the proceedings. This negotiation should break the tradition of pacts and shady deals behind the people’s backs; that alone would be a vital contribution to the democratic values that will prevail in the new Nicaragua.
- There are many sectors that still harbor distrust and suspicion, manifested at times in extreme statements and discrediting assertions. This is a normal phenomenon, given the diversity of those involved in the blue and white movement, the fake news that circulates, and the self-interested opinions of those who want to divide us.
- Broad and honest communication with society, which also implies listening to others, is the best way of building confidence, dissipating the legitimate doubts and questions, and isolating the most destructive and divisive voices. If you don’t behave in this way the critics will multiply, become extreme and you’ll be weakened.
- Communication and consultation with the victims’ organizations on all topics related to justice is an unavoidable commitment. They’re the ones who’ve suffered most, and they have the right to be heard and taken into account in these negotiations.
- Don’t lose sight of the fact that you aren’t going to that table from a position of weakness. You have power and should recognize it. You have the power to get up and leave that table each time that Ortega tries to manipulate the negotiation and convert it into a farce, or if he fails to fulfill the accords and commitments that are reached. Use that power responsibly to put the brakes on the regime’s manipulation and abuses, and you’ll increase the possibility of these negotiations leading to a positive outcome.
- We’re going to be accompanying you step by step. But we’re also going to ask for full accounting and to demand that you live up to the trust we’re depositing in you.
The negotiating agenda, however, is the crucial question. Fortunately, on this point there’s nearly universal consensus, and you’ve already reflected this in your communications.
The first thing is to create the necessary atmosphere so that a constructive negotiation can take place, and that involves several things:
- Release of all the political prisoners
- An end to the repression
- Reestablishing public rights and freedoms
- The return of the international human rights organizations.
Without freedom of expression and mobilization; without an end to the abductions, threats and aggression; without the exiled being allowed to return to the country securely; and while our brothers and sisters continue in jail, no negotiation can lead to a real solution to the crisis.
Once the minimum conditions have been created, the dialogue can progress to the next point on the agenda, which is the realization of early elections that are free, clean, and transparent, with full guarantees.
In the end, the acid proof of the dialogue’s results will be the implementation of a legitimate solution to the crisis. That is, one that assures all Nicaraguans the reestablishment of our rights and freedoms, the construction of a democratic society, and integral justice for all the victims including those who’ve had to flee the country. The cycle of our recurring dictatorships must be broken once and for all. We don’t have the right to fail.