Nicaragua-Talks: “Human Rights are Non-Negotiable”

Vilma Nunez, president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights: “If Ortega has called for negotiations, it’s because he feels weak.

Human rights defenders of Cenidh with their president, Vilma Nuñex (front center) reacting to having their legal status cancelled in December, 2018. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

26 de febrero 2019


When she learned of the announced resumption of negotiations between the Civic Alliance and the Ortega government, Vilma Nunez de Escorcia, president of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (Cenidh), declared: “Human rights are non-negotiable.”

“With all due respect for the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, we believe that we shouldn’t be sitting down to dialogue without first having certain requisites fulfilled, because we’re facing a situation of permanent human rights violation,” Nunez emphasized.

“To unjustly deprive someone of their freedom is to violate their human rights. Torture, harassment, persecution in the streets; the impossibility of demonstrating publicly… the representatives of the Alliance can’t hold a dialogue that way, with what’s essentially a gun held to their temple. They’re running a tremendous risk, on the one hand of failing the people and on the other of having Ortega take action against them,” she continued.

It’s been indicated for months that any return to the negotiating table should necessarily be preceded by the liberation of the political prisoners, an end to repression, and a commitment to restore full rights to the NGOs whose legal status was revoked, as well as to the media and reporters who’ve been proscribed.  However, none of these conditions have been met.

“Negotiation is a process where the parties interested in arriving at an agreement on a particular issue interchange information, promises and formal commitments,” stated the attorney, whose organization was outlawed by the National Assembly, dominated by Ortega’s FSLN. Shortly after the National Assembly’s declaration, the National Police illicitly took over the Cenidh installations.

No conditions in place

In their statement, the entity Nunez directs pointed out that the public is demanding unrestricted respect for the freedom of the press, the liberation of the political prisoners, an end to the repression, the demobilization of the paramilitary and also that the exiles be permitted to return without reprisals. “[These] are human rights that can’t be negotiated,” and as such they’re requirements that must be met before any dialogue takes place.

However, this isn’t the case: the prisoners are still in jail; the citizens can’t wave a national flag without fear of being beaten and detained; the paramilitary continue with total impunity to commit their crimes; and the exiles haven’t even spoken of the option to return to their homeland.  So, the question arises whether these are conditions for a dialogue.

“The demand that shouldn’t be postponed and should be prioritized is the immediate release of the political prisoners. Their legal situation – generated by the abuses committed outside the margins of our due process guarantees- and the associated implication of criminality should be resolved afterwards, using existing legal mechanisms such as the appeal for absolute nullification,” she specified.

Nunez warned that the dictator will want to use the prisoners as hostages, promising to free one or another. Given this, she alerted the Alliance’s representatives to abstain from selectively negotiating the freedom of one or another prisoner.

On the contrary to what might be hoped for, the regime has given no indication of an intention to create a propitious atmosphere for beginning negotiations. Instead, Daniel Ortega announced that there won’t be a live transmission, and vetoed the presence of the media at the negotiation sessions.

Instead, mobs loyal to the party “assaulted several reporters and stole the cellphone of the reporter for the La Prensa newspaper, Leonor Alvarez,” while she was covering the police citation issued to Mr. Ronaldo Jerez, father of political prisoner Irlanda Jerez.

Such actions validate the population’s distrust about the possibilities of a successful negotiating process. “Daniel Ortega has repeatedly demonstrated that he’s not true to his word nor does he come through on his commitments,” Nunez accused.

Public pressure can work

With reference to Ortega, the Cenidh president said, “it’s not that he suddenly wanted to negotiate – it was the persistence of the people’s protest. Even though it was small, since there are no massive protests because they’re not allowed, the demands from the people plus the pressures of the international community have led him to make this decision.”

Nunez feels that Ortega also had to cede “upon seeing himself confronted with the proof – with numbers in hand – that the business leaders put before him.” They told him that Nicaragua can’t continue bearing up under this situation, and “what comes next is total collapse, that would affect him as well as one of the new large capitalists in the country,” she noted.

Nunez rejects the theory that Ortega has an advantage because the roadblocks were taken down and the population was forcefully demobilized. “Ortega doesn’t have the advantage in this situation, because the Alliance has the backing of the population, who support and trust them,” she recalled.

“Ortega agreed to negotiate because he feels weak. His government has been isolated on an international level and is economically bankrupt with the stigma of committing crimes against humanity. If he wants to improve his image, he must begin by freeing the political prisoners,” was Nunez’ final verdict.


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Iván Olivares

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Durante más de veinte años se ha desempeñado en CONFIDENCIAL como periodista de Economía. Antes trabajó en el semanario La Crónica, el diario La Prensa y El Nuevo Diario. Además, ha publicado en el Diario de Hoy, de El Salvador. Ha ganado en dos ocasiones el Premio a la Excelencia en Periodismo Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, en Nicaragua.


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