Nicaragua has launched a second round of national dialogue to negotiate a way out of the political and economic crisis that erupted last year. Both the opposition and international actors should demand results, but avoid the animosity that contributed to the first round’s failure.
Facing mounting international pressure and economic crisis govt resumed National Dialogue 27 Feb, following visits of delegations from U.S., EU, and Organization of American States (OAS), and an exploratory meeting with private sector representatives 16 Feb. But situation remained volatile as govt alternated between repression of opposition and NGOs and détente measures. Police raided local NGO 7 Feb, withholding its equipment and detaining two workers. Judge 19 Feb sentenced two peasant leaders to over 200 years in prison. Police 25 Feb harassed José Pallais, negotiator for opposition Civic Alliance, and his wife. Govt 27 Feb released into house arrest some 100 political prisoners; previously, Committee for Liberation of Political Prisoners 19 Feb reported govt was holding total of 777 political prisoners. Among other controversial bills, National Assembly late-Jan approved Law on Dialogue, Reconciliation, and Peace in Nicaragua, which Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 1 Feb said is incompatible with international standards on truth, justice and reparations. Govt’s international isolation increased; U.S. 30 Jan imposed sanctions on Albanisa oil company (joint venture with Venezuela’s state oil company) while EU diplomats aired possibility of EU sanctions 20 Feb if govt did not cease repression and release political prisoners. Organization of American States (OAS) Expert Group 19 Feb suggested victims could press for trial of President Ortega in another country. Economic conditions continued to deteriorate.
Public resentment is high in Nicaragua after street protests in April were crushed in a brutal government crackdown. To prevent further unrest, President Ortega should implement agreed electoral reforms while international actors maintain diplomatic pressure to create conditions for dialogue.