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.
Political situation remained volatile as second dialogue attempt between govt and opposition Civic Alliance ended 3 April without reaching agreements on issues including justice and electoral calendar. Talks broke down over justice mechanisms for victims of govt repression, govt’s opposition to return of international human rights monitoring bodies to oversee implementation of possible agreement, and opposition’s desire to hold early elections. Implementation of agreements reached 29 March on release of all political prisoners and strengthening of rights also stalled; govt recognised 230 of 700 prisoners on opposition list, failed to coordinate with International Committee of the Red Cross which is supposedly overseeing prisoners’ release, and continued repressive tactics including temporarily detaining 160 people 14-21 April. Civic Alliance 23 April met with representatives of church and Organization of American States (OAS), mediators of dialogue, to discuss govt’s failure to abide by agreements. Govt 24 April announced it would not hold early elections despite OAS and opposition pressure. International condemnation of govt continued; UN Human Rights Council 22 March approved resolution condemning human rights abuses and requesting UN High Commissioner to produce report on country. U.S. 5 April convened OAS Permanent Council to discuss situation and expressed threats of further action. Amid deteriorating economic situation, U.S. 17 April imposed sanctions on recently nationalised banking regulator Bancorp and President Ortega’s son.
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.