Nicaragua rejects UN probe into deaths of protesters, as dialogue restarts

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The Nicaraguan government re-entered talks with the opposition alliance on Friday, but rejected a key demand of allowing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights and the EU to help investigate the deaths of protesters.

The move could hurt efforts to find a solution to Nicaragua’s ongoing political crisis and unrest, which has left nearly 200 people dead, according to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights. The government has so far only acknowledged the death of 46 people.

The Nicaraguan Catholic bishops had spearheaded the efforts to reignite the talks, in the wake of more deaths in protests that took place this week. The clergy described human rights as the most pressing issue and had advocated to invite the UN, EU, and the Inter-American Commission to Nicaragua.

A victim of Nicaragua's political unrest is buried (picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Felix)

A victim of Nicaragua’s political unrest is buried

Managua’s auxiliary Roman Catholic bishop, Silvio Baez, said he did not see why a third party couldn’t be allowed to help “establish the truth” about the deaths. “Nicaragua needs to re-establish justice,” he added.

Read more: Nicaragua’s student protest leaders determined to win back democracy

But for the government, blockades set by protesters on some 140 highways were a bigger priority and must be removed first. The makeshift roadblocks have hurt the economy, halting the delivery of goods and thwarting regional trade. Nevertheless, the opposition alliance rejected the request.

President Daniel Ortega on the defensive

Friday’s talks came on the heels of a nationwide, day-long, labor stoppage that the opposition carried out on Thursday, where more unrest took place and several people were killed.

Reports of desolate streets and shuttered banks, shops and restaurants, indicated that many Nicaraguans heeded the call to strike.

Still, there was also violence, as local television showed images of police firing assault rifles near a university campus. In several cities, clashes between opposition protesters and gangs loyal to Ortega took place.

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, who currently heads the government delegation in the talks, affirmed that Nicaragua was suffering “an unprecedented savagery; a wave of crimes that dismays, that frightens.”

Moncada did not attribute any responsibility for the deaths to Ortega-backed forces and instead claimed that police and public workers have fallen victim to the violence.

President Daniel Ortega

President Daniel Ortega

Read more: Opinion: Nicaragua keeps it in the family

Speaking for the president

Nicaraguan Vice President and first lady Rosario Murillo said on Friday on behalf of Ortega that he was leading “a struggle against hate.”

“It is a struggle against hate, against resentment,” Murillo, who is also married to Ortega, said. She alluded to the protests as coming from “truly frightening” forces that have left Nicaragua in a state of crisis for two months.

The current political crisis in Nicaragua began in April, when the government announced a series of pension reforms that were strongly rejected by the citizenry and which lead to deadly repression from security forces.

The government backed down on the pension reform, but protests against the state’s repression continued as an alliance of opposing forces grew, ultimately demanding that Ortega step down and new elections take place. 

jcg/jm (dpa, EFE, AFP)

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