The bishops of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference decided on Wednesday afternoon to suspend the National Dialogue that aims to find a way out of the deep crisis that the country suffers.

After six hours of discussions neither the delegates of the Government nor the Civic Alliance – formed by representatives of civil society, university students, producers and entrepreneurs – agreed to define a work agenda.

The government was intransigent and refused to discuss the points about the democratization of the country, which had been established by consensus by the bishops. Instead, it demanded that the “barricades” that block access on roads throughout the county be lifted to continue the dialogue.

Led by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, a retired general, the Ortega government refused to discuss the proposal for the country’s democratization, the first agenda item on the fourth day of work at the Nuestra Señora de Fátima Catholic Church Seminar in the capital. Moncada said the agenda set by the bishops was “the design for a route to a coup d’etat” against the Ortega government.

“The agenda that was presented today has the intention of dismantling the legitimately elected constitutional State. That is the objective of that agenda. It is a route for a coup d’état, to overthrow the Government, “said Moncada.

The Government’s strategy, developed by its delegates in the Dialogue, was to avoid at all costs to advance in the discussion of agenda items. The ruling party limited the discussion of the morning to the lifting of barriers that impede traffic in various parts of the country, alleging that they have generated significant economic losses and “are a violation of human rights.”

The president of the Central Bank, Ovidio Reyes, affirmed that the roadblocks add to the losses generated by the instability that the country suffers, product of a deep crisis that began on April 18, when Ortega violently suppressed the demonstrations against the Social Security reform he imposed without consensus.

Reyes read projections of the Central Bank that establish losses in the order of 260 million dollars and warned that if the current situation continues, unemployment could go from 4.7% to 5.2%, while inflation could increase by 7% or 8%. “Fifty-eight thousand fewer jobs,” said the official.

The Government maintained its position that the Dialogue cannot advance if it does not fulfill its main condition, which is the lifting of the “barricades” throughout the country. A strategy that Monsignor Silvio Baez, auxiliary bishop of Managua, described as “delaying tactics” and that contributes to maintaining the crisis. The bishop recalled that the goal of the dialogue is to “go to the root of the country’s problem to pave the way for its democratization.” He said that the meeting should continue with the discussion of the country’s democratization agenda.

Baez also responded to Foreign Minister Moncada, in relation to his accusation of a coup d’état. “This is not a coup d’état,” said Baez. “This accusation against the Mediation Commission is very serious. There is a political crisis in Nicaragua and as the Mediating Commission we have chosen the peaceful path, “said Baez.

Although the bishops in their mediation tried to save the discussions on Wednesday, the closed stance of the government delegates prevented progress. The Government put three points on the agenda, but focused only on one: that the roadblocks be lifted. In this way, President Ortega intended to demobilize the citizen protest, which demands his resignation from power.

The bishops announced the suspension of the national dialogue on Wednesday afternoon after a day-long impasse. Photo: Carlos Herrera, Confidencial

In their proposal, the representatives of the Civic Alliance committed themselves to issue pronouncements to persuade the population who, on their own, has set up the barriers, but made it clear that they would do so only if the government agreed to focus on the agenda of the day, which was to open the discussion to profound reforms to restore democracy in Nicaragua.

The agenda presented by the bishops [which we will publish later today in English] establishes a partial reform of the Constitution to advance the general elections and elect new authorities. In addition, the dismissal of all magistrates and mid-level positions of the Electoral Power is proposed, as well as prohibiting presidential re-election.

One of the proposals includes the approval of a Framework Law as a democratic transition mechanism. These proposals inevitably lead to the departure of the power of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, who have shown no intention of giving in on these points.

Half way through the day the president of the Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), Maria Nelly Rivas, proposed that, faced with the unwillingness of the Government delegates to meet the dialogue agenda, the points proposed by the Civic Alliance should be sent directly by the bishops to President Ortega, a proposal that was rejected by the government representatives.

“Once again the Government showed signs of great irresponsibility, because it used delaying tactics in the face of a massacre,” said Azahalea Solis, a representative of civil society at the Dialogue table. “They wanted to blame us for exercising our rights, while they want to have the right to repress, which is very perverse,” she added. “There has not been a single day since April 18th when the government has not exercised an act of repression against the rights of Nicaraguans,” Solis explained.

“Since we were called to dialogue we were told that we were going to discuss two points: justice and democratization; there was nothing more to discuss,” said Sandra Ramos, executive director of the Maria Elena Cuadra worker’s rights movement. “What people are asking in the streets is to recover the rule of law in this country, the independence of the powers of the State. In that sense, from the beginning we saw the diversionary tactics being used by the government delegation, but we put up with it because we needed the dialogue to advance, but they do not want the dialogue to advance,” noted Ramos.

Asked if they would be willing to negotiate an end of the barriers on various roads in the country, Medardo Mairena, coordinator of the anti-canal peasant movement, said these are legitimate forms of protest against an authoritarian government.

“We continue inviting the people of Nicaragua to demonstrate. It is the people who have protested and set up the barriers on their own… people have their autonomy. We all know that the only responsible party, the only one responsible for damages to the economy, the blood and the dead, is the Government, which has not wanted to listen to them or give in. It has not even shown the minimum intention of seeking a way out without spilling more blood, “said Mairena.

As there was no agreement between the two parties, the bishops concluded the day and suspended the dialogue, but urged the parties to form negotiating committees, with three representatives each that could agree on a work agenda.

On Wednesday afternoon the Civic Alliance had informed that lawyer and feminist Azahalea Solis and Juan Sebastian Chamorro, president of FUNIDES, would be their representatives in that commission, plus a university student that was to be named. The Government did not say who would represent the ruling party. On Wednesday night, the representatives of the private sector met in private to agree on their position in the face of government intransigence and the stagnation of the National Dialogue.

Translated by Havana Times