At least 15 people were killed during protests on Mother’s Day in Nicaragua on Wednesday, raising the death toll to 100 in the country’s six weeks of political uprising.
Thousands of people took part in Mother’s Day events across Nicaragua, though for many mothers it wasn’t a day of celebration, rather a day to mourn for their children killed in the clashes that began on April 19, others to honor the mothers of students killed at previous rallies.
The Episcopal Conference mediating the national dialogue between the government and opposition has called it a “massacre” and has abruptly ended the talks.
“How can you dialogue with your assassins?” said Gonzalo Carrión, a lawyer at the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, who said the police had opened fire on protesters. “This was the biggest rally yet. It was a homage to mothers who lost their sons at rallies in April and May, and they wound up adding 15 more mothers to that list.”
At least six police officers had been shot and wounded at the demonstration.
It’s been six weeks since the protests against President Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice-president Rosario Murillo began. Ortega has denied he and his government are responsible for any deaths and insists on a vast conspiracy against him.
There had been high hopes with the first day of the talks, on May 16, when Ortega and Murillo personally attended the opening of the National Dialogue. In the second, Ortegaa sent a delegation to negotiate on behalf of his government. By the third day of talks, it was clear the sides had reached and impasse, leading the Catholic Church mediators to suspend the talks.
The best way to describe the situation in Nicaragua today is “uncertain”.
Protestors continue in their demands for Ortega and Murillo to step down, “to go” and are demanding changes to the constitution, reversing changes Ortega was able to make during his last 11 years in the presidency. Changes such as allowing his a third and subsequent reelection term (breaking the 10 years or 2 term limit) and installing himself as sole commander of the national police, among others.
University students, leading the protests, that now include the campesino movement and business sectors are calling for “fresh elections”. Well known and respected businessmen in Nicaragua are saying new elections may be the only way out of this crisis.
Ortega has vowed to stay. This was clearly the message on Wednesday, the first public appearance since May 16.
For her part, Murillo, who is typically at her husbands’ side, always, has been unusually quiet and absent. The woman, who refers to herself as the mother of Nicaragua, was nowhere on Mother’s Day.
Carlos Pellas, Nicaragua’s richest and most influential businessman, who controls the vast Grupo Pellas empire, on Wednesday appealed for presidential elections to be moved forward from 2021 in a bid to calm the unrest. The comments came as a surprise as the powerful industrialist and other business leaders have traditionally supported Ortega.
“From my point of view, and it is something largely shared in the private sector, we must find an orderly way out of this, in a constitutional way, which implies reforms including a (presidential) election moved forward” from 2021, he said in an interview with newspaper La Prensa.
Ortega must “show the willingness to dialogue and accept fundamental changes,” said Pellas, 65, who has not previously spoken out publicly about the crisis.
The government’s official website posted photos on Thursday of its supporters who were injured. The National Police said that in all, 15 people had died, and 20 police officers had been hurt.