By Carlos Salinas, Yader Luna and Ivan Olivares (Confidencial) – On Thursday night, the campesino movement leader Francisca Ramirez issued a call to tighten the highway roadblocks and for a “citizens’ work stoppage all over the country. Her call followed the information that the bishops hadn’t succeeded in eliciting any commitment from President Daniel Ortega to facilitate a way out of the crisis of misrule that is affecting the country.
Ortega, who is clinging tightly to power while he maintains the repression and refuses to disarm the paramilitary forces, asked the bishops for two days of “reflection” to analyze the agenda for the country’s “democratization” that was proposed in the national dialogue three weeks ago.
“We hope that these 2 days are for reflecting on his exit” Francisca Ramirez, leader of the campesino movement
The agenda for justice and democracy contemplates constitutional and electoral reforms, a total change of personnel in the Supreme Electoral Council, early elections and a reduction in the term that all authorities will serve, as well as a profound police reform, backed up by a Framework Law. However, Ortega’s intransigence indicates that he’s not willing to cede power.
“We hope that these days are for reflecting on his exit,” stated Francisca Ramirez. “We’re not giving in, the people don’t want Ortega to remain in power, and they want him to resign. We’re asking the population to get out on the streets,” added the leader of the anti-canal movement. On Thursday night, after Ortega asked for 48 hours to “reflect”, Ortega’s troops attacked the National Autonomous University of Managua, leaving one dead, a youth his classmates identified as Chester Javier Chavarria.
The bishops met with Ortega for over two hours on Thursday afternoon. Although they said that this meeting with the leader was held in “an atmosphere of serenity and frankness,” it was left clear that the strongman would not give in to the principal demand of the population: his immediate resignation. Nor was he going to allow early elections.
“We’ve delivered our proposal which reflects the sentiments of many sectors of Nicaraguan society and expresses the yearning of the immense majority of the population,” stated the communique read by the bishops in the Managua Seminary Nuestra Senora de Fatima. “Once the president of the republic has responded formally to us, we will invite the Plenary Table of the National Dialogue to evaluate said response and the feasibility of continuing this Dialogue,” informed the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference.
Ortega’s intransigence caused indignation in the country, where some held expectations that the leader might give in to a constitutional way out. “Ortega doesn’t want a dialogue, nor the mediation of the Bishops, nor to sit down with the Civic Alliance,” the former Sandinista guerilla and current historian Dora Maria Tellez wrote on Twitter. “He wants to play “pass the ball” until someone will officiate at a dialogue to fit his whims, so he can remain in power. Now he’ll be prescribing more repression and we’ll all have to respond with more resistance,” she warned.
Azahalea Solis, who represents civil society in the dialogue, said that with his intransigence Ortega has demonstrated that he’s not interested in the agenda for democratization presented by the church. “Even if the dialogue table might accept that Daniel Ortega can remain, the people have said no. There’s no possibility. He’s politically and morally unfit to continue as president of Nicaragua after having issued the order to kill that has been scientifically demonstrated,” Solis said. “The position of the bishops has been quite consistent with the agenda. Ortega doesn’t want to save the country, He prefers to rule over the destruction of the rule of law and over the real destruction of the country,” the lawyer added.
“The reply is in the streets”
This week marks almost two months of crisis in Nicaragua, a crisis that has provoked a virtual shut-down of the country’s economy. If the situation continues, the losses could exceed US $600 million dollars, according to the calculations of FUNIDES. In the worst scenario, 150 thousand jobs could be lost. Nonetheless, the population seems willing to suffer these consequences in their struggle for freedom.
Enrieth Martinez, of the University Coalition, stated that Ortega’s response generated “indignation and frustration”, for her as for the rest of the country, but she feels that these feelings will translate into greater pressure in the streets.
“I believe that the answer doesn’t lie only in the dialogue anymore, but is being transformed into demanding his resignation, and proof of that is that there are ever more social sectors getting together and organizing in the national territory,” she expressed.
According to Martinez, in these two days “people should go out onto the streets to make themselves heard,” and it’s hopeful that more national and international figures are condemning Ortega’s regime.
Losing time while indignation grows
Educator Carlos Tunnermann, a member of civil society grouped in the Civic Alliance, said that President Ortega continues “to be mistaken” and is making “a bad reading” of the demand of citizens all over the country.
“A responsible statesman, conscious of all the grief over the deaths during the protests should respond immediately to the bishops about resuming the dialogue right away, but he continues making the error of not responding to the population’s clamor, and as more time goes by, the indignation of the citizenry rises ever higher,” he assured.
For Tunnermann, the bishops did well in expounding the situation of crisis that the country is experiencing and in presenting the agenda agreed upon in the Plenary Table of the National dialogue regarding the democratization of the country. “By requesting a written response from him we’ll be able t know once and for all what he’s thinking,” he argues.
“It appears that Ortega doesn’t want to read what’s happening in the country and while he continues with that attitude, the independently organized roadblocks and the public protests will continue to grow,” he predicted.
As to whether the leader’s strategy is to gain time, Tunnermann believes that “he’s losing it instead,” because as more days go by, “the repression and the number of deceased have been increasing.” This continues to generate ever greater repudiation at a national and international level. “Ortega should be the number one person interested in finding a way out of his government’s crisis and resuming the dialogue,” the academic insisted.
Moving up the elections
Sergio Maltez, president of the Chamber of Industries, called attention to the fact that Ortega has asked for time to reflect on the 40 points to achieve democratization, something that in his judgement “has a lot to read between the lines.”
The problem is that “time is passing and we don’t see any clear and concise response from Ortega regarding the actions he’s thinking about taking,” in order to satisfy the population’s demands.
“The general hope is for everything to return to normal, to move up the elections and take the steps towards democratization, but we’ve now had three weeks of time for dialogue, of the month that the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference gave as a deadline, and we don’t see any progress.”
He feels that there’s a risk of total anarchy because no one is in total control of the situation. He calls on the government to take note of that possibility and to make decisions that favor democracy.
“We can’t wait very much longer, because the consequences, especially the social ones could be dire,” he warned.
Appealing to the National Police
Sandra Ramos, of the “Maria Elena Cuadra” Movement of Unemployed and Working Women, opted for maintaining the vote of confidence for the Episcopal Conference since “we believe that they’re doing everything within their reach to renew the National Dialogue, although this depends on the other side,” she asserted, in reference to Daniel Ortega.
In this “difficult moment that the Nicaraguan people are going through because of the repression,” Ramos still trusts the option for dialogue, but also in “maintaining the pressure from the people and the international pressure to go back to sitting down and looking for how to resolve this problem which is exhausting all the Nicaraguans.”
Upon finding out the results of the meeting and Ortega’s request for time to “reflect”, she indicated that “the people have the last word.” She foresees them putting up more roadblocks and incrementing their self-defense in reaction to the defenselessness they experience, especially when the pick-ups of death enter the neighborhoods.
“I call upon the National Police, those policemen and women who don’t want to carry out the orders to attack their people, to put down their arms. They should remember that the police need to be on the side of the people. We trust them. They’re people from the neighborhoods. They are the poor, the children of the poor, who are those dying and because of that there’s no pressure higher up, because no son of any of the rich parent has died,” she concluded.