In response to opposition demands by private sector groups and student leaders that entail sweeping constitutional reforms and the renunciation of the president and vice president, Nicaragua's Foreign Minister Denis Moncada has accused the opposition of using the national dialogue to promote a coup against the government.
Nicaragua: Extortion, Dialogue And A Longing for Peace
"The agenda that we are seeing... if you notice we have approximately 40 points and it is an agenda that upon examining in its totality brings us to only one point: the design of a path toward a soft coup, a path to change the Nicaraguan government, the government of reconciliation and national unity, outside the constitution, outside the Nicaraguan legal system, violating the constitution, violating the laws," Moncada said Wednesday.
One of the participating student leaders, Lesther Aleman, said constitutional reform was needed, along with the renunciation of President Daniel Ortega, and the application of the "frame law of transition and democracy."
Journalist Adolfo Pastran, speaking at the third session of the dialogue on Wednesday, criticized the opposition demands as being far beyond the scope of the dialogue. Demands for a constituent assemby and sweeping constitutional reforms could only be debated in the context of the national assembly, he said.
"We are seeing an enormous contradiction... because they are speaking of surrender, transition board, the frame law of transition, and now a constituent assembly.
"Here, a series of reforms are spoken of that would require legislative majority in the national assembly. This is the first time that I see such reforms being debated without a political party.
"I'm not sure if any of you here have a majority in the National Assembly to arrive at this sort of agreement... Here, one of the young men says that this is a table of absolute surrender, that the entire government must go. What are you going to negotiate?"
Vice-President Rosario Murilllo called on Wednesday for a productive national dialogue that can get the country back on track to peace, and emphasized the serious effects the ongoing protests have had on daily life by halting normal work and economic activity for many. Protests have continued despite the ongoing dialogue, with many highways now blocked.
"We are united in prayer for all Nicaraguans that the situation might continue changing, so that we can all come to our senses, so that the path of dialogue is effective, rational and above all takes into account the vital interests of Nicaraguan families," Murillo said.
"The recovery of peace... is the vital interest of Nicaraguan families, to work, to make a living, and the peace and security that has been threatened in these past weeks."
Murillo also rejected the idea that the renunciation of her and President Daniel Ortega be negotiated during the dialogue, and said the process must remain within the constitutional order.
The Nicaraguan government agreed Tuesday to study and address recommendations of the Organization of American States' (OAS) Interamerican Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) following the second round of national dialogue called by Ortega.
"The national dialogue endorses the recommendations of the IACHR and requests that, in accordance with recommendation number 15, the government of the republic commits itself to establishing monitoring mechanisms to verify the implementation of the recommendations," a statement by the Commission of Mediation and Witness said.
The government has invited the IACHR to visit the country to help bring an end to the period of violence that has rocked Nicaragua since April.
However, sectors of the opposition, represented by students and private sector leaders, opposed a proposal to end all violence "from wherever it may come," including that committed by protesters.
In a preliminary report of its findings, the IACHR said that since April 18 it had documented at least 76 people killed and 868 injured.
The report condemns violence committed by both police and protesters: "The IACHR emphatically condemns the deaths, aggressions and arbitrary detentions of students, protesters, journalists and citizens that have occurred in the country since the beginning of the protests, and that continue to this date. Likewise, the IACHR condemns the deaths of two police and aggressions against other public functionaries.
"There is information that in some cases protesters used homemade mortars, gunpowder, rocks and slings. The government affirms that there are vandal and criminal groups that operate within the protests and university occupations, and that have caused damages to public and private goods."
The protests began when the government proposed a series of social security reforms to salvage a severe budget deficit. The protested reforms were made following a lengthy negotiation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was pushing for a much heavier reform package that would have raised the retirement age and privatized health clinics.
In response to the violent protests that destroyed public property, President Ortega decided to revoke the proposed reforms and begin dialogue.