Managua, Nicaragua, May 16, 2018 / 15:01 pm
Talks to overcome several weeks of anti-government protests and riots in Nicaragua which have been met harshly by security forces began Wednesday under the mediation of the Catholic Church.
President Daniel Ortega and his vice-president and wife, Rosario Murillo, attended the dialogue May 16 at Our Lady of Fatima national seminary in Managua. Other stakeholders present included business owners, students, and farmers.
Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests have only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces.
Demonstrators have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office.
The Nicaraguan bishops' conference issued a statement May 15 saying: “We hope that the dialogue will structurally address the issue of the country's institutions with the aim of paving the way for its democratization. Through the good will of the parties, attentively listening to one other, and the proposals to be made, we hope to reach important agreements which will translate into concrete decisions.”
The prelates asked that all sectors of society, including the government, “strive to maintain an atmosphere conducive to tolerance, respect and especially when peaceful demonstrations are held.”
The Church is acting as a mediator in the dialogue “after listening to the outcry of a large majority of society and conscious of the gravity of the situation we are undergoing in the country,” while acknowledging that “the circumstances for this dialogue are not the most suitable.”
Nicaragua's bishops asked the faithful to “persevere in prayer so that the Lord may grant to us all, as we approach the feast of Pentecost, the assistance of the Holy Spirit 'who leads us into all truth.'”