Nicaraguan bishops not mediating latest round of peace talks

Prelates and current and former Nicaraguan government officials deliver a press conference on the National Dialogue in Managua Feb 27 2019 Credit INTI OCON AFP Getty Ima Catholic prelates and current and former Nicaraguan government officials deliver a press conference on the National Dialogue in Managua, Feb. 27, 2019. | INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images.

The Nicaraguan bishops said Monday they have not been invited to mediate in the renewed dialogue between the government of President Daniel Ortega and the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy.

Anti-government protests in the country began in April 2018. They resulted in more than 300 deaths, and the country's bishops mediated on-again, off-again peace talks until they broke down in June.

A new round of dialogue began Feb. 27 at the INCAE Business School in Managua.

Attending the start of the talks as witnesses and as "a gesture of good will" were Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua and the Apostolic Nuncio to Nicaragua, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag.

The bishops' conference stated March 4 that "in this historic moment our greatest contribution as pastors of this pilgrim Church in Nicaragua will continue to be to accompany the people in their suffering and sorrows, in their hopes and joys, and lifting up our prayers of intercession so that Nicaragua may find civilized and just ways for a peaceful solution in view of the common good."

At the end of the Feb. 27 session of the peace talks, a statement was read which reported the approval of 9 out of 12 proposed points, without specifying what these were.

The talks continued Feb. 28 and March 1, with the agreement to continue meeting March 4-8. In addition, it was indicated that the goal is that "the negotiations conclude as soon as possible."

Nicaragua's crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protestors have been attacked by "combined forces" made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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