Nicaragua set for new talks on ending political crisis

February 22, 2019

President Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s opposition agreed Thursday to resume negotiations to resolve a long-running political crisis sparked by protests against his rule, with at least 320 people killed in a brutal government crackdown.

Ortega said that the government is working to “set the table for negotiations next Wednesday” with representatives from the opposition, which is demanding his resignation.

The opposition accepted his invitation to negotiate.

Ortega made the appeal during an event commemorating the 85th anniversary of the death of guerrilla leader Augusto Sandino, to an audience of cabinet members, military personnel, the police and supporters.

It comes as the government faces economic crisis and a $315 million deficit, as it struggles without funding and loans that would usually come in from multilateral organizations.

Nicaragua’s GDP shrank four percent last year and some economists say it could contract 11 percent in 2019.

Protests initially started last April over a now-ditched pension reform, and escalated quickly as they were met by a harsh government crackdown.

The Nicaraguan opposition accuses former guerrilla leader Ortega, in power since 2007, of establishing a corrupt dictatorship with his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo.

Negotiations broke down in June as Ortega refused the opposition’s main demands to step down and bring forward presidential elections.

Protests lasted until October and as well as the many dead, more than 750 people were arrested and accused of terrorism. Thousands of people fled to neighboring Central American countries.

Ortega’s handling of the protests drew international condemnation and sanctions from the United States.

An opposition coalition called the Civic Alliance said it has named a six member team for the new talks.

Neither side specified the agenda of the discussions. The Catholic church and civil society groups are demanding the government free jailed protesters and allow the unconditional return of people who fled the country because of all the violence.

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