Nicaragua’s peace disintegrates days after Church-mediated ceasefire

Anti-government demonstrators take cover behind a barricade, during clashes with riot police and members of the Sandinista youth, in Masaya, June 19, 2018. Credit: INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-government demonstrators take cover behind a barricade, during clashes with riot police and members of the Sandinista youth, in Masaya, June 19, 2018. Credit: INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images

.- Peace talks mediated last week by the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, between the government of President Daniel Ortega and his opposition, proved to be short-lived as clashes have yet again devolved into violence.

On Friday, June 15, the bishops of Nicaragua, who have been key mediators in peace talks in the majority-Catholic country, reconvened a national dialogue to make known the response of Ortega to the proposals he was given in order to end the crisis.

But by Tuesday, June 19, at least 11 people had died in additional fighting, and the peace talks were yet again abandoned after Ortega’s administration failed to invite international organizations to investigate deaths and acts of violence as promised.

Unrest first broke out in the country in April after Ortega, who has been president since 2007, announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests intensified after more than 40 protesters were killed by security forces. Peace talks (which began May 16) had been suspended May 23 for lack of consensus.

Despite the signing of the ceasefire, a family of at least six died in an arson attack on their home and business in Managua June 16. Opposition groups have said a pro-government militia was responsible for the blaze, a charge the government has denied.

Two more people in Managua were killed the same day in incidents “attributed to masked pro-government groups backed up by armed police,” the BBC reported.

At least another three were killed by para-government forces in Masaya, a city just 16 miles southeast of Managua that has become a hub for the opposition to Ortega.

“You cannot be in a dialogue on the one hand and killing and murdering on the other,” Álvaro Leiva Sánchez, the secretary of the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, said after the violence in Masaya, according to the New York Times. “It’s not possible.

Opposition groups have said they want Ortega out of office immediately, while in their negotiations the Catholic Church has recommended that early elections be held in the country by March.

Tags: Catholic News, Nicaragua