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article imageNicaragua opposition refuses to resume government talks

By AFP     Mar 19, 2019 in World

Nicaragua's opposition alliance said Tuesday that talks with President Daniel Ortega's government cannot resume until "political prisoners" are released and the repression of anti-regime protesters ends.

"There aren't the conditions to continue negotiating" with the government, opposition lawyer Azahalea Solis told reporters.

On Monday, the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) suspended peace talks with the government aimed at breaking the deadlock over a political crisis that has lasted 11 months.

And although the ACJD turned up at the venue in Managua where talks have been hosted by the Central American Institute of Business Administration, the delegation did not meet with government negotiators.

Instead, the opposition asked mediators Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, the Vatican envoy, and Organization of American States (OAS) special envoy Luis Angel Rosadilla to push the government "to show willingness" to reach an agreement, Solis said.

The talks were suspended on Monday in protest over the "violence and repression" of demonstrators.

Riot police had used tear gas to stop an opposition protest on Saturday while temporarily detaining 100 people, including two opposition leaders.

The opposition is also angry that 150 prisoners released since the talks started on February 27 have been confined to house arrest, and is demanding their total liberation.

The government made no comment about the latest impasse in negotiations.

- 'Government lacks political will' -

The alliance, which also suspended the talks for three days last week until the government gave in to a demand to release prisoners, "energetically condemned" the weekend crackdown on dissent.

In a statement, it said the government "is holding more than 700 political prisoners simply for defending their citizens' rights."

More than 700 people were arrested between April and October last year during protests that also left 325 dead after a brutal crackdown by security services.

The union of business leaders (COSEP) that forms part of the opposition alliance said Ortega's government "lacks the political will" to find a solution.

COSEP said the government crackdown proved the regime doesn't want "to create the basic conditions for the national dialogue to show its viability and to reply to the people's legitimate demands."

The union said Saturday's crackdown showed that "we're faced with a police state that doesn't allow the expression of the fundamental constitutional rights of all Nicaraguans."

It said the police acted in "a disproportionate manner with excessive violence."

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro wrote on Twitter that "to continue in good faith, in Nicaragua all political prisoners... must be freed."

Nicaragua has been mired in political crisis since April last year, when a protest initially against a now-scrapped pension reform snowballed into opposition to Ortega's rule.

The 73-year-old former left-wing guerrilla leader has been in power for more than 11 years but alongside his wife Vice President Rosario Murillo, he's been accused of ruling with an iron fist and rights abuses.

Ortega has rejected out of hand another key opposition demand that he steps down and brings forward elections slated for 2021.

He has offered to implement electoral reform and release prisoners -- some of whom have been charged with terrorism for taking part in protests against Ortega -- that have yet to be tried.

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