MANAGUA – Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said that he was willing to resume the dialogue with protesters with mediation from the United Nations and the Catholic Church in order to end months of unrest and anti-government protests.
The Central American nation has been in a prolonged political crisis that has so far claimed between 277-351 lives since protests began on April 18, according to data from different human rights organizations.
“We have been in touch with the Secretary General of the United Nations (Antonio Guterres) and with different international organizations and with Cardinal (of Nicaragua Leopoldo) Brenes,” Ortega said in an interview with the US news broadcaster CNN.
The United Nations said on Monday it was discussing the possibility of assuming some kind of mediation role to help solve the crisis.
On July 19, the UN Secretary-General had a meeting with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada to discuss the crisis.
Ortega pointed out that he had little to gain from holding a referendum, but did not rule out that possibility.
“Yes, we could ask people, of course. If people say yes, we go to early elections, and if people say no, they’re going to say that we committed fraud. Why? Because the reforms that have to be done, the mechanisms, all the work that needs to be done to strengthen the electoral system still need resources,” the president said.
On June 7, the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua proposed that Ortega call early elections for March 2019, two years early, and that he resign in order to run for re-election.
The president rejected the proposal, saying that such a proposal showed the bishops were “committed to the coup mongers.”
Regarding the death toll, Ortega said that “the data provided by human rights organizations, including the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), has not been refined, has not been verified. They are simply complaints that have been received and they are adding them up.”
He confirmed the official toll to be 195 deaths, acknowledging “that it was no small thing either.”
Protests against the Ortega government since April 18 have left 448 people dead and 595 missing, according to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, while figures from the IACHR currently stand at 295 deaths.