National Dialogue: an end to violence from whatever source
News from Nicaragua | Monday, 18 June 2018 |
Since 18 April Nicaragua has experienced waves of extreme violence that have profoundly polarised the country. According to national and international human rights organisations over 160 people have died and 2,100 have been injured.
All forms of violence - killings, threats, intimidation, road blocks and sabotage -have escalated.
The country has become paralysed as a result of hundreds of road blocks set up by anti-government protesters enforcing the opposition agenda, often violently.
This has left the transport system at a standstill and has severely impacted the economy. Tens of thousands have already lost their only source of income with further job losses threatened. The booming tourist industry has collapsed.
Further destruction has been perpetrated by the opposition or opportunistic criminal gangs committing acts of sabotage of government and local government buildings, burning of radio stations, a rural savings bank, schools, hospitals and police stations.
The psychological impact of all forms of violence has been enormous with the population, particularly the most impoverished, left living in a state of intimidation, fear and insecurity and struggling to feed their families.
Government opponents have demands ranging from calling for those responsible for the deaths to be held to account to demands for a ‘soft coup’ i.e. that the government step down and the National Assembly be dissolved, and that an interim government be installed to appoint a new Supreme Electoral Council and oversee elections. These latter groups are funded by and and their demands supported by right wing interests in the US Senate and Trump administration.
To move beyond this potentially calamitous path, it is important to recognise the complexity of what is happening and the different interests involved both inside and outside Nicaragua.
This includes understanding that the responsibility for the violence does not rest solely with the government but is a responsibility for which the opposition also bears responsibility.
Two additional factors add to the complexity: the destabilising involvement of the United States and extreme violence perpetrated by gangs.
This interview calls for greater objectivity in international media coverage
National Dialogue Breakthrough
On 16 May, a National Dialogue began with the Nicaragua Bishops Conference acting as mediators and witnesses. The dialogue consists of representatives of all parties to the conflict: the government, students, universities, civil society, workers, the rural sector, evangelical churches, and representatives of Indigenous and Afro descendant communities on the Caribbean Coast.
This process reached an impasse and was suspended by the Bishop’s on 23 May at which point the opposition called for road blocks and a national stoppage to put pressure on the government.
However, a breakthrough came on 15 June when the National Dialogue Commission reached an agreement on an outline of the way forward.
The key points of the agreement are:
* a call for an end to violence and threats from whatever source;
* a plan for the removal of all road blocks;
* the setting up of a mechanism to investigate all acts of violence, and identify and call to account those responsible. This will be carried out in the presence of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union;
* the setting up of a cross sector commission on democratisation
Peace, stability, security and respect for human rights - including social and economic rights- is essential to Nicaragua moving away from this potentially calamitous path.
This is particularly critical for those who are most impoverished and living a hand to mouth existence on the margins in the barrios of the cities and in the countryside.
The way forward will be complex but the fact that all parties to the conflict are now participating fully in the National Dialogue involving all sectors is a positive step forward.