AP NEWS

Nicaragua talks on hold as both sides trade accusations

March 18, 2019
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Police detain protesters in Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, March 16, 2019. Nicaragua's government banned opposition protests in September and police broke up Saturday's attempt at a demonstration to pressure the government to release hundreds of protesters held in custody since 2018. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaragua’s government and opposition accused each other of undermining the latest round of political dialogue Monday, after police arrested more than 100 at a weekend protest.

The opposition Civic Alliance condemned the government’s “violent repression” of Saturday’s march, in which it said some 164 people were arrested. The group said in a statement that it was frustrated that the talks had not produced results, including the release of hundreds of people it considers political prisoners.

The government complained that opposition representatives participating in the negotiations were part of the march, which it labeled a “provocation.” Protests against President Daniel Ortega’s government have been effectively banned since September.

The government said opposition negotiators’ participating in Saturday’s protest was “inconceivable, contradictory and unbelievable.” It said there were 107 arrests and the detainees were released hours later.

The sides had met Friday, and before Saturday’s protest were expected to resume talks Monday.

Mario Arana, an economist participating in the dialogue as a representative of the private sector, said the talks were suspended for the time being. “The mediators have work to do,” he said.

The Vatican’s ambassador to Nicaragua, Waldemar Sommertag, who has mediated the talks, asked for patience Monday. Responding to criticism that he seemed to be siding with the government, Sommertag said he had no personal interest and was giving his all to brokering the talks.

Luis Rosadilla, representative of the Organization of American States, called on those involved to build a good atmosphere for dialogue. “The government must show the political will to overcome the crisis,” he said.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, at least 325 people have died in protests or related violence since April 2018. Some 700 are believed to be in government custody.

Also Monday, Robert Palladino, a U.S. State Department spokesman, condemned the repression of Saturday’s march and the arrests. In a statement, he called for the government to immediately release those who were “arbitrarily” detained, guarantee freedom of expression and assembly, and commit to holding early elections.