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Talks resume in Nicaragua amid continuing protests, deaths

June 16, 2018
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In this May 24, 2018 photo, an anti-government protester holds up his homemade mortar made of sections of pipes at a roadblock set up by protesters along the Panamerican Highway in Nagarote, Nicaragua. When President Daniel Ortega and others rose up against the Somoza family dictatorship in the late 1970s, the rebels were woefully outgunned and they used homemade mortars of welded pipe to fire on security forces. Now those same artisanal weapons are being turned on Ortega’s police and gangs of pro-government thugs. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
1 of 4
In this May 24, 2018 photo, an anti-government protester holds up his homemade mortar made of sections of pipes at a roadblock set up by protesters along the Panamerican Highway in Nagarote, Nicaragua. When President Daniel Ortega and others rose up against the Somoza family dictatorship in the late 1970s, the rebels were woefully outgunned and they used homemade mortars of welded pipe to fire on security forces. Now those same artisanal weapons are being turned on Ortega’s police and gangs of pro-government thugs. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Talks aimed at resolving a nearly two-month-old political crisis in Nicaragua bogged down again Friday amid ongoing unrest.

The negotiations had been suspended since May 23 due to a lack of progress, but resumed again Friday between business, student, civil society and farmers’ groups and representatives of President Daniel Ortega’s government. The talks are being mediated by the Roman Catholic Church.

But the first proposal for inviting international groups into Nicaragua to help resolve the crisis floundered, after Ortega’s government demanded that protesters remove about 140 highway blockades first. The government says the roadblocks are damaging the economy.

Opponents had suggested inviting representatives of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the United Nations or the European Union to serve as human rights observers.

Managua’s auxiliary Roman Catholic bishop, Silvio Baez, said “I do not see why a third party should not be allowed to come in to establish the truth” about the killings that have occurred during the protests. “Nicaragua needs to re-establish justice.”

A commission of six representatives from both sides was named to see whether the roadblocks could gradually be removed as police retaliation ceased and the international bodies were allowed in.

Human rights organizations say more than 160 people have been killed amid protests and a crackdown by authorities and allied civilian groups since demonstrations began in April.

Opponents of Ortega have called for his exit from office. His government has likened such demands to an attempted coup.

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