Nicaragua government vows to free prisoners, allow protests
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaraguan government negotiators on Friday signed agreements ratifying their commitment to release and drop charges against hundreds of people considered political prisoners by the opposition, and promising freedom to demonstrate.
The documents signed in talks with the Civic Alliance opposition coalition call for the International Red Cross to propose an updated list of prisoners who should be freed by mid-May.
The opposition says more than 640 people are being held for political causes, jailed in protests that broke out in April against the government of President Daniel Ortega. The government says the actual numbers are far smaller.
The Inter-American Human Rights Commission says 325 people have died in the protests and more than 50,000 have fled the country.
The government also said it would drop charges against many people facing arrest warrants, including some who had fled abroad, often after facing threats from pro-government gangs.
It said all those who fled Nicaragua after the crackdown began “can return to the country with full guarantees and personal and family security.”
The opposition and government began a round of talks on Feb. 27 aimed to resolving a political crisis nearly a year after the start of massive demonstrations that began as protests against retirement system cuts and quickly evolved into demands for Ortega to leave.
The government has cracked down violently on the protests, accusing opponents of trying to stage a coup.
Talks broke down several times, but resumed March 20, when the government promised to free all political prisoners.
The two sides also signed agreements Friday “to strengthen rights and guarantees of citizens” and urging authorities to take steps to disarm pro-government gangs blamed for most of the violence against protesters.
The government also promised to “guarantee the right to gather, demonstrate and publicly mobilize” on a large scale though it left it up to authorities to authorize gatherings. Police have prohibited most protests since September.
It said “peaceful gatherings” that don’t affect movement of people and cars don’t need approval.