The Catholic bishops of Nicaragua met President Daniel Ortega to present their proposal for the "democratization" of the country as a condition for re-starting dialogue with the Sandinista government. Nicaragua has seen weeks of violence in which security forces have faced off with mostly young protesters on the streets of the capital city, Managua, and other towns. As of Friday, at least 134 persons have been reportedly killed in the protests in which police, military, and plain-clothes Sandinista militants have shot fellow citizens. This week, government snipers on roof-tops picked off protesters in Managua.
Following a meeting with Ortega on Thursday, Cardinal Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes said in a press conference that "We have expressed the pain and anguish of the people regarding the violence suffered in recent weeks, and the agenda for democratization agreed upon and expressing the will of the majority."
"We made the president aware of the feelings of Nicaragua's sectors with great frankness and feeling to advocate a renewal of dialogue. We are waiting for his letter to confirm a beginning of a second day of a possible national dialogue," said a statement from the bishops on Thursday.
The bishops said they are expecting Ortega's response “as soon as possible" and thus renew the dialogue that began on May 16 but suspended on May 31 when the bishops announced that dialogue was no longer possible in the face of continued repression of protesters. While some nongovernmental organizations are pushing for an early date for elections, the government has labeled the suggestion a "coup d'etat."
Protests against Ortega and his wife, Vice-president Rosario Murillo, began on April 18 when their government announced that the country's social security program would reduce benefits and demand an increase in citizens' contributions. Protesters have called for the Ortega couple to resign, accusing them of corruption and persecution during their current term of 11 years in power. The Ortega family owns several television and radio stations that regularly express support for the embattled power couple.
According to a report by the director of Nicaragua's Center for Human Rights, Marlin Sierra, the number of dead has risen to 134, including four young people who died on Wednesday night after being killed by government shock-troops in the interior of the Central American republic.
The government of the United States has announced restrictions on visas to the U.S. for persons involved in human rights abuses. those affected include officials from law enforcement, local government, and the Ministry of Health, and "especially those who direct or supervise violence against persons exercising their right to freedom of expression."
Bayardo Siles, a student leaders in Nicaragua, told Spero News that among the dead is Chester Chavarria, who died on Friday during protests at Nicaragua’s National University. Siles wrote, “There is terror every night. Every night, I think about every new friend I have made that day who it seems I have known my whole life and love very much. My best efforts are with all of you: wherever you are, please, take good care of yourselves.”