Ortega's brother joins calls for early elections in Nicaragua

Managua (AFP) –


Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's younger brother, former army chief Humberto Ortega, called Wednesday for early elections and the dismantling of violent pro-government paramilitary groups to help resolve months of unrest that has killed more than 200 people.

Ortega made public his proposals contained in a letter to a Catholic Church-mediated national dialogue between government and opposition, meeting in a bid to end anti-Ortega protests and government repression that have wracked the Central American country since April 18.

The retired general, who has often taken a critical view of his brother's administration, proposed bringing forward elections scheduled for 2021 to 2019 -- a key opposition demand which he said was "a peaceful solution to the tragic crisis we are suffering."

By holding early elections, the president would "say yes to peace" which will help the economy recover, as well as regenerate investment and tourism, said the younger brother.

He also urged the government to dismantle the paramilitary groups and called on the opposition to tear down barricades used to seal off parts of cities from the police, "no matter how righteous your reasons may be."

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada told the talks that the government is willing to listen to the opposition, but demanded that the barricades be lifted first.

The 72-year-old president has remained silent on an earlier proposal by the influential Catholic hierarchy to bring forward the elections to March next year.

Retired general Humberto Ortega was army chief from 1980-94, when he was retired by then president Violeta de Chamorro, who was in power until 1997.