Ortega government asks Nicaragua opposition to resume peace talks


Managua (AFP)

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's government said on Monday it is prepared to return to the negotiating table to continue peace talks that stalled over the opposition's demand for the release of political prisoners.

The foreign ministry released a statement saying the government was committed to "continue developing the work sessions to advance and agree on the agenda."

The government stressed that the talks were "based on trust, respect and goodwill," said the statement, read aloud at a press conference by Foreign Minister Denis Moncada.

The opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy has demanded the release of political prisoners and an "end to repression and arrests" of anti-government protesters.

It said on Sunday it would "return to the negotiating table only when the government of Nicaragua provides the country with convincing signs they want to find solutions to the crisis," which began in April 2018.

The government made no comment on the opposition demands but said it had turned up for the negotiations, which began on February 27 and were due to last at least month.

Protests broke out almost 11 months ago, initially against a pension reform before morphing into general opposition to Ortega's iron rule.

A brutal crackdown by security services left 325 people dead and more than 700 detained between April and October, while thousands of Nicaraguans fled the country.

The foreign ministry called on the opposition to abide by the negotiation terms that require the two sides to meet every day from Monday to Friday.

Former left-wing guerrilla Ortega, 73, published the terms of the agenda on Saturday in which he rejected a key opposition demand to bring forward elections slated for 2021 to this year.

The opposition's withdrawal from the talks came after the country's influential Catholic bishops said they would no longer participate.

Ortega offered to reform the electoral system, which is dominated by government loyalists, liberate political prisoners awaiting trial and revise laws to eliminate "impunity."