Today, seven opposition leaders are set to front the courts on terrorism charges in Nicaragua.
The trials come after President Daniel Ortega’s government and the Civic Alliance opposition group restarted peace talks last week. A previous attempt at negotiation broke down last June after Ortega rejected the opposition’s demand that he step down. So far, this newest round of talks is faring no better.
Indeed, while an agreement has been made on an unspecified “roadmap” for negotiations, the two parties are at loggerheads over the presence of international mediators. The government refuses the opposition’s demand that representatives from the UN or Organisation of American States be allowed to mediate the discussions. With disagreement reigning over a relatively minor issue, it seems unlikely that the government will budge on other demands that all political prisoners be released and elections be brought forward.
Convictions and harsh sentences—some are looking at 200 years—in today’s trials will do the talks no favours either. An economic crisis that could see Nicaragua’s economy shrink by 11% this year has weakened Ortega’s hand, but it remains unlikely that the two sides will be able to resolve their differences.
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Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.