On October 17, the Inter-American Dialogue in conjunction with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American Program hosted a panel event titled “Nicaragua Crisis: New Paths Forward?” The conversation was moderated by Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. It featured commentary by the director of the Frente Amplio para la Democracia, Violeta Granera, and the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations of Nicaragua, Jose Pallais. Opening and closing remarks were given by Manuel Orozco, Program Director for Migration, Remittances, and Development at the Inter-American Dialogue. The discussion centered around the emergence of a new alliance of Nicaraguan organizations, the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco, that was formed to increase demands for dialogue, democracy, and justice in the country. Panelists addressed the key questions of whether this new coalition could succeed where others have failed and what it would take for the government of Daniel Ortega to pursue a negotiated solution to the crisis.
In his opening remarks, Orozco highlighted new developments in the crisis in Nicaragua, especially in light of the July legal reforms made by the Ortega government that criminalized protests. He pointed out that the political scenario for the opposition has changed and that the conflict has morphed into something much more critical. This evolution of the crisis is why the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco has become a major opposition, mentions Orozco, as more than thirty organizations have joined together to call for a dialogue with the Ortega government.
Violeta Granera began with an overview of the human rights situation in Nicaragua. She described in detail the various abuses that have occurred since the protests began in April as well as the tactics used by the Ortega government to repress the population.
“El estado actual de Nicaragua es el de una ocupación militar, un estado policial. Existe tortura, violencia sexual, capturas selectivas de líderes territoriales. Busca limitar la presencia de estructuras populares, de manifestaciones” @josepallais #NicaraguaProtests pic.twitter.com/sXeQ8I7onW
— The Inter-American Dialogue (@The_Dialogue) October 17, 2018
Granera pointed out the need for more international attention on the crisis to spur diplomatic action from various actors. She also briefly touched on the increasingly dire economic state of Nicaragua and the issues of financing a resolution. Granera concluded by saying that the only way for Nicaragua to resolve its crisis was if all sectors of the population were united in a peaceful, civic fight for democracy. She believes the best solution to the crisis is one in which Daniel Ortega is quickly removed from office through free and transparent elections but notes that this could only be made possible if there were major changes to the electoral system and sufficient pressure from a united opposition.
Jose Pallais echoed many of Granera’s remarks about human rights in Nicaragua and added additional statistics about the number of protestors that have been detained or disappeared over the past six months. Pallais condemned the Ortega regime, calling it a tyrannical “police state” and a “dictatorship.” He then went on to describe the distinctiveness of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco, pointing out that it resembles no other opposition coalition in Nicaragua’s history because of its focus on peaceful resistance and democracy. Pallais ended by saying that despite repression, the people continue to organize and resist with the aid of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco, and that this unity represents their “most important political capacity.”
The floor was then opened to the audience for questions, many of which centered around the political capacity of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco as well as the types of incentives needed to bring the Ortega government to the table. Additionally, several audience members questioned what they could do as individuals to support the opposition movement, to which Granera answered that “solidarity” from the international community is vital. Orozco concluded the event by noting that all Nicaraguans, regardless of their views, must “rehumanize” one another as well as look for successful examples from the international community to re-democratize their country.