The International witnesses of the national dialogue between the Civic Alliance and the Government of Daniel Ortega facilitated an agreement between the parties to execute the early release of political prisoners, and although an arrangement was expected, hours later Ortega disavowed his negotiators, causing a new failure in the talks.
The Vatican representative Waldemar Sommertag and the representative of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Angel Rosadilla, presented a schedule and mechanism for the release of political prisoners, and the restoration of public freedoms. The parties negotiated all day to reach an agreement and were about to sign a statement, when the regime’s delegation asked to consult with the presidential couple. An hour later, when they returned to the table, they presented a counterproposal very different from what they had negotiated.
Jose Pallais, of the Civic Alliance, lamented that “the government broke the consensus reached at the last minute,” by claiming that the release of the prisoners be a unilateral act of the Government and not an agreement negotiated between the parties.
Hours prior to the meeting, in an interview published in the “Informe Pastran” (Pastran’s Report), magistrate Francisco Rosales, member of the government delegation, said that Ortega intends to decree a general amnesty to release the prisoners, in an act that would leave in impunity the crimes of the dictatorship against more than 300 citizens.
Asked by “Informe Pastran” about the situation of prisoners that were convicted, Magistrate Rosales explained that “it could only be done with an amnesty law through a political agreement.” According to Rosales, the signed protocol states that it be done according with the Constitution and laws in force and that at the negotiating table an agreement will be discussed and “that can be done through an amnesty or a pardon, because the judicial process must be closed according to the law.”
A sourced linked to the negotiation revealed that the other demand that Ortega wanted to impose is that the negotiation table, with the endorsement of the Civic Alliance, request the suspension of any international sanctions against the regime.
Negotiator Mario Arana said that although the Civic Alliance agreed to sit at the negotiating table “it must be understood that since April 3 we are in a suspension of negotiations, because we have not reach agreements on the issues of justice and democracy.”
He said that in that context, the Alliance called on the witnesses “to support us in the search of a rapprochement” to continue advancing, and that the discussion focused on the implementation and the requirement that the Government demonstrate its interest in complying with the agreements already signed.
“The Government reached pre-agreements with the witnesses and companions, to whom the Civic Alliance was going to present its contributions, with the expectation that at the end of the day there could be understandings, and those understandings could be presented to the population, with the hope that this will raise the trust of the people, and that there are sincere efforts to reach agreements,” he stated.
The negotiator said that the result of a day of talks was that “progress was made in a pre-agreement to implement the agreements already reached,” in reference to the release of political prisoners, and the respect for citizen guarantees.
University student, Max Jerez, member of the Civic Alliance delegation, specified that the government’s proposal which led to the breakdown of the consensus presented—among other things—that the release of political prisoners would be a unilateral act and not a product of the negotiation.
“We wanted the agreement to be fulfilled with the Red Cross, the agreement that also says that the parties at the table will send the lists to proceed with their release. The counterproposal was that the government was going to have—through its institutions—the decision to release those who they decide, so then that made us not to be in agreement,” said Jerez.
Relatives of prisoners are pressuringl
Of the deadline of 90 days that the regime of Daniel Ortega requested, last March 20, to release all the political prisoners only 48 days remain. And although the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in charge of overseeing the process, has reconciled a list of 232 political prisoners, members of the Committee for the Liberation of Political Prisoners fear that the persons listed will be the last to be released from prison.
Daniel Esquivel, husband of political prisoner Irlanda Jerez, explained that the members of the Committee pressured the negotiators to define when and under what circumstances the prisoners of conscience would be released, since so far the releases have been done on a discretionary basis.
“There are 236 (political prisoners) who were already released, of those 18 were freed completely, no more. [The rest are under house arrest and constant harassment.] The reconciled list (by the ICRC) are 232 political prisoners who, technically should have no problems getting out, but are still locked up. When are they going to be freed? We have no idea, because among the 232 that are reconciled are the protest leaders,” expressed Esquivel.
According to Esquivel “the regime is afraid that the leaders are released they think that they are going to raise the people up in the streets again…Supposedly, the list of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) should be the one that has to reign in this and that there should be no problem in the release of those 232, but we know that among those 232 there are very influential people,” he said.
A via crucis for families
Brenda Gutierrez, of the Committee for the Liberation of Political Prisoners, emphasized that the period established for the release of the political prisoners has been “a via crucis” for them and their families as they remain in a state of anxiety about what may happen.
“When the news came about the release it was a victory for us because the government finally recognized that it had political prisoners and signed an agreement to release them, it was a triumph. But the 90 days for us have been a via crucis, every day we are fighting for one less, one less. We are hoping that the 90 days will not be completed for the maximum period, Gutierrez said.
Thank you for reading our English section, brought to you in collaboration with Havana Times. If you wish to subscribe to our English Weekly Newsletter, you can do it here. Please spread the word and share this link with your friends, family or contacts.