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Nicaragua president to meet Catholic bishops for new crisis talks

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (L), next to Vice-President Rosario Murillo, gives a speech during a pro-government rally on Nicaragua’s National Mothers Day at the “Rotonda Hugo Chavez” in Managua on May 30, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / INTI OCON

President Daniel Ortega will meet Nicaragua’s Catholic bishops Thursday to discuss resuming church-mediated talks on ending a political crisis and protest violence that has left more than 120 people dead, the bishops’ conference said.

The bishops called off the peace talks after a crackdown last week on a protest led by victims’ mothers left at least 16 more people dead.

But the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference said Wednesday in a statement that after listening to “various sectors” both in Nicaragua and abroad, the bishops had proposed the new meeting and the president had accepted.

“We asked the president… for an audience to discuss the essential and urgent issues of our country, justice and democracy, which peace depends upon, with the goal of evaluating the viability of continuing the dialogue,” the statement said.

The meeting will be held at the government’s convention center in the capital Managua and be followed by a press conference at 7:00 pm (0100 GMT), it said.

Nicaragua has been swept by eight weeks of vehement protests against Ortega, the man who has dominated the Central American country’s politics for four decades.

What started as relatively small protests over a much-hated pension reform met with a bloody crackdown, fueling outrage against the leftist president.

Ortega’s government had urged its opponents to return to the negotiating table.

In suspending the talks last week, the church had said dialogue was impossible as long as “the people continue to be repressed and killed” by “groups close to the government.”

Ortega, whose third consecutive term is due to end in 2022, denies his security forces have killed civilians, and accuses right-wing opposition groups of conspiring to “terrorize” the country.


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