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Impossible to negotiate with Ortega, leading Nicaragua activist says

A leading Nicaraguan human rights defender said Thursday that it was impossible to negotiate with President Daniel Ortega, after a deadline passed in talks to resolve the country’s deadly political crisis.

Months-long talks between Ortega’s government and the opposition had set Wednesday as a deadline to make headway on several key issues.

That passed without progress being made, but the talks could still continue.

Speaking at the United Nations in Geneva, the head of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights Vilma Nunez (CENIDH), said she had “no confidence” in Ortega to agree to any kind of deal.

“It is not possible to negotiate with him,” she told reporters, characterising some of his positions as “a joke.”

The opposition has blamed the government’s lack of political will for the stalemate. Ortega has cited the “extremist” positions of his opponents.

One of the main stumbling blocks is the fate of people who participated in violent anti-government protests, many of whom are under arrest.

Nunez, whose organisation has been blacklisted by the government, said one of the thorniest issues was agreeing on the number of people detained.

The opposition counts the number at above 800, while the government has countered with 290, according to Nunez.

As part of an effort to break the impasse, Nunez said the International Committee of the Red Cross was generating its own list of detainees, which it planned to submit to the government.

The ICRC did not immediately respond when asked to confirm those details.

Ortega agreed last month to release all opposition prisoners within a 90-day period, but the opposition has said that detentions have continued.

Nunez was in Geneva to address an event at the UN on rights abuses in Nicaragua, which was being sponsored by the United States, a staunch opponent of the Ortega government.

A year of political upheaval has left hundreds dead in the Central American country.