Nicaragua approves amnesty for police, political prisoners

773

MANAGUA, June 9, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Nicaragua’s parliament on Saturday
approved a law granting amnesty to protesters and police involved in last
year’s deadly uprising against President Daniel Ortega.

The law, passed by MPs loyal to Ortega who control the legislature,
applies to “all those who took part in the events beginning on April 18,
2018,” when protests broke out, sparking a heavy-handed response by security
forces.

The Central American country descended into crisis and a brutal crackdown
by Ortega’s troops over the next four months left 325 dead, 800 in prison and
thousands in exile.

The government promised in talks with the opposition to release all
detained protesters by June 18, and the measure passed Saturday calls for
jailed dissidents to be released “immediately,” but also stipulates that they
must “refrain” from protesting again.

The bill also closes the door on investigating and punishing security
forces involved in repressing the protests.

Sparked by a now-scrapped pension reform proposal, the protests left 325
people dead, most of them opposition supporters.

“The path to peace and reconciliation can only be through forgiveness, and
it hurts us to have to grant amnesty to confessed assassins of police,” but
“the country comes first,” said Edwin Castro, head of Ortega’s Sandinista
National Liberation Front (FSLN) in parliament, whose 70 MPs voted for the
law.

The National Unity Blue and White (UNAB), a coalition of more than 70
opposition groups, denounced the amnesty law, saying it “aims to cover up
crimes that (the government) committed with its institutions, partisan
structures and paramilitaries.”

The opposition accuses 73-year-old former left-wing guerrilla leader
Ortega, who first came to power in 1979 following the fall of the US-backed
Somoza family dictatorship, of rights abuses and authoritarian leadership.

Peace talks between Ortega and opposition groups have stalled several
times, notably due to Ortega’s refusal to countenance a key demand that he
resign and bring forward elections slated for 2021.