Nicaragua’s Ortega rules out early elections

Nicaragua’s Ortega rules out early elections

MANAGUA
Nicaragua’s Ortega rules out early elections

Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega has ruled out early elections demanded by opposition protesters in the country where more than 220 have died in unrest since April.

“Here the rules are set by the Constitution of the Republic, through the people. You don’t just change them overnight because a group of coup plotters got the idea to do so,” Ortega said at a rally of his supporters.

Roman Catholic bishops are working to mediate dialogue between the government and opposition in a bid to end the protests and government repression that have wracked the country since April 18.

Ortega, 72, had previously remained silent on a proposal by the influential Catholic hierarchy to bring forward elections scheduled for 2021 to March of next year.

The mediation committee said on Thursday they would convene a new round of talks on Monday at 10:00 am.

Meanwhile, Silvio Baez, auxiliary bishop of Managua, said in response to Ortega’s speech that “the Church is not afraid” and that it “stands with the poor and the victims.”

The protesters demand the resignation of Ortega, a former leftist guerrilla who came to power with the popular uprising that defeated dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, and retook the presidency in 2007 after a vote.

Activists accuse him - together with his wife Vice President Rosario Murillo - of establishing a dictatorship characterized by nepotism and brutal repression.

“We shall see if the people will give their vote to the coup plotters who in these past weeks have carried out so much violence,” Ortega said, stressing that: “There will be a time for elections. Everything has its time.”

Thousands of Ortega supporters attended the rally in Managua Saturday, where he branded his opponents “murderers” and “criminals.”

Murillo, meanwhile, vowed opposition “terrorists” and their financial backers would be brought to justice.

“Down with the coup plotters!”, “Not one step backward!”, “Stay, my commander stays!”, “We want peace,” supporters shouted, waving flags of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front.

The march set out from the Plaza de las Victorias toward the Hugo Chavez Rotunda, where a colorful metallic structure of the bust of the deceased Venezuelan socialist leader is surrounded by gigantic metal life-sized trees installed by Ortega’s wife.

“I’m supporting Comandante Ortega, the only one who has watched over the poor against the right-wing coup, which is lying... the hooded are theirs, the ones who are assaulting people,” Guillermo Ramirez, a 43-year-old mason, told AFP.

An opposition march also scheduled for July 7 was postponed until July 12, with the opposition Civic Alliance also announcing a second national strike on July 13.

Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, snap elections