Mon, Jul 09, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Ortega rules out early elections for Nicaragua

AFP, MANAGUA

Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega march in Managua on Saturday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Saturday ruled out early elections as 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 in Managua.

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 next year.

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

Meanwhile, Managua auxiliary bishop Silvio Baez said in response to Ortega’s speech that “the Church is not afraid” and “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. “There will be a time for elections. Everything has its time.”

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

Meanwhile, Murillo 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 life-sized metal 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,” said Guillermo Ramirez, a 43-year-old mason.

An opposition march also scheduled for Saturday was postponed until Thursday, with the opposition Civic Alliance also announcing a second national strike on Friday.

Elsewhere in the opposition bastion Masaya, demonstrators turned out against Ortega.

“They wanted to silence us, but here are the people demanding that he leaves,” said student leader Yubrank Suazo, whose home was burned by Ortega supporters this week.

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