/** reg.nicaragua: 21.1 **/
** Written 5:52 PM Jun 17, 1997 by wnu in cdp:reg.nicaragua **
Aleman's call for national dialog leaves many doubting
By Tobyt Mailman, Weekly News Update, 17 June 1997
MANAGUA, June 10--President Arnoldo Aleman has called once again for "national dialogue," but his proposal is seen here by some as exclusionary and as a smokescreen to present the government's image in a positive light.
Yesterday Aleman called for the dialogue which, he said, would include all sectors, including the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the biggest opposition party in Nicaragua. The announcement was made after the FSLN had stated that "the negotiations with the government failed, because the government did not take seriously issues vital to workers, such as basic needs, labor stability, wage increases, improvement in the quality of public services," among other things. The FSLN was referring to negotiations which began as a result of the national protest which took place here last April, and which gave the government 30 days to offer some solutions to the current social and economic crisis.
In his announcement, Aleman said, "Here I use the word dialogue, not [just] as a channel of communication because here all the political parties, civil society and labor unions will be represented." The government would be represented by five people, according to Aleman's proposal, while the political parties, civil society and labor unions would have only two seats.
While Conservative deputy Noel Vidaurre sees the call for dialogue as a positive gesture, which should end with the signing of a political agreement between the participants and the government, for labor leader and FSLN parliamentary deputy Damaso Vargas, it is nothing more than a "show." Vargas said the new talks are "an attempt to reopen an initiative which hasn't offered any results, particularly because the talks [would be with] forces that are not representative." He added that "in practice it has been shown that dialogue with the government doesn't resolve anything."
According to Vargas, the new call for dialogue is simply a smokescreen by Aleman to give the government a positive image in the face of international institutions. "Aleman has been criticized by the international economic community which is demanding results from dialogue with the opposition; Aleman is trying to resolve this matter with a call which we doubt can resolve anything," he stated.
Dr. Gustavo Porras, head of the National Workers Federation (FNT), said only labor unions with representation in the International Workers Organization (OIT) would be invited to the talks, which, according to him, would exclude many unions which are seen as affiliated with the FSLN, leaving out a large sector of the working population.
FSLN spokesperson Silvio Mora said the Frente has received no official invitation to the talks, but said the party's national leadership would meet with the representatives of those sectors which had participated in the previous negotiations to analyze Aleman's proposal.
Meanwhile, Enrique Picado, national leader of the Communal Movement, announced that various sectors of civil society have begun to hold meetings in neighborhoods around Managua to decide what to do about the problems which provoked the April protest, since the resulting negotiations have failed. Following the Managua meetings, representatives of the participating organizations will hold departmental meetings to discuss what actions will be taken to protest what they see as the government's lack of interest in resolving the problems affecting the majority of the population. At a meeting last night, delegates to the negotiations resulting from the April protest said government representatives who attended the previous negotiating meetings had only "deaf ears, while at the same time, said they had more important things to do."
From El Nuevo Diario, June 13, 1997, Managua Translated by Toby Mailman
Nicaraguan National Dialogue: with or without the FSLN?
By Toby Mailman
MANAGUA, June 13--Reacting to President Arnoldo Aleman's proposal made last week for a "national dialogue" to begin June 30, Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) Secretary General Daniel Ortega Saavedra said yesterday, "The government's credibility is extremely low and we can't trust in a national dialogue when over five months ago negotiations were set up on the property issue and so far nothing has been achieved."
Ortega's comments were made upon leaving a meeting with representatives of various political parties, including the Conservative Party, the Nationalist Liberal Party, which had abandoned President Arnoldo Aleman's Liberal Alliance, the Christian Path and the National Project. None of those who attended the meeting have yet received an official invitation to participate in the dialogue.
"If the government wants there to exist minimum favorable conditions for a real opening of a national dialogue, it has to declare a ceasefire, since it is firing against students, against government employees, against those who use electricity, drinking water and other basic services," Ortega said.
"We still have not decided whether we will participate, because beforehand the government must make clear its inclination in regard to the property issue, it must facilitate the search for a solution and reactive the negotiations which they themselves initiated on April 18 and which they suspended, irresponsibly and unilaterally, thus burying [their] credibility."
Among the conditions the FSLN is setting in order to participate in a national dialogue are the suspension of President Aleman's veto of the six per cent of the national budget destined for the universities, the withdrawal of the bill reforming the penal code which would make most forms of protest illegal, and freezing the dismissal of government employees, which is projected to affect 3,000 workers.
President Aleman responded to the FSLN demands, saying "The government is going to a dialogue without conditions, because if not, there will be no dialogue," which was interpreted by some as meaning that Aleman did not care whether or not the FSLN participates. But Ortega responded that if Aleman does not care if the FSLN participates in the dialogue it is stupidity on his part.
Aleman's proposal includes a meeting of five government representatives, two representatives from each legal political party and two participants to represent all the other sectors of civil society. "We're holding meetings with diverse sectors of the national life, I'm meeting with the presidents of some political parties and some members of the government are meeting with other sectors of civil society," said Aleman yesterday.
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