Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has rejected opposition calls for early elections, despite a wave of anti-government protests and violence that has reportedly claimed more than 220 lives in the crisis-stricken Central American country over the past months.
“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 among his supporters in the capital, Managua, on Saturday, referring to opposition forces.
The 72-year-old president, whose third consecutive term ends in January 2022, has refused a demand by opponents to move up elections from 2021 to 2019.
“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,” the Nicaraguan president said, stressing that, “There will be a time for elections. Everything has its time.”
Roman Catholic bishops in Nicaragua are working to mediate national dialog between the government and opposition. The mediation committee is scheduled to convene a new round of talks on Monday.
On April 18, some Nicaraguans started protesting Ortega’s proposed overhaul of the country’s welfare system.
Ortega cancelled the reforms, but the protests have continued, turning into a call for him to step down.
The protesters accuse the leftist leader, along with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, of establishing a dictatorship characterized by what they say are nepotism and brutal repression.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged the government last week to take measures to prevent more bloodshed.
“The violence and repression seen in Nicaragua since demonstrations began in April are products of the systematic erosion of human rights over the years, and highlight the overall fragility of institutions and the rule of law,” Zeid said.
“I call on the government to cease state violence and to dismantle the pro-government armed elements that have been increasingly responsible for repression and attacks,” he said.