Nicaragua’s Episcopal Conference's (CEN) offer to oversee a peaceful dialogue between the Nicaraguan government and groups, which opposed a series of social security reforms, was accepted by President Daniel Ortega Friday. However, the offer to have the independent group oversee the dialogue along with other assurances from Ortega, appear to have been rejected by some organized groups after a series of public buildings were set on fire just hours after the announcement was made.
Protesters set fire to a municipal building in the city of La Concepcion, located in the department of Masaya, destroying it almost entirely. Protesters also attempted to set fire to other buildings in the town and destroyed a building belonging to the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party.
Bus stops, roads, and cars, allegedly belonging to FSLN supporters, have also been vandalized in the most recent round of anti-government protests that have led to an unconfirmed number of injuries.
On Friday, Ortega announced that the government would allow the Inter American Commission on Human Rights “to investigate and clarify the deaths” that occurred in the context of protests and reaffirmed the state's pledge to repeal the proposed social security reforms and open dialogue on new proposals. Ortega's letter to Nicaragua's cardinal Leopoldo Brenes accepting the conditions presented by the church to oversee the talks also formed part of the guarantees and followed a series of announcements made by Vice President Rosario Murillo.
"We agree to work on each of the points raised (by the bishops), taking into account that all of them reflect their goodwill as mediators and witnesses," Ortega said in a letter to the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua.
"We are all ready to attend your call for dialogue at the earliest possible date, for the peace of all Nicaraguans," the letter said.
In recent weeks, protests have shifted from discontent on policy matters to demanding the government to step down.
On May 3, the CEN called on the government to crack down on violent acts carried out by rogue forces and allow the entry of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate deaths that occurred during anti-Ortega protests.
In the letter, the president said he agreed with the bishops on "the necessity of ceasing the violence, intimidation, and aggression against citizens."