The next 48 hours are expected to be some of the most critical in the ongoing civil unrest in Nicaragua against President Daniel Ortega. While the country is bracing for a one-day national strike, word has come from a group of Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic Bishops that they are set to resume a new round of mediation talks between protesters and Ortega.

Following an attempt to make changes to the country’s social security system, a series of anti-government protests erupted and spread across the country. Following a heavy-handed response from the government, the protests started to turn violent. The Roman Catholic bishops attempted to arrange a round of mediation between the protesters and the government. On May 23, the mediation talks broke down after the government officials refused to discuss a 40 point agenda by the protesters.

Since the mediation broke down, the situation in Nicaragua has escalated. A series of blockades across most of the main arteries in the country has severely impacted travel within Nicaragua. This has essentially crippled the country’s transportation system and has impacted shipping goods as well as workers coming to work, including businesses and factories serving premium cigar industry. On Monday, Nicaragua’s Association of Freight Carriers (ATN) announced it was suspending all national and international shipments because of the blockades.

With the blockades persisting, this has created a panic for food and gasoline across the country, resulting in shortages. Earlier this week, there have been reported instances of protesters seeking weapons for fear the government may execute the military to break up the protests.

On June 8th, the Bishops again met with Ortega, offering a proposal that would establish a framework for mediation. Ortega said he would take two days to think it over. When he had not responded after five days, the Higher Council of Private Enterprise (known as Cosep) and Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy called for a national strike. It is expected to take place on June 14, 2018.

With the national labor strike looming, the Bishops said today that a new round of talks will begin this Friday and it’s expected more will be disclosed on the proposal. “We will be making known the proposal that we presented to the president and the letter he has sent us with his concerns, which we will submit to debate in order to seek a consensus,” in a statement by the bishops.

The violence from the protests is said to have resulted in 146 deaths. While many businesses in Nicaragua are being affected, and one of those businesses is the premium cigar industry. The blockades have impacted the ability to ship products and obtain supplies as well as preventing some factory workers from coming to work. This comes at a time when the cigar industry is entering one of its busiest seasons in the U.S. market. The IPCPR Trade Show and Convention is scheduled in Las Vegas beginning July 13th. Currently, many companies are attempting to ramp up production and are preparing to ship products out to fulfill orders. The situation could become more complicated in the U.S. market as there is a possibility for a strike by United Parcel Service on August 1st.

The Statement by the Bishops Appears Below along with a rough translation:

Conferencia Episcopal de Nicaragua

Los Obispos de la Conferencia Episcopal de Nicaragua, les deseamos a todos los nicaragüenses, gracia y paz de parte de Dios Nuestro Padre.

A la vez queremos informarles que el día de ayer martes, hemos recibido, la respuesta del Presidente de la República, a las propuestas, que recogiendo el sentimiento de diversos sectores de la sociedad y de la inmensa mayoría del pueblo nicaragüense, le presentamos en el encuentro que sostuvimos el pasado jueves 07 del corriente.

Por lo tanto, estamos convocando a la Mesa Plenaria del Dialogo Nacional, para el próximo viernes 15 de junio, a las 10:00 A.M., en el Seminario Nuestra Señora de Fátima.

En dicha mesa, estaremos dando a conocer a la comunidad nacional e internacional, la propuesta que presentamos al Señor Presidente y la carta que él nos ha enviado con su planteamiento, lo que someteremos a debate para buscar un consenso que responda a los anhelos de justicia, democratización y paz del pueblo.

Agradecemos a los nicaragüenses que confían en la mediación que estamos realizando y a la comunidad internacional que nos ha respaldado en esta labor, que hacemos como pastores del pueblo de Dios, a nosotros encomendado, y al cual acompañamos en sus tristezas sufrimientos, esperanzas y anhelos por construir un país en paz, justicia y libertad.

Pedimos al pueblo fiel que continúe orando por nosotros y por toda nuestra Patria.

En nuestra Sede, a los trece días del mes de Junio del 2018, año del Señor.

Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua

The Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, we wish all the nicaraguans, grace and peace of God our father.

At the same time we would like to inform you that yesterday, on Tuesday, we received the answer from the president of the Republic, to the proposals, which collected the feeling of various sectors of society and the vast majority of the nicaraguan people, we present to you in the I find that we had last Thursday 07

We are therefore calling for the plenary of the national dialogue, for next Friday, 15 June, at 10:00 a. M., at the seminar our lady of Fatima.

At that table, we will be making known to the national and international community, the proposal that we present to the president and the letter he has sent us with his approach, which we will submit to the debate to seek a consensus that responds to the desires of justice , democratization and peace of the people.

We are grateful to the nicaraguans who trust the mediation that we are doing and to the international community that has supported us in this work, which we do as pastors of the people of God, to whom we are entrusted, and to whom we live in their sorrows suffering, hopes and desires To build a country in peace, justice and freedom.

We ask the faithful people to continue to pray for us and for our entire homeland.

At our headquarters, at 2018 days of June 2018, the year of the Lord

Photo Credit: Cigar Coop