The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has added Nicaragua to the blacklist of countries that failed in the fulfillment of human rights, according to its annual report presented Thursday, in which Cuba and Venezuela also appear as countries at fault.
According to the IACHR, at least 325 people have died in protests or related violence since April 2018, when a deadly crackdown on rallies quickly grew into broad opposition to President Daniel Ortega’s iron-fisted rule.
"Following the social protests that began in Nicaragua in April 2018, a massive, systematic and serious repressive state response against the population has been presented," the Commission said in the report.
Meanwhile, Nicaragua's government agreed on Wednesday to release "all the people detained in the context of the protests" since last April within 90 days in order to restart stalled peace talks aimed at ending an 11-month political crisis, a dialogue mediator said.
The release of more than 700 opposition protesters had been the main demand of the opposition for continuing talks with the government. Around 150 prisoners have been released since the talks began last month, although only to house arrest. The opposition has demanded their total liberation. In return, the government is asking for the lifting of sanctions imposed against the Ortega administration.
The opposition alliance suspended talks that had begun on February 27 after 100 protesters were temporarily detained by police earlier this week, and tear gas was used to prevent a protest against Ortega's government.
A union of business leaders, part of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD), said Saturday's crackdown showed that "we're faced with a police state that doesn't allow the expression of the fundamental constitutional rights of all Nicaraguans."
The ACJD had said it would not resume talks until all "political prisoners" are released and the repression of anti-regime protesters ends.
Releases could begin this week and "there will be no-one held beyond those 90 days," said businessman Jose Aguerri, a Civic Alliance member. The International Committee of the Red Cross is due to monitor the process.
The two opposing parties in Nicaragua have agreed on a six-point negotiation process to accompany the releases and have asked for international support in implementing the agreements reached, according to a statement issued by the presidency.
"A call will be made to the international community to suspend sanctions to facilitate the right to the human, economic and social development of Nicaragua, favoring the most vulnerable sections of the population," said the statement.
Nicaragua's government has been hit by US sanctions and the threat of more from the European Union since trouble broke out last year. The country has been mired in political crisis since protests broke out initially over a now-scrapped pension reform before snowballing into wider anger at Ortega's rule. Alongside his wife and vice president Rosario Murillo, Ortega is accused of rights abuses and authoritarian leadership.
One of the key opposition demands was for Ortega to step down and bring forward elections slated for 2021, something the 73-year-old former left-wing guerrilla has rejected out of hand.