Jennie Lincoln of the Carter Center urges documenting the evidence of electoral fraud on November 7th.
By Ivan Olivares (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – A forum entitled “The 11/7 Elections in Nicaragua: an illegitimate process” was held on September 24th, organized by the Arias Foundation in Costa Rica. The forum was led by Nicaraguan journalist Tifani Roberts and aimed at analyzing the situation of the political prisoners in Nicaragua and the international community’s options for pressuring Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to allow free elections in the country.
“Sanctions must continue, but in an intelligent way. Not just against Daniel Ortega and his children, but to make the power structures of the FSLN understand that there’s no future with Ortega and Murillo. Not for them, and not for Nicaragua,” stated Cynthia Arnson, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American program.
Arnson noted that while “there have already been frauds in past elections,” this time around, Ortega has deepened his control over the Supreme Electoral Council. She commented: “all of those within and outside Nicaragua were surprised by how rapidly and the extent of the repression against the NGOs and civil society, within this electoral context.
She recalled the extreme violence they’d witnessed in 2018, which translated into over 300 cold-blooded killings. “But we had never expected such an across-the-board arrest of the political, university, business, etc. leadership, and – in addition – without causing an internal division of the Sandinista Front.”
The international reaction has been one of unanimous condemnation. However, neither the personal sanctions, nor the threat of the US Congress approving and applying the Renacer Act; nor the application of the current NICA Act, have had any effect. It hasn’t altered the process that will culminate in the November 7 vote, nor has it impacted the isolation and trials of the political prisoners.
“In May, the idea of the pressure tactics was to achieve credible elections, with the participation of the opposition. There’s now no possibility of that occurring,” Arnson lamented. She noted that, due to the repression and the poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nicaragua, this year “there are already more Nicaraguans than Salvadorans arriving at the U.S. southern border.”
For that reason, she proposes going beyond the personal sanctions. She suggests, “investigating which businesses are controlled by the Sandinista Front, and which ones the Nicaraguan Army has invested their funds in,” and applying sanctions to these. She recalled that sanctions are in place against the director of the Military Social Welfare Institute, for example, “but the system, as such, isn’t under any sanctions.”
The Renacer Act would open the option of expelling Nicaragua from CAFTA – the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Arnson admits, however, that it’s difficult to expel one sole member. In addition, “that could cause damage and suffering to the population of the second poorest country on the continent.”
Documenting the fraud
Jennie Lincoln, senior specialist on Latin America and the Caribbean for the Carter Center, believes, “the sanctions aren’t having any impact on the [Nicaraguan presidential] couple. We have to seek another way of influencing them.” She highlighted “the deep silence of the large capitalists in Nicaragua. They have a responsibility, and they must know that this route isn’t going to solve the problem at this time.”
She called the situation in Nicaragua “horrifying”, adding that while the solution to this crisis lies with Nicaraguans, “the international community has a moral obligations to help Nicaragua overcome this challenge.”
She highly recommends documenting the electoral fraud, “to be able to declare, with proof, the November deceit.” That, in turn, should force the government “to confront its responsibility; to face the evidence of its defeat in this process. We must assure that the world doesn’t forget what’s happening in Nicaragua, where a major change is needed to be able to recover its democracy.”
Human Rights advocate Bianca Jagger urged the panel “not to recognize the [electoral] process and its results.” She also advocated for suspending the country from the Inter-American system, and sanctioning Ortega and his collaborators in other branches of the State, the Army, and the private sector. In addition, she asked to “put a hold on international financing, which is supplying oxygen to the regime. The humanitarian aid should be channeled through international organizations or Nicaraguan NGOs.”
Oscar Arias, ex-president of Costa Rica and recipient of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize, warned that the international community wasn’t going to recognize the validity of these elections. “In the whole world, [it’s seen] as a farce, even though there are some cynical governments in this hemisphere that could recognize it, and maybe some in the other hemisphere. But neither the European Union, nor the rest of the countries of this hemisphere” are going to recognize it.
Leonardo Querido of International Transparency remarked that Daniel Ortega’s electoral model has dismantled the party system and the democratic institutions. “It’s not something that has occurred from one day to the other – it’s a deterioration that’s been unfolding in slow motion, year after year, eating away at the weakest patches of the country’s political fabric.”
Querido recalled that, in addition to creating a mesh of barriers and violating rights with an eye to the elections, Ortega made a number of other moves: he increased his control over the Supreme Electoral Council; he arrested presidential candidates; he prohibited any opposition activities. In doing so, he succeeded in moving the country “from a forced two-party system, to practically a single party, at least in fact,” inspired in the Cuban model.
He quoted the argument Ortega outlined in 2009, when he said that a multi-party system is a way to break apart the nation; and democracy a way of dividing people. “That totalitarian vision is what today reigns in the country,” Querido stated. He called the process, a “fake, prefabricated election, with no surprises.”
The elections expert doesn’t believe that there’s any time left between now and November to change things. “The cards have been dealt, but international electoral observation should at least be demanded,” so as to document the process.