The Permanent Council may now convene a special session of foreign ministers, which was not on its short-term plans.
HAVANA TIMES – Nicaragua’s announced departure from the Organization of American States (OAS) — a two-year process — will not alter the agenda of the next meeting of the regional body’s Permanent Council, where a “collective assessment” of the Nicaraguan crisis will be made. However, the regime’s decision, according to experts in international issues, will change the outcome of that meeting: the states will have free rein to convene a special session of foreign ministers, to determine if they will suspend Nicaragua.
In a press conference on November 19, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada informed the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, that by order of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua denounces the Charter of the organization, understanding that this ends Nicaragua’s association with the OAS.
Although Nicaragua announced its departure from the organization, it won’t be official and effective until November 2023. The process takes two years, so they can withdraw it before the end of that period. In addition, during this period, the Government must comply with all its political and financial obligations to the regional body.
The decision by Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo comes a week after a General Assembly of the OAS foreign ministers approved — with 25 votes in favor, one against, seven abstentions and one absence — a resolution declaring that the Nicaraguan elections of November 7th, “were not free, fair or transparent and have no democratic legitimacy.”
At the same time, the resolution instructed the OAS Permanent Council to carry out an “immediate collective assessment” of the situation in Nicaragua, in accordance with the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which must be completed “no later than November 30,” and to “take appropriate actions.”
There is still no definitive date for the meeting of the Permanent Council, but sources close to the OAS mention Wednesday, November 24 — prior to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States — or Monday, November 29.
The road to suspension and the push for 24 votes
Experts commented that collective assessment does not translate into Nicaragua’s automatic suspension from the OAS, since the General Assembly resolution speaks of taking “appropriate actions.” To this end, it is most likely that the countries would choose the “realization of diplomatic efforts,” which consists of creating a commission to visit the country and promote the “normalization of democratic institutions,” as provided for in Article 20 of the Democratic Charter.
However, according to these experts, the Nicaraguan regime’s announcement will strengthen the position of the countries that have asked to take action against the Ortega government and will demonstrate to the undecided countries that “Nicaragua will not cooperate and therefore there is no dialogue to preserve.”
“Nicaragua’s exit makes it easier to get the 24 votes needed to apply suspension under Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” said one of the experts, who asked to omit his name for fear of reprisals.
Carlos Cascante Segura, a professor at the School of International Relations of the National University (UNA) of Costa Rica believes that the regime has “set the stage for leaving the OAS,” under “the letter of OAS interventionism” and the alleged “violation of national sovereignty.”
In the letter sent to the OAS General Secretariat, the Nicaraguan foreign minister indicated that Nicaragua’s departure was “a sovereign and dignified decision given the repeated interference of that hemispheric organization in the internal affairs of our country.”
Collective evaluation will follow
The collective evaluation of Nicaragua will not be halted by Ortega regime’s decision. It will be based mainly on an updated report by the OAS Secretary General, who last week suggested “annulling” the Nicaraguan elections, in which Ortega and Murillo were re-elected to the presidency.
The experts explained that given the regime’s refusal to allow the entry of OAS representatives into Nicaragua, countries will have to draw on available sources, including reports from the General Secretariat, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), diplomatic reports, and journalistic information.
“The possibility of sending a small team to Nicaragua to talk to different parties was contemplated, but there was no response from the Nicaraguan government, which is the one that has to authorize the visit,” said a source close to the OAS.
Cascante noted that collective assessment is not a technical term, but rather a political one, so that countries can use all available evidence.
The OAS’ last collective assessment was of Venezuela, in March 2017. At that time, according to the OAS website, Almagro presented a report in which he stated: “The facts leave no room for doubt. Venezuela violates all the articles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”
A month after the collective assessment in April 2017, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced the OAS Constitutional Charter for the purpose of removing Venezuela from the organization. However, the process was not completed because the OAS did not acknowledge Maduro’s re-election. Instead, they recognized opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, then president of the Parliament, as interim president. He then appointed a new representative.
The reports about Daniel Ortega
In the case of Nicaragua, Almagro published on November 9, a report prepared by the Secretariat for the Strengthening of Democracy. The OAS proposes that the international community “demand the annulment” of the Nicaraguan elections “and calls for generating a new electoral process.”
It mentioned the efforts made by the OAS for Nicaragua to return to a democratic system, which were ignored by Ortega, including a Memorandum of Understanding that involved electoral reform, which in the end was insubstantial. They also detailed the lack of independence of the Electoral Authority, the repression exemplified by the arrest of opposition candidates, the cancellation of the legal status of opposition parties and the attacks on civil society and freedom of expression.
“Nicaragua was not in a position to hold elections with minimum guarantees of a free, fair and transparent electoral process, and has in fact renounced its international commitments to democracy and the protection and defense of human rights,” the OAS analysis states.
This report, according to experts on international issues, will be updated and presented to the Permanent Council during Nicaragua’s collective assessment.
Another report that will be taken into account and updated, according to experts, is one by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), published on October 28, where it was concluded that the objective of the November 7 elections was to “perpetuate President Daniel Ortega in power.”
Two roads: Suspension or Exit
There are two roads for Nicaragua in the OAS, both leading to the same end: exiting from the regional organization. They have very different time frames: suspension is immediate, while the request for withdrawal takes two years.
The process of suspension of a State is contemplated in Articles 20 and 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
Article 20 establishes that, depending on the situation, the Permanent Council may order the necessary diplomatic efforts to promote the normalization of democratic institutions.
If diplomatic efforts prove unsuccessful or if the urgency of the case so warrants, the Permanent Council shall immediately convene a special session of the General Assembly.
Article 21 details that, when the General Assembly convened for a special session finds that there has been a breach of democratic stability in a member state, it can decide, with an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the member states —24 votes out of 34— to suspend that state from exercising its right to participate in the OAS. The suspension will take effect immediately.
The voluntary departure of a country is contemplated in Article 143 of the Charter of the OAS. It establishes that “the Charter shall govern indefinitely but may be denounced by any of the Member States, by written communication to the General Secretariat, which in each case, shall communicate to the others the notifications of the criticism it receives.”
“After two years from the date on which the General Secretariat receives a notification of denunciation, the current Charter shall cease to have effect with respect to the denouncing State, and the latter shall be disassociated from the Organization after having fulfilled the obligations arising from the Charter,” the article states.
Regarding the departure of a member state, the same Charter of the Organization of the OAS establishes in its article 143 that the Charter “shall govern indefinitely but may be denounced by any of the member states by written communication to the General Secretariat,” as the regime of Daniel Ortega has done.
In this case, the article continues, “two years after the date on which the General Secretariat receives a notification of denunciation, the Charter shall cease to have effect with respect to the denouncing State, and the latter shall be disassociated from the Organization after having fulfilled the obligations arising from this Charter.”