European Deputies Analyze Election Panorama for Nicaragua

Photo from European Parliament website

European deputies say they’ll “remain on the side of the Nicaraguan people.” They pledge to exert more pressure on the Ortega regime.

By Ana Lucia Cruz (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – With less than eight months to go before next November’s general elections in Nicaragua, “conditions don’t exist”. That was the conclusion of a group of European deputies belonging to the delegation for relations with Central America.  Nicaragua lacks conditions, they note, for a democratic, free, just and transparent voting process.

During a virtual meeting on Monday, March 15, they said “they’ll continue on the side of the Nicaraguan people. They pledged to exert greater pressure on the regime of Daniel Ortega.

European deputy Tily Metz presided over the meeting. She noted that Nicaragua has “a long road ahead before they can have free and transparent elections.” Because of that, she stated, the delegation would continue “following very closely the proceedings for elections.”

Alicia Homs, deputy for the Spanish Socialist Party, pointed out that the Ortega regime isn’t moving towards free elections. Ortega seems “more concerned over silencing anyone that dissents and deepening his authoritarian drift.”

Homs said the elections offer the Nicaraguan government “an opportunity to correct their course.” She added, “If they’re on the side of the country’s citizens, they’ll have a partner for dialogue in Europe. However, everything seems to indicate that Ortega has set off on his own road and doesn’t want to turn back. Thus, we have no other option but to redouble the pressure.”

Homs stressed that the European Union “will be on the side of the Nicaraguan citizens, and the coming weeks will be decisive.” She recommended that the different opposition forces “unite behind one candidate for the elections.” To do this, she noted, they must put “to one side” their differences. They must aim at obtaining “historic” results “for the Nicaraguan people.”

Soraya Rodriguez is a European deputy with broad experience in the environment, equity, development and human rights. She affirmed that as deputies “we’re in no way going to whitewash elections that aren’t really free and democratic. Nor elections where the opposition doesn’t have the opportunity to participate.”

Nicaraguan delegation

The meeting was also aimed at assessing the current human rights situation in Nicaragua in the run-up to the elections. Nicaraguans attending included Wendy Acevedo, president of the “Never Again in Nicaragua” human rights collective. Also present was Dora Maria Tellez, historian, former Sandinista guerrilla and currently a representative of the Democratic Renewal Union. Felix Maradiaga, an aspiring presidential candidate for the Blue and White Unity attended, as did another, Medardo Mairena, leader of the Farmers’ Movement.

Irana Venerio Fernandez, Nicaragua’s ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU was also invited. However, she failed to respond to the invitation from the European Parliament. The deputies said they regretted her absence, since they expected to have many questions for her.

Wendy Flores stressed that the actions of the European Parliament “are needed more than ever”. She affirmed that the human rights violations continue in Nicaragua, with more than a hundred people in prison for being dissidents. “We approach three years of no justice for over 300 people killed in the context of the April 2018 protests. We also remain with no safe conditions for the return of over 100,000 Nicaraguans in exile.”

The activist noted that in Nicaragua there’s “a de facto state of emergency, where freedom of movement and expression are blocked. This is taking place in the framework of a campaign that demeans activists and members of the opposition. We’re called terrorists, traitors to the nation and money launderers.”

She accused the police, the public prosecutor’s office and the courts of “using the legal system to criminalize opponents. They go after activists, human rights advocates, journalists and members of the opposition. All of them continue having their individual freedoms greatly restricted.”

Medardo Mairena also denounced the persecution that persists against the released political prisoners. The Ortega regime has imposed de facto house arrest on over 100 political opponents. Added to this is the persecution in the countryside and the “lack of conditions for elections.”

Felix Maradiaga recalled the absence of any “electoral reforms”. His group seeks reforms that “comply with recommendations developed by consensus among the principal opposition groups in September 2020. Reforms that comply with the recommendations of the Organization of American States (OAS).”

“If those conditions aren’t met,” Maradiaga stated, “We begin right now to urge [the EU] not to recognize their results. Not to recognize the legitimacy of any government that doesn’t reflect the popular will.”

Former guerilla Dora Maria Tellez warned that the Ortega regime currently has “a fraud underway”. She underscored the “disabling of the opposition’s capacity to organize, to mobilize, to express themselves. They’ve inhibited Nicaraguans’ possibilities of going out on the streets.”

“Robust actions”

The European deputies and Nicaraguan dissidents agreed that profound reforms in the Nicaraguan Electoral System are urgently needed. They recalled the agreements signed by Ortega in March 2019, during a dialogue with the opposition. They noted the May 2021 deadline given by the OAS to see substantive changes in Nicaragua’s electoral laws. The OAS also asked for electoral reforms that allow fair, free, transparent and observed elections.

Nonetheless, the Nicaraguan government has given no signs of complying with the requests of the international organizations. Tellez warned: “The Ortega regime doesn’t understand sweet words.” She said they need “categorical messages from the European Union, the European Parliament and the countries of Europe. These should send a clear message to Ortega that they won’t accept a regime that comes out of fraudulent elections. And such elections are already underway.”

Tellez emphasized the importance of “diplomatic pressure and sanctions”. “Ortega has shown that the only thing that hurts him are the individual sanctions against him or his family. Those are the ones that hurt him, because they’re the things he complains about. If we want to alter the fraud that’s underway, proceeding along those lines is essential.”

With information from the EFE news agency.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.