Fifty Countries Urge Ortega to Release His Political Prisoners

President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo in the central act of the Bicentennial for Nicaragua’s Independence. Photo: Presidency.

USA, Costa Rica, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland; Ortega asks for “respect” and remains silent on human rights abuses.

By Octavio Enriquez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – On September 14, fifty countries called for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Nicaragua, in a joint statement in the context of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations headquartered in Geneva. In his speech on September 15, Ortega kept silent about the request and other events in the long list of human rights violations committed by his government.

Although the statement was delivered by the Representative from Ecuador, it was joined by the United State, France, Germany, Norway, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and others who maintain that they have received reports of arbitrary detentions and general intimidation against opponents, politicians, journalists and human rights defenders.

“The events that occurred in recent months, cast doubt on the legitimacy and would make highly difficult to assess the upcoming November 7th elections in Nicaragua as being free, fair and transparent,” they warn.

The statement comes a day after the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, presented an update to the UN Human Right Council in which she documented the arbitrary detention of 36 opposition leaders, including seven presidential candidates, between May 28 and last September 6, who remained incommunicado until August 31, when brief visits were authorized.

“The vast majority of these people remained deprived of liberty for up to 90 days, incommunicado and some in solitary confinement,” regretted Bachelet.

In complete harmony with the demand for respect for universal rights, the 50 countries thanked Bachelet for her report and expressed concern, because the number of detainees continues to increase, despite calls from the international community to stop the human rights violations.

“Once again, we urge the Government of Nicaragua to immediately release all political detainees, refrain from reprisals and all acts of intimidation,” they affirm.

Another aspect that concerns them is related to repressive laws, enacted last year by the National Assembly controlled by the Ortega regime, which undermine political participation, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and peaceful association, the separation of powers and the democratic system as a whole.

Those who signed also urged the Nicaraguan Government to resume dialogue with the international community, restore democracy, and called for those responsible for the human rights violations committed since April 2018 to be held accountable.

According to international reports, during the massive protests of opponents in 2018 who demanded the resignation of President Daniel Ortega, the repression left 328 murdered and 2,000 people were injured. In addition, more than 100,000 Nicaraguans went into exile to protect their security and due to the sociopolitical and economic crisis that persisted since then.

Ortega ignores the international community

However, Ortega insists that he was the object of an attempted coup d’etat, while defending the political trials against opponents referred to in the note from the 50 countries, arguing that the accused were instruments of “imperialism” to overthrow his government.

So far, the Ortega Government has not reacted to the statement of the 50 countries, but at this political moment —two months before the so-called presidential elections— it sustains that it is the object of interventionism by the great powers and has wielded the principle of self-determination, while it moves closer to Russia to evade retaking the path of respect for human rights.

In his speech to the Human Rights Council on September 14, when Bachelet gave her report, the Representative of Nicaragua said that they describe themselves as descendants of a history of struggle for sovereignty and independence. He read the same position expressed by the country on June 22, 2021. “We have the right to live in peace. We have the right to be respected. We have the right to the peace that we have been building with so much effort, amid centuries of aggression, interference and intervention by the United States of America and the complicity of European powers,” he repeated.

Silence on human rights abuses

During the official ceremony of the Bicentennial of the Independence of Nicaragua this Wednesday, September 15, President Ortega kept silent about the political prisoners, repression, the electoral process without political competition and the manipulation of institutions at his convenience. He did not refer to the declaration of the 50 countries.

In his speech, Ortega divided Nicaraguans, throughout their history, between patriots and traitors and invaders. He demanded the world respect the decisions of his government, at the same time that he extended his hand to ask for help.

“We want good relations with all countries. The only thing we ask is that they respect us. We do not go around getting involved in specific matters, decisions made by a country. Let them continue to contribute, because that is a way to combat poverty, bring development to a people, to a country,” he said in his speech that lasted one hour and six minutes.

He stressed that, despite the discrepancies they have in the world, multilateral financial organizations have recognized what he called the efficient use of resources for the construction of schools and hospitals, and once again defended his policy on the handling of the pandemic, prioritizing the economy.

However, since the first reported case of Covid-19 in the country since 2020, Ortega’s policy has been marked by secrecy, the concealment of cases and the call for crowded gatherings despite medical recommendations for social distancing.

“The pandemic cannot restrain the fighting spirit of a people, complying with regulations, making an effort to get them to give us vaccines,” he tried to clarify.

During the event held in the Plaza de la Revolucion, the strongman was accompanied by his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo, the President of the National Assembly Gustavo Porras, and the head of the Electoral Power, Brenda Rocha, the high command of the Police and the Army high command.

In his own interpretation of the history of Nicaragua, Ortega vindicated the thesis of sovereignty, which he wields in the face of any demand from the international community to stop the human rights violations, documented by national and international organizations, and which he does not accept.

At the end of the event, Vice President Murillo supported the presidential speech and spoke of ways of unity to build a future. She highlighted the history of the Central American countries in their struggle for independence, and stated, in a histrionic tone, that “to serve the people is to serve God,” steps she said her government follows.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.