Nicaraguan Opposition Leaders Divided about Limited OAS Electoral Observation

“We’re not interested in having the OAS come here to count one more fraud,” a leader of the Broad Front for Democracy affirmed. In contrast, the “Citizen’s for Liberty” party reacted by saying that the announcement “made us very happy”.

By Arlen Cerda  (Confidencial)

Uruguayan Wilfredo Penco will head the OAS mission, in a process with no guarantees. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES – Confirmation of the Organization of American State’s intention to send a small electoral observation team for Nicaragua’s November 5th local elections generated widely different reactions from the Nicaraguan opposition.

In a terse communiqué given out on Monday morning, September 18, the OEA confirmed that they will observe the municipal elections according to the “signed agreements” between the Government of Nicaragua and the Washington-based OEA, last February.

Violeta Granera, national coordinator of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), insisted that from the perspective of this political movement, the observation mission of the OEA was “extraneous and irrelevant.”

What’s going to happen in November is already a given. They’ll complete one visit for protocol, and that’s all. Having the OAS come to Nicaragua to tell of one more fraud doesn’t interest us. There’s no novelty in that, the challenge lies in creating conditions for transparent elections in the future,” criticized Granera.

According to the opposition leader, the OAS should return their focus to the original agreement which included three years of work to “strengthen” the rule of law and the Nicaraguan electoral system, although the details of that agreement haven’t been revealed to Nicaraguans, not even by the official media.

Citizens for Liberty “celebrated” the OEA communiqué

In contrast to the FAD’s perspective, Mauricio Diaz, candidate for mayor of Managua on the part of the Citizens for Liberty party (CxL), said that the OAS announcement “made us very happy.” He added that at the time of the telephone communication he had been in a meeting with the party’s National Executive Council to “celebrate”.

“It seems to us that this clears up a lot of doubts, and that our position has been the right one: working towards participation, having the citizens decide, having them participate.  This will be a contributing factor. We were preparing ourselves for any eventuality, but this represents a substantial help towards offering assurance to the voters,” Diaz declared.

The OAS communication did not give details about the date of the mission’s arrival and limited itself to a statement that the timeline for the work would be revealed in the next few days.

“The communiqué doesn’t give us any more information,” Granera noted.

“The demand of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD) party is for the OAS to fulfill its mission of supporting Nicaragua in fulfilling the commitments of the Democratic Charter and engaging in a broader national dialogue,” Granera sustained.

For his part, Diaz assured that the lack of an arrival date, “is the least of it.”

“I guarantee you that they’re going to be here soon. We’re not going to put a pistol to the head of an international organization in this way. The organization already has commitments with the Nicaraguan government and the political parties, and for the recuperation of democracy in Nicaragua which should be the final objective of this struggle,” the former diplomat added.

Penco praised the Nicaraguan electoral system

The OAS communiqué stated that Secretary General Luis Almagro, has named Wilfredo Penco – currently vice-president of the Uruguayan Electoral Court – to head the Electoral Observation Mission in Nicaragua.

Penco was in Nicaragua for the 2016 national elections as one of fourteen “electoral accompaniers.”  In that election, Comandante Daniel Ortega was reelected for a fourth term, this time together with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice president.

Penco’s role in that process came under question due to the declarations he made on television channel 4, a channel with ties to the government. At that time he praised the very electoral system which the OAS has been warning of “irregularities” since 2001, and whose collapse has been firmly described by the Carter Center, the European Union and national observers.

“One of the characteristics that we’ve been able to document during our participation in diverse electoral processes in Nicaragua is how the population, the citizens, have not only had the opportunity to confirm their civic documentation but also how the process itself is giving them the facilities so that during the electoral act they are able to exercise their expression as citizens in freedom and with security,” Pence declared in 2016.

The OAS communiqué assured that “The Missions of Electoral Observation and Accompaniment constitute a fundamental tool of the OAS in the countries of the hemisphere and results in a practice that reinforces the functioning of the democratic principles.”

Up until now, the OAS has maintained a profound silence about their negotiations with the Ortega government and the details of the accord. In their communication, the organization doesn’t offer any details on the timeline for the observation nor about how it will be carried out.  They only assure that a chronology of the “work to be carried out in the Nicaraguan republic” will be made public in the coming days.