Delegates of the OAS General Secretariat held a virtual meeting with members of the Pro-Electoral Reforms Group in Nicaragua
By Juan Carlos Bow (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Representatives of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) confirmed to a group of Nicaraguan experts they have not seen “progress” on electoral reform in Nicaragua, in the face of next November elections.
Delegates of the General Secretariat held a virtual meeting with members of the Pro-Electoral Reforms Group (GPRE) of Nicaragua. They suggested maintaining internal “pressure” to demand changes in the electoral system.
One of the participants in the meeting, who requested anonymity, indicated that they were informed that the OAS maintains “contacts” with representatives of the Ortega-Murillo regime, although they did not specify on which issues they have spoken with the Government.
“It was a follow-up meeting: we had it pending since February. There was no specific issue, but the electoral issue was discussed. They did not want to say or cannot say what they have discussed with the Government,” the source stressed.
OAS recommends “unified pressure”
Another source, present at the meeting, commented: “I would like to say that we learned something new or relevant. However, in reality, it was only a general conversation to reiterate our willingness to collaborate with the OAS and that we are going to continue pressing for the reforms.”
Regarding internal pressure, the sources indicated that OAS officials suggested that, “a unified voice is necessary” from the opposition groupings.
This meeting took place two months before the deadline set by the OAS General Assembly expires for the Government of Nicaragua to “implement the electoral reforms necessary to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections.”
In October 2020, the General Assembly approved with 20 votes in favor, two against and 12 abstentions a resolution that established May 2021 as the deadline to carry out such reforms.
The resolution placed special emphasis on the need to modernize the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), controlled by Ortega. They also urged the Nicaraguan Government “to accept the broad and effective deployment of electoral observation missions that include independent and accredited international observers, in the electoral process.”
Election Reform Group’s Proposals
The GPRE—composed of lawyers and election experts—has proposed a series of reforms to the electoral system. These include: eliminating presidential reelection; prohibit the president’s spouse from running as a candidate; elect new CSE magistrates; elaborate a single and comprehensive electoral roll, previously audited and refined.
The GPRE proposal, which includes twelve reforms of which four require a constitutional reform, also suggests an unrestricted electoral observation in accordance with international standards.
Sources linked to the Sandinista Front party revealed to Confidencial, last November, that Ortega created a working group to design a reform project to the Electoral Law, strictly focused on aspects of a “technical nature.”
Ortega’s electoral reform project for the 2021 elections does not recognize any of the preconditions demanded by the GPRE proposal, such as the release of political prisoners and the restoration of democratic freedoms. That proposal has the endorsement of the National Coalition, the Civic Alliance, and the business sector.
They demand the release of political prisoners
On the issue of prisoners of conscience, the OAS General Secretariat issued a statement last Thursday in which it “condemned” the situation of political prisoners in Nicaragua and demanded “their immediate release.”
“The General Secretariat received proof of the more than one hundred political prisoners in Nicaragua. All of them have been presented as common prisoners, without fair trials, violating their fundamental rights. They are imprisoned together with common criminals, from whom they suffer attacks and threats. Likewise they suffer systematic attacks on their physical integrity, mistreatment and torture from their jailers,” detailed the document.
A report by the Mechanism for the recognition of Political Prisoners issued on March 5th states that in Nicaragua there are at least 125 citizens imprisoned for protesting against the Ortega regime.
According to the report, which has the endorsement of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), 115 people remain in prison as political prisoners since the 2018 protests, another nine are locked up since 2014, and one since 2011.
Among the political prisoners, captured in the context of the sociopolitical crisis that began in 2018, there are 111 men, four women and one transexual locked up in a men’s prison, according to the report. Of the inmates, 39% have been in prison between two and three years, it added.
*With information from EFE.