Ortega and the US Join Hands at the OAS?

Nicaraguans out in front of the OAS headquarters in Washington on the morning of June 5, 2018.

Joint US-Nicaragua Declaration Involves the OAS in a National Dialogue to “Strengthen Democratic Institutions”

By Wilfredo Miranda  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Although the massacre perpetrated by the Government of Nicaragua in April and May was not included on the official agenda approved for the 48th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) that opened this Monday in Washington, OAS sources assured that on Tuesday a “declaration” on Nicaragua will be discussed.

However, the draft of the “declaration of support for the people of Nicaragua” has alarmed national and international human rights organizations, since, according to them, it does not specify the responsibility of the regime of Daniel Ortega in this massacre that already has caused at least 127 dead and more than a thousand injured, many seriously.

The president of the General Assembly, Eladio Loizaga, the foreign minister of Paraguay, informed after the approval of the agenda that the General Secretariat of the OAS “passed a draft declaration of support for the people of Nicaragua.” The first draft was submitted by the United States, but at the end of the afternoon on Monday it was surprisingly made known that the draft declaration (AG / doc5635) was actually presented jointly by Nicaragua and the US representation.

Diplomatic sources from two Latin American countries revealed to Confidential that the Ortega government “reached an agreement with the United States,” and that, very surely, the declaration will be approved on Tuesday by the OAS General Assembly. However, the sources indicated that they did not know the scope or details of “the agreement” between Washington and Managua.

The draft declaration, which does not condemn the Ortega massacre nor demand the cessation of repression, nor his leaving power, proposes that the OAS be involved in the national dialogue in Nicaragua, “providing support and assistance in the implementation of an inclusive dialogue process.”

In relation to the scope and expected results of the dialogue, in which the Bishops Conference have raised an agenda for the “democratization of the country, from the roots up”, it proposes “the strengthening of democratic institutions in Nicaragua,” according to the agreements agreed between the Government of Ortega and the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro.

Paraguay chairs the 48th General Assembly of the OAS. Photo: OEA Press

“In accordance with the principle of non-intervention, the intention and willingness of the Organization of American States to provide support and assistance in: the implementation of an inclusive dialogue process, establishing the International Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), deploying an electoral observation mission before the elections and the strengthening of democratic institutions in Nicaragua,” clarifies the fifth point.

The statement emphasizes in point three “the OAS concern” regarding the break in the recent dialogue process. In the next point, the fourth, it suggests the strengthening of institutions.

“Its appeal is to the Government of Nicaragua and other social actors to demonstrate commitment and participate constructively in peaceful negotiations with clear results that address the country’s fundamental challenges, including the strengthening of democratic institutions and the holding of free, fair and timely elections, held in an environment free from fear of intimidation, threats or violence,” the statement proposes.

The president of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Cenidh), Vilma Nunez, reacted to the draft declaration by questioning its political intentions.

The human rights defender asked, “Do you want to provide support in an inclusive dialogue? Which dialogue because they do not specify any? Do they intend a new process of dialogue outside the one mediated by the bishops?” Another thing would be for the General Assembly to support the church’s effort, but it seems they want to replace it with a dialogue managed by the OAS.”

According to Nunez, “this secret agreement between Nicaragua and the United States” bides time for Ortega in the middle of the crisis.

They do not specify the responsibility of Ortega

The Nicaraguan diaspora in the United States demands from the OAS a more forceful response on the massacre in their country. W. Miranda | Confidential

The human rights organizations claimed that the declaration does not define Ortega’s responsibility in the massacre.

Marcia Aguiluz, director for Mesoamerica of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), said that this statement is “part of Ortega’s strategy to placate the denunciation of human rights violations and protest in the streets of Nicaragua.

“It is a bad reading of the Nicaraguan context and it is also part of Ortega’s strategy to appease the complaint. It was smart to raise a statement before a resolution is imposed, “said Aguiluz. “From that logic it does not recognize human rights violations and that the responsibility falls on the State.”

“The statement is tailored to Daniel Ortega, who has not accepted any responsibility… that his government is the cause of all deaths in Nicaragua,” refuted Núñez.

The head of Cenidh affirmed that in point one the statement “condemns and demands the immediate cessation of acts of violence, intimidation and threats directed against the general public,” but does not mention that it is the Ortega-Murillo government that has ordered the repression.

“They equate the government violence with the civic resistance. That is unacceptable. Nor do they mention justice anywhere,” said Nunez, who participates with Nicaraguan civil society in the OAS General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the OAS member states to condemn the violent acts of the Ortega government.

“The brave people, human rights defenders and civil society organizations of Nicaragua need much more than timid condolences and generalizations; they need a firm commitment to ensure that extrajudicial executions and other grave violations of human rights do not happen again and go unpunished,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Director for the Americas of Amnesty International.

Church: “We do not have confidence in the OAS”

Sources of the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference consulted last night by Confidencial, said that the document presented by the United States and Nicaragua had caught the bishops “by surprise.” They indicated that as mediators of the National Dialogue in which finding a way out of the crisis is discussed, the bishops will continue to press for early elections “as soon as possible” and within the constitutional framework.

“I do not know who is behind it, nor what arrangements have been made under the table. They probably want to follow another path and other arrangements and for that aim the Church seems a nuisance, but this week the bishops will press hard before sitting publicly in the Dialogue, so that it is not a delaying game,” said the source.

He added that the document overlooks important elements of the crisis, such as Ortega’s fierce repression against peaceful demonstrations. Nor does it mention the killings and summary executions, the brutal use of force by the National Police and the use of paramilitary groups.

“We have never talked about strengthening democracy in a country where it does not exist. Nothing is said about early elections as soon as possible, which is the first of our objectives. Neither the word usage nor the underlying theme coincide with what civil society, supported by the bishops, is proposing in the Dialogue. We do not have confidence in the OAS, “said the Church source.

Private sector “surprised”

The draft declaration presented in Washington also took the private sector by surprise. Sources linked to the business sector said that they “did not expect” an action of this type. “It’s very hard for me to believe,” the source said, referring to an agreement between Ortega and the Trump Administration. “There is something that goes beyond what’s expressed there. It could be the direct negotiation of him and his family with the Americans for their safety, “he said.

For the private employers, the United States agreeing to find a way out of the crisis is “very important”, but any solution, said the source close to the sector, must be accompanied by an announcement of the advance of elections “as soon as possible”.