By Raul K. Bautista
HAVANA TIMES – “We must remove the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship from power,” said a Costa Rican legislator on November 8, a day after the electoral farce carried out by the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, thus embracing the feeling of the majority of the Nicaraguan people and tracing the path that the democratic nations of the continent should follow.
The call of thirteen Costa Rican legislators in repudiation of an electoral process that did not respect the minimum standards for free, fair and transparent elections, urged other Latin American nations to raise their voices for the immediate release of political prisoners. Likewise, it demanded that the struggle for democracy must be assumed by the entire region and by multilateral organizations.
This action of solidarity with the people of Nicaragua, with “a sister nation,” as the Costa Rican legislators said, confirms and consolidates the coordinated action of the international community. Karine Nino Gutierrez (Costa Rica) had previously joined 16 other leaders of the foreign relations committees of the legislature of their respective countries -including Bob Menendez (USA) and David McAllister (of the European Parliament)-, in rejecting the “fraudulent and shameful” elections of Ortega and Murillo, carried out “with cruel violations of democratic norms.”
A broad coalition of countries
While Ortega and Murillo arbitrarily arrested and tortured more than 40 opposition leaders from various sectors (peasants, students, journalists, businesspeople, civic leaders and seven presidential candidates), several democratic nations organized themselves in “a broad coalition of countries” to counteract “multilaterally” the consolidation of the dictatorship.
The swift and decisive response of the international community, as well as the rebelliousness and resistance of the Nicaraguan people, by abstaining (an estimated 81.5% of voters did not go to the polls), has shaken the dictatorship and made it stumble, something which must be intelligently exploited by the opposition.
The expectations of the Ortega-Murillo regime were shattered like a crystal glass. They had foreseen a negative reaction in the first days after the elections, but they believed that this would quickly disappear and they would enjoy what some analysts called a two-year grace period, which would allow them to secure an additional 5 years in power. Now the next 100 days become crucial to weaken them and lay the foundations to end their tyranny.
Pushback on authoritarianism
Clear evidence of pushback on authoritarianism and consolidation of the Ortega dictatorship is the unexpected statement by President Joe Biden, minutes after the polls closed on November 7. Most analysts awaited a tweet or a statement by Brian A. Nichols, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, or from Anthony Blinken himself.
But the position of the United States describing the elections as “a pantomime,” that were neither free, nor fair and much less democratic, came from Joe Biden’s desk and was published by the White House. Now you rule as autocrats, Biden tells them, without any difference to Somoza. He diplomatically urges them to rectify but reaffirms his willingness to support the Nicaraguan people and the rulers will be held accountable for their abuses.
With bipartisan support from Congress, Biden has signed the Renacer Law and will use it in coordination with the European Union and other countries that are going to join in applying, in this new stage, more severe and selective sanctions. Biden also openly mentioned the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
In relation to the latter, there is also coordination at the regional level. The OAS must give its opinion on the illegitimacy of the elections, said the Costa Rican deputies, joining the call “Let’s keep Ortega from consolidating his dictatorship” made by four former Latin American presidents and International IDEA.
Applying article 21 of the Democratic Charter
Among the steps to be followed, proposed by said document, is to further the isolation of the regime, including suspending Nicaragua from the OAS by applying article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The General Assembly of the OAS, its 51st regular session, began on Wednesday, November 10 and ends on Friday, November 12. This session will be the litmus test of what the OAS member countries can do to remove an authoritarian ruler, which lacks a mandate to govern.
The nine Latin American countries (Costa Rica, Chile, Panama, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Paraguay and to a certain degree Guatemala) that have so far spoken out against the “mock elections” that took place in Nicaragua, must join Canada and the United States in passing a resolution categorically classifying the elections in Nicaragua as illegitimate and convoking an extraordinary session of the General Assembly to consider applying article 21 to Nicaragua.
Finally, the shift that we were expecting from the democratic countries of the international community has already taken place. Now we must focus on fighting for the release of political prisoners and reaching a minimum consensus of unity in action to strengthen the struggle against the dictatorship.
“Today is a sad day for the Central American region and one of great pain for Nicaragua,” said Costa Rican congresswoman Carolina Hidalgo on November 8. And she added that “Nicaragua receives one more blow and it is confirmed that there is no democracy.”
Even in that sadness and that blow, the Nicaraguan people once again demonstrated their resilience, bravery and determination to remove the Ortega dictatorship from power. That majority knows it has the support of broad sectors of the international community who are going to fight, alongside them, so that sovereignty resides where it should be: in the people and not in the hands of two despots.