Nicaragua’s Electoral Charade and the OAS Response


The Ortega dictatorship has made clear its authoritarian drift and its apparent lack of concern over being classified as a corrupt and criminal state

By Raul K. Bautista

HAVANA TIMES – The approval of the latest OAS resolution on “The Situation in Nicaragua,” two days after the meeting of European foreign ministers, indicates that the Ortega-Murillo regime has not convinced democratic nations that it is a “victim of an intervention,” that “the electoral process is clean” or that “political prisoners are guilty.”

Quite the opposite. The Ortega dictatorship has made clear its authoritarian drift and its apparent lack of concern over being classified as a corrupt and criminal state, which after November 7 will become a pariah state, determined to position itself outside the parameters of international norms, violating human rights at will and representing a threat to regional peace.

Faced with this recognition, 26 of the 34 OAS member states are warning the State of Nicaragua: to correct its path. They warn that other measures will be adopted, including the possible application of the articles of the Democratic Charter and that an evaluation of the elections will be made at the next meeting of the General Assembly, to be held on November 10.

The scope of that warning, in the resolution of October 20, cannot be fully assessed if we limit ourselves to the operative clauses, because the preambular clauses contain the historical background of the issue and framework of the current context to which it refers.

Ortega’s promises have lost all credibility

The member states of the OAS are aware that the Ortega-Murillo regime does not respect its obligations within the framework of said organization. They are clear that he disregards the calls of the organization, its working groups, commissions, missions, and other proposals to find a negotiated solution and hold democratic elections.

Therefore, they begin the resolution by recalling all exhortations (statements, resolutions, mandates) that have been made to the Government of Nicaragua supporting “free and fair elections and respect for human rights in Nicaragua,” since June 2018, when the General Assembly (GA) of the OAS approved the declaration “Support to the People of Nicaragua” (AG/DEC. 97-XLVIII-O/18).

That declaration was so mild that the Ortega government joined the United States in sponsoring it. In its operative part, it “condemns and calls for immediate cessation of violence” in general, establishes the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, whose subsequent report concludes that the Government of Nicaragua has carried out acts that “should be considered crimes against humanity”) and instructs the Permanent Council to “remain seized of the evolving situation.”

The Ortega-Murillo regime, aware that it had not even been condemned for the massacre committed in April 2018, proceeded to ignore the declaration of the General Assembly and increased the repression with its’ Operation Clean Up, attacking the roadblocks with weapons of war.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Council, complying with the orders of the Foreign Ministers, proceeded to follow up on the matter and already by July 22, 2018, an extraordinary session of the Permanent Council is held -which had previously received the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights-, and it resolves to reiterate its “strong condemnation and grave concern” for the acts of violence and violations and abuse of human rights, including those committed by “the police, parapolice groups and other actors against the people of Nicaragua.”

Many resolutions but little action

From 2018 to October 2021, the Permanent Council approved at least 7 resolutions and several other times addressed the issue of Nicaragua in its sessions. And, also, within the framework of that same period, the Ordinary General Assembly approved a Declaration and two Resolutions. After the first condemnation for the crimes committed by “the police, parapolice groups and other actors against the people of Nicaragua,” the dictatorship dusted off its already worn but useful argument of sovereignty and backed by the Constitution and national laws.

That same argument had previously been used by Venezuela before the regional forum and is used by all dictators, from Erdogan in Turkey, Lukashenko in Belarus to the military in Myanmar.

To give an example, the government of Nicaragua always rejected the calls that were made to it in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN to sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, arguing that national laws were enough to prevent a massacre or crimes against humanity.

Without any international legal instrument to protect the Nicaraguan population and in the face of a distracted and disinterested international community, Ortega gave the order for the police and paramilitaries to kill with impunity and has imposed a police and terror state.

The resolution goes on to confirm “with concern” that the Government of Nicaragua did not implement the recommendations of the GA-OAS of October 21, 2020, on free and fair elections “with the applicable international standards.” Likewise, that he neither freed the political prisoners, nor lifted restrictions on political parties, as requested.

The preamble that we are analyzing also expresses alarm at the arbitrary detentions of the presidential candidates and political and civil leaders and the annulment of two other political parties last May, as confirmed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. And it goes on to point out that they are aware that the peaceful solution to the crisis in Nicaragua requires a commitment to democracy and the commitments made in the Democratic Charter.

That is the context in which the operative part and the previously mentioned warning are framed. The call is reiterated to immediately release the political prisoners, the concern that all their efforts have been ignored, their alarm at the deterioration of human rights and urges that the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter be put in practice to hold free, fair and transparent elections, under the observation of the OAS and other credible electoral observation.

Expect a demand for a new electoral process

A few days before November 7, the representatives to the OAS are not referring to the current electoral process, but they have already prepared the way to demand another electoral process, because the current one will be declared illegitimate in the next ordinary period of the General Assembly. This will allow a joint action of the United States with the European Union and democratic nations of the continent to impose tougher sanctions and open the whole range of options to stop “an autocrat who does whatever he wants,” as the Uruguayan Ambassador, Washington Abdala, said.

The official response from Ortega-Murillo was to reject the resolution, arguing that they act in defense of the “fundamental rights” of Nicaraguans and that they will not discuss “the acts of sovereignty” that they carry out. Actions which are actually done to repress and terrorize the population. Then, the day after the resolution was approved, as a sign of their repudiation and that they do not care what happens in the OAS, they imprisoned the president and vice president of the business umbrella organization COSEP and extended, through legal tricks, the period of time that political prisoners will be in prison without trial.

The importance of the October 20 resolution lies not only in that it is the last one prior to the elections, but also in that, having exhausted all its efforts to curb Ortega’s authoritarian drift, the OAS will be forced to take stronger measures. This will facilitate the implementation of the RENACER Act that will soon be passed in the United States Congress and will pressure the Biden Administration to decide if it will act to stop the expansion of authoritarianism and corruption in the continent.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.