Nicaragua moved me greatly when I visited in January 2019. The tragic occurrences of April 2018 were still very recent. Hundreds were dead from the repression, thousands of exiles, hundreds of imprisoned young people, leaders in hiding, radio and television stations shuttered.
The people moved me. Empathetic, courageous, determined. A people accustomed to struggle and suffering. With convictions, with patriotic pride and with ideals for a nation. The visiting delegation from the European Parliament that I presided over, had the good luck to see it all, to get to know and meet with everyone – from those in jail, to President Daniel Ortega; students; rural leaders; mothers of prisoners and of those killed; leaders from all the political parties the universities, the church.
Two Nicaraguas live side by side. A legitimate government, that fears protests, represses them and restricts liberty. A disjointed opposition barely beginning to build their unity, that expresses its demands for a democratic change, in freedom.
Official Sandinista representatives, inheritors of a heroic revolution that holds the historic narrative, sustains a powerful party apparatus extending across the national territory. A society that is much more pluralistic, modern and democratic and that wants a different future, without sectarian power monopolies, with democratic plenitude.
Is an agreement for a democratic way out impossible? Unlike Venezuela, where things are much more complex, in Nicaragua it’s possible to compromise on a road towards free and transparent elections that would open a shared future for the country. Such a pact must include five basic conditions.
First: The elections date
The demand for moving up the elections that the opposition put forward, has been overtaken by the realities. The elections should be celebrated in [November] 2021, the date foreseen for the end of the current presidential mandate.
Second: Full democratic liberties
Full liberty for the opposition to exercise their rights. Starting this very day, the government should permit the full exercise of political freedoms and absolute respect for human rights. All the parties should be legalized, and all electoral alliances allowed. No obstacles should be put on the right to assembly, or on the political work of the party leaders. The return of the international human rights organizations. No political prisoners. A total end to the repression, accompanied by a commitment to citizen peace. The social and economic peace of the country shouldn’t be called into question by anyone. The opposition should reiterate its peaceful bet on democracy.
Third: a new Electoral Law
A new electoral law should be agreed upon, with the recommendations of the OAS and the EU necessarily serving as guides. The nation’s president should be elected by a clear and sufficient majority. A second round should be guaranteed in all cases. The possibilities for reelection should be limited. In Latin America, this principle forms part of the social coexistence for full democracy. The new law should be agreed upon with the opposition: both the sector within Parliament, and that outside it.
Fourth: Electoral Observation
The government should solicit international electoral observation. Important delegations from the OAS and the EU could guarantee that the electoral results reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people. International observation legitimizes and gives stability to the country’s institutional future. If the Sandinista Front wins, no one will question its majority. If the opposition wins, the Sandinista Front would turn over power. That’s the rule.
Fifth: Memory and justice without reprisals
In any case, once the elections have passed, the Parliament should create a commission for investigating that which happened in the country beginning in April 2018 under the premise of a reconciled memorial and an assurance of no repetition, conferring compensatory justice on all the victims. Memory and justice without reprisals.
Based on this scheme, a pact is possible. Some international delegations are in a position to help it materialize and to monitor it. The Vatican, Mexico and Spain (or the European Union) could serve as mediators. Nicaragua needs such mediation. Its people deserve it.
*Ramon Jauregui is a former deputy in the European Union Parliament, representing the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. He headed the delegation from the European Parliament that visited Nicaragua in January 2019.