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Daniel Zovatto: "Ortega and Murillo must not get away with impunity again"

The director of International IDEA warns that, before 2018, there was no precedent of repression in all of Latin America like the one in Nicaragua.

President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo in the central act of the Bicentennial for Nicaragua’s Independence. Photo: Presidency

Redacción Confidencial

30 de octubre 2021

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The voting on November 7 will be “a turning point” in the socio-political crisis in Nicaragua since the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo will lose any legal legitimacy by reelecting themselves in a process without political competition. And, if the Governments of Latin America do not respond “according to the circumstances” a “card of impunity” will be established for the authoritarian regimes of the region, warn experts on the matter.

The regional director of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Daniel Zovatto, warns that “the stakes are very high in Nicaragua.” Before 2018, there was no precedent of repression in the region like the one that continues to take place in this Central American country, therefore “if we allow Ortega to continue enjoying the impunity that he has counted on until now”, it will cause serious damage throughout the entire region.


“Ortega and Murillo must not get away with impunity again. A red line must be drawn. There has to be consequences and Latin America has to rise to this challenge,” stresses Zovatto in an interview on the Esta Noche program, broadcast on the Confidencial YouTube channel due to the television censorship imposed by the regime.

If the Governments of Latin America do not reject Ortega’s electoral farce, “there will be a worse card of impunity than the one that already exists,” noted Zovatto. “If you kill 320 people and nothing happens to you, if you manipulate a dialogue process in your favor and there are no further consequences… if you manipulate an election, place the entire opposition in jail, cancel the legal status of political parties, and you get elected and that triumph is recognized” it would be like telling other countries that are going through other fragile situations that “If Ortega does it and nothing happens, they can also do it.”

Zovatto noted that in recent years the region has lost six democracies out of a total of 18. “The situation is extremely serious and whatever happens in Nicaragua is a turning point.”

“If Latin America does not have the capacity, the dignity, the maturity, to confront and forcefully condemn and get involved in seeking a solution to what is happening (the socio-political crisis) in Nicaragua, democracy in Latin America —which is already going through a situation of much erosion and much deterioration—, is going to pay an even higher price,” he emphasizes.

Crisis will deepen

In Nicaragua, “the crisis of democracy and human rights is possibly going to deepen,” warns Olga Valle from the Urnas Abiertas Citizen Observatory. “We could possibly witness more human rights violations, more political violence, especially if the attention that the international community has, at this time, on Nicaragua is lost,” she added in the same interview with Esta Noche.

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The activist believes that the post-electoral environment “could be very harsh” for the Nicaraguan population, since the absence of democracy in the country “is impacting on other dimensions of life,” just as “we are seeing it with (state secrecy about) the coronavirus pandemic, with the increase in poverty, and the rise in the number of femicides.”

The interview with both experts took place hours after the presentation of the report “Nicaragua, Elections 2021: an intentional plan to end democracy,” in which it is recommended to suspend and reschedule the elections because “the illegal and fraudulent development of the process, as a whole, prevents any possibility that the elections may lead to a result that reflects the free expression of the popular will.”

The study highlights that “the integrity of the electoral process is compromised” and, consequently, “the elections lack legitimacy.” The document was presented by Urnas Abiertas jointly with International IDEA and the Center for Political and Government Studies of the Andrés Bello Catholic University, under the auspices of the Latin American Program of the Wilson Center and Confidencial.

“Sticks and Carrots” for the regime

Regardless of what the international community can do to pressure the Ortega and Murillo regime, national activists have the responsibility of keeping the country’s socio-political crisis on the regional agenda. For this, “it is very important that the opposition finds the way to unite, to put together a good common front that is not only political, to link with other actors, to have a single voice, coordinate with the international community, go to the OAS and request the intervention of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” explains Zovatto.

Likewise, the opposition within the country or in exile must “reconfigure itself,” emphasizes Valle. It must work “based on real democratic principles, of transformation of the State and not of a continuity of this regime without Ortega.” We must also “open up to actors who do not necessarily aspire to seize power, but who are working for democratic values, to rebuild the social fabric.”

Meanwhile, it is necessary to “increase the cost of staying in power for the authoritarian regime with more individual sanctions, with more pressure” and at the same time offer to lower the cost if they offer and are willing to seek a solution; that is, “a mixture of the carrot and stick with the aim of forcing a dialogue. But this time a dialogue that is well-intentioned and that is not to buy time and then return to repression,” as happened on the other occasions, concluded Daniel Zovatto.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times

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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.

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