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Former Ambassadors: Sweden Must "Do More" Against Dictatorship in Nicaragua

Seven former Swedish ambassadors say their country must redouble efforts to end the Ortega regime

Redacción Confidencial

13 de mayo 2024


Seven former ambassadors of Sweden to Nicaragua signed a letter published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, urging their country’s authorities to get more actively involved in opposing the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and his wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo. They suggest cutting off their financing from the World Bank, and ensuring that they are internationally condemned for violating the Convention against Statelessness.

The document, signed by Eivor Halkjaer, ambassador to Nicaragua between 1994 – 1997; Jan Bjerninger (1997 – 2000); Klas Markensten (2000 – 2003); Eva Zetterberg (2003 – 2008); Ewa Werner (2008 – 2010); Michael Frühling (2010 – 2014), and Anders Kompass (2017 – 2020), follows in the tradition of diplomacy from this European country. In July 2018 Sweden made a similar request to help find a solution to the Nicaraguan crisis that erupted in April 2018.

The signatories point out how for many years, their country was very involved in helping Nicaragua “recover after decades of misgovernment and oppression under the brutal dictatorship of the Somoza family. Thousands of Swedes, known and unknown, traveled there to contribute to economic and social development and to a democratic society. They built schools and health centers, contributed to the award-winning literacy program for poor agricultural workers and families from poor neighborhoods, developed knowledge and technical capacity for industry, strengthened agriculture, and helped create a police force that became famous for its work against gender violence”.

They add that “the new Nicaragua that started so promisingly has today become a brutal dictatorship under the command of Daniel Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo, the self-proclaimed vice president. The regime has not only imprisoned and exiled the country’s main politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, and priests, but has also stripped them of their Nicaraguan citizenship and stole their homes, lands, bank accounts, and pensions”.

The text recalls that “about 4,000 civil society non-profit organizations have been declared illegal. Students from the dozens of closed and confiscated universities are not even allowed to access their course records and diplomas. Traditional processions of the Catholic Church have been banned, and all public events (music, film screenings, exhibitions) must request prior authorization from a special authority. The regime has broken relations with the Vatican (the only country in Latin America to do so!) and has also expelled the representative of the International Red Cross.

Ortega, Murillo… and Pinochet

According to the seven diplomats, Ortega and Murillo “seem increasingly desperate. The latest example is what was a common practice in Pinochet’s Chile and the other military dictatorships of the time in Latin America: making opposition figures disappear. Since September 2023, indigenous leader Brooklyn Rivera has been missing after being detained and transferred in an ambulance to mislead his followers. So far, all demands for him to appear alive or dead have been ignored, including those made internationally”.

Sweden has supported two initiatives to counter the dictatorship. In 2022, the country actively promoted the proposal for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to establish a special group of experts to examine human rights violations in Nicaragua. The group recently presented its second report, declaring the regime guilty of crimes against humanity.

Sweden also opposed allowing the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF), of which it is one of the main donors, to grant more than a billion crowns to the Bio-Clima project in Nicaragua. The project was presented as an environmental and climate proposal, “but instead it risked leading to increased violence against the country’s indigenous peoples and large-scale exploitation of protected areas of tropical forest,” they pointed out.

“Now, Sweden should be able to take more initiatives to increase pressure on the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship. It is in our own interest to weaken the bridgehead for Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and other authoritarian powers that Nicaragua currently represents. Opposing the dictatorship also means actively defending the position of democracy and human rights in the world, which has always been a cornerstone of Swedish foreign policy to promote peaceful development,” the text reads.

Three proposals from Sweden for Nicaragua

Therefore, they propose that their government contribute to Nicaragua ceasing to be a recipient of favorable credits within the World Bank system and other multilateral credit institutions, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), considering that “a reduction in the flow of money would hit the dictatorship’s ability to continue buying the loyalty of the police and the military”.

Likewise, they recommend “helping to ensure that EU agencies apply clauses on respect and protection of human rights included in the European – Central America trade agreement. The agreement recently came into force after a ratification process that has lasted several years. The effects on trade with Nicaragua could lead some entrepreneurs in the country to take action against the regime”.

Another urgent task is to “promote the implementation of the International Convention to Reduce Statelessness Cases, which Nicaragua has ratified. The Ortega regime blatantly violates the Convention, which prohibits states from depriving residents of citizenship for political reasons. The effect would be the protection of opposition figures in the country and an increase in international pressure against the dictatorship”.

Finally, they recall that the multi-awarded writer Sergio Ramírez, who was vice president of Nicaragua during part of the 1980s, will visit Sweden and that the novelist “like many other Nicaraguan intellectuals, has long since broken with the current regime; his books are banned, and he now lives in exile in Spain”.

“Those of us who sign this article hope that Sergio Ramírez finds a Sweden in which not only official representatives, but also all organizations and all internationally interested Swedes who ever worked in Nicaragua, demonstrate with actions that democratic solidarity with the Nicaraguan people remains in force,” they conclude.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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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.