Ramón Jáuregui: “Without free elections, Ortega's government will not be recognized”

Former Spanish MEP argues that international pressure would advocate to disregard the result and holding new elections

Ex European Parliament member Ramon Jauregui from Spain led the 11-member MEP delegation that visited Nicaragua in January 2019. Photo: EU

23 de julio 2021


Ramón Jáuregui, former member of the Spanish Socialist Party in the European Parliament, presided over the mission of MEPs that visited Nicaragua in January 2019, while the regime's prisons were full of opponents who participated in the civic protests of April 2018.

A few months later, at the end of his term in the European Parliament, he proposed five conditions for a democratic solution for Nicaragua; and at the beginning of this year, he advocated for an international mediation between the Government and the opposition to promote an electoral reform, before the November elections.

Last Friday, the Spanish politician published a new column in CONFIDENCIAL titled From revolution to tyranny, in which he confessed to being disappointed in President Daniel Ortega. “I was wrong,” Jáuregui wrote. “I was naïve to believe that Ortega was willing to risk even a minimal chance of defeat. The arrests of all opposition candidates -even those closest to the government-, the opening of totally artificial and false criminal cases, declaring various political parties illegal,  the refusal to have a  dialogue about the electoral law, the imposition of an Electoral Council totally aligned with the Government, the harassment and persecution of the media critical of the Government, and the refusal to admit international missions and human rights organizations into the country, all add up to a country without freedom, and an authoritarian, totalitarian government that eliminates the opposition, and stifles freedom and pluralism.

In this interview with CONFIDENCIAL, the former MEP proposes a roadmap for the international community in the face of the political crisis in Nicaragua and the foreseen failure of the November 7 elections without transparency and political competition.

 Earlier this year you advocated for international mediation to promote dialogue and electoral reform in Nicaragua. Now, in an article you published in CONFIDENCIAL this Friday, you say you were naïve to believe that Ortega was willing to allow a democratic competition. What happened in these six months? 

 You know very well. There has evidently been a radical change in the behavior of the Government. Not only has it not negotiated the Electoral Law, as the international community was expecting, but it has made a clearly partisan integration of its Electoral Council; and what is more, it has taken a series of decisions in the last two months that make the absolute lack of transparency and the cruelest repression evident, it has detained practically all the opponents, it has prohibited the very life of some political parties. 

What we did not believe would happen has happened, which is that Ortega has eliminated any possibility of opposition, and wants to hold elections alone, and obviously without any risk of losing. And this is what leads me, personally, to consider myself deceived, because I sincerely believed that Ortega was going to look for a certain legitimization, if he could win the elections, in view of the fracture of the opposition; and I believed that he was going to hold presentable elections.

I thought it was important to participate,in my conversations with multiple Nicaraguan interlocutors I have always defended the idea that participation is good, that it was necessary to transform all that force of freedom for Nicarragua into political power and deocratic legitimacy, but I unfortunately feel totally disappointed, and I seriously ask myself what the reaction of the international community should be in the face of this madness, in the face of this intolerable repression. 

If there is no free and competitive election on November 7, would the Ortega government be putting the recognition of its legitimacy at risk on January 10, meaning the diplomatic recognition of the governments of Eueope, America, and elsewhere? 

The consequences of such an election without opposition, of a rigged election, of a victory of Ortega without opponents, are very serious. It is not only a question of thinking about the absence of international delegations in his inauguration, it seems to me that the consequences are multiple, and I insist, very serious, for him, for his government, and for Nicaragua.

In the first place, because they will not be recognized by the international community; secondly, because the day after his the election government will probably have a sword of Damocles permanently demanding electoral repetition; thirdly because it is very likely that he will have lost any capacity to run as candidate again after such a blunder, and also because I believe that the harmonization of sanctions from the European Union, the United States and the OAS itself could be very serious for his government, but unfortunately also for the country itself, because I consider it very difficult for Nicaragua to have it’s own economic development, being internationally economically isolated and sanctioned by the multilateral banks. 

Finally, because I believe that the international community, faced with a situation such as the one we are describing, is very likely to convey to all the organizations the need to keep that government isolated. 

But let me tell you something that I consider to be even more terrible, although it does not have that economic dimension, and it is that Ortega, if he does this, sinks his own revolution, all his credit, or whatever credit he has left, in history. 

The fact that a sector of the opposition, the Citizens for Liberty party, is participating in the election, despite the fact that several aspiring presidential candidates are imprisoned, would that give any legitimacy to Ortega's election, even though there are no conditions and we have the Supreme Electoral Council, which you have described, and there is no international observation either?

I believe that electoral participation under those conditions, for whoever does it, is a discredit, because really, if I were to run as a candidate, knowing that the candidates of other political forces are in prison, I would be committing a betrayal to democracy and freedom, and to equal opportunities, so I do not know who will do it.

It does not make any sense, under those conditions, with 24 leaders imprisoned, isolated, without us knowing anything about their status; with political parties outlawed; with total impediment of electoral observation; with a law made to their measure. 

Frankly, all the limits that were given have been crossed.

I have been, I insist, very much in favor of a pragmatic formula of participation. I have always believed that electoral participation, even under unfavorable conditions, had to be maintained because the Nicaragua I saw in 2019, after what happened in 2018, was a Nicaragua that was demanding a way to materialize some yearnings for freedom and democracy; and of course, an aspiration as legitimate as that of building the peace and progress of the country on democracy. 

And that is why, even though that was my point of view, I do not see conditions at the moment. I can only think that still, in the month of August and September, things will change and that Ortega will be able to understand that he is really digging his own grave under these conditions, from the political point of view; but I believe that we still have tie, if the Government is able to change, that there is a chance to return the path of sanity, and of freedom and equality towards the elections in Nicaragua. 

The position of the regime, up to this moment, towards the international community is one of total rejection, towards the OAS, the European Union, the United States, towards the Government of Spain itself. Is there any possibility to build a bridge towards dialogue, with this warning about what is going to happen with the reelection of Ortega?

I would still like there to be some possible mediation. I think that there are some diplomatic offices that can still play a mediation role. I think that the Vatican delegation has some role, demanding Ortega to rectify what is happening.

I think that few diplomatic delegations in Managua have the capacity that the Apostolic Nuncio has to convey this message to the presidential headquarters, and I am sure that I can interpret the Vatican's feelings in this regard. I believe that the Vatican has a mediating role because of its capacity to influence the Nicaraguan Presidency, and I hope that the Nuncio will play that role, as the last hope for a change to an essential rectification.

Last week, the European Parliament agreed on a resolution, which was supported by more than 90% of the different political formations, demanding actions by the European Union. Will these actions by the European Union be adopted before or after November 7?

My understanding is that it will be after. I think we should leave the option until the last day. It is not prudent to make decisions before the Nicaraguan elections, and I believe that the most intelligent thing to do is for the European Parliament to continue announcing a firm position, as it did in the resolution it approved last week in Strasbourg, and make an announcement of a severe reaction, but not to exercise it until this situation of democratic destruction of the country takes place. I believe that the European Parliament will do very well to put pressure on the European Commission, so that the actions will take place once the disgrace has occurred.

In the article you wrote, “From revolution to tyranny”, you also advocate that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should take the human rights violations that have occurred in Nicaragua to the international criminal court. But the Nicaraguan government is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, is that an obstacle for this process to become a reality?

It is very difficult, if the political situation in Nicaragua remains in the hands of the government, that this complaint could become something concrete. But I believe that the international criminal court already has such prestige, and such is the discredit of a complaint brought to that court, that it is unpresentable for any politician in the world to live with a label on his or her back such as a complaint before the International Criminal Court. Honestly, it is a human indignity. 

I believe that things do not have to go to that extreme. I have had doubts about including a reference of that nature in my article, but I believe that in the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva and, of course, the investigations that are being carried out already present a level of seriousness to the facts that have been denounced and in the verification of the violation of human rights both by the Inter-American Committee and by the regional office of the High Commissioner.  These investigations must have some kind of juridical-political expression; this is my only aspiration. But, I repeat, it is the political discredit of a leader who can be prosecuted in this way, as if they were war criminals in Uganda or Serbia.

In the event that Ortega persists in his reelection without political competition and without democracy on November 7, does the approach of the international community point to the annulment of those elections, to the promotion of a reform to redo an electoral process?

 It aims at having a united strategy of the whole international community, and I am referring to the European Union, the United States as well, and the OAS included, so that this regime is not recognized internationally, other than by some absolutely marginal government, so that there is constant pressure on the government that emerged from these elections, so that they know that they have no margin for international action, and because there will be constant pressure for them to hold new elections

Unlike some other process that we all remember, for example in Venezuela in December, or in the previous year with the presidential elections of Maduro, where there was also a great distance between the international community and the Venezuelan regime in that respect, today this negotiation process that has opened, and fortunately, in Venezuela, the paths outline a future electoral calendar. And this is, in a way, what is going to happen with Nicaragua if the anti-democratic misfortune materializes. I think that in the year 2022 the international pressure on Nicaragua will be very strong, and besides, I have the impression that economically Nicaragua does not have the entity to be able to sustain itself.

So, we will always have the difficulty of establishing what limits we put on the sanctions so that the Nicaraguan people do not suffer, but we will certainly have to deepen the personal sanctions and we will have to establish limits on the Nicaraguan financial system, and on the cooperation agreements or trade agreements themselves.

The international community, no matter how small Nicaragua may be, cannot maintain an attitude of absent-mindedness, of not responding to such a profound democratic offense as the one we are witnessing.

It is not admissible anywhere in the world that they have arrested the opposition leaders and put them in jail, there is no explanation, all the constructions of the Government are false, -I receive the notes from the Nicaraguan Government explaining their action-, but I have stopped reading them because they are not admissible for a reasonable intelligence.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff

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Carlos F. Chamorro

Periodista nicaragüense, exiliado en Costa Rica. Fundador y director de Confidencial y Esta Semana. Miembro del Consejo Rector de la Fundación Gabo. Ha sido Knight Fellow en la Universidad de Stanford (1997-1998) y profesor visitante en la Maestría de Periodismo de la Universidad de Berkeley, California (1998-1999). En mayo 2009, obtuvo el Premio a la Libertad de Expresión en Iberoamérica, de Casa América Cataluña (España). En octubre de 2010 recibió el Premio Maria Moors Cabot de la Escuela de Periodismo de la Universidad de Columbia en Nueva York. En 2021 obtuvo el Premio Ortega y Gasset por su trayectoria periodística.


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