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This is why Caribbean countries in the OAS turned their backs on Ortega

Daniel Ortega leaves "no other option" to Caribbean Community members, says Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda ambassador

A Permanent Council Resolution obtained 27 votes in favor

Confidencial Digital

23 de junio 2021


Five countries from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) were the key to an OAS Permanent Council resolution, which for the first time passed the 24-vote threshold required to expel Nicaragua from the Organization of American States (OAS).

The resolution, which condemned the arrest of opposition members and demanded their "immediate" release, obtained 26 votes in favor; five abstentions Mexico; Argentina; Belize; Dominica; and Honduras; and three votes against: Nicaragua, Bolivia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The five Caribbean nations —Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobagohad never voted in favor of a resolution against the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo; their position had been to abstain or be absent until last Tuesday.

In total, twelve Caricom countries voted in favor of the resolution, while Dominica abstained, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines voted against. 

Last October, the OAS General Assembly made up of the foreign ministers of all the countries approved a resolution that established May 2021 as the deadline for the Ortega government to carry out an electoral reform. On that occasion, six Caribbean nations voted in favor, seven abstained and one voted against.

The reasons for the change among Caribbean countries

Professor Ricardo De León, Master in International Relations, commented that the vote showed an "important change in the correlation of forces in the hemisphere; in addition to better information and perception of what is happening in the country". 

"The Caribbean nations have seen beyond their own interests with Venezuela, and have recognized the deterioration of the pillars of a democracy", said the academic.

Harold Rocha, expert in International Law, stressed that the Caribbean nations have been reluctant to support the resolutions because they see these processes as "opinion on internal affairs. As small states, sovereignty is a priority".

During the Permanent Council debate, the Ambassador of Barbados, Noel Lynch, said that "the evolving circumstances in Nicaragua are sufficiently worrisome to warrant a strong call from OAS members for appropriate measures to be taken to ensure transparent, free and fair elections in Nicaragua".

In recent weeks, the Ortega regime has imprisoned five presidential pre-candidates - Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Miguel Mora and Félix Maradiaga - and nine opposition leaders: José Adán Aguerri, Violeta Granera, José Pallais, Támara Dávila, Ana Margarita Vijil, Dora María Téllez, Suyén Barahona, Hugo Torres, Víctor Hugo Tinoco and Luis Rivas Anduray. They are joined by Marco Fletes and Walter Gómez, former employees of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCh), investigated by the Attorney General's Office for the alleged crime of money laundering, and Pedro Vásquez, Cristiana Chamorro's driver. 

Message to the Ortega regime: "It is not interference"

In an opinion article, Ronald Sanders, president of the Permanent Council of the OAS, pointed out that the Caricom countries "chose to send a clear signal to President Ortega that they want him to act democratically, to release the people who have been arbitrarily detained and to cease the aggressions against the media."

"(Caricom countries) were consistent in their position that there should be no interference in the internal affairs of states. However, no country can be a member of an organization that proclaims adherence to the rule of law, democracy, human rights and free and fair elections, and remain silent when these principles are discarded," detailed Sanders, who is Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador in Washington and the OAS.

"Fascism, authoritarianism and the sheer lust to retain power, despite the will of the majority, lurks dangerously everywhere, including in the United States (...) reflect, therefore, on how smaller nations could suffer prolonged agony in trying to regain democracy when it is taken away from them," the ambassador wrote.

Ortega squandered opportunities

The diplomat stressed that Caribbean countries "did not arrive at that common position without giving President Ortega's government every opportunity to remedy conditions in Nicaragua."

"Antigua and Barbuda," he continued, "and other Caricom countries voted against previous resolutions directed at Nicaragua. They did so to give President Ortega time to address the serious charges raised by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN."

Sanders asserted that Ortega left the Caribbean countries with "no choice", noting "the recent wave of arbitrary detentions, prison beatings, denial of access to medicine and legal representation, and no effort to change these conditions; including no attempt to implement much needed electoral reform". 

The diplomat explained that, as president of the Permanent Council, he called a meeting on Monday, June 14 for the Nicaraguan representation at the OAS - headed by Ambassador Luis Alvarado - to express its position on the resolution, but "they chose not to show up".

During Tuesday's session, Alvarado affirmed that the Ortega government does not recognize the legitimacy of the resolution and rejects any "meddling" by the OAS, considering that it acts under Washington's orders.

"We condemn the interfering practice of this discredited organization and its General Secretariat, in matters of Nicaragua's internal jurisdiction, and that of other member states of the organization," lambasted Alvarado, who interrupted the session several times to express his disagreement.

"Nicaragua may seem distant from the Caricom area, but Caricom must speak up to defend democracy and the rule of law everywhere, or risk jeopardizing these vital safeguards of freedom at home," Sanders concluded.

Votes for Nicaragua’s expulsion 

The vote in the Permanent Council revealed that the OAS already has the necessary votes to expel Nicaragua, according to international affairs analysts who recommended that the regime return to the democratic path.

Rocha noted that this is the first time that a resolution on Nicaragua "obtains such broad support" from the Permanent Council. On average, votes on Nicaragua reached 20 votes in favor.

"The 26 votes exceed the ⅔ of the member states, which is the indispensable requirement to be able to apply Article 20 or 21," said the academic. These articles contemplate the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the OAS, which entails the suspension of the country in question.

Mauricio Díaz, former ambassador of Nicaragua to the OAS, forespelled in a recent interview with CONFIDENCIAL that the next step of the Permanent Council will be a call for an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers -where the suspension of Nicaragua would be discussed-, since "they have the votes" to call that meeting.

Rocha warned that "if the repression in Nicaragua is not reversed, it is quite probable that those (26) votes will be counted and may increase. It must be taken into account that among the five abstentions, two are from countries that are working on a proposal to seek an alternative solution to the conflict, which are Argentina and Mexico".

"If their (Mexico and Argentina) attempts to approach the Government are not fulfilled or do not take place; or if they also experience the same rejection or the lack of will of the regime to solve (the crisis), it must be assumed that those votes will change from an abstention to a yes. That would already add up to 28 votes", explained the academic.

He highlighted that, in the case of the Caribbean countries, "if the circumstances that led to this last meeting and resolution do not reverse course, it is to be expected that those votes will be maintained".

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


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