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Nicaragua: Freedom for Ortega’s Political Prisoners is “Non-Negotiable”, says Almagro

“The OAS is not going to sidestep the role of the Civic Alliance,” says Luis Almagro. Ortega’s unilateral agenda is outside the focus of the OAS.

The unilateral agenda that the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship aims to promote as a way out of the sociopolitical crisis that the country is going through is not inside the radar of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The Secretary General of the organization, Luis Almagro, maintains that the OAS will only accompany any electoral reform agreements, after the release of Ortega’s political prisoners and the full restitution of civil liberties, as agreed upon at the dialogue table between the Government and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy in March.

Almagro reiterated his position in two meeting held at the end of last week in Washington with representatives of the Civic Alliance, the Blue and White National Unity movement, and a public event attended by the Nicaraguan diaspora.

Although the secretary general did not refer specifically to the unilateral measures that the regime would adopt, such as its announced electoral plan and the release its political prisoners, he emphasized that the institutional vision of the OAS is framed in the negotiated agreements, a process which is currently suspended due to the lack of political will on the part of the government to comply with the agreements already signed.

Manuel Orozco, Director of the Migration, Remittances and Development Program of the Inter-American Dialogue, told Confidencial that Almagro “without being stoic, offered three contributions on Nicaragua from the institutional perspective,” in the meeting they had. The first was that the OAS will only accompany the electoral reforms that are agreed upon at the negotiating table.

“Almagro said that they are committed to a process of electoral reform as a condition for democratic change, but that this has to come out of negotiations with the Civic Alliance. That they (OAS) are not going to sidestep the role of the opposition, and they will work with them in that process,” Orozco said.

In the same vein, Jose Pallais said that Almagro assured them, in the meeting held with negotiating members of the Civic Alliance, that unilateral cooperation with the government in electoral matters “is not visualized.”

“Almagro said it in a more extensive meeting he had with Nicaraguans who are here: that the OAS support for electoral reform is only feasible at the negotiating table with the Civic Alliance, and of course listening to the contributions of civil society and political parties.

According to Pallais, the Ortega regime “is waiting for its unilateral moves to pay off.” “But, I do not see how they can sell it internationally, and, in short, I doubt that this will solve the country’s crisis.”

The government wants to return to the situation with the OAS before April 2018, but that does not fit into the current OAS calculation. The OAS is propping up the table and a true agreement,” said Pallais, referring to a secretive electoral agreement that the government and the Almagro’s office had signed on February 2017 and never made public.

Almagro supports the restitution of freedoms

The second point that Almagro emphasized was the one referring to citizens’ liberties and the right to mobilization. According to the academic Orozco, Almagro supports the position of the cessation of the repression and the dismantling of the police state.

“Almagro said that they are not focused only on the release of prisoners and electoral reform, but that they are faithful to the spirit of the Democratic Charter. Therefore, we must support all the processes that give rise to strengthening the constitutional rights, and the freedoms of the people so that the country does not enter an electoral process without citizen guarantees,” Orozco said.

Felix Maradiaga, member of the Political Council of the Blue and White Unity, also had a meeting with Almagro, and said that the Secretary General advocated sticking to the agreements signed at the INCAE negotiation table, such as the restoration of civil liberties. “I believe that Almagro has the political will to accompany the people of Nicaragua,” assessed Maradiaga.

Pallais added that, in Almagro’s vision, electoral agreements must be accompanied by respect for citizen liberties.

Freedom of political prisoners: “non-negotiable”

The third point that Almagro touched was that of the release of the political prisoners. The researcher of the Inter-American Dialogue said that Almagro classified this condition as “non-negotiable.” “For the OAS, the liberation of prisoners is paramount,” narrates Orozco.

According to the participants in the meetings in Washington, Almagro hopes that the release of the political prisoners will take place without further delay on June 18, the end date agreed upon at the dialogue table. This includes the full release of all the prisoners that have not regained their full freedom.

“The commitment to release political prisoners that Almagro takes into account is the one signed at the negotiating table, not the releases [to house arrest] made unilaterally,” Maradiaga added.

Pallais recalled that the OAS is an international guarantor of the release of political prisoners in Managua, and that the organization is evaluating the government’s compliance in this matter. “Release [to house arrest] is not compliance,” underlined the member of the Civic Alliance.

The government released 50 more political prisoners to house arrest on May 30, although there are still 182 in prison. Maradiaga also recommended working with the OAS on the list of names of people that the government denies having locked up, since, in the light of international human rights parameters, they are considered “missing.”

Almagro’s reelection, will it influence?

According to OAS sources, it is unlikely that Almagro will be reelected as Secretary General in March. In the “corridors of Washington there is talk that the position could be occupied by someone from Mexico or the Caribbean countries,” the sources point out.

Given this scenario, Manuel Orozco believes that Almagro will press on the accelerator with the Nicaraguan crisis in what remains of his period, as well as the Venezuelan crisis that has occupied most of his administration.

“He is going to work more on Nicaragua than on Venezuela, because Venezuela has worn-out a lot. Almagro is seeing that his period can end and he needs to leave a legacy,” Orozco analyzed. “And the only two acute crises that occupy the OAS are Venezuela and Nicaragua. At the next General Assembly of the OAS, (later this month in Colombia), both will be discussed.”

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