On one of the many curves on the road that connects the municipality of Rionegro (Black River) with the city of Medellin, there is billboard that has little to do with Colombia. “Crimes against humanity were committed in Nicaragua,” announces the sign embedded on the mountain. The message occupies a strategic place: the majority of people and officials who attend the 49th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) travel through this route coming from the airport.
The billboard is symptomatic of what will be the General Assembly of the OAS, which will be held on June 26, 27 and 28 in Medellin. The Nicaraguan crisis will be addressed on the official agenda of the event, as well as in parallel activities that take place prior to the meeting of foreign ministers. These will include discussions on extrajudicial executions, prevention of crimes against humanity, freedom of expression, and exclusive talks on Nicaragua.
Arriving to Medellin for the occasion are released political prisoners, such as the leader of the April 19th Movement of Masaya, Cristian Fajardo, and journalist Lucia Pineda Ubau, as well as human rights defenders, members of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy and the Blue and White National Unity.
In spite of the expectations, “the situation of Nicaragua” occupies the last place on the proposed agenda of the General Assembly (which does not mean that it will not be a priority). Since before the start of the event in Medellin, the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo rejected the inclusion of the Nicaraguan crisis on the agenda.
The regime “considers that it is an interventionist act in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, which ignores the progress [it claims to have made] in strengthening peace and harmony among Nicaraguans, as well as interfering with the development of the negotiating table for understanding and peace.”
The high interest in Nicaragua in Medellin is similar to that experienced in the last two general assemblies held in Cancun and Washington on the Venezuelan crisis. But the question that is repeated is if this interest will materialize in a forceful way in the meeting of foreign ministers, the highest authority of the OAS.
Canada presents draft resolution
So far, the only concrete thing is a draft resolution presented by the Working Group for Nicaragua, consisting of twelve countries and headed by Canada, whose government imposed sanctions last week on the inner circle of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship.
The draft resolution of the Working Group proposes to the OAS the creation of a commission “within the framework of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” so that it may “carry out diplomatic efforts at the highest level to seek a peaceful and effective solution to the political and social crisis in Nicaragua, and to present a report within a three-month period.”
The proposal is interpreted in Medellin as another opportunity for the Ortega-Murillo regime to negotiate a solution to the crisis that began in April of 2018. Thus, even though it is within the activation channels of the Democratic Charter, it is still not a fatal result for Ortega as would be a suspension from the OAS. In addition, it is said that within the OAS there are the votes to approve this resolution, but not so for any other action, as for example, declaring that in Nicaragua there was a breakdown of the constitutional order, one of the several theses discussed in the OAS.
The Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, gave an interview to the Colombian newspaper “La Opinion,” and his statements reinforced the idea that there is still an opportunity for the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship to negotiate a solution to the crisis, while not so for Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
“There is not a direct comparison between Nicaragua and Venezuela. Ortega is not Maduro. The recent release of practically all of the political prisoners in Nicaragua demonstrates levels of Sandinista commitment to achieve a negotiated solution,” said Almagro, without mentioning the self-imposed amnesty of the regime. “There is a long way to go (in Nicaragua): the restoration of public liberties, of the rule of law, of civic and political rights, etc., but in four processes of dialogue in Venezuela a step such as this could not be achieved.”
Working Group calls for the release of remaining political prisoners
Although Almagro attributes these achievements to the last round of negotiations, in Managua the opposition maintains that the release of political prisoners has been a unilateral measure of the government, as has been the change of prison regime to house arrest and the release with amnesty, and not through the agreements of the negotiation table. The Civic Alliance insists that there are still more than 80 political prisoners and that the charges and court proceedings against those released have not been closed as the government also agreed to.
In presenting their proposed resolution, the Working Group also recognizes that a significant number of political prisoners in the context of the social and political crisis have been released, as a relevant step in the framework of the agreement reached in the negotiating table, but “regrets that, once the deadline has expired, there is credible information about political prisoners still detained and that many of the released people are not clear about their legal situation.”
Another major pressure that the OAS General Assembly will put on the Ortega government will be for the return to Nicaragua of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and the Special Follow-Up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI), whose installation reached a year this June 24th.
The Working Group’s draft resolution further states: “Insist on the requirement that the Government of Nicaragua allows the entrance of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its mechanisms, as well as other international human rights mechanisms.” It is expected to be reads presented later on Wednesday for the approval of its discussion.
Thank you for reading our English section, brought to you in collaboration with Havana Times. If you wish to subscribe to our English Weekly Newsletter, you can do it here. Please spread the word and share this link with your friends, family or contacts.