The Switzerland Ambassador to Nicaragua, Mirko Giulieti, says the sanctions imposed by his country against six high officials of the Ortega government involved in serious human rights abuses, are not against Nicaragua and that the cooperation that comes through the cooperation agency COSUDE will continue in the country.
In an interview on the “Esta Semana” program, Ambassador Giulieti, based in San Jose, Costa Rica, explained that the sanctions represent a “political message.” He explains that Switzerland does not want to be the safe haven of “dirty” or illicit money from any country of the world.
What is the underlying reason for this sanction by Switzerland against six high officials of the government of Nicaragua? Is it a political message or does it also have an economic implication?
It is rather a message of respect for human rights. Switzerland thus aligns itself with the sanctions that the European Union took in May to give a clear message to Nicaraguan authorities and in general to the Nicaraguan people. Since 2018 we have registered human rights abuses and despite the dialogue we have had with the Nicaraguan government, those abuses continue. It is a strictly political measure to tell the Government that this cannot go on.
Is it unusual for Switzerland to make such a direct declaration, as severe as this one regarding a Latin American government?
With Latin America yes, although Switzerland also aligned itself with the European Union sanctions against individuals in Venezuela. They were similar measures to those taken against the six persons in Nicaragua. Switzerland independently also adopts sanctions from the European Union or other agencies such as the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
But Switzerland is not part of the European Union. It has a special relationship in the Shengen Agreement; but are you talking about a coordinated foreign policy?
It’s not a coordinated policy. Of course, we see what the European Union does, which is one of our main trading and political partners. And the idea is not that we take issues automatically, we see what the European Union does, and we make our own balance of interests. In the case of Nicaragua, we have also decided to follow these sanctions of the European Union in a completely independent manner.
Some analysts have interpreted these sanctions as a warning of the possible existence in Switzerland of ill-gotten capital from the Nicaraguan regime seeking shelter in the financial system of your country. What is Switzerland’s policy regarding this issue?
Switzerland’s general policy is that we do not want “dirty money” from any country in the world. That is money coming from illicit trafficking, that is money coming from thefts, that it is money coming from drug trafficking, we don’t want it. The financial class in Switzerland is very important and it does not have to be a “safe heaven” for high-level leaders, industrialists or criminals to hide money.
By sanctioning those six high officials, a migratory restriction is also imposed on them, economic restrictions to carry out activities in Switzerland. Does that come from any knowledge of transactions or investments or plans to carry them out in Switzerland?
No, these types of sanctions are, I would say, classic ones. Ban on travelling to Switzerland, ban on entering Swiss territory, which is similar to the one also taken by the countries of the European Union. And if there are funds, freeze those funds so there are not illegal transactions or transactions of any kind. They are classic measures.
What implications does this political message have for the Nicaraguan Government regarding the development cooperation policy that Switzerland maintains through COSUDE, a program that I understand exceeds ten million euros per year?
Directly, none. When we sanction six people in particular we are not sanctioning the entire country. The message is very clear. They are sanctions against six public figures who maintained or have a very important role in the Nicaraguan government and have had a very important negative role after the crisis of 2018. The intention is not to sanction the people of Nicaragua, which are two different things.
The program that you mentioned continues. COSUDE has been present [in Nicaragua] for 40 years and we have contributed eleven million in aid last year. This year we are also present with several programs: support for the Covid-19 crisis, support for 2,000 Red Cross volunteers, support for 1,500 specialists who work in public hospitals, socioeconomic support. It is necessary to distinguish well the targeted sanctions against important figures who have had responsibilities in human rights violations and the Nicaraguan population that we continue to support.
The government statement says that Switzerland is prepared to support efforts to find a peaceful solution to the sociopolitical conflict in Nicaragua. Is Switzerland participating in any mediation or negotiation initiative in the Nicaraguan crisis?
No, not at this time, but we have always told both the government and the opposition that if there were a need, Switzerland would analyze the request for some type of mediation or intermediation between the parties. At the moment, there is no active program, but we have always told both parties that if there is a need, and if the two parties consider it necessary and agree, Switzerland could consider such a request.
Switzerland supported the negotiation efforts that we carried out in 2019 which failed in June of last year when the talks were suspended and the negotiated agreements were not implemented, what assessment do you have of that negotiation?
We have always urged the Government to resume the dialogue with the opposition. It is for us the only possible solution for Nicaraguan to find internal unity and the economic growth it deserves. We have always insisted on the importance of that dialogue, if there is no dialogue the country cannot advance. A dialogue is born from two parts and the two parties must sit around a table to dialogue with conviction, with commitment and looking forward and not looking behind. For us, the only way out is a dialogue between the parties.