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ARGENTINA | 16-06-2021 00:41

Argentina abstains in vote condemning Nicaragua's jailing of opposition leaders

Casa Rosada fails to endorse OAS resolution against Nicaragua demanding "immediate release of the presidential candidates and all political prisoners."

Argentina's government on Tuesday refused to support a diplomatic resolution condemning human rights violations in Nicaragua, justifying its decision by saying it would not interfere in the internal affairs of the Central American nation.

Despite expressing "concern about the recent events in Nicaragua" in a statement, the Alberto Fernández administration refused to back a strongly worded resolution from the Organisation of American States (OAS) expressing concern at the deterioration of the political climate and human rights situation in Nicaragua.

A total of 26 nations – including the United States, Chile, Colombia and Peru – voted in favour of the resolution, with Nicaragua, Bolivia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines voting against. Argentina chose to abstain, joining Belize, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Mexico.

Over the past few weeks, more than a dozen opposition figures have been arrested in Nicaragua, including four declared presidential rivals who planned to run against President Daniel Ortega in the next election.

The OAS resolution condemned the arrest of presidential pre-candidates, restrictions imposed on political parties and called for the immediate release of political prisoners. 

At the conclusion of the vote, Argentina's Ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Raimundi, read a joint statement from the Argentine and Mexican governments that expressed concern about arbitrary detentions in Nicaragua, while arguing that the resolution against the Ortega regime amounted to interference in Nicaragua's internal affairs. Both Mexico and Argentina justified their decision to abstain on those grounds. 

“We are convinced that this situation will be overcome by the Nicaraguans themselves,” said Raimundi, “safeguarding peaceful coexistence, division of powers, respect for minorities, constitutional guarantees and full respect for human rights in general.”  

Amid fierce criticism from the opposition, Argentina's Foreign Ministry later sought to clarify its stance in a statement.

"We do not agree with the countries that, far from supporting the normal development of democratic institutions, set aside the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs, [which is] so dear to our history," it read, warning that "imposing guidelines from outside" could "unduly prejudge the development of electoral processes."

It added: "In this context, it was not possible for us to accompany the draft resolution put for consideration today at the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS)."

The decision not to support the resolution is the latest in a series of international and diplomatic votes on human rights issues that have been criticised by the opposition.

In March, Argentina told the International Criminal Court (ICC) it was withdrawing its support for efforts to prosecute Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for alleged human rights abuses, preferring to promote efforts to end the crisis in the country via "inclusive dialogue which does not favour any particular sector."

Last December, Buenos Aires also refused to back a resolution from the OAS which would have condemned recent elections in Venezuela as "fraudulent."

 

Macri leads criticism

Former president Mauricio Macri on Tuesday slammed the decision to abstain from the Nicaragua vote, accusing Argentina's government of "looking the other way" while human rights violations were ongoing.

"Once again, Argentina is silent in the face of human rights violations. In this case abstaining from voting at the OAS to condemn the Ortega regime that has arrested, among others, four candidates fro the Presidency," wrote the opposition leader in a post on Twitter.

Macri said that 26 countries had "condemned abuses from the Nicaraguan government," while "Argentina looked the other way." 

Former foreign minister Jorge Faurie, who served in Macri's 2015-2019 administration, described the decision as "an error and a tragedy," arguing that it ran contrary to Argentina's long history of denouncing human rights violations.

"We have completely abandoned that path," said Faurie on Wednesday, referencing recent votes on Venezuela and the Middle East conflict. "First by withdrawing from the complaint against Venezuela for human rights violations, and now by voting against the consensus of 26 countries."

"This leaves us on the side of dictatorships, autocracies and those who do not respect human rights," he declared.

“I believe that the government's decision does not represent the Argentines who voted for any of the parties that ran in the 2019 elections, those who want to live in freedom, who want to be respected for the ideas they may have and not for that reason become prisoners," the former official told CNN radio.

 

Nicaragua defends arrests

Nicaragua's government has defended the wave of arrests that targeted 13 opposition figures, including four presidential hopefuls, by claiming they are "usurpers" funded by the United States to topple President Ortega.

Five more opposition figures were detained on Sunday, including four top figures from the Unamos opposition party — including party president Suyén Barahona Cuan, vice-president Hugo Torres, ex-guerilla fighter Dora Maria Téllez and Ana Margarita Vigil Guardián, a police statement said.

The government said the group had been detained on charges of "inciting foreign intervention" by the United States.

Unamos, formerly known as the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS), is made up largely of dissidents who split from Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) because they disagreed with his leadership.

The charges stem from a law initiated by Ortega's government and approved by Parliament in December that were allegedly imposed to "defend Nicaragua's sovereignty." The measures have, however, been criticised by opponents and rights bodies as a means of freezing out challengers.

The opposition figures received "millions of dollars in cash from the American public though USAID," the government alleged in a document.

Nicaragua has come under fire internationally for the arrests, which began on June 2 when Cristiana Chamorro, the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro – one of the four presidential hopefuls later detained – was held under house arrest.

Among the latest detainees, Téllez has in recent years been a vocal critic of Ortega, a former comrade-in-arms. They fought together as guerillas against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in the 1970s, and she later served as his health minister in the 1980s, before leaving in 1995 to co-found the MRS.

She was fiercely critical of the Ortega government's clampdown on demonstrations that started in 2018, which according to rights groups claimed at least 328 lives.

 

'Campaign of terror'

On Sunday, Julie Chung, the top US diplomat for Latin America, called the arrests "arbitrary" and denounced Ortega's "campaign of terror" in a tweet.

"OAS members must send a clear signal this week: enough repression. The region cannot stand by and wait to see who is next," she added, in comments issued prior to Tuesday's vote.

Ortega's government and inner circle have been subject to US sanctions since a clampdown on demonstrations demanding his resignation in 2018 claimed at least 328 lives, according to rights groups.

Ortega, a father of 15, governed Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, before returning to power in 2007. He has won two successive re-elections since then. Now 75, he is accused by the opposition and NGOs of increasing authoritarianism.

The veteran leader is widely expected to seek a fourth term in November elections, though he has not formally announced his intention. 

Since the beginning of the month, Nicaraguan security forces have now arrested about a dozen opposition figures.

Last month, Nicaragua's legislature appointed a majority of governing party-aligned magistrates to the election body that will oversee the vote.

It has since disqualified two parties from participating.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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