The Alberto Fernández administration has once again abstained in an Organisation of American States (OAS) vote condemning the political repression of opponents of the Daniel Ortega regime in Nicaragua.
Argentina was one of seven nations not to back a resolution demanding “the immediate release” of political prisoners ahead of next month’s elections in the Central American country. It is the second time that the Peronist government has refused to back an OAS resolution criticising the Ortega regime this year.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires said that its decision to abstain from the vote was consistent with its previous positions on the political crisis. While admitting that this latest resolution “contains elements consistent with the Argentine position regarding the human rights situation in Nicaragua and the arrests of Nicaraguan opposition representatives,” the government said it would only serve to “prejudge the development of an electoral act that has not yet taken place.” It did not comment on the fairness of the electoral process as it stands currently.
The OAS resolution, adopted during a virtual session of its permanent council, expressed “grave concern” over the political climate in Nicaragua and called for “the immediate release of presidential candidates and political prisoners.” The body’s second reproach of the government in Managua in five months, it won the support of 26 of 34 active member states.
Seven nations – including Argentina, Bolivia and Mexico – opted to abstain.
"The attempts of the Permanent Council to commit the Nicaraguan government to holding free and fair elections have been ignored," the text states, noting “with alarm" the "deterioration of the situation of political rights and human rights" in the troubled country.
"The measures adopted by the Nicaraguan government do not meet the minimum criteria for free and fair elections as established by the Inter-American Democratic Charter and, therefore, weaken the credibility of the presidential and parliamentary elections that will take place on November 7, 2021," reads the resolution.
As it did back in June, the OAS Permanent Council once again urged the Nicaraguan authorities to carry out the necessary reforms to hold transparent elections "under credible international observation."
The resolution, which was sponsored by Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (represented by a delegation from opposition leader Juan Guaidó), was hailed by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro .
"This shows the commitment of the member states to democracy," he said. "The state of democracy in Nicaragua is not just a problem for Nicaraguans, it is everyone's problem," he declared.
In recent months, at least 39 political opponents of the Ortega regime have been detained in Nicaragua, including seven presidential hopefuls.
On Thursday, Nicaragua’s National Police Force said that it had arrested two top business leaders on alleged “money, property and asset-laundering charges.”
The individuals were identified as the president and vice-president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), Michael Healy and Álvaro Vargas. The duo also face allegations that they participated in “acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and self-determination,” as well as “inciting foreign interference in internal affairs, requesting military interventions, organising with financing from foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism.”
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. He is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office.
The OAS will hold a debate on the situation in Nicaragua on November 10 to 12, under the framework of its General Assembly.