OAS Permanent Council Approves Resolution on Nicaragua

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (PC-OAS) approved a resolution on the situation in Nicaragua. This is the third time that the PC-OAS has issued a resolution on the matter.

The draft was read into the record by the Chilean Ambassador Hernán Salinas Burgos, on behalf of the Permanent Council Working Group on Nicaragua.

Regular Meeting of the Permanent Council, May 15, 2019

The resolution’s key points focus on urging Ortega-Murillo government to demonstrate good faith, by releasing all prisoners by June 18th, allowing the return and continued work of the IACHR, without interference, developing electoral reforms to ensure fair and free elections, ensuring freedom of expression and assembly, ceasing “arbitrary detentions”, allowing effective human rights monitoring, and guaranteeing the safe return of all exiles, without retaliation.

The resolution was approved by 20 favorable votes. Ten countries abstained, three voted no, and one member state was absent.

As expected, Nicaragua rejected the convening of the meeting as well as the resolution. The Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Valdrack Jaentschke, read a prepared statement that cobbled together sections of prior speeches and a press release published by the Interior Ministry (MIGOB).

Special Meeting of the Permanent Council, April 26, 2019

In other words, Jaenschke repeated the same performance he engaged in on April 26, during the prior Special Meeting on Nicaragua. He re-read a list of “achievements”  made during the negotiations, including the “approval of the road map” and the “agenda”, as well as the signing of two agreements that have yet to be implemented.

Jaentschke also reported on the status of excarcerations. To date, the government has excarcerated 336 prisoners. However, the agreement signed with the Alianza Cívica calls for full liberation and expunging of records. So far, the Ortega-Murillo government has merely transferred prisoners to house arrest.

Jaentschke also gave the official version of the events of Thursday, May 16 and read into the record a portion of a statement from MIGOB, indicating that 21 penitentiary officers had been hurt trying to control a “mutiny” at the Modelo Prison. He did not mention the 17 confirmed prisoners who suffered injuries as a result of the guards’ actions.

“We regret the events of May 16 inside the National Penitentiary System,” read Jaentschke, “in which the prisoner Eddy Montes Preslin died as a result of a mutiny.” Jaentschke added that government crime scene experts are investigating.

The remainder of Jaentschke’s time was spent reiterating the government’s usual complaints about unfair treatment and bias, and assurances about working for “understanding and peace.” (read full statement here, in Spanish)

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After the resolution was approved, representatives from Venezuela, the United States, Argentina, Colombia, and other member states that had voted for the resolution read prepared remarks into the record.

Venezuela condemned the “murder of Eddy Morales Preslin” and stated for the record that 17 political prisoners had been injured. “This Council has issued resolutions asking the government that calls itself a government of reconciliation and peace to release all political prisoners and to reverse its undemocratic course. Ortega’s answer has been more deaths and more arrests.” The Venezuelan representative also said the Guaidó government felt “shame and pain” because weapons manufactured in Venezuela had been used to repress the Nicaraguan people.

In similar vein, Ambassador Paula Bertol of Argentina, stated that her country was “very worried about the situation in Nicaragua because the crisis continues and the violence is escalating.” The ambassador summarized the process undertaken to draft the resolution. “We analyzed and verified; we listened to the most relevant actors in this crisis, students, peasant farmers, small business owners, journalists. We were not able to speak to the government, because the government does not want to speak with the Working Group for Nicaragua.”

Bertol recognized that a dialogue had started in Nicaragua. “However, that dialogue is stalled, and as we said before, stagnant water rots.”

Next, Bertol spoke of the political prisoners who were excarcerated yesterday. “We hope that those prisoners will really be able to walk the streets freely and restart their lives, because if this is merely a change of incarceration status, which is what has happened before, that simply proves that the government has not fulfilled its word.” Bertol then added that the evidence of torture visited upon prisoners was compelling.

“There is audio, eye-witness testimonies, and photos. This is the twenty-first century, and it is very easy for us to find out what is going on.”

Bertol concluded her remarks by asking for an independent investigation of Eddy Montes’ death. “Eddy’s family asked me to tell you that they want to honor his memory and raise their voices. They want clear up what occurred.”

“We need for the Nicaraguan government to take credible, concrete, and immediate steps to implement the measures that we have proposed for the benefit of their people, who cannot wait much longer for this profound crisis to be resolved,” said Bertol.

Jaentschke was afforded the chance to retort. “We reject these kinds of meetings, and the attempts by the so-called Working Group. These are foreign interference in the internal affairs of our country, in spite of our clear and determined efforts to make progress in the negotiations.” Jaentschke then accused the Permanent Council of “using [meetings] to promote the internal instability of the country.”

“The positions taken by many representatives is cynical,” said Jaentschke, “they come here to talk about human rights, to talk about violations, when they cynically ignore what is happening in their own countries.”

Jaentschke then singled out Colombia, Chile, and the United States as countries with a checkered record on human rights. “United States has allowed the death of children in detention centers at the border,” said the vice minister.

The Ortega-Murillo representative also noted that delegates at the meeting were manipulating information about Eddy Montes. “They talked about the gentleman that died, the dead man in the prison, Mr. Montes. There are countries present in this forum where the deaths during prison riots are in the dozens. Mr. Montes died when he charged against a guard during a prison riot that left 21 correctional officers wounded.”

Jaentschke then resorted to an argument often presented by Ortega-Murillo delegates at international forums to disqualify protests in Nicaragua: Police officers were hurt, which means that the event was not peaceful.  “It’s just like last year, when 21 police officers died. If 21 police officers died, how can we call that peaceful?”

“These meetings exacerbate the violence in the country,” concluded Jaentschke, “there is a method in operation here, and it is aimed at undermining a legitimate effort to reach peace. Sanctions and impositions will not achieve peace.”

The process towards the application of Article 20 of the OAS Democratic Charter continues. The next meeting in this process is scheduled for mid June.