The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) held an extraordinary virtual session on Monday, November 29, to conduct an immediate collective evaluation of the situation in Nicaragua in accordance with the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter and in compliance with the resolution adopted on November 12 at the 51st General Assembly of Foreign Ministers.
The political scientist, Manuel Orozco, an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, asserts that the expectation regarding this debate is to confirm that the Nicaraguan political situation “requires greater intervention by the member states and leave the door open for the last stage, which is to convene a special session.
On the Esta Semana program — broadcast on Facebook and YouTube due to the Ortega censorship—, the expert states that the OAS already has the 24 votes necessary to suspend Nicaragua in an eventual special session, which could be convened before January 10, 2022, which is when the new term of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo officially begins.
However, he stressed that regardless of whether the organization suspends Nicaragua or not, “what article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter mandates is to exhaust all types of diplomatic measures, which will continue and that includes pressures from other organizations.”
Among the organizations from which the regime could be pressured, says Orozco, is the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), which “is definitely one of the institutions that is on the list of organizations that are going to be pressured.”
This Monday’s meeting is the tenth held by the OAS representatives about Nicaragua since the 2018 crisis erupted. So, they are going to deliberate on a situation that they had previously analyzed in depth and, furthermore, they have also adopted resolutions that Ortega and Murillo have not complied with. What is so special about this meeting of the Permanent Council and what can be expected from it?
The Permanent Council was instructed by all member States, through the General Assembly, to have a collective evaluation of what is happening in Nicaragua. The last resolution was very important because it not only recommends this collective evaluation, but it also declares that the elections were illegitimate and 76%, three-quarters of the member states, voted that way. The expectation of this debate is that it confirms that the Nicaraguan political situation requires greater intervention by the member States and will leave the door open for the last stage, which is to convene the special session. The expectation is that that special session will be convened in the next two months.
At the meeting, the President of the IACHR, Antonia Urrejola, and also the High Commissioner of the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, will present human rights reports. Does this mean that the OAS is focusing the debate on Nicaragua, around the violations of human rights, to broaden the condemnation around the regime, to add countries in this process?
The strategy is to try to make use of the analysis and empirical presentations on what has been happening in Nicaragua, especially in the pre and post-electoral period, and among these we have those representatives who are going to be speaking about the human rights situation. However, throughout the history of the OAS resolutions —nine resolutions that have been implemented from July 2018 to the present—, the link with human rights has been very narrow.
The logic of the OAS has been that you cannot have a fair and free electoral process if there is no respect for human rights. Therefore, for them, having the United Nations and human rights representatives from the OAS present, who will speak about the Nicaraguan problem, is of vital importance to confirm the situation to the member States. But other institutions that will speak on the electoral situation in Nicaragua will also be present. So, you have the three perspectives together: human rights, the illegitimate electoral situation, and the disruption of constitutional order, which will be discussed, and each member State will present its perspective or its reading of the situation in Nicaragua.
What impact has Foreign Minister Denis Moncada’s announcement had on the OAS now that Nicaragua has already begun the process of withdrawing?
For many it was to be expected because Nicaragua is following the same roadmap that Venezuela adopted. Therefore, it was to be expected that they would say that (to) evade justice, although for other countries it is a concern, in particular some Caribbean countries that have not been convinced for geopolitical reasons to vote in favor of resolutions for democratic reforms in Nicaragua. So, Nicaragua’s withdrawal is viewed from a concern from the diplomatic point of view, because it will no longer be possible to maintain the same level of contact, of relationship, of conflict resolution. But for most countries the concern is not the withdrawal, but the Nicaraguan socio-political situation.
The Nicaraguan opposition organizations issued a statement to the ambassadors who will participate in this Permanent Council and expressed their expectation that there will be a call for a special assembly of foreign ministers before January 10th to apply article 21. Is an action of this type on the agenda in this session of the Permanent Council?
No, it is not in the agenda because it is not part of the mandate. It could be interpreted when the resolution states that a collective evaluation must be made to take the appropriate actions. The interpretation that most States are going to make is to recommend a possible special session in the future, so that all the diplomatic channels continue to be exhausted by the OAS.
There are some countries that feel that suspending Nicaragua from the OAS at this stage of the sociopolitical crisis will not contribute much to solve the crisis. There are others who believe that it is a logical consequence, because if you see the nine resolutions that have occurred, since the Democratic Charter has been invoked twice, the illegitimacy of the elections has been voted on, there have been votes on the release of prisoners on several occasions, there are different processes about it. And there have also been efforts through the Working Group and the High-level Commission of Central American Foreign Ministers to approach Nicaragua. So, for many it is a logical consequence to work in the function of a special session. However, I believe there is no consensus about it.
Does the OAS have a political limit to address the situation in Nicaragua, taking into consideration that in the past Ortega did not even accept to have a rapprochement or dialogue with the High-Level Commission? Is the political term indefinite or does it revolve around the start of the Ortega Government next year?
From the perspective of at least 15 member states, possibly 20, the limit is set for January 10, 2022. A special session must be held before this date to determine if Nicaragua is to be suspended, in the sense that all the actions that the OAS has been carrying out, and Nicaragua, in violation of the Democratic Charter. What happened in November during the elections, is not only a fraud, but the consolidation of a dictatorial process. Therefore, the debate taking place on Monday is to define the terms of reference that will set the inputs for a special session that will most likely be held before January 10th.
If in this eventual Special Session, the OAS cannot gather the 24 votes to suspend Nicaragua, does the OAS have an alternative way to pressure Ortega? For example, through the Inter-American Development Bank, CABEI, or through other bodies?
I believe that they are going to further advance all the spheres they have. I think that they do have 24 votes. There are many countries that have expressed their concern. This is a 50-50 situation. One of them, for example, may be Panama, which believes that there is still room for diplomatic effort. I think that this debate will solve many loose ends that exist within the member States. However, regardless of whether or not Nicaragua is suspended from the OAS, the reality is that Article 21 mandates that all kinds of diplomatic measures be exhausted. That will be maintained, and that includes pressure from other organizations and CABEI is one of the institutions that are on the list of those that are going to be pressured.
This article was orignally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times