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August 28, 2019 - Washington, DC

By note dated December 28, 2018, the Secretary General requested the Permanent Council to apply Article 20 of the mechanism provided for in the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Nicaragua.

  • The Secretary General explained to the Permanent Council meeting on January 11, 2019 that his note requesting the application of Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter was fully justified by the crisis in Nicaragua. Neither repression nor human rights violations can exist in a democracy. This was done from a constructive standpoint, seeking to come up with solutions and to find agreements using the existing mechanisms.
  • It must also be recalled that a delegation from the OAS General Secretariat had visited Nicaragua on February 14, 2019, issuing the following statement on February 15:
    A delegation from the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) was in Managua yesterday, at the invitation of the Government of Nicaragua, to hold exploratory talks concerning the situation in the country.
    Against the backdrop of the relevant legal mandates and instruments, the OAS General Secretariat delegation brought up the matter of the release of political prisoners, the need for progress in the political and electoral process, and the importance of giving consideration to the recommendations of the inter-American system, among other issues.
    The Government of Nicaragua articulated its positions on the aforementioned items and, arguing in that connection that it was the Government’s understanding that those detained had been afforded due process, announced its intention to strengthen the electoral political process by 2021 through the Constitution and the Law.
    Accordingly, the General Secretariat will wait, in the event that negotiations can continue based on the agenda proposed by the General Secretariat. It was agreed at the same time that a communication channel would be maintained for that purpose.”

Let’s move to negotiation

  • The first negotiation meeting was held on February 27. It was convened by the Government of Nicaragua, acting as a counterpart on behalf of the opposition Civic Alliance. This Negotiating Committee was convened to address and resolve a set of institutional, legal, political, and especially social challenges stemming from the political, social, and humanitarian crisis unfolding since April 2018, which also severely hurt the country’s economy.
  • Available figures on the results of that crisis – in terms of deaths, injuries, destruction of property, people incarcerated, and other damages – vary from source to source and from agency to agency; but even if we were to use the records with the smaller numbers, in and of themselves they speak to the depth of the crisis.
  • That this committee existed was an unequivocal expression of the pressing need for Nicaraguan society to find ways to understand and surmount, as far as possible, the situation arising from that recent crisis.
  • Up until March 20, its work was taken over with building a road map and the agenda for the negotiation.
  • Several analyses have argued that the most remarkable achievement was to have gotten the release of hundreds of people who were imprisoned after the 2018 incidents on the agenda – many of them with court cases well advanced – and settling it within 90 days.
  • And there is no doubt about the enormous value of that release – the value for people released and for their families and the value for society as a whole. Society embraced this process of releases as a sign of hope, of reengaging, and of peace.
  • It is worth remembering that only on March 21 did the OAS General Secretariat agree to participate as a witness and partner in that process, after the March 20 announcement by the Government of Nicaragua, to the negotiating committee, of its commitment to releasing the prisoners in 90 days.
  • On March 20 as well, a Negotiating Committee request for the OAS to continue the work on electoral system reforms, which had been suspended in mid-2018, was publicly reported.
  • As already noted above, the Negotiating Agenda was agreed upon on March 20, and it is important to stop to take a look at the contents of the agreed Agenda.

Negotiating Agenda

“The negotiating committee members, committed to peace, justice, security, democracy, stability, and progress in Nicaragua, do hereby agree to the following agenda and its overarching topics, in alphabetical order, to be further pursued at the negotiating table later on:

  • Strengthen democracy and electoral reforms for undertaking electoral processes.
  • Strengthen rights and citizen guarantees.
  • The release, within a maximum period of 90 days, in accordance with the country’s legal system, of all persons imprisoned and detained during the April 18, 2018 incidents.
  • Truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition.
  • Mechanisms for implementing the agreements.
  • Once agreements have been reached by the Negotiating Committee, the latter will then undertake international efforts to obtain support to implement them. Then, by mutual agreement between the parties, the international community will be called upon to suspend sanctions in order to facilitate the right to human, economic, and social development in Nicaragua, especially for the most vulnerable segments of the population.
  • N.B.: the parties agree to immediately and simultaneously pursue the issues of releasing all prisoners and detainees, and democracy and electoral reforms.”
  • The General Secretariat believes the issues that the Negotiating Committee agreed on as an agenda were consistent with the Democratic Charter.
  • In other words, that agenda reflects the collective sense, agreed on between the parties, as to the challenges that Nicaragua faces, and I do mean “faces,” not “faced.”
  • By a joint decision of the Negotiating Committee, on March 26 the Government of Nicaragua sent a formal note requesting the Secretary General to restart the work done by the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation (DECO) on the project to  reform the electoral process.
  • The General Secretariat agreed to resume the work that was started in 2018, appointing Mr. Cristóbal Fernández, chief of the Electoral Technical Cooperation Section of DECO, as coordinator of the work in this area. In that context, Mr. Fernández conducted an exploratory visit and on April 24 made a presentation to the plenary of the Negotiating Committee and the witnesses and partners, on standards to be observed in executing this technical support project.
  • Between April 3 and 29, the Negotiating Committee was at a deadlock that was only lifted to receive Cristóbal Fernández’s report on April 24 (which we already mentioned). In light of this situation, we share Papal Nuncio Monsignor Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag’s sentiments that it is necessary to recommend to both delegations a series of points of compromise based on the agreement to resume the Negotiating Committee’s work.
  • Out of this initiative, negotiations resumed on May 9, working on the idea of agreeing on all pending agenda items and then signing and simultaneously announcing these agreements once they have been concluded.
  • On May 16, Mr. Eddy Montes, who was on the list of detainees to be released before June 19, was murdered in prison. In view of this situation, the Negotiating Committee did not meet on Friday, May 17, and on May 20 the Civic Alliance announced its withdrawal from the Committee until the Government of Nicaragua released all political prisoners on the “reconciled” list, which is the list provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which the Negotiating Committee had invited to follow the release of all prisoners and detainees.
  • This interruption left the negotiation process paralyzed without any new development until July 18, when the Civic Alliance publicly announced its decision to resume the process through the Negotiating Committee, inviting the Government of Nicaragua and the witnesses and partners to a meeting on July 31.
  • On July 28, the Government of Nicaragua informed the OAS General Secretariat that it would not be continuing on the Negotiating Committee, and simultaneously proposed to continue the work of the political and electoral reforms through the current agreements between the OAS General Secretariat and the Government of Nicaragua.
  • On August 25, the OAS Secretary General and a Government of Nicaragua delegation met to exchange views on what approach would be taken if the OAS were to work on a process of political and electoral reforms, as the Government of Nicaragua had requested.
  • The OAS General Secretariat will respond to the July 28 Note in the next few days, paying special attention to the pending elements of the agenda that was duly agreed upon by the Government of Nicaragua and the Civic Alliance in the Negotiating Committee, to ensure that strengthening institutions through political and electoral reforms is absolutely compatible with the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other inter-American legal instruments.