Under fire for ‘sham’ vote, Nicaragua begins withdrawal from OAS

Organization of American States adopted resolution last week saying Nicaraguan elections lacked ‘democratic legitimacy’.

a billboard showing Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and his wife, VP Rosario Murillo
Observers have accused Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who secured a fourth consecutive term in widely denounced elections this month, of increasing authoritarianism [Reuters]

The Nicaraguan government has started the process of withdrawing from the Organization of American States (OAS) after the regional body denounced the country’s recent presidential elections as illegitimate.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada on Friday accused the OAS of interventionism and being controlled by the United States.

“We are resigning and disassociating ourselves from the Organization of American States,” Moncada said during a news conference, adding that the OAS has the “mission of facilitating the hegemony of the United States with its interventionism over the countries of Latin America”.

Exiting the OAS will take about two years as Nicaragua fulfils its obligations.

The move comes after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who has held office since 2007, was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term in a November 7 vote that rights groups and international observers denounced as neither free nor fair.

In the lead-up to the election, Ortega’s government jailed dozens of opposition leaders – including seven potential presidential candidates – and critics accused the Sandinista leader of cracking down on his challengers.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was re-elected for a fourth term in office alongside his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo [File: Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters]

Ortega, 76, ran for re-election alongside his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo and secured about 76 percent of the votes, according to Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council.

Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela expressed their backing of Ortega after the vote, while the US, UK and European Union slammed the vote, with US President Joe Biden accusing Ortega and his wife of orchestrating a “pantomime election that was neither free nor fair”.

Experts also warned the human rights situation in Nicaragua could worsen in the coming months.

Observers have accused Ortega of increasing authoritarianism since mass anti-government protests broke out in Nicaragua in 2018.

Since then, more than 103,600 people have fled the country – most to Costa Rica, according to a tally by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. At least 328 people were killed in an ensuing government crackdown on the demonstrations and more than 1,600 others were detained. At least 136 people remain in prison.

Last week, the OAS General Assembly adopted a resolution saying Nicaragua’s election lacked “democratic legitimacy”.

Twenty-five nations voted in favour of the motion and seven countries – including Mexico, Honduras and Bolivia – abstained. Only Nicaragua voted against it.

Nicaragua’s recent elections were widely condemned as neither free nor fair [Mayela Lopez/Reuters]

“The elections on November 7 in Nicaragua were not free, fair or transparent and have no democratic legitimacy,” the OAS resolution stated.

World powers have issued fresh sanctions and other curbs against Nicaraguan government officials since the vote.

The Biden administration on Tuesday banned members of the Nicaraguan government from entering the country, while a day earlier, the US announced separate financial sanctions against Nicaraguan officials “in response to the sham national elections”.

The UK and Canada also announced new sanctions against prominent Nicaraguan officials.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies