WASHINGTON – A majority of OAS member-states voted on Wednesday in favor of a resolution urging Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to accept early elections as a way out of a political crisis blamed for more than 350 deaths in the last three months.
The resolution, proposed by the United States and seven other countries, was approved by 21 of the 34 members in a special session of the Permanent Council at the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington.
Nicaragua’s Catholic bishops conference, acting as mediators in a National Dialogue between the government and its opponents, asked Ortega to advance the date of the next presidential election, now set for March 2019.
Ortega, however, has dismissed the idea.
Venezuela and St. Vincent and the Grenadines joined Nicaragua in voting against the US-sponsored resolution, while seven other members abstained and Managua ally Bolivia was absent from the session.
The document urges the Nicaraguan government and all other actors “to participate actively and in good faith in the National Dialogue as a mechanism to generate peaceful and sustainable solutions to the situation unfolding in Nicaragua, and for the strengthening of democracy in that country.”
Without placing blame, the resolution specifically condemns “the attacks on clergy, the harassment of Roman Catholic bishops engaged in the National Dialogue process, the acts of violence at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN), the headquarters of CARITAS, and other peaceful protesters.”
The text was approved after the Permanent Council rejected by a vote of 20-3 a Nicaraguan draft denouncing “coup-mongering opposition groups” and calling on the OAS to urge other governments “to respect the self-determination of the State of Nicaragua so that peace and security can be restored without any type of interference.”
In a speech prior to the votes, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada accused the US of stoking unrest in his country and recalled Washington’s role in organizing, arming, and financing the Contras who battled the Sandinista government in the 1980s.
The US ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, tweeted during the session that the Ortega government was committing “genocide against its own people.”
Human rights organizations say that at least 351 people have died in unrest that began in mid-April with protests against a government proposal – since withdrawn – to make changes to the pension system.
Nicaraguan police say the number of documented fatalities is fewer than 50, including protesters, members of the security forces, and bystanders.
Protesters are now demanding the resignation of Ortega, who was re-elected in 2016 with more than 70 percent of the vote.