Club de Madrid demands the immediate release of opponents and candidates in Nicaragua

In line with our commitment to strengthen democratic practice, the Members of Club of Madrid -122 democratic former heads of state and government from more than 70 countries- are gravely concerned over the increasing deterioration of basic guarantees for the holding of free, fair and inclusive elections on November 7 in Nicaragua. We strongly condemn the wave of violent raids and the deprivation of liberty, as well as the other fundamental rights of Nicaraguan presidential candidates, opposition figures, activists and businessmen, and we demand the immediate release of those jailed. 

Already 18 opponents have been arrested in Nicaragua, in just two weeks, including 5 presidential hopefuls, potential contenders and thus rivals for Ortega in the upcoming elections. The recent arrests started last June 2 with the detention of journalist and presidential contender Cristiana Chamorro, disqualified for the electoral race and still under house arrest. The wave of arrests has continued since then with the detention of scholar and former diplomat Arturo Cruz, political scientist Félix Maradiaga, economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro and journalist Miguel Mora.

In its Resolution AG/doc.5710.20 of October 2020, the OAS General Assembly proposed a set of parameters considered essential for the democratic validation of the upcoming elections. These recommendations have not only not been observed by Nicaraguan authorities, recently enacted laws restricting political participation, freedom of expression, assembly and association, the arbitrary dissolution of political parties and the detention of dissidents and presidential contenders and dissidents directly contradict them, driving Nicaragua further away from minimum standards to guarantee the integrity of a democratic electoral process.

Last week, in view of the continuing deterioration of the political environment, the Permanent Council of the OAS reiterated its growing alarm through Resolution CP. Res. 1175 (2324/21) on ‘The Situation in Nicaragua’, a text governed by the Inter-American Democratic Charter, demanding electoral reforms that guarantee free, fair and transparent elections and condemning the arrest, harassment and arbitrary restrictions imposed on the opposition and presidential contenders. Recently, within the Human Rights Council, a declaration has been issued in the same vein as the OAS resolution, supported by 59 member nations of said Council.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the UN Human Rights Council and the European Union, among others, have joined the growing condemnation of the situation, demanding the lifting of restrictions to civic and democratic space, denouncing the political use of the judicial system, the politicization of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and the arbitrary arrests of presidential contenders, demanding their immediate release. 

International organizations, democratic governments and members of the international community celebrated the fall of Anastasio Somoza in July 1979, when Nicaragua seemed to leave behind a long and terrible stage of its history and begin to build a life in democracy. Daniel Ortega Saavedra, one of the main leaders and architects of Somoza’s defeat, has become a new Somoza, authoritatively clinging to power, oblivious to the needs of Nicaragua and of Nicaraguans.

That hope generated in 1979 is now drowning in the face of the voracity, impunity and despotism of Daniel Ortega, who has, once again, critically undermined the democratic values and institutions that timidly and painfully began to take shape in Nicaragua in the 1990s. But the danger is not limited to Nicaragua, it also threatens the fragile institutional framework of other nations in the Central American region and generates more migratory and humanitarian pressures in a region that is already on the verge of collapse.

“Given the severity and intensification of the Ortega government’s brutal repression of critics and members of the opposition in recent weeks, international pressure needs to be redoubled,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

In this context and the urgency with which developments strikingly confront us, we exhort the Government of Nicaragua, the OAS, the United Nations and their respective member countries, and the international community as a whole, to comply with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. This includes the immediate release of the presidential candidates and other political prisoners, and the reestablishment of the necessary conditions to guarantee free, fair and competitive elections in Nicaragua next November. Above all, we urge the international community, and the democratic governments of the Americas and other regions of the world, to defend and protect democracy.

Danilo Türk
President of Club de Madrid and President of Slovenia (2007-2012)
Laura Chinchilla
Vice President of Club de Madrid and President of Costa Rica (2010-2014)