Nicaraguans go to the polls in a few months, but not for a free election.
A group of Nicaraguan writers, intellectuals, and civil society leaders have written an open letter describing and decrying the conditions under which Nicaraguans will vote. The key line: they urge their fellow citizens to "reject the electoral farce the ruling group is trying to impose on us. If this farce is finally carried out, the results should be considered null and void."
Here is part of their letter:
The democratic transition that we Nicaraguans began in 1990, and the peace process that went with it, rested on an essential pillar: the elections in February of that year....
We then had three consecutive elections which met basic international standards, we devised an incipient institutional framework, and we promoted economic growth. ...
The elections scheduled for November 2016 put us at a critical crossroads....
Daniel Ortega, through his representatives in the Supreme Court and the Supreme Electoral Council, has imposed the following measures:
- A late call for the elections and an electoral calendar that leaves out some important aspects of any normal election process.
- The rejection of the presence of independent international observers.
- The exclusion of the main political opposition by way of divesting its legitimate representatives from legal representation.
- The control of the whole electoral structure, including the departmental, regional and municipal electoral councils, by the ruling political group.
- An ID process arbitrarily administered by the ruling group and anomalous voter registration.
By far the most serious question is that, for the first time in over 25 years, elections are intended to be held excluding, through a series of stratagems, the main political opposition forces....
As citizens committed to democracy, peace, justice and the well-being of Nicaraguans, we make again the following pronouncement as the Group of 27 in order to:
- Reject the electoral farce the ruling group is trying to impose on us. If this farce is finally carried out, the results should be considered null and void.
- Urge the political, economic and social forces committed to democracy to join efforts in a broad concerted framework to force Daniel Ortega to adopt the necessary measures to ensure truly free, fair, inclusive elections under independent national and international supervision.
- Urge the international community to honour its commitment to democracy and peace in Nicaragua assuming a more active role, and not to compromise its good faith by accepting the regime maneuvers designed to provide legitimacy to the electoral farce.
- Call on Nicaraguan citizens to defend, by all peaceful means available, their right to elect and be elected. A right that is, at the same time, the defense of their legitimate aspiration to live in peace and freedom and to have the opportunity to improve their living conditions.
Of course their election happens when we will be distracted with our own, and already the Obama administration is a lame duck. No doubt Ortega is counting on this.
Still, as a lame duck President Obama is pushing certain issues he cares about. Sadly, democracy in Latin America (or in Egypt, or anywhere, really) is not one of them. His administration can help retrieve that poor record, however, by paying attention to the request of this group of patriots that "the international community...honour its commitment to democracy and peace in Nicaragua assuming a more active role, and not to compromise its good faith by accepting the regime maneuvers designed to provide legitimacy to the electoral farce." The United States should now, and loudly, be denouncing these maneuvers by the Nicaraguan regime. We should be seeking OAS attention to Nicaragua, and its denunciations of fraudulent elections as well. We should flatly refuse to accept the outcome when we can see that the process makes these elections just what are called in the open letter: a farce.