Commentary: The Nicaragua government has gone too far

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda's Ambassador to the US and the OAS. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are his own.

By Sir Ronald Sanders

The English-speaking Caribbean has just emerged from a season manifesting the spirit, intrinsic to Christmas, of ‘peace on earth and goodwill to all’.

Not even the no-confidence vote that was carried against the APNU-AFC coalition government in Guyana on Friday, December 21, disrupted the festive celebrations of the period. Bitterness, felt by faithful supporters of the main political party, the Peoples’ National Congress (PNC), was contained in sterile argument about whether the constitution was correctly interpreted, and, therefore, the possibility of overturning the vote.

In the coming weeks, that argument might be tested in the court, which is the appropriate place to settle disputes peacefully and legally.

In Barbados, despite the stringent austerity programme upon which the seven-month-old Mia Mottley government has had to embark to put on an even keel an economy left in shatters by the predecessor regime of Freundel Stuart, there was a sense of optimism amid strenuous conditions for many.

The point is that people in these two countries have not been encouraged to march in the streets, nor have they been manipulated to attack one another based on party political support. Instead, the debates have been rife in the media with no restrictions, no political demonstrations, no deployment of police to tear gas protesters, and no arbitrary arrest or detention of real or suspected organisers.

In other parts of the region, particularly in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St Lucia, dissent and disagreement are being been expressed and rebutted within the law. The media – both traditional and social – are replete with discussion on all sides of arguments, including, unfortunately, what has come to be known as ‘fake news’; the deliberate distribution of false and harmful information. But no media has been silenced by government action, and no protest suffocated. All ideas are contending, as they should.

But, this maturity of managing dissent; of responding to it with counter arguments, with challenges to its veracity; and by acknowledging shortcomings and acting to correct them, continues to elude parts of the Caribbean region where recent protests against a government have been suffocated by tear-gas and arbitrary arrests and draconian use of laws not meant for this purpose.

This is an ugly scar on the Caribbean’s face of human, civil and political rights. It will attract to the region the strongest condemnation and eventual intervention by way of sanctions by the international community if it continues.

In the sub-region of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the member states have collectively shied away from criticism of excessive behaviour in individual member states. Similarly, CARICOM member states have not pronounced collectively when regimes in other countries in the Western Hemisphere have assaulted their people, imprisoned politicians, and detained champions of human rights.

In part, this studious silence arises from the notion that events in neighbouring counties are “not our business’ and we would best serve ourselves by not getting involved. But within the region, neighbourhood business is local business. For events in one country quickly infect the other.

Because CARICOM has been collectively silent, member states have joined other groups to express their concern, voice their condemnation and even vote against actions by governments within the Western hemisphere that have sought to maintain themselves in power through constitutional manipulation, rigged elections including partisan election machinery, stifling dissent and the excessive use of force by the police and military.

This has weakened CARICOM as an agency for advancing Caribbean interests.

This ought not to be the case. Rising-up from a history of slavery and indentured labour, of worker exploitation and human rights atrocities whose scars continue to mark the region today, Caribbean countries should be the strongest defenders of political, civil and human rights.

It is by winning those rights that Caribbean countries emerged into political independence and into some degree of economic self-determination. These are values that form part of the ethos of the Caribbean civilization and they should be defended and upheld. For their erosion elsewhere could eventually spread to the corrosion within CARICOM states of the values of freedom of speech and expression, of political and trade union association, of human equality, and of the institutions that preserve them.

These are the very things that have occasioned high regard for the majority of Caribbean countries by their citizens, their visitors and their investors.

The CARICOM region, therefore, has a large stake in ensuring that democracy and human rights are upheld everywhere. In doing so, they ought not to apply double standards such as the world has witnessed by some powerful governments. Justice is not served by narrow political and economic interests.

But CARICOM silence should not be an option. The region should be steadfast in upholding principles of justice in political, human and economic rights globally, even as it stands-up for international respect for those principles in relation to itself.

Within the hemisphere, over the last eight months, 322 people have been killed and 565 others jailed in Nicaragua. Today, many of its citizens from cities across the country are hiding from the wrath of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.

Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of people marched against the Ortega regime and were met by a repressive response. The Ortega family now controls virtually every aspect of government, including the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the armed forces, the judiciary, the police and the prosecutor’s office. Ortega caused an amendment to the constitution to keep himself in office, and presumably to maintain power that has allowed his adult children to manage everything from gasoline distribution to television stations.

The excesses continue, worsened this week by a raid on the country’s leading human rights organisation and the expulsion of international human rights observers. Among those expelled was Paulo Abrão, the executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of which all CARICOM countries are members.

CARICOM countries may continue to respond in different ways to events in Nicaragua, but acceptance cannot be one of them.

The Ortega regime has gone too far.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. So has the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

    The Cuban regime should also be shunned by CARICOM for not alllowing a free press, truly independent competing political parties, and free enterprise.

  2. Says the US Government-paid Troll, C. ben-David.
    The US Government and its paid Trolls, will do or say ANYTHING, to make socialist-leaning countries look bad or unstable.
    Unfortunately for them and Trolls like C. b. D., socialism around the world is a growing, successful entity.

    The 1%’ers are growing dramatically wealthier, while the other 99% of the working-class are living from pay cheque, to pay cheque.
    Jobs are increasingly disappearing due to Robotics and Digitization.
    Major manufacturing companies are moving to other countries because of the much lower labour rates and the absence of union problems and disruptions.
    Where will the workers whose manufacturing jobs are lost, find employment to feed their families?

    These changes are coming at lightning speed.

    The US Government doesn’t have any money to support the huge number of potentially unemployed workers’, because they spend BILLIONS of DOLLARS starting WARS and INVASIONS all over the globe, instead of looking after their OWN CITIZENS’ welfare!

    I hate to sound so morose about the US situation, but, this is a reality that you and your government will have to face, in the very NEAR future!

    US Government, look after YOUR OWN PEOPLE, instead of wasting tax dollars on UNENDING WARS and INVASIONS, all over the globe!

    • “US Government, look after YOUR OWN PEOPLE, instead of wasting tax dollars on UNENDING WARS and INVASIONS, all over the globe!”.
      Wow! you finally are beginning to come around to the Trump policy. Congratulations. Troops home from Syria, soon from Afghanistan…….

  3. Perhaps it’s time for the Ortega Regime to be forcefully replaced but not by another strong man but rather by a person chosen by the people of Nicaragua. The key is not for another country such as the U.S. to get militarily involved but for perhaps some support to be provided by a group of countries in the form of weapons, food, clothing etc. A leader should be chosen whose only goal should be the deposition of Ortega and not to succeed him without a fair, organized and supervised election.

  4. Richard, I ‘somewhat’ agree with you. But, chosen by WHICH group of people in Nicaragua?

    You DO realize I hope, that there are two groups of ‘people’ in Nicaragua.
    One group, being the Opposition, made up of US-paid Dissidents, Trolls, etc. whose sole purpose or reason for even BEING in Nicaragua, is to destabilize the elected government and cause a, ‘Regime-Change-Activity’.

    They are actively working to install a US-Leaning, Puppet-President, who will immediately put an end to the Socialist Government, which is currently very financially successful.
    The USA is backing this group to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars in order to achieve (USA’s) success.

    The United States Government CANNOT ALLOW their American citizens’ to see a successful Socialist/Communist-style of governance succeed, next to the three countries that former V.P., Joe Biden, tried to turn into a successful (US-Style) Democratic Block, versus the rising Socialist Country, Nicaragua.
    This turned into an utterly Dismal Failure.

    Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador’s, citizens’, are fleeing these US-organized and manipulated, Hell-holes and are travelling to ANY Country that will accept them, rather than return and be murdered in their home countries.

    Another success story involving the USA’s Military-Interventionist-policies, gone awry.

    You can’t dispute the factuality of my post, Richard!
    The whole world has witnessed these actual happenings on the internet and the WWWeb.

    Don D.

  5. 2nd try to post a response in Caribbean News Now. I hope the C.N. Now, has a lot of patience, because I have an enormous amount of truth to bring to the fore! Don D.

    To Respond to Richard Charron’s Dec. 29, 2019 post.
    Richard, I ‘somewhat’ agree with you. But, chosen by WHICH group of people in Nicaragua?

    You DO realize I hope, that there are two groups of ‘people’ in Nicaragua.
    One group, being the Opposition, made up of US-paid Dissidents, Trolls, etc. whose sole purpose or reason for even BEING in Nicaragua, is to destabilize the elected government and cause a, ‘Regime-Change-Activity’.

    The Opposition is actively working hard to install a US-Leaning, Puppet-President, who will immediately put an end to the Socialist Government, which is currently very financially successful.
    The USA is backing this group to the tune of BILLIONS of dollars in order to achieve (USA’s) success.
    The United States Government CANNOT ALLOW their American citizens’ to see a successful Socialist/Communist-style of governance succeed, next to the three countries that former V.P., Joe Biden, tried to turn into a successful (US-Style) Democratic Block, versus the rising Socialist Country, Nicaragua.
    This turned into an utterly Dismal Failure.
    Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador’s, citizens’, are fleeing these US-organized and manipulated, Hell-holes and are travelling to ANY Country that will accept them, rather than return and be murdered in their home countries, by the out-of-control opposition groups.
    Another success story involving the USA’s Military-Interventionist-policies, gone awry.
    You can’t dispute the actualities’ of my post, Richard!
    The whole world has witnessed these happenings on the internet and the W.W.Web.

    Don D.

  6. Sir Ronald has said nothing, absolutely nothing, with his ridiculous remarks on Daniel Ortega and the Nicaraguan crisis in particular. I’m disappointed, seriously disappointed… because, I expected better, more objectivity… less personal feelings and emotions in this respect. Not to fall prey to anti-Nicaragua/Daniel Ortega ‘special interest controlled’ opposition manufactured ‘fake news’…Yes! Fake News!

    The disturbances and the crisis from all known accounts… was/is an attempt a ‘coup attempt’ orchestrated by the opposition with US and company blessings designed to overthrow and remove the democratically elected Daniel Ortega Sandinista government. Not much different with what’s happening with Venezuela and Maduro.

    So what will be Sir Ronald’s position now, at present…!!?? A vote against the Nicaraguan government, in accordance with the recent OAS ‘charter’ to remove Ortega from power?

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