Defending our right to live in peace and freedom – a Nicaraguan pronouncement

A group of writers, intellectuals, politicians and leaders of Nicaraguan civil society express concern over the undemocratic quality of the upcoming elections. Here is their pronouncement. Español

Grupo de los 27
11 July 2016

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. Respect for the popular will freely expressed at the ballot box allowed us, for the first time in our history, to start a period of rights and freedoms and the rule of the law. This new reality created a favourable environment for overcoming economic chaos and restoring the country's economy.

We then had three consecutive elections which met basic international standards, we devised an incipient institutional framework, and we promoted economic growth. This notwithstanding, social inequalities persisted, and so did the lack of opportunities for the majority of the population, a lacerating shortfall that any alternative for change should strive to resolve.

The corruption of the democratic structure that was arduously being built started with the pact between Arnoldo Alemán and Daniel Ortega and, from 2007 onwards, began to be undone with the deliberate intention of imposing a new regime characterized by the concentration of power, the demolishing of the Constitution and the rule of law, the arbitrary manipulation of the branches of government, corruption, political exclusion, electoral fraud, impunity, disrespect for human rights and eagerness to stay in power. In short, a condensation of all the vices we have endured throughout our history – the very same vices which are the roots of past conflicts and of our current economic and social backwardness.

The elections scheduled for November 2016 put us at a critical crossroads. On the one hand, we have the path that would allow us to move forward towards peaceful coexistence and democracy. It is the path of honest and inclusive elections, under international observation. On the other hand, we are being offered the old path leading to a cliff. It is the path of the electoral circus and the parody of the citizens' will.

What do we have so far?

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.

In addition to this, the regime is artificially creating some international friction with the aim of distracting attention and setting conflict scenarios which may help them achieve their aims, regardless of the serious consequences that such actions can generate for entrepreneurs, exporters, workers and, generally, households and the national economy.

Only democratic coexistence ensures respect for the rule of law, which is essential for guaranteeing private property and the rules of competitive economy. Only democratic coexistence favour the necessary conditions for attracting investment and promoting sustained economic growth, for generating employment and alleviating poverty. Only democratic coexistence promotes the necessary international cooperation for the support of our economic and social development efforts. Only democratic coexistence opens spaces for people to have and use the tools for promoting justice and equal opportunities.

Without honest elections, however, there is no democratic coexistence.

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.

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