San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua civic group to unleash human vote watchdogs

Despite the government´s refusal to accredit Etica y Transparencia to officially observe Nicaragua´s Sunday municipal elections, the group will send 30,000 electoral observers to scrutinize the electoral process, nearly tripling its amount of observers in the 2006 presidential elections.

“Accreditation is not an obstacle, quite the contrary,” said Roberto Courtney, director of the civic group. The extensive vote-counting network that monitored the 1988 referendum that toppled Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from power wasn´t officially accredited either, he noted.

Despite repeated requests, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) has not accredited the 12-year-old Etica y Transparencia to officially observe the elections.  CSE President Roberto Rivas has publicly chided Etica y Transparencia for allegedly participating in opposition protests, which Courtney denies.

The CSE did, however, accredit two organizations: the Electoral Council of Latin American Experts (CEELA), and a group of 1,000 mostly student volunteers called the Foundation Shaping the Nicaraguan Future (Forfunic), according to a CSE spokesperson.

Courtney says Etica y Transparencia will have more than enough volunteers to cover the 12,000 voting centers in all of Nicaragua´s municipalities, with the exception of municipalities in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region, where elections were suspended until January.

Courtney called for peaceful elections on the heels of clashes between groups of opposing protestors in recent weeks.

“There will be no problems if the elections are carried out calmly,” he told The Nica Times.

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