San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

U.S. threatens to drop support of Nicaragua

Former U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Robert Callahan on Thursday denounced the Nov. 6 elections in Nicaragua as fraudulent and called the candidacy of Daniel Ortega illegal. He added that he felt Washington should continue to cooperate with Managua “for the moment.”

“For the moment, at least, I think we should remain [in Nicaragua],” Callahan said before the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority requested that the government of Barack Obama disregard the results of the Nov. 6 elections and demand a new vote.

Callahan, who served as ambassador in Managua from 2008 until July of this year, recognized the “dilemma” that exists in Washington about whether to maintain relations with an “illegitimate government that is at times detestable” or “reduce our diplomatic presence and assistance.”  

Callahan supported the first option.

“We should continue openly promoting a good government in whatever way appropriate and with everyone involved, including young Sandinistas,” he said in reference to Ortega party members. Ortega was re-elected in November with 62.4 percent of the vote, according to the National Electoral Commission of Nicaragua. 

But if Ortega’s government returns to be “even more authoritarian,” Callahan said, “we should be prepared to reduce or eliminate help and reconsider our diplomatic presence.”

Callahan said Ortega’s candidacy was “illegal, illegitimate and unconstitutional,” that the Supreme Court’s decision to permit his candidacy was a “farce,” and that the elections were marred by “serious fraud.”

The head of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida), denounced the “fraud” in the elections and asked the government “not to recognize Daniel Ortega” and “to ask for new, free elections that are fair and transparent.”

Ros-Lehtinen said Ortega, as well as presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador, “threatened” the stability of the region.

“We cannot continue to allow these injustices to continue without consequences,” she said.

A few days after the elections, the Obama administration denounced the voting process, saying it was not transparent and that it suffered from irregularities. Obama’s administration later asked that the Organization of American States review the state of democracy in Nicaragua.

International observers detected irregularities in the elections and opposition parties reported fraud. Ortega’s government has rejected the criticisms and accused the U.S. and the opposition of attempting to destabilize the Sandinista party.

“Democracy Held in Hostage in Nicaragua”

On Thursday, the online English-language news publication The Nicaragua Dispatch reported that U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez arrived at a bipartisan resolution and vowed to “support the democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan people and call attention to the continuing deterioration of constitutional order in Nicaragua.”

“For years, Daniel Ortega and his cronies have eroded Nicaragua’s democratic institutions,” Rubio said. “Their recent efforts have accelerated this democratic decline and reached a tipping point that demands a strong reaction from the United States and the mobilization of our allies in defense of the Nicaraguan people’s human rights. I urge the administration to speak out and act with urgency against the assault on democracy and constitutional order taking place in Nicaragua.”

Menendez urged that other members of the international community direct more attention toward Nicaragua.

“Daniel Ortega’s unconstitutional grab of the Nicaraguan presidency is a serious deterioration of democratic values in the country and poses a serious threat to the Nicaraguan people and the region,” Senator Menendez said. “It is time for the United States and the international community to pay attention to what is occurring in Nicaragua and take action to ensure that the democratic values in the region aren’t further eroded.”

The resolution followed Ros-Lehtinen’s presentation earlier in the day, which was titled “Democracy Held Hostage in Nicaragua: Part I.” The Nicaragua Dispatch story about her speech posed a question in the article’s title: Has Ortega fatigue reached its tipping point?

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