Victims of Daniel Ortega urge the summit between the EU and Celac to unite to increase pressure on the regime | International

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Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, on June 14 in Managua (Nicaragua).JAIRO CAJINA (AFP)

The summit between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), convened for Monday and Tuesday in Brussels, will be a crucial event not only to improve coordination between the two shores of the Atlantic or specify investment plans, but also to encourage political debates and channel democratic demands. More than 150 victims of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo urge the Executives of Latin America, the EU and its Member States, "to establish a 'Group of Friends of the Nicaraguan People', made up of governments from across the political spectrum, to contribute to a democratic transition” in the Central American country.

The petition, to which EL PAÍS has had access and which will be released this Friday, is signed by nearly 30 national and international organizations in defense of human rights and details the functions of the group. For example, "it should hold high-level meetings to design, in consultation with Nicaraguan civil society organizations and other local actors, a strategy of peaceful, public and private actions that are concerted to seek the release of political prisoners, the justice and reparation for the victims of the repression and the holding of free and fair elections, as soon as possible”.

Headed by the writer and Cervantes Prize winner Sergio Ramírez, the writer Gioconda Belli, the journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, the opponents Félix Maradiaga or Juan Sebastián Chamorro, or Dora María Téllez, the former Commander Two of the Sandinista revolution, the initiative is specifically aimed at the Chilean Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren. The Government of Gabriel Boric has shown itself to be one of the most sensitive in the region in the face of the serious drift of the Ortega y Murillo regime and one of the most forceful in the defense of human rights. That is precisely the central purpose of the request, which seeks "a multilateral, coordinated, and high-level response to the serious human rights and humanitarian crisis that the country is experiencing."

Juanita Goebertus, director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the organizations promoting the petition, recalls that "the human rights crisis in Nicaragua requires a firm and sustained response from the democratic governments of Latin America and Europe." “The Latin American and European governments must come together to establish a joint strategy to face the crisis in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan people have no more time to lose, ”she emphasizes.

In the midst of deepening international isolation, the Sandinista apparatus has accelerated the political repression of all dissident voices. The letter mentions some of the most serious episodes. The most recent is the attack against the Catholic Church, priests and prelates, among them the Bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, sentenced by the Ortega justice system to more than 26 years in prison and who last week rejected forced exile for the second time. “In recent years, few countries in the region have registered a deterioration in the human rights situation as serious as that observed in Nicaragua, including systematic attacks on the independent media, the dismantling of civil society and the consolidation of an authoritarian regime”, indicates the document, also signed by Carlos S. Maldonado and Wilfredo Miranda, editor and collaborator of EL PAÍS.

While the Ortega government refuses any attempt at diplomatic mediation, the population has no horizon of change before it. A report by the United Nations Group of Experts on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GEDHN) concluded last March “that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Nicaraguan authorities have committed crimes against humanity, including murder, imprisonment, torture, violence sexual violence, deportations and persecution for political reasons”. In addition, the signatories recall, "international observers have not been allowed to enter the country since the Government expelled the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of 2018."

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As a consequence, the last electoral processes have been a farce. And according to calculations by Nicaraguan organizations there are still 64 political prisoners despite the exile, completed last February, of 222 opponents imprisoned arbitrarily. This attempt by the regime to get rid of uncomfortable voices and reduce international pressure was followed by another coup: 317 critics were stripped of their nationality.

In this context, Ortega's victims trust that the EU-Celac summit "will be an opportunity to discuss pressing challenges in the field of human rights in countries of Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean, such as democratic regression, violence and insecurity and abuses against migrants and asylum seekers”. The signatories welcome the pronouncements of governments such as Chile or international bodies such as the European Foreign Affairs Service, but regret that the international response has lacked "the necessary coordination and alignment to effectively contribute to the adoption of steps for the transition towards a democracy founded on freedom and human rights”. For this reason, the Brussels conclave is also emerging as an opportunity to encourage a transition to democracy in Nicaragua.

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