OAS Office Closure in Nicaragua

Remarks by
Bradley A. Freden
Interim U.S. Permanent Representative
April 27, 2022

Thank you Chair. The Ortega regime’s forcible occupation of a diplomatic facility illustrates once again its utter contempt for the peaceful, rules-based order in the Americas, and for this Council.

As the Secretary General has pointed out, the regime’s decision to send police armed with machine guns to shut down the small office representing this Organization in Managua violates basic norms concerning the inviolability of the facilities of international organizations.

This a stunning affront to the OAS as an institution and to each of our governments. We cannot simply shrug and look the other way.  If we wish to preserve the ability of OAS staff to do their jobs in the field throughout the region, often under difficult conditions, we must condemn this action in the strongest terms and consider other, more concrete responses as well.

It is worth recalling that the Ortega-Murillo government itself insisted on the establishment of this office three years ago, in early 2019, when it was engaged in a second attempt at political dialogue with representatives of Nicaragua’s democratic opposition. The office was intended to support the work of the Secretary General, as well as the Papal Nuncio, who both had been invited by the regime to accompany that dialogue.

Those talks resulted in agreements signed by representatives of the current Nicaraguan government to release political prisoners, restore civil liberties and negotiate improvements to the country’s electoral framework.

Now, three years later, those commitments have long been abandoned by the regime. Most of the leaders who negotiated for the opposition are now imprisoned, condemned in secret trials for crimes they did not commit without the right to a proper legal defense.

Yesterday, the regime convicted one of its former Ambassadors to the OAS for the supposed crime of criticizing Ortega’s rash decision last November to denounce the Charter. The regime has sought to demonize the work of OAS and has recently expelled the Papal Nuncio from Nicaragua — something I have never seen happen in any of our countries, ever.

So in a way it is no surprise that Ortega and Murillo have now seized the OAS office in Managua — an office that they never allowed to serve its intended purpose, which was to promote reconciliation. It is nonetheless essential that we treat this act as the institutional and legal abomination that it is. And see it in the broader context of the regime’s now clear and longstanding rejection of the commitments our governments have made to democracy and the rule of law.

The Ortega regime has chosen to ignore the recommendations of this Council, defy its international commitments, and most importantly, to deny fundamental human rights to the Nicaraguan people.

While the Nicaraguan regime has told us it is leaving the OAS, it still remains subject to these obligations, and if we want those norms to mean something, we must not be afraid to apply them in egregious cases like this one.

Madame Chair, the OAS remains the most important multilateral organization in the Western Hemisphere and has a long, proud history of supporting the democratic advancement of all nations in the Americas. It is up to all of us to preserve that legacy, and to defend the organization when it comes under this kind of attack.

At the same time, it is also essential that the OAS and its member states remain engaged on the situation in Nicaragua, now more than ever, despite the regime’s evident desire to flee, in order to stand up for the rights and wellbeing of the long-suffering Nicaraguan people. We must not abandon them in their hour of need.

Thank you, Chair.