Ambassador Francisco O. Mora
October 11, 2023
Thank you, Chair. Once again, OAS member states have spoken out strongly against the grave human rights abuses and destruction of democracy in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, continue to intensify their attacks on democratic values, on democratic institutions, and on the Nicaraguan people’s basic freedom. They have demonstrated their utter disdain for the Charter of the OAS and the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
We must keep pressure on them to change course and return democracy to the courageous people of Nicaragua.
This year, Chair, Nicaraguans marked five years since the bloody crackdown on widespread popular protests against the misrule of Ortega and Murillo. Yet, nothing has changed. In fact, the situation has worsened.
Nicaraguans continue to suffer intensified repression, the closing of all democratic spaces, and the forced exile of thousands of journalists, civil society members, human rights defenders, religious actors, and opposition figures. Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans are now asylum seekers and migrants throughout the region.
Mr. Chair and colleagues, the United States calls yet again on Ortega and Murillo to take immediate steps to restore democracy in Nicaragua, and to immediately and unconditionally release those clamoring for the right of Nicaraguans to vote in free and fair elections, as well as those unjustly imprisoned for speaking out against abuses, including Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez.
We remain deeply concerned by the systematic targeting of members of the Catholic Church, of the Catholic Church itself, and of many other religious organizations in Nicaragua.
Some religious organizations, like Caritas, merely provided social services to Nicaragua’s most vulnerable. Even this humanitarian work came under attack, forcing many faith-based organizations to close and their workers to flee the country.
Over the past two years, Ortega and Murillo have ordered the arrest and exile of priests and bishops, labeling them “criminals” and “coup-plotters,” accusing them of inciting violence. It is absurd and outrageous, only demonstrating the desperation of their politically illegitimate rule.
Ortega and Murillo revoked the broadcasting licenses of three television stations and 10 radio stations operated by the Catholic Church. They shuttered the only television channel that broadcast local and foreign evangelical programming.
Other anti-Catholic activities have included death threats, theft of Catholic religious items, and desecration of and unlawful entry into Catholic churches. And in May, the bank accounts of at least three of the nine dioceses of the Catholic Church were frozen for alleged acts linked to money laundering and “treason.”
With these actions in mind, in November of 2022, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, Secretary of State Blinken designated Nicaragua a Country of Particular Concern for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.
Most recently, Ortega and Murillo shut down and seized the Jesuit-affiliated Central American University (or “UCA”) and the Central American Institute of Business Administration, two of the country’s most renowned centers of higher learning, under arbitrary and unfounded pretenses. UCA’s shutdown has affected at least 5,000 students and has had a chilling impact on Nicaraguan society.
UCA’s Jesuit community has been subjected to intimidation and harassment in retaliation for its support for — and defense of — the rights of students who took part in the 2018 social protests.
Additionally, Ortega and Murillo have targeted independent academic institutions, disrupting the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans seeking to build a better future in their homeland.
And just this month, as underscored yesterday in a statement by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Ortega and Murillo detained two members from the YATAMA party in the National Assembly – the only Indigenous representatives in that body – without due process. They subsequently rescinded the legal status of the party and closed two YATAMA-run radio stations.
YATAMA has been present in Nicaragua for over 33 years representing the people of the Atlantic coast. Its banishing demonstrates once again that Ortega and Murillo do not brook dissent of any kind.
The United States urges Ortega and Murillo to reverse course in their denouncement of the OAS Charter, due to take effect next month, to re-engage with this Organization, and to create an open environment for free and fair elections that will allow the Nicaraguan people to determine the future of their country.
In adopting today’s resolution focused on religious and academic freedom, we as OAS member states and citizens of the Americas speak strongly against the continued human rights abuses and lack of democratic governance in Nicaragua.
Thank you very much.
CP/RES. 1231 (2458/23)
REJECTION OF REPRESSIVE MEASURES BY THE NICARAGUA GOVERNMENT AGAINST EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN NICARAGUA1
(Adopted by the Permanent Council at its regular meeting, held on October 11, 2023)
THE PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES,
CONSIDERING the measures instituted by the Government of Nicaragua against the Central American University of Nicaragua (UCA), the Central American Institute for Business Administration (INCAE), and other educational institutions in the country;
CONSIDERING that the previous educational institutions are recognized as some of the most important in Nicaragua and their closure represents a serious attack against academic freedom and a serious abuse against the university community and Nicaraguan society as a whole;
TAKING NOTE that, as a consequence of these measures, the assets of the educational institutions have been seized or disabled, and their activities have been suspended, leaving the future of thousands of students, hundreds of professors, and administrative personnel uncertain;
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT that the mentioned measures are part of a course of action that, in a systemic, arbitrary, and abusive manner, has affected more than twenty educational institutions in the country;
OBSERVING WITH CONCERN that the repressive actions of the authorities in Nicaragua have also targeted the Catholic Church, as evidenced, in addition to measures against the Jesuit Order, by reports of the arbitrary detention of priests, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa, and the expulsion or prohibition of entry into the country of dozens of clergies, nuns and Catholic laypersons both Nicaraguan and foreign;
ALARMED at the present repressive actions against the Catholic Church and members of the Jesuit Order and RECALLING the September 15, 2023, statement from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which noted that an “open, free and plural civic space is an essential condition to ensure that people have the freedom to profess, manifest and practice their religion or beliefs without discrimination”;
CONSIDERING that these measures infringe on human rights and are inconsistent with Nicaragua’s commitments and obligations, established in international instruments, particularly in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Protocol of San Salvador, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, such as freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, religion or belief, freedom of association, the right to peaceful assembly, academic freedom, the right to education, and the right to work, among others;
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT that General Assembly resolution AG/RES. 3006 (LIII-O/23) considered “the deepening political and humanitarian crisis in Nicaragua since 2018 despite several resolutions and mandates adopted by the Member States and General Secretariat of the OAS to engage constructively with the Government of Nicaragua to support the restoration of democratic institutions and protection of human rights in accordance with International Law” and that recent events further worsen the situation in the country;
FULLY AWARE that the Inter-American Democratic Charter reaffirms that “the participatory nature of democracy in our countries in different aspects of public life contributes to the consolidation of democratic values and to freedom and solidarity in the Hemisphere”; and
REAFFIRMING its commitment to engage constructively with Nicaragua and international human rights mechanisms in order to fulfill its international human rights obligations,
1. To urge the Government of Nicaragua to respect and guarantee human rights, including freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, religion or belief, freedom of association, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to education, and the right to work.
2. To reject the repressive measures taken by the Government of Nicaragua against educational institutions and the Catholic Church, which infringe on Nicaragua’s international commitments and affect its integrity and functioning.
3. To call for the restoration of fundamental rights in Nicaragua and the protection of education as a fundamental pillar for the development and progress of society.
4. To invite educational institutions of the OAS Member States to provide such support as possible, to the professors of educational institutions affected by the measures of the Nicaraguan government, including through scholarships and other professional opportunities.
5. To reiterate the call made by the OAS General Assembly to Member States through Resolution AG/RES. 3006 (LIII-O/23) to do everything possible to encourage Nicaraguan authorities to engage in high-level dialogue.
6. To instruct the General Secretariat of the OAS to continue closely monitoring the situation in Nicaragua and to prepare and present, as warranted, reports for the Permanent Council.