Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

US likens Nicaragua to Syria, Venezuela

SECURITY COUNCIL:An OAS official said Managua needed to take critical measures to re-establish democracy in Nicaragua, but Russia’s envoy accused the US of intervention


Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega cheer during a pro-government rally in Managua on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

The US on Wednesday warned the UN Security Council that Nicaragua is heading down the path that led to conflict in Syria and a crisis in Venezuela that has spilled into the region, but Russia, China and Bolivia said Nicaragua does not pose an international threat and the UN should butt out.

The sharp exchanges took place at the first council meeting called by US Ambassador Nikki Haley, the current council president, to address what the UN says is the government’s violent repression of student and opposition protests that have killed more than 300 people since the middle of April and led thousands to flee the country.

“With each passing day Nicaragua travels further down a familiar path. It is a path that Syria has taken. It is a path that Venezuela has taken,” Haley said.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “are cut from the same corrupt cloth ... and they are both dictators who live in fear of their own people,” she said.

However, there is still an opportunity for Nicaragua’s government “to prevent tyranny from threatening peace and security” by responding to the people’s demands for freedom, an end to “dictatorship,” and the release of arbitrarily jailed protesters, she said.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said the “subversive policies of the United States against Nicaragua have a long history” and the Security Council meeting — which Moscow “categorically objects to” — represented “a glaring and grim example of destructive foreign intervention.”

“Following today’s discussion, polarization in Nicaragua will only worsen,” he said.

Ortega responded to Haley’s comments in a speech to a pro-government march in Managua.

“What should we say to the United States?” he said. “We’ll tell them that if they want to help the Nicaraguan people, if they want to contribute to peace, the best thing they can do and should do is not meddle in Nicaragua, respect Nicaragua.”

The popular protests that began in April were triggered by cuts to the social security system; Ortega reversed the cuts, but demonstrations quickly expanded and turned into a call for him to step down.

A report released on Wednesday last week by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the unrest in the country described government repression that stretched from the streets to courtrooms, where some protesters face terrorism charges.

It called on the government to immediately halt the persecution of protesters and disarm the masked civilians who have been responsible for many of the killings and arbitrary detentions. It also documented cases of torture and excessive force.

Gonzalo Koncke, chief of staff to the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), told the Security Council that Nicaragua “is at a critical juncture and the government must take critical measures” to re-establish democracy in the country.

The government must quickly hold “free, just, democratic and transparent elections” and start a dialogue with all parties that leads to agreements, he said.

If democracy is not restored, Nicaragua “may go the way of other countries in the region who have fallen in the arms of dictators,” Koncke said.

Civil society leader Felix Maradiaga, a former secretary-general of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Defense who said he faces constant death threats, told the council he came to convey the urgency of the situation in the country that threatens peace and security in the region.

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