Testimony to the Committee on Foreign Affairs: An International Response to Ortega’s Destruction of Democracy in Nicaragua
TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL REMARKS MADE BEFORE THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE, CIVILIAN SECURITY, MIGRATION, AND INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC POLICY SUBCOMMITTEE ON SEPTEMBER 21, 2021.
Mr. Chairman, Rep. Albio Sires, Ranking Member, Rep. Mark Green, Distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the invitation.
Nicaragua is at the edge of a precipice with no return. We are only six weeks away from the likely consolidation, of a ruthless, corrupt, dynastic dictatorship in the heart of the Americas.
It will occur despite the multiple resolutions approved by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly and Permanent Council of the OAS.
Beyond the all the suffering of the Nicaraguan people, this dismal situation will have a destabilizing impact for the rest of Central America and the entire Hemisphere.
Some of these consequences are:
First, an increase in forced migration. More than one hundred thousand Nicaraguans have migrated since April 2018 when the last wave of political repression started. Over 80 percent of this migration has gone to Costa Rica; however, these flows are turning to the United States of America. It is expected that in 2021 at least sixty thousand Nicaraguans will be apprehended at the United States-Mexico border.
Second, a disruption in regional trade. A deeper crisis in Nicaragua will hinder the economic reactivation urgently needed by neighboring countries, given that the economies of Central America are highly integrated.
Third, an invigoration of undemocratic ruling. Ortega’s reelection in a rigged process, particularly after openly defying calls from the international community to correct course, will incentivize other autocratic rulers in Central America and beyond to abandon even the semblance of democracy.
Finally, a threat to regional security. Ortega’s military strategy of increasing cooperation with Russia risks altering a reasonable balance of forces in Central America. Nicaragua’s territory is also been used to protect Central American fugitives from justice, something which is likely to increase.
To face these major challenges and risks, I respectfully recommend:
To request relevant national and international organizations, including the OAS, to issue updated and reliable reports, as soon as possible, documenting the human rights violations and exposing the electoral farce of the regime.
To work towards invocation or Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to suspend Nicaragua from the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS.
To align actions of international financial institutions to the findings and recommendations of regional organizations on human rights and democracy, in order to stop the external supply of financial oxygen to the Ortega regime.
To eliminate all the support to the Nicaraguan army, a key player in the endurance of the regime, including the support via the US Southern Command.
To investigate Ortega-Murillo’s families, associates and businesses for money laundering and drug trafficking, given prior sanctions on Ortega’s son for this kind of crimes.
To increase humanitarian aid for Nicaraguans in exile and for countries receiving immigrants, especially Costa Rica and Panama, including Covid-19 vaccine relief.
Finally, to urgently articulate a coherent diplomatic offensive with allies in the Western Hemisphere and in the rest of the world to avoid the electoral fraud or, failing that, to deny legitimacy to the government resulting from it. Ortega must pay a heavy price for installing a North Korean-style regime in our region.
Distinguished members of the House,
Democracy in Nicaragua is perishing in broad daylight. It is dying as the Hemisphere commemorates twenty years of the declaration of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Unless this is stopped, it will call into question the effectiveness of our regional instruments and commitments to protect and defend democracy.
Action is needed and it is urgent now.
I deeply hope that our next steps will live up to our commitments with democracy.