Peaceful Transition of Power in Nicaragua

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Nicaragua has never been a stranger to corruption although its constant efforts to conform to democracy for the past few decades. Nicaragua operated under a democratic structure in the twentieth century, however, in practice it was not operating as a democracy, as President Somoza would constantly undermine the Constitution. Now, Nicaragua is dealing with a new problem under the Ortega administration. President Ortega is guilty of violating human rights and making unconstitutional amendments to the constitution through undemocratic means, and he has been met with great opposition by protestors who resist his actions as of late.

In short, in order for Nicaragua to be restored to peace, the Organization of American States needs to meet and to draft up an agreement that endorses a transfer of power in return for immunity from prosecution. In this contract that the OAS will devise, it will state that if he resigns, there may be an early election set in place, however, he will be guaranteed immunity as long as him and his wife resign from their positions as President and Vice President and leave the country as soon as possible. This contract would be the last effort to a negotiation that the OAS will attempt in efforts to restore peace to Nicaragua. Clearly, the collective action problem in this scenario is that Nicaragua’s political, economic, and social stability is at risk of failing. The public good provided within this situation is that Ortega is not tried or prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, thus ensuring a peaceful transfer of power.

It is important to understand exactly what Nicaragua has gone through throughout the twentieth century. The Somoza dictatorship, which had persisted for more than thirty years, had officially ended when the Sandidista revolution overthrew President Somoza in 1979, giving space for the global leftist icon to eventually take over as President of Nicaragua in the national election of 1984 (Britannica, 2012). However, when he assumed the presidency, Nicaragua’s economy was already in ruins due to its persistent Civil War that ended in 1979, including an earthquake just a few years earlier that claimed more than 10,000 lives. President Daniel Ortega is now serving his third term as President as of last year, with his own wife, Rosario Murillo, as Vice President.

In fact, in order to be able to serve his third term in office, he had to make amendments in 2009 to the Constitution by going through the Supreme Court to allow indefinite presidential re-elections. Further constitutional changes were also made to allow him to run for a third consecutive term in 2016. Clearly, Ortega has been accused of manipulating the political system in order to guarantee he stay in office for his five-year presidential term and potentially longer. The people of Nicaragua were not so happy about his reelection, seeing how President Ortega de-legitimizes any opposition group that tries to run against him.

Despite a history of political unrest, the country had remained rather peaceful for the past few years. Ironically, just a few months ago Nicaragua was considered one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America up April of this year when the government of Nicaragua announced that it would be taking away 5 percent of the elderly’s monthly Social Security checks. The protests broke out on April 18th, with university students taking it upon themselves to protest against the reformations due to the fact that their education is largely funded by their grandparents’ little but steady social security income (BBC, 2018).

Although the right to protest is protected under the Constitution, the protesters were met with great opposition by paramilitary youth, a group of men hired illegally by the president himself to “keep peace” amongst the civilians of Nicaragua. Within the next five days, what started off as peaceful protests ended in nearly thirty people killed by paramilitary youth and authorities. Ortega ordered hospitals to be closed to those hurt on the side of the opposition, and supermarkets and water supplies have been threatened to be shut off if the protests do not stop. Nonetheless, Ortega cancelled the reforms five days later, but out of outrage of the government’s approach to the situation and of the innocent lives lost, the people of Nicaragua are now demanding his resignation from the presidency.

The international community has taken some initiatives to stop President Ortega from continuing to abuse his power. The Organization of American States has tried to bring Nicaragua to a Dialogue, but Nicaragua has refused repeatedly to cooperate. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has also been vocal about what has been going on in Nicaragua, saying “I urge the Human Rights Council, and the broader international community, to take concrete action to prevent the current crisis from descending into deeper social and political turmoil. Any such action should aim to ensure full accountability for human rights violations and abuses, enable victims to have effective access to justice and appropriate remedies, including reparations and the right to know the truth” (OHCHR, 2018).

As of November 27th, The Trump administration placed new sanctions against the vice president of Nicaragua and a top national security adviser to President Daniel Ortega as a way to hold “the Ortega regime accountable for the violent protests and widespread corruption that have led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent Nicaraguans and destroyed their economy”, treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said in a statement (The Hill, 2018). The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also documented cases of torture, illegal detention, press censorship and killings as part of the long list of crimes committed by President Ortega, and it has not helped that the Nicaraguan economy has taken a hit since tourism is down as well.

The European Union has even urged Ortega to hold an early election instead of waiting until the next election term in 2021, and yet ironically, Ortega is calling for a “peaceful constitutional solution” to the crisis, but says the constitution “cannot be changed overnight because of the whim of a group of coup mongers” (Univision, 2018). It seems as though there is no way to truly incentivize Ortega to leave office, seeing as he has been silent and has refused to cooperate with the pleas from the international community to stop his criminal activity now.

Clearly, his human rights violations have made him an illegitimate leader. Although President Ortega helped take down Nicaragua’s dictator Somoza in 1979 for violating Human Rights and the Constitution of Nicaragua, he too is now guilty of similar abuses. The amendments he has made to the Constitution through the means of the Supreme Court have also proved he has abused his power as President and breached the checks and balances of government.

The first step to take in the approach of restoring peace back to Nicaragua is to have President Ortega resign from the presidency. However, it has become apparent to the international community that he has no intention of resigning from the presidency. He knows that if he does, there is a chance he may be prosecuted through the International Criminal Court for his human rights violations. As long as he remains in the presidency, he is complacent for the next four years until Nicaragua’s next election, that is if they have a free and fair one. So, what will it take for President Daniel Ortega to resign his presidency?

The people of Nicaragua themselves have come up to a solution to their own collective action problem: to incentivize him to leave the presidency, it has been suggested that he walk free and leave the country without being prosecuted. However, this is only a suggestion from the people, therefore no official government body nor the United Nations has yet endorsed a transfer of power in return for immunity from prosecution. The public good provided within this situation is that Ortega is not tried or prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, and that would ultimately ensure a smooth transition of power in the most peaceful way possible.

This proposition, however, is not one to get more states involved to intervene or forcefully remove him out of office. Seeing as Nicaragua is not exactly a threat to the economies of many nations around it, there is little to no incentive to help Nicaragua take down its dictator. However, how do we get states to jump on board with not trying him through the ICC? The people of Nicaragua may not seek justice at this point, seeing as they only want him to stop the human rights abuses he has done. After all, the international community’s incentive is to prosecute dictators seeing as it gives more legitimacy to the institution created in 2002. My solution, in short, is to get the Organization of American States to draft up an agreement that endorses a transfer of power that temporarily increases their control in Nicaragua in order to ensure that they are operating under democratic means.

If we want to look into similar scenarios in which this suggestion has been utilized, we can take a closer look into Yemen in 2012. Ali Abdullah Saleh, former president of Yemen, was also charged with corruption. He mismanaged the country’s oil revenues and 40 percent of its population lived on less than $2 a day (Al Jazeera, 2018). The Gulf Cooperation Council was able to come up with an agreement to which he could agree with, and on November 24, 2011, he signed a deal to hand over his powers under an agreement that negotiated a power transfer with the opposition in return for a promise of immunity from prosecution (2011). However, the reason that other states were able to jump onto this agreement was that the agreement still guaranteed surrounding state’s access to Yemen’s resources. So, even though the GCC had constrained the president and his power, they found a way to still increase their own power, resources, and access to institutions in their military and political parties.

To solve Nicaragua’s crisis, a proposal would have to take a similar approach. The organization that deals with continental affairs for the purposes of regional solidarity is the Organization of American States. One of the main goals of the OAS is “to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of non-intervention” (OAS, 1991). In respect of these rules, a solution that would aim to intervene into Nicaragua in an effort to remove President Ortega from office would be inadequate if the OAS should care to solve Nicaragua’s solution. Therefore, it is in the interest of the OAS to come up with a plan to negotiate with Nicaragua a plan in which to cease fire.

However, Nicaragua has refused to do a negotiation with the OAS, and as stated before, recommends its crisis be solved through “democratic means”. Therefore, due to adamant responses from the Nicaraguan government, it seems as though the OAS should either give Nicaragua one last chance to join in on a conversation about reaching a peace deal, or the OAS should come to a solution amongst themselves and without Nicaragua to solve the problem in Nicaragua. To devise up a contract that would guarantee his immunity from being prosecuted in the International Criminal Court would be smartest solution for a situation like this one. Of course, it only guarantees temporary peace but if the OAS is true to their mission, they would dedicate themselves to eradicate all terms of instability in a way that ensures that no more lives be lost.

To oblige American states to devise up a deal for Nicaragua can be difficult indeed. How do we incentivize states to participate in the creation of a contract that will guarantee Daniel Ortega immunity? The answer can be rooted in the example the GCC had set up in Yemen: under the conditions that Ortega walk free, there must be increased control of institutions given to participating states that help devise up a contract. Similar and yet different from that of the Yemeni plan, American states that help create the contract will resume equal, but limited control of the military and supervise government processes to ensure it is operating as a transparent Democratic structure. With the arrival of an election, whether it be in 2021 or a potential early one in Ortega’s acceptance of the contract, American states can begin to withdrawal from its assumed control in Nicaragua once the election is supervised by the OAS and deemed free and fair.

This approach can also be problematic, seeing as though Nicaragua’s state sovereignty might be violated. But devising a plan that will guarantee Ortega immunity, ensure increased powers for the participating states, and consequently offer an option to hold an early election for a peaceful transfer of power seems like the most realistic plan that President Ortega might agree with, seeing as this is a last ditch effort to get him to cooperate. President Ortega has no intention of negotiation; therefore, the regional organization should come up with a contract to pitch to President Ortega as a last effort-deal. In an event like this one in which a contract is devised and given to him to look over, Ortega will have to either refuse the conditions of the contract or accept them, and his decision on either approach will naturally send a message to the OAS on whether this will be a plan in which to approach or not. Either way, President Ortega in a situation like this, and under the conditions of this being the last negotiation they could potentially have, would be forced to give a response on what he would prefer.

Clearly, implementing an early election as the European Union has suggested would be an ideal “democratic approach” that Ortega suggested he wanted, but Ortega has refused to take this deal, nonetheless it will be included within the contract in the event of his resignation and granted immunity. We want to believe President Ortega wants to go through this by democratic means, so while holding an early election can totally help, and is a way in which to meet a peaceful transfer of power, he has no incentive to leave if he knows he may be prosecuted under whomever resumes power after him. Therefore, for the OAS propose a contract with guaranteed immunity and send it to him either agree or disagree with could very much be a solution that can solve the turmoil in Nicaragua that has left the country in ruins as of the last few months.

It is clear that multiple attempts have been made to negotiate with Ortega, and to get him to stop the turmoil in Nicaragua, one can only hope he agrees to a transfer of power with guaranteed immunity. To make this a now or never case is to force him to enter into a dialogue that he has refused to participate in repeatedly. With pressure from the participating American States in the OAS, perhaps the president of Nicaragua will finally come to an agreement that will let him off the hook, as Nicaraguans have proposed themselves, in order for there to exist a peaceful transition of power.


Cite this paper

Peaceful Transition of Power in Nicaragua. (2022, Mar 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/peaceful-transition-of-power-in-nicaragua/

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