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Gabriel Boric urges release of Nicaraguan political prisoners at CELAC summit

During his intervention at the VII Summit of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States (Celac) on January 24, Chilean President Gabriel Boric called for the release of the “opposition members who are still detained so shamefully in Nicaragua.”

The Celac Summit opened Tuesday in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Among those invited by the government of Argentine President Alberto Fernandez was Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega. Ortega declined the invitation, and sent Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada instead.

Preparations for the summit have been marked by controversy in Argentina. Those opposing the Fernandez government denounced the invitations extended to Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel, and Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega, in view of their human rights violations.

In the end, Maduro cancelled his trip at the last minute, and of the three leaders, only Diaz-Canel attended the forum, which was marked by strong security measures due to the presence of protesters.

It was Boric’s first time at this gathering, attended by representatives of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations. In addition to the Chilean leader, some fifteen heads of state were present, among them Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil; Luis Alberto Arce from Bolivia; Luis Lacalle Pou, of Uruguay; Gustavo Petro of Colombia; and Xiomara Castro from Honduras.

Since coming to power one year ago, President Boric has been a fierce critic of the international community’s indifference to the human rights crisis in Nicaragua. He has demanded at several different international forums the liberation of the political prisoners being held by the dictatorship of Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega.

During a speech before the Mexican Senate last November, Boric declared: “We can’t look the other way in the face of the political prisoners in Nicaragua.” In that same session, a group of Mexican senators from parties opposing the current president came to the front of the legislative chamber and unfurled a banner reading: “Boric doesn’t protect the Nicaraguan assassins like AMLO does.” The statement referred to Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has studiously avoided condemning Ortega.

In an earlier interview with TIME magazine, Boric stated: “I would prefer to be able to tell Daniel Ortega that I don’t agree with him and he should release political prisoners [like] Dora Maria Tellez, to say that to his face and confront him.”

During his speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022, Boric called on countries “to carry out the actions that are needed, not just declarations, to put an end to the abuse of the powerful anywhere in the world; to continue working to contribute to the liberation of the political prisoners in Nicaragua.”

“Respect, especially for free elections”

Boric has been a consistent critic of the region’s authoritarian regimes ever since he came to power. Because of that, many analysts consider him a reference point for the new Latin American left. The Chilean president has also spoken of the crisis in Venezuela and urged the South American nation to “return to the multinational forums.”

“The policy of exclusion doesn’t offer authentic or durable results. The history of our Latin American and Caribbean countries offers proof of this, with the ignominious US blockade of Cuba and more recently of Venezuela,” he asserted.

Nonetheless, Boric did demand “free, fair and transparent” elections in Venezuela for 2024, and expressed his government’s desire to “collaborate in the dialogue between the different sectors of the country, in order to find a way out” of the crisis.

“Neither liberty nor dignity are possible outside of democracy (…) The dictatorship (in Chile) taught us harshly, through blood and fire, the effects of playing down the importance of democracy and human rights.” The former student leader demanded international condemnation of human rights outrages “independently of the political colors of the government.”

“Democracy must be especially respected in free elections, when the one I don’t agree with wins; human rights are advances of civilization that should be respected,” Boric concluded.

Last November, the Chilean president questioned on Twitter the results of Nicaragua’s municipal elections farce held on November 6, 2022, in which the Sandinista Front awarded itself control over all of the country’s 153 Mayors’ offices.

“An electoral process held without freedom, trustworthy electoral authorities, and with the opposition in jail or banished isn’t democracy in any part of the world,” Boric wrote on his account.

Inter American Press Association laments inviting “repressive governments”

The Inter American Press Association lamented the presence of Cuban president Diaz-Canel and of Moncada, Nicaragua’s foreign minister, as well as Yvan Gil, Venezuela’s foreign minister, at the summit. The Miami-based organization highlighted their status as:  “The three governments that are the greatest repressors of press freedom, freedom of expression and of journalism in the Americas.”

“If the invitation is aimed at promoting dialogue and a political accord on the continent, that objective demands a previous commitment from every member of the regional forum to put an end to repression and to systematic violations of human rights,” the Press Association statement declared.

It further emphasized that the three dictatorships – Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela -“occupy the three last places out of 22 countries on the Chapultepec Index,” a barometer that measures the state of free press and expression in the Americas.

“We lament the fact that these leaders, who violate human rights and don’t believe in democracy, have been invited by an organization whose objectives include the promotion of respectful dialogue, capable of building consensus on topics of common interest,” affirmed Association president Michael Greenspon.

Carlos Jornet, president of the organization’s Freedom of the Press and Information Committee, indicated that the region’s democratic governments should demand that Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela “put the brakes on their repression of journalists, civic leaders and political dissidents.”

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times 

Redacción Confidencial

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