Ramon Jauregui, formerly the Spanish Socialist Party deputy to the European Parliament, considers the November 7th elections “a farce”. Jauregui, who also headed a January 2019 visit of the European deputies to Nicaragua, observes that currently all the opposition candidates have been imprisoned and the opposition parties stripped of their legal status. Given this, he foresees that the European Union “won’t recognize the government that results from those elections.”
In this interview, broadcast on Confidencial’s weekly online television news program Esta Semana, Jauregui urged the Nicaraguan people to “not just put their trust in what the international community may do; [(the outcome) depends on what the Nicaraguan people themselves do.” The latter referred to people’s decision to participate or not in the elections.
With the Nicaraguan elections less than a month away, all of the former presidential hopefuls from the opposition are in jail, along with more than 30 other political and civic leaders accused of “conspiracy”. How does Spain and the European Union view the imminent reelection of Daniel Ortega on November 7, given the absence of any real political competition?
(We view this) with enormous pessimism and great sadness, because the general opinion is that the elections are a farce. Everything an electoral process needs, in terms of freedom, pluralism, equal opportunity, has been literally swept away by a government strategy aimed at eliminating any kind of opposition or alternative.
If they’re so sure they have the trust and the support of the Nicaraguan people, they’d have submitted themselves to a clean electoral process, with international observation. They’d have allowed other candidates from the opposition to present their alternative, after all that’s happened in Nicaragua in the last few years. Instead, they’ve jailed all of them; they’ve eliminated all freedoms; they’ve prohibited the other opposition parties their legal right to be on the ballot, and they’ve all been imprisoned or exiled. In those conditions, the elections are a farce.
This crisis was preceded by statements of political condemnation from the European Parliament, approved with a very large majority. The EU has also sanctioned high functionaries of the Nicaraguan regime. What other kinds of actions could be debated or adopted by the EU, given the crisis of legitimacy the November 7th elections will bring?
The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council is scheduled to meet on October 18. The agenda has now been established, and Nicaragua is one of the items. Most likely, the EU isn’t going to pass any resolutions prior to the election date. Their political position is known, but there are no guarantees. The European Union has maintained sanctions on certain individuals in Ortega’s authoritarian regime, and they’ll very likely issue a statement after the elections.
Europe won’t be present (for the Nicaraguan elections) – neither Europe nor any international organizations. As a result, there won’t be any international observation, and there won’t be any international voices to endorse that process, which – I repeat – is a farce.
The opposition and the Nicaraguan people
Most of the Nicaraguan opposition organizations in exile issued a joint declaration this Thursday (October 7). In the first place, they call on the Central American countries, the OAS, the US and the EU not to recognize the results of the November 7 election. Is a declaration of illegitimacy something that each individual member country of the European Union could adopt, or would it be debated as a bloc in the EU?
I believe that the 27 countries that make up the European Union will issue a joint statement establishing the lack of legitimacy of that electoral process. As such, there won’t be any international recognition from the EU as a body. But, there’s always the possibility of other such statements on the part of each individual country, as complements. I also think that after the November 7th elections, Europe will say: those elections are a farce, we don’t recognize the results, hence we don’t recognize the government chosen in those elections.
Such a decision by the EU – or even similar decisions adopted by each individual country – would have political, diplomatic, and economic repercussions for the Ortega regime. Are there any precedents for such diplomatic actions from the European Union?
There’ve been similar situations, for example in Venezuela. It doesn’t mean that the EU will eliminate its political or diplomatic representation in the country, because European interests – including the defense of our citizens in that country – requires us to maintain our political representation. However, it can have repercussions, especially in the Association Agreement we have with Central America, which Nicaragua forms a part of. There’s a very serious democratic clause in that agreement, demanding that the countries forming part of the agreement comply with the fundamental principles of a Rule of Law.
After these elections, Nicaragua will probably come into open contradiction with those principles, and that could also have repercussions in the maintenance or not of the Association Agreement with Nicaragua on the part of Europe.
The outline of a path forward towards transition that the Nicaraguan opposition announced, puts in first place the release of the political prisoners, the restoration of public freedoms, and creating conditions for the return of those exiled, so that Nicaragua could enact an electoral reform and eventually hold new elections. However, the opposition is in prison, in exile, and effectively decapitated. Can the international community exert any influence in the face of that vacuum and that demand?
Of course, we’ll continue helping the opposition and sanctioning the regime. However, you have to understand that the outcome of this political crisis and this internal conflict depends on the country itself, on Nicaragua and its people.
We have no intention of becoming direct actors in the Nicaraguan situation. I reiterate that you mustn’t only put your trust in what the international community may do; it also depends on what the Nicaraguan people themselves do. When I read the opposition’s latest declaration, I was surprised that there was no call to the Nicaraguan people. What’s important now is to know whether the opposition has decided to participate or not in the elections; and if it advocates not participating, then it must tell people not to participate.
I sincerely believe that there’s no one to vote for in Nicaragua and that there’s no reason to vote. I say that in all honesty, and I think that needs to be the message from the leaders themselves, or from the opposition parties. They need to say in the country: “Sirs, you have imprisoned our candidates; we have no legal status; we’re literally exiled from politics. Hence, I say to the people and the country and the Nicaraguan citizens that they shouldn’t participate in this farce.” This has to be said: there’s no one to vote for, and there’s no reason to vote in those elections.
In 2016, there was a similar situation in Nicaragua. The opposition candidates had been eliminated, although not jailed, and the regime went on to reelect themselves with a bevy of collaborationist parties. What we saw were empty polling places, a large degree of abstention. Nonetheless, despite all this, Ortega’s regime was later recognized by the OAS and politically recognized as well.
What happened in 2016 is very different from what’s going to happen now in 2021. It’s true that there were limitations at that time, but now the leaders are in jail and the seven candidates that could have beaten Ortega are in jail or in exile.
There’s no way to be able to judge the November 7th electoral outcome as positive. Beyond what may have occurred in 2016, what happens in 2021 is going to depend on the Nicaraguan people. If Ortega sees that the country doesn’t participate, he’ll be able to post deceptive results, but if he sees that only 30 or 40% of the country participated, then those elections are literally thwarted. That would serve as a message from the Nicaraguan people to the Ortega dictatorship that they don’t accept this electoral lie. That then greatly forces a response from the international community.
However, if the opposite occurs, if there’s massive participation, the international community will have to end up saying that the elections, even though they couldn’t observe them, seem to have a pinch of legitimacy. That depends, literally, on the Nicaraguan citizens.
The future: pessimism and uncertainty
Assuming that Ortega is reelected on November 7th, without political competitors, with a high grade of abstentionism, we know the regime will project its own images of the electoral participation and offer a count that’s already preestablished as being over 70%, as in 2016. How do you envision this crisis in the medium term – in 2022, 2023 – with a government that’s determined to hold solidly on to its power?
With a lot of pessimism and uncertainty. The falsification of the electoral data on participation and the margin of support for the winner, who we can suppose will be Ortega, can introduce some doubt onto the international chessboard. However, who’s going to believe the data produced by an organization with no electoral oversight from any international organization – not from the OAS, nor the Carter Foundation, nor the European Union? In the end, the only ones accompanying the Nicaraguan electoral process are going to be three or four individual members of the Spanish, Argentine or Cuban Communist Parties. That’s really not an electoral observation. The data offered on the results of November 7th won’t be in any way believable.
Starting from there, what will be the reaction in the coming year? I don’t know. The only thing I can say is that very probably the international community will make their own decisions in a resounding way: the US, the EU, I don’t know about the OAS, if there’s a majority to establish expulsion proceedings. I believe that this will delegitimize the Nicaraguan political system in the eyes of the whole world, much more so than in 2016.
Today it’s clear all over the world that the Nicaraguan elections are falsified, that the opposition has been literally imprisoned or exiled from the country; that there’s no rule of law or public freedoms; that there’s no observation. Beginning there, the only thing I hope is that we have the capacity to move beyond that situation, so that there can be a clean electoral process, and Nicaragua could have clean elections as soon as possible. That’s the only political objective we can sketch from the perspective of the international view.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times