Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic prioritize Nicaragua

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The Foreign Ministers of Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic participated in an event sponsored by the Wilson Center.

The Alliance for Democracy sees democracy, human rights and press freedom under attack in the region

By Octavio Enriquez (Confidential)

HAVANA TIMES — In a Jan. 11 meeting, the foreign ministers of Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic all described the Nicaraguan crisis as an “urgent priority” for the region. They proposed this assessment the day after the inauguration of Daniel Ortega, marking his fifteenth consecutive year in power. The ceremony took place in Nicaragua under the shadow of the illegitimacy of its regime and amid denunciations of serious human rights violations.

The foreign ministers of the three countries participated in a virtual meeting sponsored by the Wilson Center in the United States. The meeting was moderated by Cynthia Arnson, director of the Centre’s Latin America program. The three cabinet members talked about the Alliance for the Desarrollo of Democracy [Alliance for the Development of Democracy] a group founded four months ago, and through which they expressed their point of view on Nicaragua.

Rodolfo Solano Quiros, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, said democracy, human rights and press freedom “are under attack” in the region and the situation calls for a smart and strategic regional response. The events unfolded against the backdrop of the pandemic, which triggered a deterioration in the quality of democracy, high levels of corruption and restrictions on the press.

“Nicaragua has a regional impact because democratic institutions must not only respect human rights, but also promote human rights. I think this is a subject that we should take into consideration,” the minister said, in response to a question regarding the Nicaraguan crisis.

Solano believes they must continue to work with the international community to find “a smart way” to bring the neighboring country back on a “more democratic” path.

Last November 12, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic voted with the majority of the 25 countries of the Organization of American States to denounce the electoral farce that took place in Nicaragua on November 7.e as illegitimate. The resolution approved at the OAS at the time also demanded the immediate release of political prisoners and the full restoration of the democratic rights of Nicaraguans.

The current regime truncated these democratic rights from September 2018. Violations then escalated from May 2021, when repression was stepped up to eliminate any electoral competition.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has extended until mid-January 2022 the deadline for sending a report on his attempts to contact Ortega regarding the regional resolution. However, diplomatic sources informed Confidential that these efforts were at an impasse.

During the forum with the Wilson Center, Solano said they expected Nicaraguan authorities to positively demonstrate their understanding of the regional demand that democracy, human rights and freedom of expression be qualities that “identify the Central American region, and that the world know us as a peaceful and democratic region.

Costa Rica insists on diplomatic measures

Solano said that in his opinion they should continue to work diplomatically. “We can develop different actions so that Nicaragua can create its own strategies, and we must support them, together with different key figures in the region such as the United States, Canada, the European Union, and even with personalities such as the Vatican. (…) It is a concept that is on the table, but we must be very clear at this historic moment that democracy and human rights are the main agenda, not only for Nicaragua, but for the whole region. These are necessary conditions to move towards inclusive development.

Erika Mouynes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, urged the group to maintain close ties despite the pandemic, in order to face urgent and priority situations, such as that in Nicaragua and other countries in the region.

According to Mouynes, the group has a responsibility to deal with these cases appropriately, which means it must continue to lobby, and also lead a humanitarian response.

One of the subjects on which the Minister insisted from the beginning was that of migration. She explained that in the case of Panama, for example, at least 140,000 migrants crossed their territory last year.

“Most of them were from Haiti, and that should be subject to collective analysis. No country can answer this alone. We are the first country that offers medical care, shelter, COVID tests. This alliance is extremely helpful in promoting this discussion,” noted Mouynes.

Does not replace regional organizations

Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Roberto Alvarez said that while they are discussing the subject of Nicaragua, the alliance is not meant to substitute for regional organizations like the United Nations or the OAS.

“Our intention is not to replace existing institutions, but to work in favor of what exists,” Alvarez said.

Mouynes supported the position of his colleague from the Dominican Republic and noted that the OAS has been working in Latin America for decades. However, she proposed, they can all join forces to “ensure a more active forum, which creates change and directs us towards what we want to achieve”.

The three foreign ministers also discussed other regional topics, such as global trade, supply chains, the effects of climate change and the search for sustainable development, in addition to democracy. They are also considering the possibility of an alliance with the United States, which will be discussed at a summit in March in Costa Rica.

The Alliance for the Development of Democracy made up of Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic arises at a time when the region is experiencing a new wave of authoritarianism in countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Read more about Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

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