From October 29 to November 8, 2006, we were hosted by Witness for Peace to observe Nicaragua´s national elections and record evidence of US influence in the electoral process. During the week building up to the November 5, 2006 elections, we sixteen United States and Canadian citizens met with representatives from all four major political parties of Nicaragua (the National Sandinista Liberation Front, the Liberal Constitutional Party, the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, and the Sandinista Renewal Movement), the Supreme Electoral Council of the Nicaraguan government, the United States Embassy and U.S. Agency for International Development, and Movimiento por Nicaragua, a group that receives US financing to register voters. The delegation also received electoral observation training with Nicaraguan organization Etica y Transparencia (Ethics and Transparency). In addition, the delegation met with a community organizer and a sociologist and professor at the Central American University (UCA). The group spent two nights with a rural organized community and met with representatives from their women’s group, university students group, and agricultural cooperative.
At these meetings, the delegation learned about several comments made by US representatives, including U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli, U.S. Trade Representative Carlos Gutierrez, and U.S. Congressmen Dan Burton and Dana Rohrabacher that threatened repercussions if FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega were to be elected. According to Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa, Trivelli claimed just days before the election that the U.S. would have to “revisit the relationship it has with Nicaragua if Ortega wins”, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Millenium Challenge Account, which provides Nicaragua with $175 million in aid, investments from private companies, and Nicaragua´s debt with multilateral institutions in which the U.S. participates. Gutierrez echoed this threat in an article in La Prensa, claiming that, “The people of Nicaragua should remember the very important economic relationship that the two of our countries have, and now is not the time to risk it.” Rohrabacher wrote a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security asking to develop a contingency plan to stop allowing Nicaraguan immigrants in the United States to send remittances if Daniel Ortega were elected, a grave threat given that Nicaragua currently earns more in remittances than it does in exports. The delegation opposes this intervention by U.S. government representatives in Nicaragua’s internal politics.
We twenty U.S. and Canadian citizens, accredited by the Supreme Electoral Council through Witness for Peace, participated in electoral observation in eight municipalities in Nicaragua, covering twenty-three polling places. Observers were present during all steps of the voting process, including the opening of the polls, voting, poll closing, counting, and preparation of final results. Witness for Peace observers reported that despite minor anomalies in the voting process, overall, voters were not impeded from casting their ballots. These anomalies did not affect the final results of the elections, and there was no evidence they were a result of intentional fraud. Witness for Peace observers reported a peaceful voting process, and reported that members of the polling places followed the procedures according to Electoral Law. Observers reported a high voter turnout, consistent with the Supreme Electoral Council’s tally that just over 2.3 million Nicaraguans, roughly 73.5% of eligible voters, cast their ballots. Witness for Peace, along with delegations from the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the Carter Center among others, comprised some of the 2,226 international observers[i], in addition to around 18,000 national observers. From our observation, the voting process in Nicaragua was free, fair, and transparent.
As a result of our experience on this election observation delegation to Nicaragua, we have committed ourselves to return to the United States and Canada where we will give presentations in our communities, write to local and national publications and be active in community groups and organizations all with the purpose of furthering our message to our government representatives and our fellow U.S. and Canadian citizens that the U.S. government must stop meddling in Nicaragua’s internal politics, but rather work in a fair and just manner with the new, democratically elected administration.
[i] La Prensa. November 5, 2006.