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​The Organization of American States (OAS) met for its 51st General Assembly Nov. 10-Nov. 12, held virtually and hosted by the Guatemalan Government. 

This year, three main issues were in the center of the debate: the pandemic, the elections in Nicaragua and the situation in Venezuela.

On Friday, Nov. 12, the assembly voted to condemn Nicaragua’s Nov. 7 presidential vote, saying the elections “were not free, fair or transparent, and lack democratic legitimacy.” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega won more than 75% of the votes in Sunday’s election, but it was a farce—prior to the election, his government jailed seven of the leading potential opposition candidates.

Friday’s resolution instructs the OAS Permanent Council to draw up a report on the election by Nov. 30, in order to determine “appropriate actions” to be taken. The actions could be more sanctions on Nicaraguan officials, many of whom are already under U.S. and EU sanctions.

Twenty-five countries in the Americas voted in favor of the resolution, while seven—Belize, Bolivia, Dominica, the Grenadines, Honduras, Mexico, Santa Lucia and St. Vincent—abstained. Only Nicaragua voted against it. Cuba did not participate, and the representation of Venezuela before the OAS is from Juan Guaido, not from Maduro.

In a statement to the media, Alexa Zamora, a leader of the Nicaraguan opposition group Blue and White Unity, welcomed the resolution. “The fact that the OAS recognizes the regime as illegitimate gives us a powerful tool to demand the cutoff of outside financing for the dictator.” 

On the other hand, Nicaragua’s OAS representative, Michael René Campbell, said that “the OAS does not have the authority to become our official vote counter … the OAS is not the arbiter or auditor of the elections.”

The OAS Permanent Council also voted last month to condemn repression and demanded the release of political prisoners in Nicaragua. At that time Argentina, Bolivia, Honduras and Mexico abstained. This time, under the framework of the General Assembly, Argentina decided to switch and voted in favor of the resolution.

The ruling Sandinista Front and its allies control the congress and all government institutions of Nicaragua. Ortega first served as president from 1985 to 1990, after the 1979 revolution that ousted the Somoza dictatorship, before returning to power in 2007. He recently declared his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, his “co-president.”

The statement of the Mexican representative was deplorable, and sought to have it both ways. Luz Elena Baños, Mexico’s representative at the OAS, said Mexico “has expressed our concerns to the government of Nicaragua about the political process carried out on Nov. 7, especially regarding freedom of expression and the right of citizens to participate in politics.” But immediately after, Baños said Mexico would not vote for any measure “aimed at intervention, isolating or imposing sanctions” in Nicaragua.
The political position of Mexico vis-a-vis Nicaragua is very concerning because, at the end of the day, it aligns Mexico with countries that have expressed openly their support of Ortega: Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Bolivia and Russia. Iran is taking this opportunity to move forward in finding more Latin American places to expand its influence and put Hezbollah terrorists on the ground. Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said that “it is unacceptable to challenge the legitimacy of the elections in Nicaragua”.
The OAS General Assembly decided by an overwhelming majority to establish the illegitimacy of Ortega´s election, but the support of Iran and Russia is a global danger for the security and democracy for all Latin America.
The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela was also discussed during the general assembly. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has started the process of studying the violation of human rights made by Maduro´s regime as crimes against humanity. During the OAS General Assembly, only 13 countries signed a statement endorsing the ICC intervention. The countries that signed the statement are: Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay, the United States and Uruguay. Once again, countries like Argentina, Mexico and Peru send the wrong message, indirectly supporting a regime which is a haven for Hezbollah.
The pandemic has caused great damage in almost every Latin American country in its economic and social life. It has also shown, with few exceptions, that the health system was not prepared to face such a challenge. The OAS General Assembly adopted an extensive resolution, but it is uncertain how practical and effective the resolution can be when we are all watching the failure in providing vaccines from the World Health Organization and its system. The general assembly decided “To call on the member states and permanent observers to coordinate common positions in Multilateral Organizations aimed at jointly facilitating the post-pandemic recovery, paying special attention to the economic, productive, and financial difficulties aggravated by the pandemic.”

It also decided “To endorse the role of extensive COVID-19 immunization as a global public good and again urge member states and those permanent observers with the capacity to do so to take measures to facilitate the equitable distribution of vaccines in the Hemisphere, considering that accelerating the equitable and necessary access to safe, effective, affordable, and quality COVID-19 vaccines is a key element in overcoming this emergency.”
Except for Chile and Uruguay (which have more than 75% of the population vaccinated with 2 doses and are advancing to the third dose, even for children under 12 years old), other countries not only are advancing at a lower speed but are also dealing with the economic decline in the region, the increasing unemployment and poverty. All these issues make the pandemic even worse.
The OAS will insist on two immediate political actions: One, joining the EU and other countries outside Latin America to take all possible political measures to try to restore Nicaragua as a free country. Today it is under a criminal dictatorship and its alliance with terrorists puts the region in danger.

Two, to try to reach the largest possible consensus to face the violent Venezuelan regime and to help the ICC to condemn it.

Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B’nai B’rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.