We need to work together to help the Nicaraguan people restore democracy through genuinely free and fair elections. The Ortega regime continues to stifle dissent, harass and repress independent media, and arrest, abuse, and intimidate civilians for exercising their fundamental freedoms, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America Hugo RodriguezBureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told reporters.
The United States will continue to work with regional and global partners to promote accountability for those responsible for these abuses. Since the beginning of the crisis, the United States has sanctioned five entities and 15 individuals, including members of Ortega’s inner circle. The Canadian Government has sanctioned some of the same individuals, and a report late last year by the Organization of American States’ High Level Commission on Nicaragua found that the actions of the government since April 2018 undermined basic human rights and democratic freedoms in Nicaragua he said.
Below is a full rush transcript of the press conference by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central America Hugo RodriguezBureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
DAS Rodriguez: Thank you, It’s a pleasure to be in Brussels to discuss the situation in Nicaragua and how the United States and our European partners can collaborate to stop the horrific abuses of the Ortega regime. We need to work together to help the Nicaraguan people restore democracy through genuinely free and fair elections. The Ortega regime continues to stifle dissent, harass and repress independent media, and arrest, abuse, and intimidate civilians for exercising their fundamental freedoms.
Since the political crisis in Nicaragua began in April 2018, the regime’s repression has led more than 80,000 Nicaraguans to flee into exile. That includes student protesters, human rights defenders, and journalists. During that time, the regime’s repression has also left hundreds dead, thousands injured, and hundreds more illegally detained, tortured, and even disappeared. Approximately 60 political prisoners still languish in Nicaraguan jails, and those the regime has released continue to be harassed and threatened or placed under house arrest and subjected to unfair legal proceedings.
The United States will continue to work with regional and global partners to promote accountability for those responsible for these abuses. Since the beginning of the crisis, the United States has sanctioned five entities and 15 individuals, including members of Ortega’s inner circle. The Canadian Government has sanctioned some of the same individuals, and a report late last year by the Organization of American States’ High Level Commission on Nicaragua found that the actions of the government since April 2018 undermined basic human rights and democratic freedoms in Nicaragua.
All of this highlights the international community’s consensus that Ortega and his regime must cease repression and ensure the conditions necessary for basic civil liberties. We will continue to use all economic and diplomatic means at our disposal to support the Nicaraguan people’s calls for a restoration of democracy, and we encourage our European partners to do the same. The United States and the international community stand with the Nicaraguan people in their quest for genuinely free and fair elections and a peaceful transition back to democracy.
Question : DAS Rodriguez to maybe clarify a little bit more what he’s looking for in his meetings with the Europeans and to ask how Europeans can play a constructive role with Nicaragua ?
DAS Rodriguez: So we’re here visiting Brussels today and tomorrow, and we’ll travel from here to Madrid on Thursday, basically looking to explain what we are doing in Nicaragua, what we are hoping to achieve in support of the Nicaraguan people, and looking to encourage our European counterparts to consider some of the same measures and join us in both calling out the Ortega regime’s bad behavior and sanctioning those involved in that behavior, and then supporting the opposition as they seek to get a fair shake in elections currently planned for 2021.
Question : Last year Mauricio Claver-Carone said the Nicaraguan army was an accomplice of Daniel Ortega. If the United States knows that the army is complicit, why have they not sanctioned the high command of the army?
DAS Rodriguez: Thank you, So we can’t really discuss the sanctions that we have under consideration or who we believe we should be targeting, but I will underline what Mauricio has said a number of times, and that is that we will continue to call out the abuses of the regime and those that are complicit in repressing the people of Nicaragua, and we will do that regardless of what organization they are tied to or what part of the government they belong to. And so again, I can’t speak to what we have under current consideration, but we are going to continue looking at all actors in this.
Question : When will the Nicaraguan Human Rights and Anticorruption Law be applied against the army leaders of Nicaragua?
DAS Rodriguez: Basically let me point back to my – to my answer to Lucia, which is we can’t speak about specifics and what our next steps will be, only that we are continuing to analyze the sanctions regime and who is responsible for the repression so that we might target them under that regime. Thank you.
Question : A small, albeit vocal group of Nicaraguan activists are under the impression that there are options on the table other than the democratic electoral route to remove Ortega, which is causing some difficulties in unifying the opposition. Could you clarify what the official U.S. position is on the strategy to transition Nicaragua from dictatorship to democracy?
DAS Rodriguez: Okay. As I mentioned in my prepared remarks, we are using all economic and diplomatic means at our disposal, and we continue to do so. Our goals here are to call out the repression of the Ortega regime and to force the Ortega regime to cease that repression and those abuses of the Nicaraguan people, and to institute the conditions necessary for free and fair elections. The opposition in Nicaragua is – has developed and continues to refine the list of electoral conditions that would permit free and fair elections in Nicaragua. We believe that these are going to be key to a peaceful transition back to a democratic situation in Nicaragua, and we support their efforts to create those conditions.
DAS Rodriguez: I just want to say thank you to those of you who have joined us on the call today, and I would like to ask for your continued support. Please keep watching the evolving situation in Nicaragua and join us in calling out the Ortega regime’s behaviour.
Hugo F. Rodriguez, Jr. became Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in May 2019. A career member of the United States Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Rodriguez served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Asunción, Paraguay, from July 2016 to April 2019, and as the Embassy’s Charge d’ Affaires from January 2017 to March 2018.
During his career as a Foreign Service Officer, Mr. Rodriguez served as Consul General at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City from July 2014 to June 2015, and as the Mission’s Acting Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs from June 2015 to June 2016. While there, he led the effort to document and gain social service access for the estimated 500,000 U.S. citizen children of Mexican parents living in the country. He previously served as Deputy Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs, as Division Chief for the Western Hemisphere in the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Overseas Citizen Services office, and as a Watch Officer and Senior Watch Officer in the Executive Secretariat’s Operations Center.
Mr. Rodriguez has also served abroad at U.S. Embassies in Lima, Peru and Rome, Italy. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Hampden-Sydney College.