MEXICO CITY—Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Organization of American States denounced his own country as a dictatorship Wednesday in a dramatic and unprecedented speech during an online conference at the Washington, D.C.-based hemispheric organization. He then apparently quit his post.
who last year was named envoy to the OAS, said he was speaking on behalf of thousands of public servants in Nicaragua who are afraid to speak their minds for fear of losing their jobs. He also invoked the nearly 200 political prisoners and more than 350 people killed, most by state security forces, since massive protests in 2018 that shook the government of President
“To denounce my country’s dictatorship is not easy, but to keep silent and defend the indefensible is impossible,” said Mr. McFields, a former journalist. “I must speak although I have fear. I must speak although my future and that of my family are uncertain.”
In perhaps Mr. McFields’s last act as ambassador, his delegation sent a note to the OAS asking to be included as a co-sponsor of the organization’s recent resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Ortega government, a close ally of President
has defended the invasion and didn’t support the resolution backed by 25 countries.
In a subsequent letter to the OAS, Nicaragua’s Foreign Ministry disavowed Mr. McFields’s action.
The ambassador is the first high-ranking Nicaraguan government official to publicly quit the Ortega government since 2019. Mr. Ortega, a former Sandinista guerrilla, was re-elected to Nicaragua’s presidency last November in elections widely condemned as a sham. Mr. McFields didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“It’s a dramatic development and shows that even senior regime officials can’t stomach the regime’s abuses,” said
vice president of the Americas Society, a Washington-based think tank. “It’s very clear that the regime is losing a lot of support even among its own officials and that the only way to stay in power is further crackdowns and oppression.”
In his speech, which caught other envoys by surprise, Mr. McFields said that Nicaragua has become the only Central American country where there are no print newspapers left, no freedom on social media and no human-rights organizations. He said there are no independent political parties or credible elections or any separation of powers. Private universities are being confiscated and civic-society groups shut down, and more than 170,000 Nicaraguans have fled the country, he said.
“Although everything looks lost, there is still hope,” Mr. McFields said in his speech. “I want to say that people inside and outside are tired—tired of the dictatorship and its actions, and more and more they are saying ‘enough!’”
In an interview, OAS Secretary-General
said Mr. McFields’s action represented the highest values in diplomacy. “It’s speaking truth to power,” he said. Although Mr. McFields admits his family’s lives are now in danger, he nevertheless rejected “being the lackey of an authoritarian leader who does not respect international human rights nor rule of law,” Mr. Almagro said.
U.S. Secretary of State
also praised Mr. McFields, saying the ambassador had resigned in protest of the Ortega regime for its oppression and human-rights record. “We commend Amb. McFields’ courage in giving voice to the millions of fellow Nicaraguans hoping for a return to democracy,” he tweeted.
Many of Mr. McFields’s colleagues on the conference call, including the U.S. envoy, welcomed his speech. “We applaud Ambassador Arturo McFields for the courage to resign his position,” said
the U.S.’s interim OAS representative, in a Twitter message.
Mr. Ortega won his fourth consecutive presidential victory in November after imprisoning seven presidential candidates on charges akin to treason. The candidates are part of a group of almost 50 of Nicaragua’s most prominent journalists, political, business, peasant and student leaders who have been imprisoned by Mr. Ortega on such charges.
Most of the accused have already been tried and sentenced to terms as long as 13 years in prison. In his speech, Mr. McFields said that he had argued last year that 20 of these political prisoners who were elderly should be released, as well as 20 other prisoners in frail health, but that he was ignored.
Mr. Ortega’s increasing repression has triggered a flow of migrants fleeing the country for Costa Rica and the U.S. Some 50,000 Nicaraguans were apprehended at the U.S. border in fiscal year 2021, up from just 13,000 in fiscal 2019, according to U.S. government data. Another 50,000 Nicaraguans were stopped in the four months through the end of January.
The U.S. State Department has said Mr. Ortega and his wife,
—who is also Nicaragua’s vice president and the government’s spokeswoman—aim to turn the country into a dynastic dictatorship. A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. would continue to “press for a return to democratic rule and respect for human rights in Nicaragua.”
Ms. Murillo didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Last year, Mr. Ortega began the two-year process of withdrawing Nicaragua from the OAS, angered over organization’s repeated condemnation of his government for human-rights violations and electoral abuses. Shortly after being named ambassador, Mr. McFields presented Mr. Almagro with a letter from the Nicaraguan government announcing the withdrawal. The country is scheduled to leave the OAS in November 2023.
Write to José de Córdoba at email@example.com
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8