Mass Strikes Over Living Conditions in El Salvador’s Prisons

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Fourteen of El Salvador’s nineteen prisons are now embroiled in mass protests over prisoner living conditions. Inmates have refused to return to their cells, take part in workshops and other activities, allow prisoners to enter or leave the facilities, or allow visitors or medical personnel in. Prisoners are demanding better living conditions before they cooperate with authorities, who are currently on standby in case intervention is needed to restore order.

The protests began on Saturday with eleven prisons and had spread to fourteen by Monday. El Salvador’s prison system is notorious for being massively overcrowded and affording very minimal rights and protections for the prisoner population, which is currently numbered at 20,000 in a prison system that was built to house only 8,000 people. The government has been called upon consistently in the past to address the mass imprisonment of El Salvadorans.

Prisons director Gilbert Caceres blamed the uprisings on inmates who were being manipulated by gangs involved in organized crime.

For more information, please see:

The Earth Times Mass Protests in El Salvador Prisons – 16 February 2009

Radio Netherlands Worldwide – Unrest in El Salvador’s Overcrowded Prisons – 16 February 2009

Mexican Border Towns Protest Federal Troops Violence

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MONTERREY, Mexico – Hundreds of people in Mexico have blocked key crossings into the US in protests against army deployment and operations to fight drug traffickers.  Traffic was brought to a halt on a number of bridges in several border towns in northern Mexico.  The protesters accused the army of abuse against civilians. The protesters blocked bridges in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. Government officials claimed drug gangs, which paid people to do so, had organized the blockades and the protests.

Police chased protesters away with water cannons.  The protesters chanted “Soldiers out!” and “Stop abuse by the Federal Preventative Police!” The demonstrators also shut roads in the industrial city of Monterrey.

Mexico’s President Calderon has sent 45,000 troops and federal police across Mexico to fight drug gangs since late 2006. According to Mexican officials, more than 5,400 people were killed in drug-related violence last year.  In some parts of the country, the army has taken over the role of the police, which have often proved easily corrupted when bribed or threatened by the gangs.

Many of the protesters said border towns had become more dangerous since President Felipe Calderon sent the army in. On Tuesday, for example, ten people died and fifteen were wounded in a gun battle between federal troops and a drug hitmen in Reynosa. Human rights activists say there are legitimate complaints about reported abuses by the troops, including alleged cases in which army patrols have fired on civilians at checkpoints. Calderon, however, has Washington’s support for using the army. Bloodshed across the Mexican border has prompted some experts in recent months to issue dire warnings about Mexico’s future stability and the potential security risks to the United States.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Mexicans block US border in anti-army protest – 18 February 2009

BBC News – Marchers block Mexico-US border – 18 February 2009

Reuters – Mexicans protest army campaign against drug cartels – 18 February 2009

Pelosi says U.S. Won’t Press Allies on Guatanamo Inmates

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

ROME, Italy-
U.S. President Barack Obama is not expected to ask Washington’s allies to host inmates from Guantanamo prison unless they have citizens detained there, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday.Obama has ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year, but the fate of the prisoners there remains a big question, particularly those who cannot return to their own countries.

Obama had been expected to ask EU states to take in some of the roughly 245 remaining detainees.
“I don’t think we’ll see a situation where the president will be asking countries to accept people unless it happens to be the country of origin,” Pelosi told reporters during a trip to Italy. “And then it’s up to the country’s discretion as to whether they would accept them or not.”

President George W. Bush’s administration failed to persuade its allies, in particular those in the 27-nation EU, to take in inmates who were unable to return to their home country and who the United States did not want to accept either. They included Chinese Muslim Uighurs who Washington said cannot return to China because they would face persecution, together with Libyans, Uzbeks and Algerians also seen at risk.

Pelosi recalled that Obama ordered a review process to look at the nature of the detention of Guantanamo inmates, some of whom have been held for years without trial. “President Obama has said that he will have a review of every situation, every person, at Guantanamo to establish the facts of why they are there,” she said.”When that is determined, there will be some resolution of what to do with these people, some going back to their country of origin.”

The Pentagon says some 520 detainees have been released from Guantanamo since 2002. About 60 others have been declared eligible for transfer or release but remain at the prison pending discussions with other governments. “One thing is for sure: Guantanamo will be closed and the president intends to do it correctly,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi said that the US administration is committed to a “new era of cooperation” with its allies
She added: “We have to make a judgement. … And I mean we, Italy, the European Union, the United States, NATO — all of us — as to what is in our national security interests, and we have to make a commitment that is commensurate with that but which is not … impossible to achieve.”

For more information, please see:
AFP- Pelosi pledges ‘new era of cooperation’ between US, allies-16 February 2009

International Herald Tribune- Pelosi says U.S. won’t press allies on Guantanamo inmates– 16 February 2009

AP- Officials say Italy will not take Gitmo inmates– 16 February 2009

Guatemala’s Child Malnutrition Rate Approaches Fifty Percent

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – A study released on Thursday in Guatemala City indicates that 45.6 percent of Guatemalan children suffer from chronic malnutrition. The lack of adequate nutrition has led to a significantly lower physical growth rate than the average established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The national census determined that children between the ages of eight and nine were most affected by malnutrition with girls being disproportionately affected; for instance, Guatemalan girls are, on average, eight to twelve centimeters shorter than the average set by the WHO.

The effects of malnutrition are intensified within the Indigenous provinces of Solola and Totonicapan where the study found that 49.7 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and one in every sixteen will die before reaching the age of five. An earlier study by the Catholic Relief Services attributed the high malnutrition rate to the thirty year civil war and decades of political policies that have excluded Mayan Indigenous people from accessing basic services such as health care and education. Juan Aguilar, head of the presidency’s Food Security Secretariat, added that the high malnutrition rate among children was a result of inadequate food, high levels of poverty, and a dearth of basic services.

For more information, please see:

Relief Web – Breaking Malnutrition’s Cycle in Guatemala – 25 January 2009

Baltimore Sun – Viewpoint: School Lunches Can Nourish Hope – 26 January 2009

Latin American Herald Tribune – Nearly Half of Guatemala’s Children Suffer from Malnutrition – 15 February 2009

Free Trade Agreement Between Canada and Colombia Risks Making Human Rights Situation Worse

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

OTTAWA, Canada – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe signed a free trade agreement on November 21, 2008. Earlier this year in a study of the proposed Canada/Colombia trade deal, the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade called on the government to ensure that an independent human rights impact assessment be carried out and that the results of that assessment be dealt with before the free trade deal is signed, ratified or implemented.

Amnesty International and  the Canadian Council for International Co-operation are  concerned that Prime Minister Harper has ignored this recommendation and decided to proceed without due diligence with regard to human rights.

Past human rights violations in Colombia have included the use of excessive force by state security forces against a mobilization of Indigenous people expressing opposition to free trade agreements and other policies they believe impact negatively on their rights.

Also, threats and attacks against land rights activists, particularly in areas of economic interest have taken place throughout 2008. There has also been an increase of threats and attacks on trade unionists – more than 40 people have been killed this year.

President Uribe and other senior officials have continuously demonized trade unions, indigenous organizations and other groups that are speaking out about violations of human rights, suggesting links with guerrillas. Such statements have led to threats and violence, including killings.  Following the release of critical reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in October, President Uribe publicly accused AI of “fanaticism” and “dogmatism” and the Americas Director of Human Rights Watch of being a “supporter” and an “accomplice” of FARC guerrillas. President Uribe has also demonized members of the Supreme Court investigating links between politicians from the ruling coalition and paramilitaries.

Going ahead with the Canada/Colombia free trade deal without meaningful action to address these concerns risks making the human rights situation much worse.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International Canada – Public Statement Signing Free Trade Pact with Colombia Presents Grave Human Rights Concerns – 24 November 2008

Reuters – Canada and Colombia Sign Free-Trade Agreement – 22 November 2008

Ottawa Citizen – Canada and Colobia Sign Free-Trade Pact – 22 November 2008

President Ortega Accused by International Community of Undemocratic Practices in Nicaraguan Elections

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – President Daniel Ortega has been accused of ‘undermining democracy’ in the recent mayoral elections held in Nicaragua amid allegations of fraud after refusing to allow international and local observers at the election polls.

Ortega’s party, the Sandinistas, were awarded 105 of the 146 mayoral seats in the November 9 elections, earning 19 more seats in the national government with the Liberal Constitution Party taking 37 seats and other parties winning the remaining 4. Opposition leaders claim to have lost as many as 50 seats because of corruption, and have demanded a recount of the votes as retribution: “We demand the total revision of all the electoral ballots and the voting acts in the country, with the presence of credible national and international observers,” said Liberal party boss and convict Arnoldo Aleman.

Representatives in the United States have also voiced concerns about the electoral fraud allegations. Republican U.S. congressmen Frank Wolf and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have sent letters to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an organization providing poor countries with funding, calling for the suspension of $175 million in aid “until it is adequately demonstrated that the Nicaraguan government is committed to demonstrating progress in ruling justly, investing in people and economic freedom.” European countries are also considering suspending aid to Nicaragua.

Ortega has stated that the proposed new elections and a voter recount is “illegal,” according to the Associated Press.

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Sandinista Fervor Turns Sour for Former Comrades of Nicaragua’s President – 23 November 2008

The Wall Street Journal – Election Fraud in Nicaragua – 24 November 2008

Finding Dulcinea – Nicaraguan Elections Marred by Corruption Dispute and Violence – 25 November 2008

U.S. Court of Appeals to Hear Arguments for Release of Uighurs

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, U.S. – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was scheduled to hear arguments Monday from the Bush administration and lawyers for the detainees. The case comes as President-elect Barack Obama is pledging to quickly shut down the facility.

Last month U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina ordered the immediate release of 17 Uighurs, Turkic Muslims, into the United States because they were no longer considered enemy combatants. He criticized the Bush administration for a detention that “crossed the constitutional threshold into infinitum.” The Bush administration sued to block Urbina’s order, citing security concerns over weapons training the Uighurs received at camps in Afghanistan.  The administration claims that they cannot find another country to accept them. Solicitor General Gregory Garre wrote in court filings this past week, “This appeal raises questions of diplomatic relations and national security that are for the political branches, not the judiciary, to resolve.”

The same three-judge panel that agreed to temporarily halt the Uighurs’ release in late October will hear oral arguments on Monday. The one Democrat on the panel, Judge Judith W. Rogers, wrote a dissent arguing for the Uighurs’ immediate release. She believes that the government could point to no evidence of dangerousness. The U.N. is aligned with Judge Rogers, stating “It is our view that the United States is under international law obliged immediately to release the Uighur detainees of Guantanamo.”

The Bush administration maintains that detainees should stay at Guantanamo, as 20 percent of the 250 remaining prisoners fear torture or persecution if they return to their home countries.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press- Court to hear case of Uighurs held at Guantanamo– 24 November 2008

CBC- U.S. Appeal court to hear case of Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo– 24 November 2008

Boston Globe- Court mulls early release of Uighurs from Gitmo– 24 November 2008

Federal Judge Releases Five Guantanamo Prisoners

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, U.S. – A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of five Algerian detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.  The cases largely hinged on the definition of an enemy combatant, which was argued to include al-Qaida or Taliban supporters who directly assisted in hostile acts against the U.S. or its allies.

The government’s evidence linking the five detainees to al-Qaida was found to be not credible as it came from a single, unidentified source. Therefore, the five detainees could not be held indefinitely as enemy combatants, and should be released immediately.

There was a sixth detainee that was not released because there was sufficient reason to believe he was close to an al-Qaida operative and had sought to help others travel to Afghanistan to join the terrorists’ fight against the United States and its allies.  Much of the evidence against the detainees is classified and was not discussed in open trial or the detainees themselves.

The Justice Department claimed the six men were caught and detained before they could join a global jihad.

One of the men to be released is Lakhdar Boumediene, whose landmark Supreme Court case last summer gave Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment. The government initially detained the five men on suspicion of plotting to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo in October 2001. They were transferred to Guantanamo in January 2002.

The Bosnian government already has agreed to take back the detainees, all of whom immigrated to Bosnia from Algeria before they were captured in 2001.

The cases of more than 200 additional Guantanamo detainees are still pending.

For more information, please see:

Washington Post – Another Falsehood Exposed -21 November 2008

Yahoo News – Judge orders release of 5 terror suspects at Gitmo – 21 November 2008

NY Times – Judge Declares Five Detainees Held Illegally – 20 November 2008

Protests Against Ortega Elections Continue in Nicaragua

By Karla E General

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The protests sparked by the 146 mayoral elections on November 9 continue to rage across Nicaragua. The opposition is taking to the streets and demanding a full recount to be overseen by impartial international and local observers. Supporters of the Sandinista government have responded by patrolling the capital of Managua with clubs and rocks to deter the opposition from mobilizing.

“This election has everything to do with whether Nicaragua remains a democratic nation or not,” said Francisco Aguirre, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the United States and an opposition leader. “Until now, since 1990, Nicaragua has held open elections. Now something is rotten in the state of Nicaragua. They say we don’t want the gringos to sort it out for us. Okay. The Europeans then. Or Latin American observers. But they didn’t want anyone looking into this mess, because it stinks.”

The Sandinistas say the opposition is making a stink because its candidates were spanked at the polls. Bayardo Arce, a former top Sandinista commander said the elections were clean and the opposition “is just making a lot of noise…If the Sandinistas become successful entrepreneurs, it is because we are thieves. If we win an election, it is because of fraud. But we reject that.”

Preliminary results show the Sandinistas winning 106 of 146 municipalities.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian – Violence After Nicaragua Poll – 20 November 2008

Los Angeles Times – Voter Fraud Allegations Directed at Nicaragua’s Sandinistas – 20 November 2008

Washington Post – Democracy in Nicaragua in Peril, Ortega Critics Say – 20 November 2008

Mexico’s Interpol Liaison Arrested for Leaking Information

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – A senior Mexican police official who worked as Mexico’s Interpol liaison was arrested Tuesday in relation to an investigation involving information leaks from top law enforcement authorities to the nation’s drug cartels. Ricardo Gutiérrez Vargas was director for International Police Affairs and Interpol at the Federal Investigative Agency.  Vargas was one of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Mexico. However, Vargas was placed under house arrest pending the outcome of the investigation.

The authorities say that Vargas allegedly leaked information to the Beltran Leyva brothers, leaders of a powerful drug cartel, in exchange for large sums of money.

Interpol combats terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking. Vargas could have had access to reams of sensitive intelligence gathered by Mexican and international law enforcement.  Interpol is dispatching a team of General Secretariats to Mexico. The purpose of their mission is to meet with relevant Mexican authorities in order to establish allegations of improper use of Interpol’s systems by any Mexican law enforcement official.

In the last year, about 4,000 people have died in the drug wars. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has made confronting the cartels a centerpiece of his administration.

The cartel’s penetration Interpol is an indication of the level of corruption within the Mexican law enforcement. The United States recently committed $400 million to aid in that battle, but many U.S. law enforcement officials remain wary of their Mexican counterparts, fearing that shared information flows quickly to cartel leaders.

For more information, please see:

Interpol – Interpol headquarters to deploy team to ensure compliance with INTERPOL rules and regulations by Mexican law enforcement officials – 19 November 2008

Latin American Herald Tribune – Interpol Mexico Chief Arrested in “Operation Clean-Up” – 19 November 2008

Washington Post – Mexico’s Police Liaison for Interpol Is Arrested in Drug Probe – 19 November 2008

Cuban Children Not Allowed to Leave Island

By Karla E General
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

HAVANA, Cuba – Cuban children of medical professionals domiciled in the United States are being prevented by the Cuban government from being reunited with their parents. The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a U.S. group that represents Cubans in exile, has criticized the Cuban government of holding the children hostage in Cuba even though many of them have U.S. visas.

A 2006 Homeland Security policy allows Cuban doctors and medical professionals living abroad legally to bring spouses and children to the U.S., but this has been made nearly impossible because the Cuban government refuses to grant exit visas according to a 2005 report by the Human Rights Watch. The children are being denied visas because many of the doctors living abroad have been classified as traitors by the Cuban government for their failure to return to Cuba after being sent to work in government-sponsored events or missions overseas.

CANF representatives plan to file formal complaints against the Cuban government with international organizations such as the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Cuban Doctors Say Children Held Hostage – 18 November 2008

Miami Herald – Cuba Won’t Let Our Kids Leave, Medical Workers Say – 18 November 2008

Miami Herald – Cuban Doctors: Children Kept From Leaving Island – 18 November 2008

Immigrant Children Mistreated at United States Border

By Maria E. Molina

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

DALLAS, United States – The Center for Public Policy Priorities has released A Child Alone and Without Papers which reveals that children are mistreated when they are removed from the United States and repatriated to their home countries.  The report found that children’s rights, safety, and well-being, are compromised contrary to international law and U.S. child welfare standards.  The paper reported that children are transported home unsafely and denied access to representation.

Children interviewed for the study reported going without water at U.S. Border Patrol stations, being handcuffed and having their requests for medical attention ignored. At least one child reported being struck and knocked down by an agent.

According to the study, many children faced complicated immigration proceedings without legal representation. Last year, 50 to 70 percent of detained unaccompanied minors went before an immigration judge without a lawyer.  The study found that , at  times, consulates were not notified that children from their country were being removed, a violation of an international treaty.

Children flown to non-bordering countries were shackled during the flight and those taken by vehicle across the border to Mexico were transported in kennel-like compartments.  Mexican officials reported that children were returned in the middle of the night and brought to ports of entry that were not specified in agreements.

According to the study, an estimated 43,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children were removed from the U.S. in 2007.

For more information, please see:

Center for Public Policy Priorities – De Falta de Representacion a Maltratamiento: Reporte Demuestra Lo Que Pasa A Ninos Indocumentados – 13 November 2008

Houston Chronicle – Study Says Immigrant Children Mistreated – 14 November 2008

Market Watch – From Lack of Legal Representation to Maltreatment: Report Reveals What Happens to Undocumented, Unaccompanied Children Removed From U.S – 13 November 2004

U.S. Confirms it Held 12 Juveniles at Guantanamo

By Gabrielle Meury
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – The U.S. has released a report admitting that it has held as many as 12 juveniles at Guantanamo Bay. In May, the U.S. told the United Nations that it held only eight juveniles. Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon said that the U.S. did not intentionally misrepresent the number of detainees. “As we noted to the committee, it remains uncertain the exact age of many of the juveniles held at Guantanamo, as most of them did not know their own date of birth or even the year in which they were born.”

The Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, based at the University of California, Davis, released a study last week that concluded that the U.S. has held at least a dozen juveniles at Guantanamo, including a Saudi who committed suicide in 2006. Almerindo Ojeda, director of the Center, stated, “The information I got was from their own sources, so they didn’t have to look beyond their own sources to figure this out,” said Almerindo Ojeda, director of the center at the University of California, Davis. According to the study, eight of the 12 juvenile detainees have been released.

Rights groups say it is important for the U.S. military to know the real age of those it detains because juveniles are entitled to special protection under international laws recognized by the United States.
Two of the remaining detainees are scheduled to face war-crimes trials in January. Canadian Omar Khadr, now 21, was captured in July 2002 and is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. special forces soldier. Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who is about 24, faces attempted murder charges for a 2002 grenade attack that wounded two U.S. soldiers. The study identified the only other remaining juvenile as Muhammed Hamid al Qarani of Chad.The Saudi who hanged himself with two other detainees in 2006, Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, was 17 when he arrived at Guantanamo.

For more information, please see:

USATODAY – U.S. confirms it held 12 juveniles at Guantanamo– 16 November 2008

Fox News – U.S. acknowledges it held 12 juveniles at Guantanamo– 16 November 2008

The Press Association – Dozen juveniles at Guantanamo Bay- 16 November 2008

Human Rights Violations Against Members of Tlapaneco Activist Organizations

By Maria E. Molina
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

GUERRO, Mexico – On Tuesday, Amnesty International demanded the immediate release of five Indian activists jailed in southern Mexico on suspicion of homicide.

Amnesty International contends that all five are innocent of the murder charges and their detention and prosecution is politically motivated. The activists were detained in connection with the Jaunary killing of a government supporter in the mountain community of El Camalote. Leftist rebel groups and drug traffickers have been active in this area over the past decade.

The five activists, belonging to the Organization of the Tlapaneco Indian People, were arrested in April.  The organization is an activist group that has protested army patrols and forced sterilization of some men in their remote mountain communities in the 1990s.

A court ruled in late October that there was not enough evidence to continue holding the five men, but federal prosecutors appealed that ruling, guaranteeing the men would remain in jail.  It is believed that the men’s continued prosecution is aimed at quashing the protest movement. The Mexican government has sought to decimate and disband the Tlapaneco organization.

This story illustrates a wider pattern of abuse against human rights activists in Guerrero in Mexico. Authorities have often misused the judicial system to punish those who promote respect for the rights of marginalized communities and dare to speak up about abuses. In June, Guerrero state authorities agreed to pay 35,000 pesos ($3,400 at the time) in compensation to 14 indigenous Mexican men coerced into having vasectomies, and give them water storage tanks and cement to build homes.  Other parts of the compensation agreement, the punishment for the authorities who coerced the men into the procedure, and the construction of rural health clinics have been unfulfilled.

For more information, please see:

Amnesty International – Mexico: Amnesty International adopts five indigenous rights defenders as prisoners of conscience – 11 November 2008

Taiwan News – Amnesty demands Mexico release Indian activists – 12 November 2008

UK MSN – Amnesty International says Mexico Indian activists are prisoners of conscience, demands release – 12 November 2008

Two Dead Amid Protests in Nicaragua After Allegations of Voting Irregularities

By Karla E General

Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – At least two people have been killed and six others injured in Nicaragua in the days following the Sunday election of new representatives in 146 municipalities.  Official election results have placed 94 mayorships in Sandinista hands, with 46 going to the opposition party, the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC). With the majority of votes now being counted in favor of the Sandinista party, protests erupted on Monday between Sandinistas and supporters of the opposition party, the PLC.

Nicaragua’s police chief Aminta Granera dispatched anti-riot forces to the streets of Managua on Monday to contain the violent clashes between supporters and opponents of President Daniel Ortega. Opponents of Ortega’s Sandinista government are claiming the municipal elections were rigged by Ortega’s government.

Xin_23211051121405001899656_2Nicaraguan people prepare to throw stones in a demonstration to support opposition candidate Eduardo Montealegre who rejected municipal poll results by the Electoral Supreme Council. (Xinhua Photo)

Ortega has been accused of manipulating the elections and has prevented at least two groups from being observers at polling places, including the Nicaraguan civic group Ethics and Transparency, which reported a 32 percent rate of irregularities at the polling places it was able to monitor. The Organization of American States (OAS) and U.S. State Department have also denounced Ortega’s ban of OAS observers from Nicaraguan polling stations: “Unfortunately the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to not accredit credible domestic and international election observers has made it difficult to properly assess the conduct of the election…We urge the government of Nicaragua to ensure that the official election results accurately reflect the will of the Nicaraguan people” – Robert Wood, U.S. State Department spokesman.

Ortega, dismissing the allegations of fraud against his government, stated that election observers were rightly rejected from the political process “because they are financed by outside powers.”

The PLC will likely contest the results in court.

For more information, please see:

The Associated Press – Nicaraguan Opposition Demands Election Review – 11 November 2008

BBC News – Nicaragua Election Clash ‘Deaths’ – 11 November 2008

Bloomberg – Nicaragua Election Results Provoke Clashes in Managua – 11 November 2008