US Should Remain Impartial for Nicaraguan Elections

It is unacceptable for American officials to make statements implying that our government will take punitive measures if Daniel Ortega is elected president in Nicaragua. Instead, our position should be that we support free and fair elections and we will work cooperatively and amicably with the winner.

It is important to remember that the history of the United States' role in Nicaragua - particularly with regard to Ortega - is such that any statements made by U.S. officials carry great import. Some seem to have forgotten that history.

I recently urged them to withdraw their statements and end public support for any particular outcome in this contest. The free exercise of democracy should be the only goal in the Nicaraguan elections.

The statements of U.S. Embassy spokesperson Kristin Stewart are particularly troubling. She publicly linked Ortega with terrorist groups and said that the U.S. would revise its policy toward the Nicaraguan government should he win. I believe her words were unfortunate and wrong, and merit a withdrawal. Electioneering is not the proper role of an embassy or its spokesperson."

Stewart told the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa that "If a foreign government has a relationship with terrorist organizations, like the Sandinistas did in the past; U.S. law permits us to apply sanctions. [...] Again, it will be necessary to revise our policies if Ortega wins."

I strongly object to the idea put forth by several Members of Congress that we may consider applying economic sanctions in the form of remittance bans should Ortega win. Such punishments run contrary to our nation's proper role as a champion of democracy and only punish the Nicaraguan people for exercising their democratic rights.

I have always found remittance bans to be especially cruel, as they target families. In the wake of the elections, as long as they are deemed fair and open, I believe our government should pursue dialogue and engagement with whomever wins, regardless of ideology.

America does not need to create yet another strained and unpleasant relationship with a Latin American country based on conflicting ideologies. We can help to create a more positive and open hemisphere if we treat our neighbors with respect and decency.