Nicaraguan bishops warn of fraud in presidential elections

.- Bishops in Nicaragua questioned the legitimacy of the Nov. 6 presidential elections after accusations of fraud and dishonesty were leveled against election officials.

In a joint statement issued Nov. 16, the bishops said Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council was “incapable of carrying out its job responsibly and honestly” and could not ensure a transparent count of the votes that “would leave no doubt as to the will of the people in these elections.”

“As believers, it is our firm conviction that any dishonest action that threatens the sovereignty of the people is not only ethically wrong but also reproachable in the eyes of God,” they underscored.

Although the Organization of American States issued a report declaring that President Daniel Ortega had won re-election by a 62 percent vote, opponents are protesting the results. Clashes throughout the country since Nov. 6 have left at least four people dead and dozens injured, according to police.

The bishops said voters have the right to peacefully protest and “to demand that our institutions fulfill their duty and that State officials carry out their obligations.”

“It is urgent that the rule of law be recovered and that those in power be subject to the law. If this is not achieved, democracy will not advance in Nicaragua and the errors of the past will continue to be repeated, which could lead to greater division in the country,” they stated.

Politicians and government officials must “urgently find the best legal and civic solution to overcoming the country’s present-day crisis,” the bishops said. “Nicaragua needs all of her sons and daughters to encounter one another and live together in a society based on truth, tolerance and justice.”

The Church leaders also encouraged Nicaraguans to avoid falling into pessimism and to have hope for a swift political resolution.

“To hope is to have the ability to see, even when we cannot see with our eyes. To hope is to regain our ability to keep dreaming of a better society for all and to strive to make that possible.”

Last week the U.S. government urged the Organization of American States “to seriously consider the state of democracy in Nicaragua” given the questionable tactics that gave President Ortega a second term.

EU election observers said the irregularities “signify a serious step backwards in the democratic quality of the elections in Nicaragua” and need to be corrected in the future.

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